I've just got back from a few days in north-west Germany visiting my daughter. I had the opportunity to do a bit of birding. I find it a bit difficult where she lives in the Ruhr because it's so industrialised, but there are a few sites. Further east, in the catchment area of the river Ruhr, it's flat and featureless, mostly agricultural, with few hedges and large open fields. There are a lot of patches of mature deciduous woodland, mainly very tall oak, which are good for the traditional woodpeckers, warblers, tits and Nuthatch, as well as raptors, which are commoner than in the UK. Although the Germans are conservation minded, reserves seem to be few. A lot of the woodlands seem to be protected and one sees signs "Naturshutzgebeit" which roughly means national park.
I had a look on the web and found a good site just north of Munster, called Riesenfelder, which translates as "paddy-field". Rice was never grown there - it is, in fact, a huge old disused sewage farm covering 640 hectares. It was divided into settlement beds of one hectare, and these were regularly scraped off and the fertiliser spread on the local farmland. It's now been converted to a huge wetland reserve, with various sized ponds, extensive reed-beds, emergent vegetation and a network of paths and hides. The area attracts the usual wetland species but there are a few nice ones, such as Penduline Tit, Bluethroat and Great Reed Warbler (none of which I saw). It's also good for north-south migrants, and there is a specific wader pool. The birds are quite distant, so it's a 'scope job, and not so good for photography. The best place for that is up the tower hide for flight shots.
This is the wader pool. There were 14 Greenshank and a Little Ringed Plover on it.
Common Swift from the tower hide. There were probably over 1,000 over the reserve.
It all depends on the light. Some over-enthusiastic birders might like to call this a Pallid Swift, but that doesn't occur there. It's a Common swift.
A couple of pairs of Ruddy Shelduck are present, but I suspect are a feral population, as you have to be much further east for the real ones!
Another small reserve lies on the River Ahse, a tributary of the River Lippe, east of Hamm, near the village of Oestinghausen. This is an area of water meadow managed for wetland breeding birds such as Curlew, Lapwing and Snipe. It's only about 50 hectares, but can be great. A few pools are scattered about, good for Garganey, and raptors are quite common. On the day I was there I had Common Buzzard, Black and Red Kite, Goshawk and Kestrel, and a possible distant Hobby. There is an excellent tower hide, great for flight photography, and a new 360 degree hide overlooking a wader pool. The build quality is reminiscent of a brick outhouse - the Germans don't do things by half! I have seen breeding Red-backed Shrike on the reserve in the past, but not this time. The best bird was Icterine Warbler, of which I found two singing males (apparently there are over 20 pairs on the reserve. One posed nicely for me from the tower.
Reed bed and pool.
360 degree hide (well, OK, it's 180).
View from the tower.
Icterine Warbler. The dark upper mandible and prominent yellow patch between base of bill and eye, and the long primary projection help with identification, but the lead coloured legs clinch it.
Common Buzzard. This is a very pale one, but it's not uncommon to see pure white ones.
It was nice to catch up with Crane again after our two at Ruston Carr.
All bird photographs were taken with Canon EOS 1D Mk IV and 100-400 zoom. Scenic shots with a Canon S90 compact.
It'll be good to re-visit these reserves later in spring, and in autumn if possible.