Weilbacher Kiesgrube, a birding paradise near Frankfurt

HaubenlercheA sunny morning, clear sky, the air filled with songs of birds, a steppe-style open county area with excellent outlooks, riparian woods. This could be a morning in the Weilbacher Kiesgrube. The area is located near the town of Weilbach, which is only 20 km west of Frankfurt city and not far from Frankfurt Airport. Gravel mining took place since the 60th of the 20th century. A portion of the resultant landscape was reclaimed and is now home for many bird species. In a smaller part of the pits, the area was filled again and a park was created. In other parts the pits were not filled. Instead, this area has been designated as a nature reserve. From small watchtowers, visitors can watch the birds and other animals, which can be found here.

The Weilbacher Kiesgrube is located in the south of the Main- Taunus-Kreis. This community ranks amongst the most densely populated regions in the Rhine – Main – area. It is relatively small. But is has more than 220,000 inhabitants. This means 1,018 inhabitants per km2. Nevertheless, the diversity of birds is excellent!

Geographically, it lies on the southern slope of the Taunus hills, which results in a mild climate. The average temperatures in summer about 25 degrees and the rainfall averages approx. 60 mm per month. The river Main forms the county boundary in the south. Here is also the lowest point of about 90 m asl (above sea level). To the north, the terrain rises and has the highest elevation with Mount Rossert 515 m asl. The northern part is mostly wooded with oak and beech. The southern part is predominantly characterized by farmland and orchards.

Some good birds are possible to be observed. One morning in June all four species of Sylvia-Warblers, which regularly occur in Germany, could be seen in and around the pit. First the male of a Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla) showed up in the first light of this chilly but sunny morning. Then a beautiful singing individual of a Common Whitethroat (Sylvia communis) could be seen very near to an observation tower which is located on the eastern end of the old gravel pit. A Lesser Whitethroat (Sylvia curruca) showed up briefly afterwards. And finally even a silent Garden Warbler (Sylvia borin) could be seen catching a caterpillar in a dense bush. Excellent observations are possible from at least 4 towers spread over the Nature reserve. Information, you can also get at the Nature house “Weilbacher Kiesgruben” which is an information center.

The gravel pit is home of some birds, which are rare elsewhere in the Rhine-Main-area. One example is the Crested Lark (Galerida cristata), which is a rare breeder. Its occurrence is restricted to open, ruderal areas near commercial areas and parking lots. Eurasian Marsh-Harrier (Circus aeruginosus) is another specialty. One of a few breeding pairs in the Main- Taunus-Kreis is present here. The Eurasian Penduline-Tit (Remiz pendulinus), which is a rare breeding bird and migrant in the Rhine- Main area is breeding in the Nature Reserves Massenheimer Kiesgrube and Weilbacher Kiesgrube. The birds are known to breed for 15 years now. In 1999 three breeding pairs were recognized.

Common Snipe (Gallinago gallinago), Common Greenshank (Tringa nebularia) and Green Sandpiper (Tringa ochropus) are regular migrant passing through the area. An excellent observation spot is a hut which acts as a hide on the bottom of an abandoned area of the pit in the north-east corner of the reserve. You have to be early on the bottom of the pit and in the hut. During the day, the area fills quickly with joggers, dog walker and people seeking recreation.

An early morning on a sunny day can be a real pleasure. Also from the ornithology point of view. In addition to the Warblers, it is possible to see and photograph birds like European Turtle-Dove (Streptopelia turtur), Common Cuckoo (Cuculus canorus), Eurasian Golden-Oriole (Oriolus oriolus), Sand Martin (Riparia riparia) and Hawfinch (Coccothraustes coccothraustes).

To cope with the growing demand for top shots of the rarer species of the Palearctic Bird-Lens is keen to enrich the range of pictures of birds you can find in the western palearctic. Trips to remote places or to tourist spots to capture images of rare birds of western palearctic were very successful. Just give me a message, if I could serve you with an image needed before the new pictures are online.

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