We contribute to research on phenological studies and studies which are related to the biosphere of different bird species. The studies are done in cooperation with scientists and students. Below, you will find a link to finished and current projects.
The new report about birdringing in Luxembourg (in german) from COL is online!
Interesting general information, recaptures from other countries and a total list of all the birds ringed.
We started the first with ringing activity this year. Our trainees had enough time to learn more about the identification of birds and to improve their skills.
Furthermore we started with the first ringing activity for our waterpipit project.
In total we ringed 18 birds (all males).
Unfortunately we found no GPS.
The Hoopoe (Upupa epops) breeding habitat was in good condition before forestry management started in Central Europe.
The Hoopoe had ideal conditions to breed with orchards, meadows, wooded vineyards and open forests. The main distribution of this bird was from the south to the east of Europe.
With the beginning of forestation of nutrient-poor soil in the 19th century, many biotopes disappeared. It declined in the 20th century with the growing livestock farming and the draining of meadows. Furthermore, the meadows became bigger because farmers started to use mineral fertilizer and liquid manure to fertilise the new fields. Fast growing grass needed to get mowed fast and this activity destroyed the foraging grounds of Hoopoes. Also, the use of insecticides in the fields, polluted the soil Eventually the insects that Hoopoes feed on and fed the chicks on created abnormalities in the eggs and health of the birds, this happened mainly in the 1960's.
Not only the insecticides where having negative effects on Hoopoe populations, but also the breeding grounds of the Hoopoe was changing. The hoopoe is a cavity breeder and needs holes in big trees and in walls. Old fruit trees and big thick willows which are good breeding places for this bird were removed from the landscape. The destruction of orchards and the change in which fruit trees were managed from low-stem trees to high-stem trees left no cavities in trees where Hoopoe can breed.
Only few pairs of Hoopoe survived in Rheinland-Pfalz till the 1980's. All of them used holes in walls to breed instead of trees. Although more than 100 pairs of Green woodpeckers (Picus vidris) were drilling nesting holes in trees still the Hoopoes were not utilising these cavities.
Due to a very successful Hoopoe protection project in Rheinland-Pfalz, Christian Stange started with NABU and BUND to build wood boxes on trees at Kaiserstuhl. However, the competition for the Hoopoe was tough with other cavity breeders like starlings (Sturnus vulgaris), great tits (Parus major), tree sparrows (Passer montanus), hornets (Vespa), wesps (Vespinae) and bees (Apiformes) were also using these wooden nest boxes.
In 1986 the team started to build the wooden nestboxes inside cabins in vineyards. The team had a huge success! In 1980 they had the first brood of Hoopoes. They started to create a symmetric net system of 140 nest boxes on 41,6km2 vineyards in Kaiserstuhl. (+60 breeding boxes between Tuniberg and the Black Forest). Next to the breeding cabins they installed other small nest boxes for other birds to breed in to avoid competition .
In all this years, most of the Hoopoes used these nest boxes. Just a few Hoopoes used Little Owl (Athene noctua) nest boxes and only one pair used a natural hole made by a Green Woodpecker in a fruit tree.
However, to save the Hoopoe population for a longer period of time, not only the breeding habitat has to improve but also the biotope! Therefore they started to reuse the old orchards and bought or rent the most important old orchards areas in Kaiserstuhl. The biotope gets used again and the mowed grass got removed. They also planted more than 500 new fruit trees and intentionally created cavities in old trees to create natural nesting holes for Hoopoes.
Not only this protection project by Christian Stange, NABU and BUND helped the hoopoe population, it also helped the overall management of the vineyards. In the 1980's, the vinegrowers started to leave the passages between the vines and vineyards green. This was really of benefit for the hoopoes as it created suitable feeding grounds. Before 1980, the vinegrowers ploughed the soil between the vines and this did not give any chance to insects and other invertebrates to flourish. The most important prey for the hoopoes in Kaiserstuhl is: mole crickets (Gryllotalpidae), caterpillars of owlet moths (Noctuidae), scarabs of cockchafer (Melolontha) and summer chafer (Amphimallon). All this prey is perfect food for the hoopoes and allow them to have two broods a year!
