Warta River Mouth

Everyone of us must have wondered as a child what the other side of the mirror is like.

And after reading "Alice in Wonderland" and follow her adventures "Through the Looking Glass", surely many wondered where you can find a rabbit burrow, or mirror which could take you to another world.

A world ruled by laws unknown to us, where many bizarre, incomprehensible beings. So if you have not grown out of the childhood dreams we invite you to go on a journey into the world on the other side of the … water surface.

In this world, certainly for a little while you may feel like in a phantasy book. Welcome to the marshes - and more specifically to its underwater world. In the spring, marsh meadows are covered by flooding water and the marshes become, though for a short time, the kingdom of aquatic organisms. Some are brought by river from distances of tens of kilometres and they now settle in a new and unfamiliar place. Others come with rainwater. Finally, there are also those that have been buried in the mud or hidden in other corners trying to survive in anticipation of the spring flood. Let's look at them for a moment.

Most of them are not built in the way we know from observations of organisims living on our side of the water. The aquatic world is ruled by completely different laws. Here the backbone, or spine, developed to combine the unpleasant effects of gravity, is rather unnecessary. Here various water-saving systems are useless - because water is everywhere around.

Here, however, which is not at all easy, you have to face the much higher density of environment. After all, water is much more dense than the air in which we are moving. Even worse, you have to be prepared for shortage of oxygen. And this, in shallow, fast-drying marshy backwaters, is a particularly common problem. Therefore, instead of legs, wings or beaks, in populations on the other side of the water surface, we see tentacles, cilia and limbs of all sizes, types and colours. Their owners can sometimes make impressions just as stunning as the Mad Hatter, Caterpillar or Mock Turtle – the characters in "Alice in Wonderland".

Most of the creatures living here might look like they came straight out of nightmares. However, this is very misleading. There are plenty of peaceful herbivores whose lives are spent on chewing and digestion. Herbivores are likely to be the first that we notice, leaning over the water surface. Frequently they will be snails. Shallow marshy backwaters are especially favoured by river snails. On warm days they congregate at the water surface, where there is more oxygen, and create a picture similar to well-known land herbivores. This view is especially common in canals and ditches criss-crossing marshes.

A characteristic feature of the river snail is the clearly visible entrance to conical shell forming a closure lid. This is a feature that allows us to tell river snails from their cousins.

When the marsh is far from a river and floods tend to be shallow, in the spring there appear Notostracas. Though they look like the main character from a horror movie, this is an excellent example of the ingenuity of nature. They have not changed since the Triassic. In other words, they have managed to survive for the pas 220 million years! Once it gets warm in the shallow waters there appear hundreds of them. They need to hurry. You have to multiply and eat, in order to gather the necessary energy reserves for a period of lethargy into which the fall buried in the soil, after their pools dry.

Definitely more exciting are the predators of this / that world. Frequently lurking somewhere on the bottom or hidden somewhere among the plants, they are extremely difficult to observe. After all, if an ambush is to be effective, one must not be easily visible - either to potential victims or for us, guests from the other side of the mirror. In any case, it is worth to be patient and inquisitive - and try to see some of them. This may be a larva of a dragonfly, a great diving beetle or water scavenger beetle.   The word many people use to describe them is “monster”.  Everyone who sees them, without hesitation agrees with that. This is mainly due to their large size and large jaws. The size of their jaws does not allow us to forget what these creatures feed on. It's a real lion in the microcosm of shallow marshy water. Scavenge beetles can even hunt on land. The jaws of the larvae of dragonflies or great diving beetle can even bite through small fish or tadpoles. And those who are surprised by the presence of these insects in water, they  are a reminded that many insect larvae develop in water.

To complete the gallery of wonders of the world on the other side of the water surface, let’s have a look at the smallest living creatures. To see them, we have to really strain our eyes. At first we see only small fragments lifted in the water depths. But upon closer scrutiny, some of them are beginning to change direction and turn out to be not debris flowing in the water but real living creatures. It is the animal plankton, the smallest creatures visible to the naked eye in the flooded marsh. The smallest does not mean the least interesting. Even under a magnifying glass we can see how amazing they are! Unusual body shapes. Big disproportionate eyes - sometimes only one! Branched antennae, often longer than the rest of the body. For example Daphnia and Cyclopoida.

They can also be seen in the drying marshy backwaters. While the water from the swamp disappears they are lying in wait as eggs - precursors to new generations. And although they are not the most pretty creatures (especially from the perspective of a magnifying glass or a microscope!), scientists have given them beautiful names. These are, of course, not all extraordinary inhabitants of the world on the other side of the mirror. Although the water in the swamp appears periodically, the richness of life that is growing in shallow, warm sun-heated pools can be stunning. For some, this is their whole world. Beautiful, fascinating, valuable, and worth our attention.