Wildlife Watching in Germany
As I moved to Germany, I thought my wildlife future looked bleak. For some reason, ignorance to be more precise, I thought Germany wasn’t for wildlife enthusiasts. You know Germany is not tropical, the weather is mostly frigid, and people speak German. Not at all conducive to wild animals flourishing.
And then a university excursion to an island called Sylt happened. We went on a mudflat hiking with Wiebke, a marine biologist. I didn’t know what that meant too until I was mudflat hiking myself. Turns out, it is something people do in Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands. When you are mudflat hiking, you are walking or wading on the watersheds of the mudflats during the low tides. It is a recreation activity enjoyed especially on the shores of Wadden Sea Islands (Wattenmeer in German).
Talking about marine life, Wiebke passionately hurled some nouns at me that I never heard before. She hurled away, I googled away. She used words like harps, porpoise, lugworms, mussels, etc. It felt like Wiebke was unravelling a mysterious world in front of me.
I got the impression that even the wild animals maintain a certain class in this part of the world. They seem like the elite class of the wild world. They have their own protected zones to nest, feed and have some private time. These zones are enclosed by barriers sporting warning signboards glaring angrily in your face.
So the Journey Began
After my Sylt experience, my regard for Germany in terms of wildlife went up a notch. I opened my eyes and ears and started looking around a little more keenly, especially when I’m meant to be studying.
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Birdwatching in Hamburg
Germany abounds in well-kept parks and ponds. To my surprise, I started spotting wildlife like deer and wild boar casually go about their business even in ordinary parks where people go walking or beer drinking.
I’m not much of a birdwatcher, coming to think of it, I’m not much of anything. But as I could not go after reptiles, which is the primary interest of mine I took to birdwatching. I started by identifying and celebrating some common birds. Nearly every bird was a lifer for me except for crows and pigeons, if you don’t talk about their sub-species, that is.
Even my non-birdwatching friends laughed at me when I included Robin and Canada Goose into my lifers’ list.
My joy knew no bounds when I accidentally discovered a grey heron heronry while I was walking in one of the aforesaid ordinary parks called Bramfeldersee. See, pronounced as ze, is a lake in German, so Bramfeldersee translates to Bramfeld lake. I figured out it is an excellent place for birdwatching when I saw some serious photographers with big fat telescopes for lenses strolling around the park. A couple of them even bullied me into giving up my favourite vantage point just by flaunting their heavy gear.
Heronry of Grey Herons (Adrea Cinerea)
You’ll hear the locals proudly telling stories about how the grey herons of Bramfeld tend to say put in winter. Although grey heron is a resident bird in most parts of the world, birds from Northern Europe tend to migrate to Central and Southern Europe in autumn. Some even travel further to Sub-Saharan Africa.
I chanced upon them at the best time one should chance upon them. It was during the nesting season, which is between May and June. They typically breed in colonies and nest in tall trees around water bodies, which is the source of their food. Watching them airborne with nest material, making some impressive manoeuvres before landing on their nests is a spectacular sight. It can be seen from long distances.
When they are not flying, they are busy refurbishing their old nests or foraging closer to the water standing still on one leg and stalking prey. Their prey includes fish, amphibians, insects, small mammals and sometimes small birds too.
With the arrival of the chicks and parents busy foraging and feeding, June gets more active and better, perhaps not so much for the parent birds but for the birdwatchers. This goes on for up to eight weeks until the chicks are ready to take off.
Bramfeldersee is also home to a host of other birds such as Canada Geese, Coots, Cormorants, Crested Grebes, Greylag Geese, Mallards, Mute Swans, a guest pair of Egyptian Geese, Treecreeper, Kingfisher, among others. What’s more, the lake also hosts a colony of bats.
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