Winter birding in Bonn generally appears to be rather bleak, but I can’t really complain with the Wallcreeper that spent several weeks just outside the city. Now that this bird has seemingly moved on, I had to find other species to distract me, but fortunately that was not too hard. Adding to a post in January on birding in Bonn in winter, I have had the chance to get out on a few more birding walks here and there in the city on weekends. Fortunately, I did not only see the standard species, but was also rewarded with less regular species. Most notably, a group of five Greater Scaups was present in one of the large ponds in the Rheinaue urban park, where they were present for a while. They were scattered among large numbers of Tufted Ducks and particularly Common Pochard, creating a active group of diving ducks that was fun to watch. This is only my third sighting of the species, and the second time I’ve seen males, which I have to say do look way more attractive with the greenish sheen to the head that sets them apart from their tufted cousins.

Greater Scaup with Common Pochard
Greater Scaup with Tufted Duck & Common Pochard

The first time I saw this species was at the London Wetland Centre. Another birder did not believe me when I told him about the scaup as we failed to relocate the bird, but he got his revenge by spotting a Great Bittern, which was the bird for which I visited the wetland in the first place. I missed the bittern in turn, and still have never seen one to this day. Perhaps the scaups are bad luck for me, but I’m sure I’ll get my bittern one day.

They could not have been completely bad luck though, as another special species in the form of Common Crane entertained me over the last few weeks. While this species can be seen regularly as they pass overhead during passage in late autumn and early spring, I have never seen such large numbers of cranes when one evening flocks of many hundred individuals kept passing overhead for at least half an hour. It is usually said that they fly in a V-formation, but clearly the cranes themselves take this to be more of a rough guideline than a strict rule, as they were flying in all sorts of formations. Not that I mind – in fact the transforming and evolving shapes of their flight formations were great fun to watch, a bit like clouds changing shape from the air currents (although of course way cooler since they’re birds, duh!).

Common Cranes
Common Cranes

On several more days smaller groups flew overhead as well, with their atmospheric trumpeting calls interrupting the chaotic sounds of the city. It is encouraging that these birds migrate so early in the year, contributing to the dawn chorus in finally marking a near end to winter. I am very much looking forward to the arrival of migrating passerines to add their song repertoires to the thrushes, Eurasian Robins, and Common Chaffinches who are already in full swing with their songs in the morning.

Written by Luca
Family holidays to nature reserves and the abundance of nature books including bird guides at home paved the way for Luca Feuerriegel to be a committed birder by the time he was in his early teens. Growing up in Namibia, South Africa, and Sri Lanka provided the perfect setting for this interest. Luca recently completed his BSc in the Netherlands and currently spends his time working (and birding!) before starting his MSc.