Stop 4 of the BTX Tour - Wilhelmshaven / Varel Harbor: species to expect
The Varel mudflats are home to a wide variety of important bird species. The extensive saltmarshes are of particular significance for species such as the Redshank, which has a considerable breeding population in Jade Bay. It is joined by Oystercatchers and Pied Avocets, together with a wealth of songbirds such as Meadow Pipit, Yellow Wagtails, Bluethroats, and Reed Buntings. In years when the mouse population is booming, Short-eared Owls or other birds of prey such as the Marsh Harrier may also breed here.
Sea Eagles have been breeding just inland for several years now, regularly flying over the mudflats to hunt. The Varel mudflats are also a great place to observe other birds of prey such as Hen Harriers or Peregrine Falcons.
The expansive mudflats of Jade Bay are rich in food sources, making them especially important to migratory birds. A striking example is the Shelduck, which forms resting flocks of up to 30,000 birds in late fall. The huge swarms of waders that fly above the mudflats in enormous “clouds” are a natural spectacle not to be missed. Up to 40,000 Dunlins have already been counted in Jade Bay. From April and May onwards, the mudflats play host to large troops of migrating waders such as Bar-tailed Godwits, Spotted Redshanks, Red Knots, and Grey Plovers. They stop over on their way to their breeding areas in northern Europe and the Arctic, while local populations such as Redshanks, Oystercatchers, and Pied Avocets are already breeding here.
Late summer, after the end of the breeding season, sees Spoonbills visiting Jade Bay (up to 200). From fall onward, the region is populated by overwintering northern geese, especially Barnacle Geese. Jade Bay is where the geese roost for the night, in flocks of up to 50,000 on the mudflats.
The colony of Common Terns on Lake Bant has more than 500 breeding pairs, making it one of the largest colonies in and around the Wattenmeer.
About the author:
Gundolf Reichert, ornithologist for the “Niedersächsische Wattenmeer” National Park authority.