Brandenburg, the area around Berlin, was the subject of a talk at Sandwich Bay during the winter (which appears to be continuing, like last year all over again) by Roger White
I can recommend his book "A birdwatching guide to Brandenburg and Berlin" as a first class and accurate easy to use guide, copies available from Roger by emailing him at email@example.com - mention this or Phil's blog and get a 25% discount on the price, or look for him at this year's birdfair
I was smitten by his photographs and description of his birdwatching there. It reminded me very much of the Kiskunsagi National Park in Hungary, especially as the star birds are Great Bustards and White-tailed Eagles.
So it was that last week Phil and I set off from Manston to Berlin courtesy of KLM via Amsterdam
We made our base in the small village of Semlin, just North of Rathenow about 40 miles West of Berlin, and on the way there called in at the Havellandisches Luch, the main Great Bustard site in Germany. Installed in one of 2 tower hides, this was the first view. typical of the terrain
Immediately, there were Bustards on view, strutting and displaying, at one time a group of 9 was relatively close to us, and we enjoyed the best views of the trip
Later visits found fewer birds, further away, and I wonder if they were dispersing to nest.
I know Phil has put some similar views on his blog, they are far better quality and if you haven't looked I recommend you do so, but if I can get pics like these with my little bridge camera, they must have been close - see http://mrphil-kearsneybirder.blogspot.co.uk/
A large group of Cranes were also across the fields quielty feeding and occasionally dancing, too
Next morning we went back to the Bustards before heading for the Wolsier and Parey area via roads such as this
and into another tower hide out in the wet fields
Like the ones before, this one was well populated by Swallows, which took advantage of the open viewing slots to reach their nests instead of the stairs. In doing so they frequently flew between Phil and me as we looked out. Note the state of the seats and the cunning anti-poo cushions - just remember to fold them back down when leaving
From this hide there were stunning views of White-tailed Eagles, note the "s", there were three, possibly four stooging around there
also there were a couple of Ospreys and patience was rewarded after an hour or so by a fairly close fly-by
The hour was proftably spent keeping an eye on the Ospreys while particularly enjoying Garganey, Black and White Stork, Red-necked Grebe, reeling Savi's Warbler, and lots of good stuff besides
On the subjest of White Storks, they were difficult not to take for granted, nesting all over the place as these pics show
The local churches varied considerably in architecture
and here's the obligatory photo of "my room" with it's balcony overlooking a sort of green, where some bloke turned up at 6 am one morning to mow it with a ride-on mower!
notice the Tree Sparrow nest hole in that tree
This is typical Ortolan Bunting habitat along this lane marked "Nur fur Radfahrer" - wonder if Boris Johnson cycles along here. We found the buntings, but only after we got to this stretch of the lane bordered by cerealfields rather than the just-drilled maize nearer the village, just as Roger's book describes
Just outside the Bird Conservation Centre, where we were lucky enough to be invited in by Birgit to see an AV presentation about the Grosstrappen to a visiting group of German birders, there was another Tree Sparrow nest, look at the carbuncle on the left-hand tree trunk
there, told you so!
We also came across this Treecreepers nest, but the occupant didn't stay to have it's photo taken
At Havellandisches, there was this singing Icterine Warbler close enough for me to photograph, too
Garden Warblers were commoner than Blackcaps hereabouts, too, and not at all secretive
Most of the Crows here are Hooded, couldn't resist this photo opportunity. Apparently, according to one of the birding group we met, the "divide" is the Elbe river
and here's a Red Kite doing a lousy impression of a cow - there were some huge dairy units around here
and some arty farty pics from our pre-breakfast walks beside the lake in Semlin, lovely place
Overall, during the 4 days - well, 2 whole days and two more half days, we noted 95 species - there was even a glimpse for me of a Goshawk slinking through the trees near the Gulper See, where we found these magnificent horses
and Hawfinches and Tree Pipits in here
I nearly stepped on this Slow-worm, too, warming itself among the trees
I don't know what this Dragonfly we found at Pawesin is, but I think Phil has id'd it in his blog
Just had an email from him, it's a Norfolk Hawker, what a smasher
and finally, unexpectedly, there was this Beaver Lodge at Linum Ponds on the way back to Berlin airport
as you can see they really do chew through trees!
and a final arty-crafty image, Phil couldn't resist it either!
Lastly, if you make the trip, beware of the timetabling - on the way back there were just 50 minutes between landing at Amsterdam and take-off for Manston. We made it with 5 mins to spare, without having to wait for hold baggage, and by running along the moving walkways, a bit stressful I admit but in no way detracting from a superb trip. Am I going back? Daft question