Sunday 7 December 2014

Hawfinch in Germany

Our annual pilgrimage to the Christmas markets in Germany began with a drive to Heathrow Airport on Saturday 29th November. From the car I managed to see a red kite near Stonehenge, a covey of around 10 red legged partridge feeding in a field close to the road and 2 roe deer. Unfortunately I also saw the usual dead mammals (fox, badger, rabbit) and dead pheasents along the side of the road.

Arriving in Hamburg and it was very cold and grey but at least it was dry and it stayed that way for most of the trip. The Christmas markets were very good and as usual we ate and drank far too much. Best bird in Hamburg was a grey wagtail around the hotel buildings one morning. Coot, mallard, tufted duck, common-, black headed- and herring gull, blackbird, house sparrow, cormorant and carrion crow were also seen around the city centre.

Common Gulls (1 with a leg ring), Hamburg

A day trip by train to nearby Celle and I saw lots of buzzards flying over the fields as we sped by, the few I saw close to the train were definitely common buzzards and not rough legged. Groups of roe deer were feeding in the fields and I had a brief and distant view of what looked like a great white egret feeding along a water filled ditch but I couldn't be sure. A walk around the park in Celle and I found the star birds of the trip, around 6 hawfinch feeding in the tree tops near the castle in the same area where I saw them on my trip 4 years ago. They were very flighty and mobile and kept high up in the trees but I had some nice views despite the very grey and dull light.

Hawfinch, Celle

Hawfinch, Celle

Hawfinch, Celle

Travelling by train to Berlin on December 3rd and I saw more buzzards and roe deer. I had a brief and distant view of a herd of around 50 large white swans spread out across a grassy field, presumably whooper, but I didn't get a view of any beak colour.

Berlin was very interesting and with a much better atmosphere than I felt on my trip in 2008. The Christmas markets were much improved too and again we ate and drank too much. There were lots of hooded crows around especially at dusk when groups were flying in to the small parks with jackdaws to roost in the tree tops. It was odd to see hooded crows in Berlin and carrion crows in Hamburg.The two cities are only around 300kms apart but there is obviously a line of demarcation somewhere between the 2 cities and the 2 species, a situation echoed in the UK with hooded crows in Scotland and carrion crows in England.

Hooded Crows, Berlin

A short toed treecreeper was seen creeping around the brick work of a ruined church in the city centre, looking most bizarre and eventually  being chased off by a great tit. A sparrowhawk was also seen flying low over trees at dusk, Berlin has quite a significant population of goshawks which can be quite confiding but it was definently a sparrowhawk that I saw due to its small size.

Black Headed Gull, Berlin

And so we had a great trip as usual, Germany is a really nice country to visit and the Christmas markets are always very fun and festive. I managed to see around 30 species of bird without even trying, not bad when visiting 2 of the largest cities in Germany on a non-birding holiday. We also managed to see our fifth and final Egyptian temple rescued from flooding by the construction of the Aswan Dam - the Kalabsha Gate. Unfortunately it is currently being poorly displayed in an enclosed space in a museum of surreal art but will be moved to a new wing of the Pergamon museum in the centre of Berlin in a few years time.

 Kalabsha Gate, Berlin

Nefertiti, Egyptian Museum, Berlin - a sneaky photo!

Amazing lobby of the Radisson Hotel, Berlin as seen from our room!

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