Thursday, February 9, 2012

23km walk at -13°C through the Duvenstedter Brook

When I finally stepped into the bus that would take me home I felt quite weak. I had not eaten anything since more than 10 hours, I had not drunk anything since I had left the house in the morning morning and I had walked aproximately 23km through the Duvenstedter Brook. The last hour or so had I wandered through darkness and all day the temperatures had been around -13°C. I couldn't feel much life left my fingers, which were packed in two pairs of gloves. Luckily the rest of my body was still warm as I was wearing two pairs of thick socks under thick shoes, thick pants, four layers of shirts and jackets, a thick scarf and a bonnet. But I think the day was worth it, eventhough I got no lifer.
It all began with a request in a forum about birds (called Birdent forum), where a person wanted to get to know other birders and new areas in Hamburg. So I was happy, that finally I could go birding with another person and we agreed thus to meet at 10AM to visit the Brook and search if we could find some nice winter birds.
About one weeks ago the temperatures had suddenly dropped from quite warm (for winter: around 10°C and more) to very cold: around -10°C and colder, so my hopes for wintering water birds had dissolved. Unfortunately the birds that had begun to sing already in midst of January had stopped to vocalize totally and were seemingly hiding very good the last days. In my yard I had been seeing much less birds, than normally and we experienced that also, when we walked through the Wohldorfer Forrest. Apart from very common birds nothing was to be found...
The lakes were entirely frozen and the only thing I saw was a brown rat that gathered beechnuts, that had fallen onto the ice.
Even the stream that connects the different lakes here was mostly frozen, only the very fast flowing parts wasn't covered entirely, eventhough in many places the ice began already to spread! So not even could i find waterfowl, apart from two sleeping Mallards.
So we moved on to the cementary were I hoped I could at least find the Tawny Owl and yes there it was, sitting in it's favourite spot in the church's chimney. Finally a success!
A second success was a new species for the area: 5 flyover Smews. But unfortunately my binoculars fogged almost immediately when I turned it up to watch them :-( They are normally very, very rare in the Brook, but the frozen lakes everywhere forced them to search for open water everywhere and so they came around the area, but all the frozen lakes here must have dissapointed them and they had to fly on...
But apart from Great Tits there was almost no other birds on the cementary either, so I wanted to move on, to the central part of the Brook, where maybe we could find a Great Grey Shrike or the Rough-legged Buzzard. One last glance at the beautiful Tawny Owl surprised me very much! There was not only the Tawny Owl I had observed many times before, but also a mate! Great job Owly!
We then went on and on our way a courageous Robin came hopping on the way. Maybe it was hoping for some food or something and so it approached us to less then a meter! What a brave bird! While my co-birder ate some morsels I took the opportunity to get very good Robin pictures. The next time, when I'm out in the nature again, I will take some bread with me, to reward such great photo models as this one.
After our short pause we continued, but found not a single interesting bird, not even some fairly common bird, only those that are very common to abundant and even those were quite rare...
Some other people pointed out a group of 15 Fallow deers to us, that was hiding between birch trees.
As it seemed to get a quite lame day (apart from the Robin and the Owls) my co-birder decided she would go home. I decided to show her at least the White-throated Dipper, that was hanging around since a month already.
We found it soon and apparently even watched a second Dipper, without knowing (but I was guessing that, as the Dipper seemed to disappear regularly to pop up at a totally different spot, where it couldn't have gotten by diving! When I came home and checked the observations of the day, another person had noticed, there were two different birds!)
After observing that beautiful and fascinating bird diving in this water, probably so cold I didn't even want to imagine what would happen if I fell in, for over half an hour the ways of my co-birder and me splitted, because I had still hope to find some nice birds in the central part of the Brook.
But before I got far I stumbled upon a small group of Long-tailed Tits and finally, finally got my first good Long-tailed Tit-pictures!
There were both kinds of Long-tails: One White-headed and four Stripe-headed, but apparently the White-headed was just a white-heads and not a bird from the northern subspecies caudatus. But that doesn't matter, it's still a very cute and beautiful bird! Such a fluffy ball
When I then walked through the central Brook it seemed like I was going to be disappointed, not a single bird. After a while finally a pair of Ravens flew over my head and I decided to try for pine forrest bird species. My biggest hope was to at least see a Crossbill and I also wanted to search if maybe anywhere a Long-eared Owl was roosting. Both missions failed completely and the only birds I found were two Reed Buntings. Not quite what I would call a pine specialist.
Well, I moved on and than finally was rewarded: A Rough-legged Buzzard flew over me rather slowly. I had enough time to observe it good and see all the field marks and so I wanted to take a picture of that beauty. But I didn't have enough feeling left in my fingers already. Eventhough I could swear I pressed quite hard on the trigger I didn't shoot a single pic. Damnit!
But not much later a juvenile Northern Harrier flew over me and I could observe it for about 5 minutes circling over my head and being harrassed by a Raven...
I had enough time to recover a bit of life in my fingers and thus I got a few decent shots of this nice bird.
As I moved on I found the Rough-legged Buzzard again, sitting on a fence post. It was a gorgeous female that showed perfectly all the field marks it could show. But it sat quite far away, so my pictures, taken with my reanimated but still very weak fingers, are only very decent ones.
But I was very happy to finally observe a Rough-legged Buzzard for more than just a few seconds. This female is hanging around in the area already since like 3 month and I had seen it only once before.
In the same place was also a Fox that would only show me its backpart. What a buffon :-P

The rest of the (almost finished) day I didn't find much more of interest, just a few Voles and a pair of Roe deers. As it was getting dark and the sun had already disappeared behind the trees it was getting even colder and so I decided to walk back home. But I had underestimated the distance I still had to walk aswell as the distance I had already walked. But my feet would kindly point that out to me. And thus I agonized my feet to take me back the last kilometers till I finally arrived exhausted at the bus station. But I was happy with the result of the day, eventhough nothing really rare (well the Smews are quite rare in the area, but they were just flyovers), nor any lifer. There were not many bird species that day nor were there high amounts of birds anywhere, but still I was happy. I don't know why, but I liked that day a lot... My feet didn't :-P