Germany – February 2018

8th-14th February
As per the last German trip, this was primarily about visiting family and friends, punctuated with wildlife whenever time and location allowed.

Arriving in Hannover, the Pied Wagtails were still resident in the airport buildings, and Robins confused by the night-time lighting continued to sing.

In Salzgitter in the morning, a Wood Mouse was feeding in the bird feeders and Greenfinches, Starlings, House Sparrows and Blue and Great Tits could be seen from the windows. We headed back to Hannover to meet friends, but stopped off at Steinfeldsee on the way. A series of lakes, mostly completely frozen over, were filled with hundreds of geese and large numbers of Great Cormorants, and small numbers of Mallard, Tufted Duck and Coot. A distant Bittern was a German first for me, and a possible Willow Tit, though it’s always a nightmare to distinguish them from the Marsh Tit. In this habitat, either were likely.

The next day we headed to woods near to a tiny airfield in Salzgitter – somewhere I’d spent time last year and decided to try again for Woodpeckers there. Bullfinches, Brambling, Greenfinch, Marsh Tit, Siskin, etc were abundant, and eventually a woodpecker arrived. It took a while to positively identify it but it was a Middle Spotted Woodpecker. I managed some very poor photos and decided to come back another day as we had to leave to meet family, but not before setting up a trail camera in the woodland.

Wild Boar in the Harz Mountains

After a walk in the Harz Mountains near Bad Harzburg with family, we hung around until dark with the hope of seeing Wild Boar and possibly Raccoon. No Raccoons, but a large sounder of around 40 Wild Boar were seen feeding in the snow just after dusk.

The following day I went back to the airfield. A Kestrel was hunting the fields on the approach, where a large flock of Linnet were feeding. All the usual woodland birds were there, and eventually the Middle Spotted Woodpecker arrived and I was able to get some better photos this time. A walk through another woodland later in the day for Black Woodpecker was unsuccessful.

We headed towards Berlin to reach Brandenburg. All of Germany’s remaining population of Great Bustard (c200 birds) can be found in this region. On reaching a suitable lookout we saw various raptors, and a local birder said he’d already seen a Rough-legged Buzzard and 4 Hen Harriers, but advised us that we needed to move a kilometre or so away to see the Great Bustards. On doing so, we found a large flock of over 100 Common Cranes interspersed by a few Roe Deer, but no Great Bustards. Driving for an hour brought us to another location for them, but again we didn’t see any. Returning to the car I found a Great Grey Shrike hunting over agricultural land.

On returning home and reviewing the trail camera, it had captured an unidentifiable species of mouse, some Red Squirrels, and a Beech Marten – a first for me.