Searching for insects in winter

Doesn’t sound like a typical activity, does it? Yesterday I actually tried. What drove me to do that? The sun was shining, I wanted to use the macro lens and I think I even dreamed of a hoverfly – very motivating. Whatever – armed with an umbrella, I visited the airfield in Freiburg. I shook a few branches with little success. From a blackberry I shook a nursery web spider (Pisaura mirabilis).

Nursery web spider – Pisaura mirabilis – Listspinne, Germany (Freiburg)

When I shook the branch of a mountain pine (Pinus mugo mugo), an unknown bug from the Pentatomidae group fell into the umbrella. After some photos I put it back into the tree. What a surprise when I tried to identify it at home: It seemed to be Holcogaster fibulatus. In Germany, this species has been detected only once before (in Nordrhein-Westfalen; Hamers, 2018).

Holcogaster fibulata, Germany (Freiburg), December 2019. 2nd record for Germany

Typically, it occurs further south but it is said to be nowhere common (Sauer, 1996). Due to the global warming, more and more species from the Mediterranean are reaching Germany. And Freiburg is located close to the Belfort Gap, through which various southern species have reached Germany in recent years. Nevertheless, it remains a surprise and it is a pleasant result for an hour of nature observation on the outskirts of the city.

Holcogaster fibulata, Germany (Freiburg), December 2019. 2nd record for Germany
Holcogaster fibulata in a Mountain Pine (Pinus mugo mugo), Germany (Freiburg), December 2019. 2nd record for Germany


  • Hamers, B. (2018): Nachweis von Holcogaster fibulata (GERMAR, 1831) in Nordrhein-Westfalen. Heteropteron 51:14-15.
  • Sauer, F. (1996) Wanzen und Zikaden, Fauna-Verlag, Karlsfeld

Presentation about ‘nature photography in Siberia’ in Münster, Germany

Three-toed Woodpecker (Picoides tridactylus) in the russian Taiga

On Saturday, there is the annual meeting of the Amur Bird Project (ABP) in Münster. There will be some interesting talks about birds in the eastern Palearctic. See the programme here.

I am delighted that I have the opportunity to show photos from Russia at the end of the day. See you there!


Presentation about ‘nature photography in Siberia’ in Münster, Germany

‘Nature photography in southern Siberia’

Just returned from a presentation about Siberia in Konstanz. Thank you very much for the invitation and the feedback =)

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Searching for insects

During my stay on Scharhörn I wondered which insects made the jump to this island. It’ s only 15 km to the mainland – but this is a distance that many insects cannot cover without help.

One of the first insects I found on Scharhörn: Eristalinus aeneus (Glänzende Faulschlammschwebfliege). Flies can reach the island without any help.

For sure, many insects were transported by chance from the mainland. But even if they made the jump to Scharhörn, it is not easy to survive: Salt everywhere, only a very small number of plant species grow and storm surges can flood most of the island at any time of the year. A species of sawflies made the jump and reproduced in the European Searocket (Cakile maritima – Europäische Meersenf) were i found some larvae.

Turnip sawfly (Athalia rosae – Rübsen-Blattwespe) feeding on Tripleurospermum maritimum. Scharhörn, September 2019
European Searocket (Cakile maritima -Europäische Meersenf) in the dunes – the presumed food of the sawflies

There are also few species of bugs which occurs on Scharhörn:

Lygus maritimus, Scharhörn, September 2019

Lygus maritimus is adapted to feed in various plants of the salt marshes and I found individuals on Sea Wormwood (Artemisia maritima – Strand-Beifuß) and Tripleurospermum maritimum (Echte Strandkamille). Of course there is a parasite which larvae lives in these bugs – Phania funesta.

Phania funesta – Erdwanzenfliege, Germany (Hamburg), imago, feeding on Tripleurospermum maritimum

There’s always a parasite in nature….. For example, owl moths (Noctuidae) have also made it to the island, as have parasites of them – Ophion obscuratus as well as Netelius sp. which probably live in the caterpillars of moths as well.

Netelius sp. – a species of the Ichneumonidae. Few is known about these insects. Scharhörn, 2019

Surprisingly, I found no spiders and very few beetles. The most interesting of these was Broscus cephalotes (Kopfkäfer) – a nocturnal, predatory ground beetle.