Because most of the vineyards in Central Europe have the same type of vine cultivation methods, there is a possibility that other organisations or persons can try similar projects with probable success in other countries or regions of Central Europe. Beside projects in Baden-Württemberg (Germany) other similar projects started in Elsass (France), Switzerland and Austria.
Furthermore it is very important for a project of this size to have good support! Without the help of volunteers, NABU or BUND for the tree-cutting work, the maintenance and management of the biotope as well as the financial support, it would have been impossible that this project will be successful as it is.
This article is writing in comperation with Christian Stange
Autor: Charel Klein
With upcoming conflicts of wild boars around protected areas such as the core zones of the biosphere reserve ‘Schwäbische Alb’, the research centre for wildlife at Aulendorf has launched a project to study its ecology and behaviour more closely. One part of the research project is to determine the influence of its activity on important bird species such as woodlarks and its habitat preference. The main observations are taking place at the former military training field at Münsingen, which is part of the biosphere reserve.
Populations of woodlark across Europe have been in decline, with habitat loss in favour to agricultural land as major cause. However, agricultural development and intensification has not been affecting landscape and wildlife at the former training field here in Münsingen and periodic training manoeuvres didn’t seem to have bothered the local woodlark population during the last century. The right mix of habitat structures such as sparse vegetation with areas of bare or disturbed ground for foraging, patches of longer grass which provides cover and the vicinity of woodland for song perches or security is commonly found here. Nowadays the maintenance of an open landscape here is largely due to sheep grazing, but also wildlife such as roe deers, wild boars and hares do their share.
Apart from woodlarks, one can see a vast abundance of common bird species like red kites Milvus milvus, European pied flycatchers Ficedula hypoleuca and European stonechats Saxicola rubicola and furthermore rarities such as whinchats Saxicola rubetra and northern wheatears Oenanthe oenanthe.
My objective for the next two months will be to determine whether rooted patches created by wild boar are frequently used by woodlarks and form important feeding grounds, especially during the breeding season. And as a secondary goal, I will be detecting habitat preferences and collecting information about the breeding territories.
Since the beginning of April, I started observing woodlarks and am really looking forward to gain first results.
I strongly recommend visiting the biosphere reserve and especially the former training fields here at Münsingen to all nature and biodiversity lovers!
Description of the Water Pipit project --> click here
On the weekend of the 6th and 7th March we opened the nets again in Schlammwiss site and for the first time in Mensdorf. We had a beautiful spectacle of over 50 Water Pipits flying over the reeds for some time at Mensdorf checking where to land to roost. Most of them landed on a tree or went down in the wetlands before they flew again into the reeds. We had the biggest catch so far for this project in Mensdorf and the biggest catch ever of Water Pipits in one go for the reserve!
For every activity we didn’t open more than 5 netlines! After the ringing activity we closed all nets correctly and bring the Pipits back to their sleeping place.
Thank you to the team! For helping me tagging the Water Pipits until 2 a.m!
(Dave Lutgen, Raoul Mettenhoven, Joseph Dunlop, Pascale Krager, Claude Kraus)
Autor: Charel Klein
In Mid-February, we were able to observe the first signs of spring. At the end of November, the last cranes migrate to their wintering grounds in the south of Spain: this for most of us heralds winter. In contrast, when in February the first cranes are migrating back to their breeding grounds in the north of Germany or Sweden, some of the optimistic ornithologists claim that spring has started.
As Luxembourg is situated on a 100-kilometre passage on the migratory track of the cranes, we have the opportunity to observe big groups of up to 1000 individuals migrating to the north. Last week, temperatures have risen by 5°C; this increase was a signal for up to 20 000 cranes to start their migration. This spectacle was observed by a lot of hobby ornithologists including myself; this means that between the 21 and the 23 of February I was able to count up to 5000 birds heading to the north. Not only cranes announce the spring, other indicators were singing like blackbirds and chaffinches; these two species hardly migrate, which explains their presence on the feeders during winter.
