Saturday, 10 June 2017

Berlin Birding

If you want to see a Goshawk, go to Berlin.
For some reason this elusive raptor, which hides itself away in the deepest of forests over here, is comparatively easy to see in Berlin – just check out this article from the Guardian https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2015/may/13/berlin-goshawks-urban-wildlife-tempelhof-airport-birdwatching (and, bearing in mind that there’s an election next week and impartiality is required, here’s another from the Telegraph): http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/destinations/europe/germany/berlin/articles/Berlin-an-unlikely-paradise-for-birders/ ).
I’d just spent a few days in Baden-Wurttemberg visiting my brother and my German sister-in-law and had already seen such species as Fieldfare (distinctly out of place in baking late May), Serin and many, many Black Redstarts but I was now in the big city and looking to get my birding bearings.
Sparrow art



First of all, House Sparrows are everywhere and are quite forward, jumping on to your café table in search of crumbs and clearly making a mark on the local graffiti artists.
As previously alluded to, Black Redstarts are also very common, seemingly swapping places with the Robin in terms of numbers and behaviour, one’s attention frequently being drawn to their ‘electric river’ song, and the Hooded Crow rules the roost over our more usual Carrion Crow. They also seem rather territorial as I was buzzed twice by one before I beat a hasty retreat.

Hooded crow


My main Berlin birding area was the Tiergarten, a beautiful park to the west of the Brandenburg Gate. It's the former hunting park, with winding paths, islands, pondsa an as lake. On the lake mute swans and mallards were the home birds.

Queen Louise, beloved queen of the Prussians


Taking care not to be run over by the many cyclists I heard the usual warblers chff chaff and willow warbler etc but many, many ‘chipping’ woodpeckers, including one chasing another right in front of me. I thought they were all Great Spotted but this site seems to indicate that Middle Spotted may also be around https://germanybirding.com/ so a little ID brushing up may well end up paying off.
My most unusual sighting on my first visit was this little fellow who, judging by his harness, was a pet:

Pet Pig


It was very, very hot so, after being disappointed to find the English Tea Garden closed, I made for the Café Tiergarten on Altonauer Strasse, whose garden gave out over the edge of the Tiergarten, enabling me to see a GSW alighting on a nearby tree, yet more Black Redstarts and a single Common Redstart (I’ve deliberately left the tape in the photo as this part of the field seemed to be where all the action was):
  

Redstart



Another site that repaid a visit was an unexpected one – Gatow airfield is now a museum and I’d gone to have a look at their old aircraft.

I had to be careful not to make any sudden movements as it seemed the local Black Redstarts had developed missile technology:

Black Redstart


Finally, at the very end of the fighter section stood this old Sukhoi fighter:


Sukhoi


And, sat on the corner of the fence to the left was… a Grey Shrike! It stayed put long enough for me to tell it was a Grey Shrike but, though I had the Collins on me this time, not long enough for me to definitively determine that it was a GGS as opposed to a Lesser before it flew behind some containers and lorries behind said fence.
I’ve posted the question on birdforum.net and, judging by the their responses and https://germanybirding.com/ , it would appear that it was indeed another Great Grey Shrike which is my second in under three months. Crazy times!

In the end the closest I came to seeing a Goshawk was when sitting at Friedrichstrasse S-Bahn station and seeing a boat called ‘Habicht’ go by. ‘Habicht’ is German for Goshawk, and it was encouraging to see that the locals are aware of nature’s goodies on their very doorstep.

If anyone’s considering a Berlin trip then I heartily recommend it – history everywhere you look and enough green spaces to break up the sightseeing, with the added attraction that, for most of us, Germany is very much an under-visited and under-watched country from a birding perspective.

Tiergarten Lake

John Doragh

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