Slaughter Lake does not sound like it would be a nice place to visit but we three Americans, my small family, were blissfully unaware of what Schlachtensee translates to before our expedition there. We were guided by Mike, my good friend since our days in junior high school together, and the four of us made our way to the Schlachtensee via the S1, one of the many trains that comprise Berlin’s train and subway system. It was nice to get off the train, cross the street, and be at a place as beautiful as this.

a view of the Schlachtensee

Despite the heat of the day the cooling waters of the lake weren’t the only attraction that brought us to its shores. It is at the edge of the Grunewald, or Green Forest, which is alleged to have Black Woodpeckers haunting its depths. Alas, my miserable history with the mythical creature continues. In addition to a species of bird I really wanted to see but didn’t, there is also a beer garden at one end of the Schlachtensee, perfect for refreshments as we made our way around the lake, a five-kilometer walk.

Eurasian Coot Fulica atra

The lake itself was populated with quite a few coots like the ones above, a host of Mallards, and, most pleasingly to this birder, my first ever countable Mandarin Ducks! Instead of paying proper attention to the birds though, I was trying to pay proper attention to Desi who was mostly interested, as is only proper for a two-year-old in the vicinity of water, in  throwing whatever would make the biggest splash.

a sign at the Schlachtensee which translates to “Conservation Area”

We eventually reached the beer garden, but not before spotting the only two species of woodpecker that would cross our path for the day, a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker and a Greater Spotted Woodpecker. Mike and I enjoyed a swim in the lake, we all (except for Desi) enjoyed some beer, and we were joined by Mike’s wife, Lena, their son, Eric, and Joost, a friend of theirs who visits the Schlactensee regularly.

As we made our way along the shore enjoying the cool shade of the forest I looked for birds, did my best not to stare too obviously at the topless women sunbathing, and had a nice conversation with Joost about the differences in the German and American health care systems. Desi was disappointed by the lack of rocks in the sandy soil but found that acorns were a passable substitute. It was a wonderful way to spend a summer afternoon.

Oh, and I got a few pictures…

European Robin Erithacus rubecula

reflections on the Schlachtensee

Eurasian Nuthatch Sitta europaea

Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo

All too soon, our walk around the lake was over and we made our way to a local restaurant for a truly wonderful feast before taking the train back into the city. If you happen to find yourself in Berlin on a hot summer day you can do much worse than spending a day at the Schlachtensee – I highly recommend a visit!

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.