A fresh morning. Thick layers of fog are lying over the wetlands of the Nuthe floodplain south of Berlin. The weather forecast was perfect and everywhere there were numerous motives. So I took advantage of every free minute in the morning to be outside. The meadows along the river offer a diverse habitat structure. One family of Whinchats (Saxicola rubetra) with at least 2 juveniles were seen in uncut grassland. I placed the car not far from a pole inside the meadow, hoping a young Whinchat, I had seen before, to return. After a while the recently fledged Whinchat really returned to the pole. In the first morning light, it started to preen and stretch the wings. Obviously it wanted to get rid of their youngster’s feather dress. Successful, as it seems. With a surprised look, the young Whinchat looked after the flying plume.
The area south of Berlin has a lot to offer in terms of nature. In addition to the natural richness this is a legacy of the division of Germany, which has prevented the city´s spread after the end of the 2nd World War like in no other city. This means, that even today you often have to pass the city limits only in order to stand in the middle of nature. One of these areas is the Nature Park “Lowlands of Nuthe and Nieplitz”. The small rivers Nuthe and Nieplitz are located south-west of Berlin and form a unique lowland habitat. One of the core areas is the Blankensee. The lake is a shallow (only about 60cm deep) water body which is surrounded by an extensive reed belt. Different species of warblers (Acrocephalus sp.), Bearded tits or Bearded Reedlings (Panurus biarmicus) and Bluethroat (Luscinia svecica) and inhabit the edges of the lake. In addition to the Blankensee the shallow lakes in Stangenhagen and Rieben offer excellent habitats to a variety of dabbling and diving ducks. These lakes are surrounded by wet meadows, which offer additional high-value habitat. Waders such as Northern Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus), Common Snipe (Gallinago gallinago) and Common Redshank (Tringa totanus) breed in the wet meadows which surround the open waters. Many birds of prey, such as Osprey (Pandion haliaetus), Red Kite (Milvus milvus), Black Kite (Milvus migrans), White-tailed Eagles (Haliaeetus albicilla) and Eurasian Marsh-Harrier (Circus aeruginosus) have nests in the area. Also, Egrets and Cranes are often encountered.
The edge of the forest around the lakes offer different habitats with the constantly calling Eurasian Golden-Oriole (Oriolus oriolus) and also many Cuckoos (Cuculus canorus).
Also the open, agricultural land turns out to be very productive. Eurasian Wryneck (Jynx torquilla), Hoopoe (Upupa epops), Lesser Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos minor) and Red-backed Shrike (Lanius collurio) can all be observed and photographed. These species are among the typical species that are quite easy to find. A highlight of course is a Black Stork (Ciconia nigra), which might fly out of the woods to one of the vegetated channels in the wet meadows.
Whinchat are declining in Germany at an alarming page. In Britain the Whinchat was recently added to the Red List of high conservation concern following a 50 per cent decline in Britain since the 1990s. Also Sky Larks (Alauda arvensis) and Meadow Pipits (Anthus pratensis) are on a decline in german countryside but still more common here. Nature conservationists of the Naturpark Nuthe-Nieplitz believe the survival of these birds is due to a gradual reduction in overall grazing and a shift towards the use of cattle on the land. When cattle graze they create a varied habitat, which provides a range of potential nest sites and food sources such as insects.
In general mornings in the countryside south of Berlin are a real pleasure albeit the many mosquitoes sometimes. Not only, but also from the ornithological point of view. In addition, it might possible in summer to photograph songbirds not only Whinchats (Saxicola rubetra) but also European Stonechat (Saxicola rubicola) and even Cranes (Grus grus) with a young. Non-ornithological highlight can be close-up sightings of a River Otter (Lutra lutra) stalking out of the reed and approaching the patient photographer up to a distance of less than 15 meters.
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