Lake Tegel as a winter birding destination in Berlin

OhrentaucherDuring migration and in winter waterfowl rest in good numbers on the Tegeler See (a lake just north of Tegel airport). A visit in late January performed with damp and cold conditions at temperatures around 0 degree Celsius. The shore is lined of a crumbling ice. No welcoming weather. No snow nor sunshine will improve the images. But very quickly, this does not matter. A wintering Slavonian Grebe (Podiceps auritus) in the middle of Berlin had been observed due to a message on the local birding website This is an opportunity a nature photographer does not want to miss. The Great Malchsee is really just a bulge, an extension of Lake Tegel. It is located north of the City, thus not far to drive. Maybe the grebe comes close enough on shore and maybe it is possible to take pictures while fishing.

A Slavonian (or Horned) Grebe could be seen after just only 10 minutes. The Slavonian Grebe swam just between the poles of the Sailors Association Tegel. The area seems to be a fruitful hunting ground. Again and again the grebe dives into the clear water and about every 8-10 attempt will be rewarded with a fish as prey. It seems mostly to be small fish such as sticklebacks. From the photographic point of view rapid response is required because the Slavonian Grebe wraps the prey down quickly. Only when the fish is transverse in its beak, you have – as a photographer – a chance to shoot a few pictures. The lakes in Berlin and the watercourses which stretches along the river Havel, are excellent for water related species which include Loons, Grebes, diving ducks, and Mergansers.

Larger natural lakes (such as the extension of Lake Tegel: Great Malchsee in Berlin) but also flooded opencast mining holes as the Seelhausener lake at Loebnitz in Saxony accommodate wintering Slavonian Grebe (Podiceps auritus) from time to time. At least 1 individual kept on going on the Great Malchsee in Berlin for over 2 weeks.

Habitat selection of wintering birds such as sea ducks is influenced by the surface sediment type and water depth. Although not a duck, the habitat selection of the Slavonian Grebe is affected by these issues as well. Its preferred depth range is, according to a study on the Baltic Sea in a depth of 4-14 meters. Sand was the preferred sediment type. Also on Brandenburg lakes Slavonian Grebe prefer areas with low or mid-water. The clear Brandenburg lakes with its sandy sediment are ideal as a wintering area. Observations of Slavonian Grebe are piling up from mid-November and reach its peak in the first half of January.

The Great Malchsee in Berlin is located only 15 kilometers north-west of Berlin Central Station. By car you can reach Forest Tegel and the lake in less than half an hour through the city. Leave the car on one of the few parkings lots near the piers. Other lakes in Brandenburg are also likely to be very productive. But the observations of Slavonian Grebes from there are much less frequently.

The forests around the Great Malchsee themselves show a good variety of tree species. The woods are home to four Woodpecker species including good numbers of Middle Spotted Woodpecker, (Dendrocopos medius) in stands of oak. In beech forests the Red-breasted Flycatcher (Ficedula parva)can be seen in good years in late spring.

Wetland species as Little Bittern (Ixobrychus minutus) has appeared at the Flughafensee (close to Tegel airport) in late spring/ summer and Great Bittern (Botaurus stellaris) often show-up in cold winters along the reeds of the Flughafensee as well.

To meet the growing demand for top shots of the rarer species of Palaearctic, Bird-Lens is keen to enrich the range of pictures of birds you can find in the western has made trips to areas like the Brandenburg lakes, Lake Neusiedl but also taken to remote locations (Finland in wintertime or Spain in spring) to capture images of rare birds targeted. The yield of images from rare Western Palaearctic birds is very good. The nice image you find in that blog is only an appetizer, what you will find in the gallery in the “Pictures Shop”. Just give a message, if can help you with images picture of a bird before the new pictures are online.

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