Another species introducing the spring is the white stork. The first arriving white storks are always males, they are first because they need to occupy their territory and nest. Waiting for the female birds to arrive, they work on their nests in order to present a well-formed home, on which both of them can raise their chicks. A highlight for Luxembourg was the first breeding pair of the white stork in 2012. This bird species was extinct for decades, but it seems that the population is rising. Last week the first storks arrived and excited a lot of ornithologists.
Apart from the aforementioned species, some of the most impressive birds of prey have also returned. The first red kites were observed in January. Last week, we were able to observe our local breeding couple, starting to rebuild their nest. In addition to the red kites, we observed the first reed buntings. This bird species, which uses reeds to feed and to raise their chicks benefits from the last grains on the feeders to survive the month of March. As reeds start to grow late in March, reed buntings depend on remaining grains which they find along fields or on the feeders.
An additional spring species is the woodlark (Lullula arborea), which started singing in the vineyards last week.
Autor: Dave Lutgen
The process whereby one plant community changes into another. It involves the immigration and extinction of species, coupled with changes in the relavtive abundance of different plants
The nature reserve „Schlammwiss“ in the Syrvalley near Übersyren consists of a vast reedbed, which has naturally established itself around several ponds, and a big marsh area. These two vegetation types would, without any maintenance of an open landscape in terms of a periodical mowing/cutting or extensive pasturing, as we would find it near Mensdorf, be exposed to the natural succession of plant communities. Wood such as several willow species, alders and elms, which can cope with moist soils would claim these permanently and seasonally flooded areas and thus displace the desired vegetation.
In order to support a certain structural diversity consisting of meadows, reeds, sedges, some shrubs and trees and so favour linked habitats for diverse insect and bird species, it is essential to carry out maintenance measures. This includes on the one hand removing the spreading wood and bushes especially in the reed area and on the other hand regularly mowing the marsh area to keep it open.
Due to the heavy snowfall during January, which has flattened the whole reed and sedge area, accessibility was given and one could easily remove all shrubs and woods. Furthermore a committed participation of many members of the Schlammwiss-team as well as many helping hands from the “Fit by Nature” activities enabled to do the job.
Many thanks to our volunteers and Alain Maury (and co.) !
Autor: Max Steinmetz
Description of the Water Pipit project --> click here
· Water Pipits (Anthus spinoletta) have been observed roosting in 'Schlammwiss' Nature Reserve since 2000.
· Since 2012 we started ringing these birds in the roost, thus collecting various data and information on these birds.
· In winter, Water Pipits usually spend the day in open wet pastures catching insects and in the evening they gather in small flocks and roost in reedbeds with thick undergrowth vegetation.
· Until this day, we still don't know the origin of our wintering birds. With this project we aim to catch and tag with small GPSs 50 Water Pipits, so that hopefully we will recapture some of them again and get a better picture on the whereabouts of these birds. Our aim is to learn where these birds breed, their migration route and the roosting places they use. To get all this data we need to recapture the birds again in the first three months on 2016.
In the last two weeks, volunteers and members of the schlammwiss team, have been busy preparing and maintaining the sites (reedbed), where the nets will be set up for this project. Some work has already been done last autumn like cutting trenches in the reedbeds to set up the capture area.
We are very cautious and have been discussing where to set up the nets to minimize as much as possible the risk that these birds will abandon the roosting site. This is why every step of the work is meticulously taking time and done under supervision of the project coordinator and the ringers. Apart from the roost in Schlammwiss nature reserve, there is also another roost of Water Pipits that we are working on in Mensdorf area. We have already prepared 5 trenches in Mensdorf area to set up nets. With this new site we can work for two consecutive days but use two different sites to minimise disturbance.
We’ve got 50 Pinpoint GPS from Biotrack that we received on the 25. February for this waterpipit project. They are working different from the geologs that we used for the reed warbler project.
We can use the GPS for 600s. We tested one GPS in the field to find out
· How long does it need to record one reading?
