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Visiting Oder Valley - Richards Diary part 10

Saturday 24th April

Just had a call from Nigel at ten to nine here – he is watching egg 2 hatch! I ring Beate who is very excited and she passes on the good news to Peter that he’s become a ‘new dad’. It’s still hard to believe we only collected egg 2 on Tuesday, less than 4 days ago and now have a little ginger chick, alive and kicking. Beate will talk to Peter about the estimated laying date which appears to be about a week out – useful information which we will need when planning egg collection in future years.

I get another text from Nigel at 11.25: egg 2 hatched at 7am UK time, egg 5 at 8am and egg 8 has pipped. 11 others eggs are ‘wobbling’ (indicating advanced development). Things are looking really good.

I spend the day in the Oder Valley to the east of the biosphere reserve. This is one of Europe’s largest natural floodplains, and so the opportunity to have a look at it is too good to miss. It forms the border between Germany and Poland, and many of the towns and villages which border the floodplain have dual German and Polish names. I start exploration in the early afternoon at Stolpe, a picturesque town close to Angermunde, and follow the Friedrichsthaler Wasserstrasse up to Zϋtsen, Schwedt and Gatow where some of the best wetland habitat forms a big nature reserve.

The farmland behind the dike has the dull, dried-out monotony of the more intensive parts of the Somerset Levels. However, on the river side, the Oder is a beautiful, wide river, bordered by old willows. Even in April, there are big areas of wetland extending along both sides of the Oder, including lots of wet grassland and large areas of freshwater marsh, especially towards Gatow in the north.

Needless to say, there are lots of good birds, although the only obvious waders are lapwing and green sandpiper, and no sign of the breeding ruff which Beate says are here. At the first stop on the road out into the marsh from Stolpe there’s a nice little marsh with great reed warbler and Savi’s warblers calling in the reedbed.

Between Stolpe and Stϋtzkow, as the floodplain opens out into wet grassland, there’s suddenly lots of great white egrets, then a couple of common terns fishing, and yellow wagtail (probably grey-headed). I spot two cranes feeding on the Polish side of the river, then a couple more in a big grazing marsh at Stϋtzkow. Close to Zϋtzen a couple of garganey fly in, and trying to get a closer view with the telescope, there’s a stunning male smew with two females – they must be on passage to Scandinavia. A pair of sea eagles soar overhead.

view of the marses of the Oder
The stunning marshes of the Oder looking towards Poland

eagles soaring in the sky above
Soaring sea eagles

Great white egrets with grey herons feeding in the Oder marsh lands
Great white egrets with grey herons and a mute swan
feed in the Oder marsh lands

a white stork
White stork

View of a local German church
A local German church

signs of beaver activity on trees
Signs of beaver activity

At a spot just north of Schwedt, there is an enormous area of wetland, best viewed from the modern wooden bridge over the main canal. A male serin calls from a birch tree and there are hundreds of tufted duck out on the open water with pochard and wigeon, plus a sea eagle briefly. The area is huge and seems to get bigger approaching the coast. North of Schwedt I rejoin the waterstrasse and follow a track along the edge of a big marsh marigold wetland which holds more garganey, and shoveler. There are obvious signs of beaver activity in the area, with a number of felled willows and birch trees. An adjacent reedbed holds three male Savi’s warbler which conveniently sing from the tops of the reeds.

I drive back to the mill in the early evening, very happy with the day in the Oder floodplain. The black stork is back again feeding on the marsh.

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. You can read all of Richards Diary here.

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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.