I’ve seen Alcedo atthis in Austria, Slovakia and Germany. The species is widespread, and fortunately it is labelled as ‘Least concern’. However, if you look at the entry in the Red List, that is because a lot of data is unknown (http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/22683027/0).
The arrival of Phylloscopus collybita is always a sure sign that spring is in the air, even if the weather in Germany has been chilly for the last few days. I have to thank The Unknown Birder on the birdforum.net for helping me with the identification. Little brown birds are lovely, but not easy for a beginner-birder like me. On the bright side, I can ID this bird by its song.
Having left Slovakia, we spent a few days in Thuringia to visit family. Someone had the good idea of going on a day trip, and because neither of us had been to Colditz before, we decided to go there. They have a website (http://www.schloss-colditz.com/index.html), but no information how exactly to get there. So, while we were driving into what we thought as the right direction, a public bus headed towards us, labelled ‘666 Colditz’. Uh-oh.
Well, we eventually arrived. There was a diversion, and signposting towards Colditz town or Colditz castle was much sparser than I had anticipated, given how important the place is, especially for British tourists. For the uninitiated: Colditz was an Oflag during World War II, and most of the PoWs were British. Having said that, there were also substantial numbers of Polish, French and Belgian prisoners.
This is what the castle looks like these days:
One can go on guided tours, where there’s a lot to be discovered, but we only went to the permanent museum and the special exhibition. The latter was about the role of Poland during WWII, in particular Polish resistance and prisoners at Colditz.
Have a look at this poem:
‘Kriegsgefangenenpost’ means ‘post for prisoners of war’. We saw more of that in the permanent exhibition.
The major part of this bit of the museum was about all the ways of escaping from Colditz. If you’ve ever watched a film called ‘The Great Escape’ – that did not happen at Colditz, but lots of similar stories did. I was amazed to learn that people escaped from this prison in the middle of Germany and made it through enemy country all the way to Britain or Allied territory! And Colditz today looks probably nicer than in the 1940s …
Of course, there was also some birding to be had, both inside and outside the castle.
All in all, if you’re in Saxony or Thuringia, and don’t know what to do, Colditz castle is certainly worth a couple of hours. There’s plenty of information available in English. And if you don’t have your own transport, you might actually get a chance to go by bus 666. Reward yourself afterwards with a home-brewed glass of beer in the pub Waldhof (on the western main road towards the town of Bad Lausick, closed Mondays and Tuesdays). Prost.
This group of Aythya fuligula was a bit of a surprise find, as this pool was quite shallow. Tufties like to feed diving.
What’s in a name? In German, this species is called ‘Reiherente’ which means ‘heron duck’. Someone must have had one beer too many.
The last weekend in September, I spent some wonderful days with my parents. They live in a hamlet in Thuringia, basically in the middle of nowhere. Which makes for fabulous wildlife watching. Kestrels, owls and bats breed close by. Great spotted woodpeckers and squirrels are common guests. The hedgehogs love the piles of old wood.
The two ponds are home to fish, frogs, toads and newts. Regular visitors include blackbirds and dragonflies:
Back in Germany, we visited the former mining area of the SDAG Wismut. We saw some huge pieces of equipment.
There were also very long German words and some small machines which would have been used in the pit.
Having grown up in this area, I am quite happy the mining of uranium has stopped. There are, however, still some issues with residual toxins like arsenic in the drinking water. But those are being dealt with and there is environmentally friendly energy generation going on.