Stop 4 of the BTX Tour - Wilhelmshaven / Varel Harbor: the location
The best thing about the site on the Varel mudflats is the observers’ location, right on the edge of the flats and right at the heart of the protected area. This is only possible in a very few places on Jade Bay. However, it is officially allowed on the Varel mudflats thanks to the protection zoning and permitted pathways. Observers are completely surrounded by saltmarshes and reed beds, with the Jade river opening into the estuary from the south. This creates a specific transition from freshwater to saltwater, known as brackish water.
If freshwater is in greater quantities in this mixture, reed beds like those that can be seen at the mouth of the Jade are created. If the influence of saltwater is more significant, it forms saltmarshes, where salt-tolerant plants such as couch grass, sea aster, common saltmarsh grass, or herbaceous sea-blite flourish. Saltmarshes are an important breeding and feeding ground for a wide range of bird species due to their varied insect populations.
There are fantastic opportunities here all year round for nature and bird watchers to see what happens as the seasons change and to experience the breeding season in these extensive saltmarshes without disturbing the birds. You can spend hours here, observing through your spotting scope, constantly spying new things. There is something to see at any time of year. The best times for birds are late winter (geese, ducks, northern songbirds), and spring and late summer / fall (waders, spoonbills).
Monitoring is an essential part of the protection of the Wadden Sea. Annual surveys of bird breeding stocks have been carried out since 1969. Resting birds are counted all year round (once a month). The surveys are conducted by both voluntary bird counters and professionals such as rangers and ornithologists.
Migratory Bird Days take place throughout the Wadden Sea region every fall (October 14-22, 2017). More information can be found at www.zugvogeltage.de
About the author:
Gundolf Reichert, ornithologist for the “Niedersächsische Wattenmeer” National Park authority.