Waking up early was easy on my last day in Greifswald as I had slept well after over imbibing a bit the previous night (apparently whenever you order food or drinks or look like you need one proprietors of restaurants in Greifswald give you a free shot). Hendrik and I met up at a more civilized hour than the day before anyway, and enjoyed a brief breakfast before cruising over to the Naturschutzgebiet (Nature Preserve) Elisenhain in Eldena. Our goal was simple: to see woodpeckers that I had not yet seen.

The Naturschutzgebiet Elisenhain is a gorgeous and well-managed forest preserve, predominantly beech and oak trees which are what both Middle Spotted Woodpeckers and Black Woodpeckers, our two target species, prefer. The paths through the forest were actually mostly old cobblestone roads that were often layered with leaves, dirt, and other forest detritus. It was a picturesque place that for some reason reminded me of Sherwood Forest (at least the one from the movies as I’ve never been).

Naturschutzgebiet Elienhain

The first woodpecker we found was not one of our target species, but a Greater Spotted Woodpecker, the woodpecker that seemed most common everywhere I birded in Germany. Nonetheless, it was nice to see, and it was also nice to see some of the other common forest birds like Eurasian (Winter) Wrens, Eurasian Nuthatches, European Robins, Chaffinches, Eurasian Blackbirds, and Eurasian Treecreepers.

Great Spotted Woodpecker

Great Spotted Woodpecker

Eurasian Blackbird

Eurasian Blackbird

After walking into the forest for about twenty minutes we heard and Hendrik spotted a woodpecker high up in a tree. We got our bins up and he made the call, “Middle Spotted Woodpecker.” Sure enough, the bird’s sides were lightly streaked, the undertail was pink, not red, and it was not as big as a Greater Spotted Woodpecker. One woodpecker down, one to go.

After some more walking into the forest, guided by Hendrik (and it’s a good thing because I had seriously lost track of where we were in relation to the car), a sound like that of the call of a Pileated Woodpecker came faintly through the forest. Hendrik heard it first, and got me to hear it as well. The call of the Black Woodpecker

Then, we came upon some handiwork of the Black Woodpecker

Black Woodpecker work

Then, we again heard the call of the Black Woodpecker

We tried following paths that we thought would lead us to the bird but we failed. The Black Woodpecker, like some comic-book super-villain, would elude us and return to a shadowy lair to continue its plot to drive the birders of the world crazy. Or maybe just me.

We did get great looks at a pair of Eurasian Jays on the way out of the forest. And we saw Wood Pigeons, Goldcrests, Common Buzzards and Song Thrushes, though the Song Thrushes gave poor looks once again.

Back to the car and we were on our way to an amazing tourist destination, sewage ponds! But first we stopped at a long-abandoned monastery to try and fail to find Long-tailed Tits. It was a cool place though.

old monastery ruin in Eldena

On to the sewage ponds!

Written by Corey
Corey is a New Yorker who lived most of his life in upstate New York but has lived in Queens since 2008. He's only been birding since 2005 but has garnered a respectable life list by birding whenever he wasn't working as a union representative or spending time with his family. He lives in Forest Hills with Daisy and Desmond Shearwater. His bird photographs have appeared on the Today Show, in Birding, Living Bird Magazine, Bird Watcher's Digest, and many other fine publications. He is also the author of the American Birding Association Field Guide to the Birds of New York.