Thursday, 25 April 2013

Postcards from Berlin

I spent a few days in Berlin last week, and arrived there just about the same time as spring did. The sun shone, the avenues and squares were crowded, and all in all it was a good time to sit at a pavement cafe with a beer, or to toddle from museum to museum.

Of course, I can't go anywhere without doing at least some birdwatching, and I'd heard all sorts of good things about Berlin, not the least being how easy it was to see Goshawks. Relatively easy, I mean - in this country, their locations are often closely guarded secrets, but in the German capital, there's thought to be up to 90 pairs, often nesting very close to buildings.

So, on the morning of my first full day, I started by looking in the Tiergarten. I'd had a quick look there the evening before, and the first thing that struck me was how wild it was for a city centre park. Instead, it feels like a chunk of forest dropped into the middle of the city, so the thought that it might harbour Goshawks, Buzzards and Wild Boar suddenly didn't seem so strange.

So, at 8.30am, I'd just crossed the road from the Brandenberg Gate, and was maybe 50 yards into the Tiergarten (in the photo above, just to the right of the trees on the right). A rusty-brown bird was rifling through the leaf litter a few yards to the right of the path, and even without binoculars it was obvious that it was a Nightingale.

This in itself is unusual - I don't think I've ever seen a Nightingale before without my attention first being drawn to it by its song. As I stood and watched, it fluttered to a low branch on a bush, and started singing, although in a more subdued, quieter fashion than you'd normally expect. 

When I eventually walked on a little way, I heard two more singing the same way, presumably in answer, and by the end of the morning I'd heard half a dozen or so throughout the park. I did catch up with a couple of Goshawks, too, but to be honest, the Nightingales would have been enough by themselves.

So much so that the next day, I couldn't resist having another look. This time, three near the Brandenberg Gate were in full voice, their songs audible from the far side of the road even over the traffic noise. It reminded me of this John Clare poem - I suspect the subdued singing was down to the birds having just arrived after their long migration.

I'll be posting more about the non-birding aspects of the trip soon, as well as a few more bird pics, but for now I'll just mention the one very slight disappointment about the Berlin Nightingales, discovering that their name in German is Nachtigall, nothing like as interesting as the Spanish name for the species, Ruisenor, literally, 'the noisy man'.

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