Another family trip but as usual a bit of time spare for birding. This would be my first visit outside of winter, so even if I didn’t see many ‘lifers’ I was always going to add some new stuff to my German list…
We arrived late in Hanover, but the ever-present Pied Wagtails greeted us at the airport.
We spent the first night In Salzgitter and in the morning large numbers of House Martins were seen along with the resident House Sparrows and the occasional Large White. We headed north to Büsum on the northern coast of Germany. Despite extensive mudflats there were few birds visible, with Oystercatchers and Purple Sandpipers the only notable species other than the gulls. Swallows were ever-present, and small unidentified crabs were found along the shore. In the evening a solitary Swift was almost certainly the last one I will see this year.
Next morning we headed to the harbour to catch a ferry to Heligoland. Lapwings feeding in fields on the way were a first for Germany. It was a really hot day on the island but I’d have happily spent much longer there. Walking through alleys between houses we came across a Hummingbird Hawk-moth, Collared Doves and Sparrows. Higher on the grasses there were numerous Wheatear, a few pipits and the occasional Common Blue, none looking particularly fresh. The Gannet colony was enjoyable giving close views of the birds along with wide views of the sea stack also covered in the birds. Scanning the waters revealed 20-30 Common Seals, Eiders and Cormorants.
I’d read reports, albeit a couple of years old, of White Storks turning up at Sankt Peter-Ording, so we decided to have a bit of a search. After driving around for a few minutes we took a turn which lead us in to the car park of a hospital. Atop 4 or 5 of the car park lights was a White Stork. In a small tree we found a nest occupied by one chick and its mother. The sun was dropping and it was too late for anything but silhouettes at sunset.
We headed to Kattinger-Watt the next day. One target was White-tailed Eagles of which there are many pairs in this area, but we didn’t manage to see any this time. It’s a really nice area and somewhere we’ll probably return in the future. We saw Shelducks, Small Tortoiseshells, Little Grebes, Barnacle Geese, Sand Martins, Snipe, Little Ringed Plover, Curlew, Jack Snipe, Small Heaths, Large Whites, Black-tailed Godwit, Redshank and Ruff and more.
Returning to Sankt Peter-Ording and the hospital the White Storks were absent. A short drive and we found a flock of 24 feeding in fields and managed to watch them for some time with flyovers from the occasional Buzzard and Grey Heron, and cows that persisted in getting between my camera and the storks.
Dodging showers on the Friday we visited Speckerkoog. I was hopeful of finding Bluethroats here but had severely mis-judged their migration and we were too late. Three Black-necked Grebes were a nice find however, along with plenty Great-crested Grebes and Sandwich Terns.
The last few days were much more family orientated but I did manage a few local outings in the hope of catching up with a Black Woodpecker. The closest I came was a nearby call in Salzgitter Bad but I didn’t manage to set eyes on it. Cicadas were heard in private allotments on the edge of woodland, Hornets, Southern Hawkers, Speckled Woods, etc.
Overall it was another good trip and any wildlife seen was a bonus considering it was a trip to see the in-laws and celebrate a couple of family birthdays. The Black Woodpecker remains elusive as ever and there’s still a good number of species left for me to discover on future trips.