I’ve cycled through the Spreewald before, so the sights – top-heavy punts, dual-language signs, streams and dykes everywhere, the sheer greenness of it all – are not novel. The sounds, however . . . well, in order to pass through the Spreewald without stopping every few hundred metres to check the ubiquitous birdsong you would have to stop your ears with wax like Odysseus’s sailors. So today I have finally seen a reed warbler – the source of the squeaky, croaky and chirrupy song that I have heard so often beside German waterways. Undistinguished brown with a whiter throat.
And in Lübbenau this morning I saw a green woodpecker in a park.
Also exciting was the loud tapping – hammering, really – that I heard from the path. I could hear it clearly and was looking for the usual black, white and red woodpecker; it was a few moments before I realised that I was staring at a black bird with a red head: a black woodpecker. It wasn’t much bothered by my presence: I suppose when you’ve spent a lot of effort making a big hole in a tree you’re not going to be frightened by a human photographing you.
Later, in a small lake, were a couple of pairs of great crested grebes:
The last “wildlife” spotting was just now at the hotel. Beside the stream there appeared from a distance to be several large molehills. Then one of them moved. And another . . .
. . . a whole colony of coypus. Watching them from quite close quarters, I found myself likening them to large rats rather than to beavers as I have in the past when I’ve seen them singly.
It was a short day’s cycling, so there was time for other activities – notably buying a new bar bag (eine Tasche für die Lenkstange ohne Reißverschluss, bitte) and chatting to an elderly man picking litter (no fag butts, though). He had been a technician in the brown coal industry which once dominated Lübbenau. He enjoyed his working life, even if his wife complained about smuts on laundry on the washing line. He was perhaps 80; it occurred to my that people of his generation were probably glad of the stability and peace that East Germany offered them.