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The journey to the Mill - Richards Diary part 2

Sunday 18th April

We’re up at 6am thanks to the ship’s alarm call. After a quick shower, I join people waiting to go down to the car deck. Roland is up earlier than me and is rewarded with good views of a North Sea porpoise.

We get quickly through Dutch passport control. It’s a lovely sunny morning by the Brielse Meer and people are out fishing. We stop at a quiet service station near Gorinchem where we relax in a leafy courtyard, drinking Dutch coffee and listening to goldfinches in the hornbeams. The young waiter apologises in good English for the limited Sunday morning menu, then brings us two huge plates of fried eggs, ham and cheese - a good Dutch breakfast is just what we needed.

The roads are really good and traffic is light. We make our way east through Neijmegen and Arnhem. I think about Uncle Charles who was badly injured at Arnhem during the war. We join the North German Plain which extends across northern Europe into Poland, and the land starts to gently undulate as we head away from the Dutch flatlands.

We cross the Dutch-German border, marked only by a road sign. The countryside broadens into large fields and long views to the surrounding wooded hills. The road is straight for many miles as we pass through Osnabruck, then Hannover, where we spot our first red kites.

We take regular breaks and refuel with coffee. 100km west of Berlin the traffic gets heavier, and we start getting irritated by the speed merchants going past us at 120mph (plus), making use of the middle lane tricky.

Signs for Potsdam appear as we approach Berlin. Driving anti clockwise around Berlin, Roland navigates us onto the A11 north east towards Angermunde. A large bird of prey passes over the road in the distance – was it a sea eagle? We pass a sign welcoming us to the Schorfheide-Chorin Biosphere Reserve then pull off onto smaller roads which take us into gently rolling Brandenburg countryside - a nice mix of settled villages, mixed farmland and small broadleaved woodlands. We get into Angermunde tired but relieved. At the train station a male black redstart calls from the station roof. Our German hosts, Beate and Eberhard, are there to welcome us and we follow them out of town along the cobbled roads of small villages and into a large pine and beech forest. After a mile or so along sandy forest tracks we arrive at a small lake and Glambecker Mill, our home for the next three weeks.

The mill is a large refurbished building with four big bedrooms, a well stocked kitchen, a large dining/meeting room and a suitable down stairs room for the incubators. We have the whole place to ourselves for three weeks and can’t believe how nice it is. Beate and Eberhard have kindly brought supper and a large crate of Berlin beer. We unload essentials and sit down to the first of many excellent German sausages, local cheese and the beer. Wunderbar!

Beate and Eberhard, with colleagues from ‘Vielfalt Biosphere’, are the main coordinators of crane protection in the Schorfheide-Chorin Biosphere Reserve. They’ve been monitoring cranes for many years, and by their own admission are ‘craniacs’, spending much of their free time watching, ringing and following the birds. It feels really good to be with passionate nature conservationists. We talk until late about the cranes and the biosphere, then, with the help of Eberhard’s Starkbier (7%), Roland and I get a restful night’s sleep after a long day.

This is the diary of Richard Archer, RSPB Conservation Officer for Somerset.
In mid April, Richard spent three weeks as part of the RSPB/WWT/Pensthorpe crane team collecting crane eggs in Eastern Germany. These are his personal reflections on the successful German visit.

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Richard Archer is RSPB’s Conservation Officer for Somerset, and took his sabbatical in the of Spring 2010 to help with the collection, incubation and transport of the first year’s eggs.