Marco Sommerfeld has been working for the Carl Zeiss bird station in Hamburg for over 10 years. Always in a good mood, he combines natural science expertise with tireless dedication to the protection of native bird species in an extraordinary way.
Marco has made his passion for the natural and bird world a profession and shares his knowledge at any time with interested visitors in the Wedeler march. In her current article, Michaela Sulz tells us more about his personality and commitment.
Hamburg has plenty to offer birders besides the Carl Zeiss Bird Station. Way out to the east of the city is Lake Öjendorf, where several rare duck species can be observed, especially during the winter.
With top-end ZEISS gear in tow, Sören Rust meets the Young Birders Club at the lake – together, they make a few remarkable discoveries. Even the bad weather can’t dampen their spirits.
A Saturday morning with the Young Birders Club at the Carl Zeiss Bird Station
4:45 a.m.: The alarm clock went off. Thinking of sleeping in on a Saturday morning? Not when you're going to watch migratory birds with the Young Birders Club! We began counting all migratory birds even before the sun rose. So we met at the Wedel Marina at 7:30. We've headed to the marina because this is where the river Elbe is at its most narrow, causing the migrating birds to gather so that they can spend as little time over the water as possible as they fly south. This Saturday started out gray with a strong wind from the southwest – not exactly great conditions for migrating because birds generally don't fly when there are headwinds. Despite the weather, a small group of Young Birders met at the marina.
And it paid off! In spite of the wind, large groups of birds were out and flocks of them flew across the Elbe heading south every couple of seconds. Today the record went to the common chaffinch: in three hours, more than 21,500 of them flew across the river. Yet you have to look sharp when there are swarms of finches, because in between the common chaffinches is the odd brambling and hawfinch. Picking out individual species when bird watching requires a special kind of skill. Species that look quite different on the ground can appear almost exactly the same when flying overhead. You can only distinguish between them by their call and flying silhouette.
Sören, what got you interested in nature and birdwatching?
My family has always been very connected to nature. Both my parents are biologists, so I spent a lot of time outdoors as a child and I just grew up with nature, really.
I soon developed an interest in birds when I discovered just how many you can spot in your own back yard and how little I even knew about them. No sooner had I begun did I feel an overwhelming curiosity and I came across ever more species in and around the garden. During one of my various forays, I met another birdwatcher, who was also on the hunt for a kingfisher. He taught me about the Carl Zeiss Bird Station, and that’s when my passion for the pursuit came into its own.
Where does the Carl Zeiss Bird Station come into play?
The Carl Zeiss Bird Station is a fantastic place for ornithologists in and around Hamburg to meet. The Bird Station is situated in a key breeding and resting area for many birds and is equipped with excellent optics, which make it a great place to experience our feathered friends up close. The volunteers there immediately welcomed me with open arms and encouraged me to take an active role myself. Not a month has gone by since my first visit that I haven’t been at least once – in fact, I usually stop by every week. I also very much enjoy showing interested visitors the Wedel Marsh and its birds, and I love watching the birds and capturing shots of them myself. As a volunteer, my duties include station service and assignments designed to ensure the birds always have a place to breed and rest.
Introducing the New ZEISS Victory Harpia Spotting Scope
From 11 through 13 September, ZEISS Sports Optics invited visitors to come to the city of Hamburg and check out the new ZEISS Victory Harpia spotting scope that will be available starting in January 2018. Invited guests not only got to attend the product demo, but also heard from the Dachverband Deutscher Avifaunisten (DDA), an umbrella organization for bird lovers, and took a boat ride to the Carl Zeiss Bird Station in the Wedel Marsh run by the NABU Hamburg, an environmental protection group.
There, participants had the opportunity to try out the new spotting scope, with its revolutionary optical system featuring a three-stage wide-angle zoom, in real-world conditions.
A chalkboard at the entrance to the Carl Zeiss Bird Station headed by Marco Sommerfeld informs visitors which birds they might see in the Wedel Marsh currently.
In 1978 the Wedel Marsh was diked – despite mass protests led by conservationists. The NABU branch in Hamburg did, however, ensure that the extraction site of marine clay needed to build the dams was turned into a substitute habitat for wading and aquatic birds. Working according to guidance and active support of many bird enthusiasts, a 10-hectare body of water was created on an area measuring roughly 17.5 ha. Ever since, the area has been rented by NABU Hamburg and is maintained and further developed by dedicated volunteers on an ongoing basis.
The Carl Zeiss Bird Station was opened in 1984. For more than 30 years, this area, which lies some 15 km to the west of Hamburg, has been used to observe the birds on the Wedel Marsh. This is the perfect place for ducks, geese, wading birds and gulls to find food and to breed.
One full-time and several volunteer supervisors tell visitors all about the local nature, offer them binoculars for hire and inspire people on tours that take in the local bird species.
People generally associate Hamburg with bustling trade and busy streets, and not with nature. Apart from its port, Hamburg is a typical big city in Europe – with a large number of paved areas. The locals only encounter nature in one of the city’s parks or once they venture further afield. And yet there are a great many children and young people who enjoy spending time in the great outdoors and are committed to nature conservation.
“In a big city like Hamburg, there are plenty of things for children and young people to do in their free time. It’s not always easy to position our Naturschutzjugend activities. Still, we have quite a number of volunteers and popular youth groups,” says 19-year-old Jan Göldner. When Jan isn’t studying for his high school diploma or working a shift at the hardware store, he spends a lot of time as a regional youth spokesman for Naturschutzjugend and runs a youth group that focuses on nature conservation.