We’re at a pleasantly quiet, rural site at Hohenstadt whose main purpose was to hide us from the swell of weekend campers. It’s just to the east of Nürnberg. We were a little concerned that the site was billed as one of those “unmarked pitches” jobs. Our concern was born of our recent experiences at Pahna where a complete lack of control had units pitching literally one metre away from another. This site, however, though unmarked, at least had madame showing us around and looking for potential pitching areas. She showed us one area with a tree for shade – madame was finding life too hot herself – which should also protect us from encroachment on that side. It was also on the extreme edge of the site facing a rough piece of ground loaded with
weeds wild flowers which were attracting slightly more wildlife than we’d hitherto seen throughout our tour of Germany. As this site worked, we actually ended up with more space between adjacent units than we would normally get with marked pitches.
We pitched Guillaume to face our meadow, away from others on the campsite. It nestled in a bend of the river flowing by the campsite. An old lamppost was leaning at a rakish angle which made me wonder if it had once been an active part of the campsite. Now, it offered us some privacy and entertainment. Francine decided to list the plants that she was able to recognise here and came to 30, ignoring the grasses, of course.
Wildlife in Germany has been both interesting and, frankly, a bit of a surprise. At the various water bodies that we have happened across, I have, of course, been looking for dragonflies. I have found several species, some in good numbers, including a few that I have not frequently seen; nothing new, though. What we have been struck by is the lack of most other forms of wildlife that we tend to take for granted.
With the exception of our little “private meadow”, Francine has been struck by the paucity of wild flowers in general. There have been a few but nothing like the blooming flowering meadows dotted with different colours that we’d expect to see in rural France at this time of year. Where there have been a scattering of wild flower species, we have ridden, driven or walked by them and been staggered at the lack of insects that our passing disturbed, whereas normally one would expect to flush modest clouds of flying critters from cover. We cycled by a corn field verge of poppies mixed with other white flowers, perhaps field camomile, where we disturbed absolutely nothing. We have stared across larger rough meadows and seen a complete lack of butterflies. It has been quite stunning. The butterflies we have seen have been of few species – generally Whites, Painted Ladies, Meadow Browns – and in low numbers. Our meadow did produce the only Comma I’ve seen thus far. It posed, too.
Since leaving Belgium, we have been lucky enough to have experienced unbroken clear blue skies with not a cloud to blot the horizon. There have been almost no birds blotting the horizons either. We did see a few Red Kites with H&G and heard the occasional lonely Blackbird and a few Blackcaps but there’s been little else. On a 30kms drive around two valleys from our “private meadow”, I saw just one Magpie cross the road. England is inundated with Magpies and you rarely see just one. Cycling from our private meadow staring at crystal clear blue sky there was not a bird in sight. It really is quite staggering.
This pattern has been the norm throughout our German excursion. I can’t explain it but it is somewhat eerie.
Our meadow has produced something of a wildlife highlight, though. As we sat watching the occasional butterfly and some of the hoverflies that were our almost constant companions, usually sitting on camera lens hoods, we spotted movement in the grass. Actually, at first we really just saw the taller plants moving. The culprit proved to be what we now suspect was a Field Vole, though we began by referring to it as “Mouse-ouse”. Because of the moving plant stems, we finally referred to them as Michael, in honour of the late Michael Bentine and his flea circus models. We’re not sure quite how many there were but we think at least four with neighbouring territories dotted along the meadow edge. We sat still and watched enchanted as they occasionally ventured nervously into the open. Trying to get a photo was a challenge because there was normally an obscuring piece of vegetation in the way. After two days and some luck, I did manage a decent picture, though.
We will miss our meadow and particularly our voles when we move on but after what will have been four days there is little more to hold our attention here.