Lapwing festival on 22th of April 2018

Not too long ago, the Carl Zeiss Bird Station at Wedel Marsh was covered in ice, but now spring has finally arrived, and brought new birds with it.

Its winter guests are still here, stocking up on reserves for their journey home, but migration is already underway – even the first summer birds have made their way to us.

Our barnacle geese, which bring the Marsh to life during the winter months, gathered in record numbers: 30,000 of them came to us. I’ve never seen so many geese here at the Station at any one time; normally they arrive gradually. The cold spell of the last few weeks led to a migratory bottleneck, but it does mean the birds put on a marvelous show at dusk as thousands of geese fly to their “beds” in the mud flats of the Elbe.

A red-breasted goose, a very rare sighting indeed, was spotted amid the barnacle geese.

This rare goose normally spends the winter on the Black Sea coast, but sometimes a goose will inadvertently join the wrong flock and fly our way with the barnacle geese. That’s why we ornithologists always have a little contest to see who will spot the red-breasted goose. She kept to the riverbanks and made for a wonderful sighting over the past few days at the Carl Zeiss Bird Station.

The songbirds also make their way back to the Marsh and the sweet calls of the skylarks can often be heard in the nearby fields. The larks, the stonechats and the meadow pipits are all busy building their nests in time for breeding season. The wading birds are also returning one group at a time; while the lapwings stayed here during the winter, other waders spent the winter in warmer southern climes.

The oystercatchers and ringed plovers returned several days ago, and they’re now joined by redshanks. And the first little ringed plovers have arrived, just in time for spring. These little plovers breed here at the Station on the gravel islands, which is a great opportunity to watch them raising their young. Hopefully they’ll be as successful this year as they were last year, when 4 young birds became fully fledged.

It’s sure to get very lively over the next few days here in the Marsh, with new birds returning every day that we haven’t seen all winter.

The ducks are also putting on a great show at the Carl Zeiss Bird Station – almost all species are here and the males are showing off their stunning plumage, making them easy to spot.

While the goldeneyes come to the Marsh in the winter and are slowly leaving us, many swimming ducks are reaching peak numbers on their pilgrimage – hundreds of teals have gathered here, and the grazing widgeons and dabbling pintails are hard to miss.

Only the garganeys have yet to return from their winter home in Africa, but the first ones are due to arrive any day now.

On 22th of April 2018 the Carl Zeiss Bird Station will be hosting the annual lapwing festival, where tours, exciting sightings and an information event about the Wedel Marsh and its inhabitants will all be on offer.

Sören Rust

Sören Rust is an enthusiastic Young Birder, nature photographer and volunteer at the Carl Zeiss Bird Station at Wedel Marsh.