· Does it make any difference --> outdoor (wetland) or when the bird is hidden in the undergrowth?
· Does movement of the bird make a difference?
After test we can say:
· It needs around 5s to record the coordinates
· No difference when the bird is in an open area or undergrowth
· If it’s moving, it takes more time to record a coordinate (after 70s it switches off)
With this knowledge, we’re calculating that overall we will have between 120-125 recordings on each bird. The aim of this project is to know exactly the origin of these pipits and where they breed.
So the recordings are:
|1x recording per week||4x recording per week||5x recording per week||4x recording per week||1x recording per week|
March - April
April - mid-May
mid-May - August
August - October
Obctober - ...
half past 8
||24 o'clock||24 o'clock|
--> see shedule below (photo 1)
We’ll take 5 coordinates per week during the breeding season to find out the coordinates of their breeding grounds. Since we are not sure when they start to breed we programmed the 5 weekly readings from mid May until August. The GPS will take the coordinates at 0830HRS when the birds are very active.
During the migration to their breeding place in April and then back to our wintering grounds around November, the GPS will take 4 coordinates per week. From the test we know that the GPS needs more time to take coordinates when the birds are on the move. So we programmed the GPS to take the coordinates at midnight when the birds are sleeping either during migration or in their roost in winter.
We don’t have enough time and power in the GPS to find out where the pipits spend the day during the winter, questions like: do they feed near or far from the roosting sites? We can take just some coordinates during this time but since the readings in the winter months are programmed to be taken at midnight we will only know whether they come to the same roost every night or if they visit other roosting sites in the region. Maybe we can charge the GPS again next year and see where they are feeding during the day in winter.
We (Charel Klein, Dave Lutgen and Raoul Mettenhoven) opened the first nets Friday the 27th February. Since we have been observing the roost for some years now we know which areas they prefer to sleep and we know where water pipits concentrate in the roost. For the first ringing session (we needed to refresh the method of putting GPS on) we decided to open an area where birds don't concentrate. We opened the nets at 5 pm and closed at 7 pm (control at 6). There was football game in the nearby football ground and it was rainy.
· 6 waterpipits
o 4 control from 2013 & 2014
o 2 new birds
· 3 Wrens (Troglodytes troglodytes)
· 1 Reed bunting (Emberiza schoeniclus)
We put the GPS the same way as we did on Reed Warblers and use the same harness material.
Before we put the GPS on we check :
· Net number
· Fat & muscle
· Age & sexe (= comparison with photos from the years before and Lucas Jenni book)
· Winglength & length of 3rd primary feather
· Weight & other remarks
With Charel Klein, Max Steinmetz and Philip Birget we opened Saturday the 28th February different nets at Schlammwiss site from the first time. We didn’t catch that much because of a football game in the nearby football ground and over falling balls in the reeds. To the end of the day we caught 3 reed buntings, 1 yellowhammer and 1 waterpipit (which we tagged the day before). We checked if everything is okay with the bird and let it free again.
Back to the sleepingplace:
After each session we close the nets after 7 pm and after the ringing and processing of the pipits, which sometimes takes hours, we always return the water pipits back to the site where they were caught. So they can get out of the roost with the other birds the next morning, this will hopefully decrease the stress and disturbance on the birds after the process of GPS tagging the previous night.
Autor: Charel Klein
We got a nice article in the newspaper Luxemburger Wort' this week!
We started this summer with a new huge project. Geolocators for reed warblers! More information about the project:
Our birdringers are working everyday hard to get everyone!
In the article you can find some good information about the situation of reeds in Luxembourg, what our sponsor 'Cactus' is doing, about the nature reserve 'Schlammwiss' and voluntary work at the birdringstation, the project with the Geolocators and how people can help sponsoring/donation
(The article is in german)
Autor: Charel Klein
One of our birdringers (Philip Birget) created a map with all recaps of our birdringingstation 'Schlammwiss' !
613 birds in total from 2001 until 2014
(birds ringed abroad and caught in 'Schlammwiss' + 'Schlammwiss'-ringed birds caught abroad)