Saturday, 14 January 2017

The frozen south

The last two months have been rather hectic in all. Having moved, registered and dealt with all the bureaucracy around health-care, car and insurance, we finally found a place to live in Eriskirch. This meant that we had to re-do a chunk of the bureaucracy to keep our adress up-to-date, but that's a small price to pay for a bit of stability.

The new flat is just a couple of minutes' walk from the Eriskircher Ried: our local patch, if you will. [Apologies, but a good few of the links in this post will be in German. Google Translate may help, but don't count on it...] The Ried (map in link) is a fairly large protected area - one of the largest on the German portion of the Bodensee shoreline - and consists of 600 hectares of the lake shore, associated reedswamp and fen, with 'streuwiesen' and woodland further inland before the orchards reappear. 

The protected area is a Natura 2000 site (link to the data forms here: use the bottom three links for the pdfs), an SPA (Special Protection Area designated under the EU Birds Directive for those who may not know) designated in 2007. It appears to be important for populations of various breeding birds: Hobby, Great Reed Warbler, Quail, Grey-headed Woodpecker and Wryneck in particular, and for a sizeable aggregation of wintering waterbirds; counts of about 10,000-20,000 Tufted Duck and Pochard are mentioned, along with around 1,500 Red-crested Pochard. So, in theory, the local patch looks pretty interesting.

In practice, there certainly seems to be plenty of potential. Diving duck are fairly prominent around the lake edge, though Goldeneye and Red-crested Pochard seem to be the most abundant species at present this winter (acknowledged that it's a fairly poor winter for waterbirds so far though). There are also plenty of Mallard, Coot, Great Crested Grebe and Cormorant. There are always groups of Goosander scattered around and Little Grebe are more plentiful than anywhere I have ever been before. Whooper Swans are here in reasonable numbers, along with a small number of Bewick's. Black-headed, Common, Caspian and Yellow-legged Gulls are all widespread (ah, the joys of returning to the complexities of large white-headed gull identification) and herons are represented by lots of Grey Heron and variable numbers of Great Egret. Grey-headed Woodpecker are certainly around, if thinly-spread, though the landbird scene is rather restricted by the time of year and a decent blanket of snow in the last week or so, along with some freezer-like temperatures.

Pictures of the meadows in spring and summer look enticing, so as the year continues to turn, it's going to be an exciting time with plenty to discover. I dare say there will be more on the subject later!

The river at the south of the Ried - the Schussen - at the start of the snowfall. Three days later the river had frozen across, leaving a disconsolate-looking troop of Teal marooned on the ice.

Looking north across the meadows towards Eriskirch, where the church rather dominates the skyline.

A view across the meadows to some mistletoe-infested willows.

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