Broscus cephalotes (Kopfkäfer) in front of its burrow. Scharhörn, 2019

In sum, I found just little more than 30 species of insects on the isle. Well, it was very stormy and by far to late in the season for many species. Maybe, there will be a next time to have a closer look earlier in the season.

Searching for insects

Just a normal friday

Now that I have shown so many beautiful sides of Scharhörn, I want to point to the less beautiful ones. Scharhörn lies in the North Sea – an industrially very heavily used water. As national park ‘Hamburgisches Wattenmeer’ the area itself is well protected and the disturbances are low on Scharhörn and Nigehörn.
However, even there one is constantly reminded that mankind is changing its entire environment. Already at sunrise this cannot be denied.

Oil drilling platform, cargo ship and 65 wind turbines in view of Scharhörn at sunrise

Scharhörn lies next to the Elbe fairway – which means that many container ships, fishing boats and more pass it every day.

Map showing the current position of ships (coloured arrows) around Scharhörn (red dot in the centre) and the routes of the ships within a year (blue = individual voyages, red = many voyages). Copyright:

This means, among other things, that you can hear the ship’s engines – no tragedy. What is worse is that much of what is thrown overboard arrives. Also the currents carry what gets into the sea at the East Frisian islands to Nigehörn. The garbage is counted and collected regularly on a defined route. Last Friday I collected the garbage on a distance of 120 meters.

Here is the result:

Garbage which I collected on 120 m length at the beach of Scharhörn.

113 glass bottles, 9 light bulbs, 2 wheelbarrows full of plastic waste (plastic bottles, canisters, crashed balloons, cords, ropes, shoes, shoe soles, etc.), spray cans, cleaning agents as well as two wheelbarrows fishing waste (nets and the like) and 80-100 kg heavy oil. This rubbish did not collect there for years, but was the result of the spring tide of the 18th September. To emphasize this again: All in all seven wheelbarrows filled with garbage as result of a single spring tide on a 120 m long distance at the beach. So – just a normal Friday… Do we really want to leave the earth like this?

During this work it occurred to me that it was Friday for future – a work fitting well for this day even though it has nothing to do with climate protection. But the next day was the international coastal cleanup day


Just a normal friday

Scharhörn at its best

Within few days, Scharhörn proved to be a wonderful site, worth every minute spent.

Rugosa rose in the dunes on Scharhörn

Birds migration has started and there were amazing numbers of Sanderlings, and also some sucess while doing seawatching with Leach’s Storm Petrel and Sooty Shearwater passing by.

Sanderlings and Dunlins while feeding

The real highlight however was a Little Bunting, a very small and rare scandinavian / siberian bird, which flew by calling. Lateron, I found it again, resting in the meadow and could also watch it shortly. Well, the bird is mainly brown – but a nice combination of different brown and white tones.

Little Bunting – the photo was not made on Scharhörn but in the Ural mountains in Russia few years ago.

I hope it was able to leave the isle alive – not as this Meadow Pipit which was dinner for a Sparrowhawk:

Sparrowhawk having Meadow Pipit for dinner

Scharhörn lies next to Nigehörn, an artificially washed sand island. Over the years the two islands have almost grown together and only during the high water they are separated from each other by a tidal creek, surrounded by salt marsh.

Salt marsh between Scharhörn and Nigehörn

One of my tasks as a bird warden on Scharhörn is to count the birds that are resting on both islands. Therefore I also had to walk to Nigehörn to count the birds there. However, as the water came earlier and much higher than expected, I was cut of from Scharhörn and had to wait for 3.5 hours before I could return.

Scharhörn seen from Nigehörn – unattainable during this little storm surge. In the distance you can see a container ship on the Elbe fairway. Even at this distance it is much higher than my hut (left in front of the container ship).

Whata  pleasure to lead a life that is determined only by the sun and the tide.

Sunset on Scharhörn

Mobile office

Since yesterday, I stay on the German Isle ‘Scharhörn’ which is my home for the next days. That’s the advantage of being able to work from anywhere: All I need is a computer and internet access.

After a long journey by train, ship and tractor, I had to clean the hut first for hours, since the last guy on Scharhörn suddenly fell ill and was immediatly brought from the isle.

FInally, I could enjoy the moonrise over the island. It already feels like home and I am looking forward to the following days.

Moonrise over Scharhörn
Luggage for a stay of 10 days on Scharhörn. All the photography and sound recording equipment, food, water etc.
First morning in the hut on Scharhörn
Mobile office