Starting the year's bird list

Trip Start Dec 29, 2011
Trip End Jan 02, 2012

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Flag of United Kingdom  , England,
Monday, January 2, 2012

It's always nice to have a list. Or even a few. Some birders are almost obsessive 'listers', maintaining life, year, country, county, garden and trip lists amongst others. I once met a birder who claimed to have a list of species that he had witnessed in the process of relieving themselves. I more or less stick to life and year lists. My life list is pretty good actually, heading for 2,000 species worldwide but there are some really dedicated people (probably wealthy, too) who can claim 4 times that number.

Our first bird of 2012 was a Robin. It often is because this is a species that sings at night time throughout most of the year in much of Europe. As they are accomplished singers, at least to human ears, they are often mistaken for Nightingales which are much more elusive in many areas and only sing in Europe in late spring and summer.

By the end of 1st January I think we were up to 4 species, perhaps 6 because I'm sure that we must have seen a House Sparrow and a Blackbird. It was time to remedy that a little. is a pretty good place to go for birdwatching info  and I'd posted a request for details of any sites reachable by public transport for a New Year's Day walk on the German forum. New Years Day came and went with no attempt to see birds but we had a reasonable amount of time before our late afternoon flight so we decided to mix some sight-seeing with birding.

I managed a respectably early start this morning and even made it down to breakfast which was perfectly acceptable although the behaviour of some of our fellow guests was a little less so. There's nothing I like better than having somebody I don't know lean right across me to get to something that was neither going to disappear nor evaporate whilst I'm trying to serve myself. It's almost as nice as watching somebody's breakfast churning around in their mouth because they've stuffed so much in they would suffocate if they didn't breath through said mouth whilst chewing.

There are left luggage lockers in Alexanderplatz station at street level.  I think it was 6 Euros for a big one which was plenty big enough for our two holdalls so we dumped our bags there and bought a U-bahn ticket for the westbound trip to Sophie-Charlotte Platz from where it is a short walk along Schlossstrasse to the Charlottenburg Palace. We had been told that the extensive gardens here are home to a pair of Middle-spotted Woodpeckers, a species that we had seen only once previously. The weather hadn't improved much from the day before but the forecast was for a slight improvement so we put on out waterproofs and put up with it.

Birdwatching aside, the palace is worth a visit for anyone with time in Berlin. Construction was started at the end of the 17th century and it was built for Sophie Charlotte, wife of Frederick III the Elector of Brandenberg. It was built in the baroque style and burned to the ground during World War II so what we see today is a reconstruction.

The interior contains an art gallery but the gardens seem to be open to all without charge (we didn't see any charges, anyway). The main gardens are behind the palace as approached from the Sophie-Charlotte Platz station and are very attractive. The area nearest the palace is formal with lawns and structured hedges whilst the more distant parts are a little wilder with tall trees and ornamental lakes.

The rain continued as we wandered around but birds were quite active, mainly common woodland species. We found a couple of woodpeckers that got a fair amount of scrutiny but they were the much common Great Spotted Woodpecker.

At the far end of the garden, away from the palace is a railway line and the railway bridge also carries a footbridge over the river. We took this because we fancied a few minutes out of the rain and thought we might find a cafe over the other side. There was one within a hundred metres or so, the Cafe am Belvedere (there is a Belvedere at this end of the park). We ordered coffees and a piece of a very tempting chocolate cake which was even better than it looked, although incredibly rich which meant that we didn't quite manage to finish it.
The rain had almost stopped when we went back outside so we returned to the park where the birds were more active and in greater numbers. Over by the mausoleum Julie decided that a pigeon in the top of a tall tree looked 'different' and through the binoculars we could see that it was actually a Goshawk! The tree was taller than I thought. Julie was just about to get a photo when it flew away. There's a pair that breeds in the park so it might just be a good place to go to see what in the UK at least is a rather elusive species.

Nearer to the palace we saw a few non-descript birds sitting motionless in the trees. We checked these out as well and found six Hawfinches, another species that is often tricky to see in the UK.

We needed 30 minutes to get back to the city centre and another 30 to the airport and we hadn't bothered to check the airport express times, so we started our journey back, walking back to Sophie-Charlotte Platz and marvelling at the huge number of spent fireworks still left everywhere, despite the efforts of the city's cleaning team.

There's not much else to say. Getting back to the airport was nice and easy and the flight was on time as well, although this time we had to take our holdalls on with us, but we still got some extra leg room seats.

Here's looking forward to Sylvester in Berlin 2012.

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