And Now For Something Completely Dipperent

Guten tag!

A trip to the Leverkusen area of Germany in search of exotic bird life (oh, and to visit some in-laws) has resulted in me wracking my brains to see how much German I remember from Mrs Dawson’s GCSE classes…  As it turns out, it’s not a great deal – Mainly items of food.

The pre-planned new species excitement was due to be a visit to the Wupper (a river that sounds a bit like a Pokémon…  Not that I know anything at all about Pokémon – Honest!) to re-visit the only place I have ever seen a Dipper before.

Dippers are one of those birds that are actually correctly named after what they do – When standing on a rock in their favourite habitat of fast-flowing water, they bob up and down.  They are plump black/brown birds with contrasting white chest plumage

This is obviously not the same as a skinny dipper.  If you discover one of these, you have probably stumbled across Magdalen Bridge in Oxford in the early hours of May Day (and have used a time machine to get there, as this activity is now banned)  If you ever see a big dipper, you are probably looking skywards during a night time visit to Thorpe Park.

Chicken dippers on the other hand…

Before the trip to the Wupper, however, I went for a stroll around the woodland just five minutes from the house and was just in the process of trying to stalk the first Speckled Wood Butterfly I’ve seen this year when I heard the whispered shout of “Dipper” from a member of my scouting party.  I stopped pursuing the fluttering insect, briefly considered if ‘whispered shout’ was an oxymoron, and swiftly walked in the direction of the bridge over the nearby stream.

Just a few metres away, with a beak full of what looked like insect larvae was a Dipper.  It was doing exactly as it was supposed to – dipping up and down.  What an excellent new species for the year that was spied even before the scheduled trip to go and hunt it out.  That’s efficient bird-spotting!


Dipper (Wasseramsel)


Big Dipper

Little Dipper

Little Dipper

I managed to get some very amateur video footage of the Dipper in action – I imagine the BBC Wildlife Unit won’t be head-hunting me to help with the filming of the next ‘Planet Something’ series…


A different-to-the-usual looking Buzzard was in the sky up ahead – A lot lighter in colour than your average Common variety…  Could this be my second new species of the trip?  Could it be a Rough-Legged Buzzard?  Or was it just a Common Buzzard?

Buzzards often catch me out as there seems to be potential for considerable variations in their colour.  After the mis-identification of a juvenile Buzzard (I foolishly thought it was a Hen Harrier) a few weeks ago, I’m always a bit wary when I see a bird of prey in local airspace.

Mystery Buzzard

Mystery Buzzard (Bussard)

Later on, after a post-dinner discussion, the judging panel decided that it was a Common Buzzard – which, I guess, is what it was always likely to be!

As a formidable linguist, I was expecting the Eifel Tour to involve a big pointy metal structure (and a stripy-jumpered, beret wearing man on a bicycle)

As a formidable linguist, I was expecting the Eifel Tour to involve a big pointy metal structure (and a stripy-jumpered, beret wearing man on a bicycle – possibly wearing a string of onions and drinking vin rouge for petit dejeuner)

A day trip to the Eifel National Park would hopefully provide a great opportunity to rack-up a few new sightings for the list…  According to the leaflet I had downloaded from the internet I would have a chance of seeing Black Kites, Black Woodpeckers, Beavers and Wildcats.  This leaflet promised much, but never once suggested that I would have to endure occasional bursts of torrential rain and hailstorms.  It’s odd how publicity materials don’t mention the weather – Unless it’s 35˚ C and sunny every day.

For the purpose of the bird spotting challenge, I was especially keen to see the Kite and Woodpecker.  For the purpose of innuendo, I was hoping to see the odd Beaver.  Shameful, I know.

Within moments of the first rainstorm ceasing, I had (provisionally) ticked Black Kite off the list.  There was a bird of prey swooping over the lake in front of me.  It was instantly recognizable as a Kite (forked tail), but looked darker in colour than the Red version that’s on the increase in England.  I took some photos in anticipation of presenting my findings to the judging panel later on.

Black Kite (Schwarzmilan)

Black Kite (Schwarzmilan)

And now for the next bird on my list…  I had absolutely no idea how large a Black Woodpecker was or in which trees I might be likely to see one.  As a result, I quite often found myself excitingly whisper-shouting (it’s catching on, evidently!) “Black Woodpecker!” whilst scrambling for my binoculars, only for it to ALWAYS turn out to be a Common Blackbird.  Each whisper-shout was immediately followed by an apology.  I was embarrassing myself.

After a number of erroneous IDs, I finally got to see a Black Woodpecker…  However, it was only a picture of one on an info panel (this information provided details on the National Park, from its history, to its trees, to its animal inhabitants, but, strangely, never once mentioned a risk of hailstorms).

Black Woodpecker (Schwarzspecht)

Black Woodpecker (Schwarzspecht)

I managed to add a Marsh Tit and a Common Redstart to my list.  The former gave itself away with a ‘pit-choo’ call from miles up a fir tree.  The latter just landed on a metal post a few metres in front of me as I was about to get in the car.

Marsh Tit (Weidenmeise)

Marsh Tit (Weidenmeise)

Common Redstart (Gartenrotschwanz)

Common Redstart (Gartenrotschwanz)

The judging panel has deemed the bird to be a Black Kite.  I never did get to see a Beaver…


Quick Quiz

Can you work out what each of the following birds I saw on my trip are in English?

Die Vogel ListeAnswers

Bird List

And the prize for the best German-named bird goes to the Zilpzalp

Chiffchaff (Ziplzalp)

Chiffchaff (Ziplzalp)



About mixaeljones

Hello! I try to undertake a yearly challenge and write about it in a semi-witty manner. I often use twenty words when three will do. I am also a big fan of terrible puns and taking unintentionally blurry photographs of wildlife. In 2013 I tried to eat a food I hadn't eaten before each week (I got to 28!), in 2014 I attempted to seek out as many species of bird as I could in the year (I got to 201!) and in 2015 I delved head first into the world of butterflies and tried to see as many different types as possible (44!)... I've also done some belly dancing, been Father Christmas and nearly played tennis against Bjorn Borg. If any of this seems like it might be of interest, feel free to check out my blogs... Comments encouraged! Have a nice day :)
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