STUTTGART – Many animal lovers may travel all the way to the Amazonian rainforest or Africa to watch exotic animals in the wild. But you can also lie in wait to glimpse rare species in Germany’s meadows and forests. Watch aquatic- and migratory birds, hike through fields of sheep over the Swabian Alps or travel back in time to the ice age – there are ample opportunities to encounter wild animals in Baden-Württemberg. We’ve compiled a summary of just some of them here.
Passing through: Birdwatching by Lake Constance
By Lake Constance, casual ornithologists will find the perfect conditions to see more than 300 bird species over the course of a year. About 250,000 birds spend the winter here or stop by on the way south. Something else that will excite bird lovers is the Wollmatinger Ried nature reserve with the Reichenau islet, where tours are given even in winter. If you fancy going on a nature excursion on your own, you will find 19 different educational info points on the underwater-themed Life Path. The path leads around the Markelfinger Winkel and gives key information on bird life and underwater ecosystems.
Grasshopper warbler und bearded tit: Federsee bird heaven
You can also watch birds by Federsee in Upper Swabia. The observation platforms are accessible only via wooden boardwalks through a metre-high reedbed. The 33-square-kilometre nature reserve is the largest heathland landscape in Baden-Württemberg and is a key habitat for numerous plant and animal species. Ornithologists travel from all over Germany to see many of the 272 bird species living here, such as the rare bearded tit which is easily recognised by its black beard; or the grasshopper warbler, whose buzzing twittering song sounds like a moving bicycle. If you’re lucky, you might see these two species on one of annual birdwatching tours.
On the hunt: Out with the forester by lake Schluchsee
Ram or deer, red- or roe deer? If you get muddled between these different names, forester Achim Schlosser is just the man to help you. He regularly takes interested folk out with him on evening watches by lake Schluchsee. It’s also a chance to gain all kinds of useful knowledge on native wild animal species. It’s likely that you will get to see wild animals live on the evening tours. A torch will be essential since it can get quite dark on the way back.
Animals from bygone eras: Gerhausen ancient pastures
A wisp of the Wild West lies over the ancient pasture that was formed in a quarry near Gerhausen in the Swabian Alps. This is where the company Heidelberg Cement are running an exciting conservation grazing project using animals, as was practiced in former times. This pasture is home to Taurus cattle which are related to the extinct aurochs. Konic horses also reside here. These wild animals keep the landscape from becoming overgrown, thereby preserving habitats for rare species. They lead an independent life and find their own food. Visitors can view the plot from three observation points and watch the life of these animals right up close.
A tour with sheep: Nomadic shepherds in the Swabian Alps
Nomadic sheep farming has a long tradition in the Swabian Alps. Without the sheep and their shepherds, the typical cultural landscape with its wide, open planes and elder heaths would have disappeared long ago. The woolly landscape gardeners not only keep the landscape open, but also transport pollen and small animals in their coats and thereby contribute to maintaining the unique regional flora and fauna. If you have always wanted to tend 750 sheep at once, you can accompany a local nomadic shepherd near Meßstetten for a day or two. It involves getting right up close to the animals and learning lots of useful things about sheep farming and facts about the Swabian Alps.
Newcomers from the tropics: yellow-headed parrots in Stuttgart
If you live in Stuttgart, you will sooner or later hear about the extraordinary animals living in Bad Cannstatt. But residents also like to tell visitors the story of the Cannstatt parrots. You’d normally expect the yellow-headed parrot to live in the Amazon rainforest, but it also seems to feel perfectly at home in Stuttgart’s urban canyons. It’s still unclear how the only wild population of this species outside America made home here. It probably started with somebody’s escaped pet that was at some point given a partner of the same species to keep it company. However, one thing for sure is that the now approximately 60 green-plumaged birds have become enshrined in the city image, which would now be unimaginable without them.
Stealthy paws: Wildcats in the Stromberg-Heuchelberg wildlife park
The world of wildcats in the Stromberg-Heuchelberg nature park devotes itself to a living phantom: the wildcat, which was formerly considered extinct in this area and has now returned to the local forests. However, the world of wildcats is not an enclosure of living animals, it’s an interactive exhibition situated in the centre of the National Park. On the outdoor premises, younger visitors get to playfully try out what little wildcats must do to survive out in nature. If you want to see wildcats out in their natural habitat, you can do just that in the Tripsdrill wildlife haven which is just 20 minutes away. This place is home to 50 mostly native animal species – including the wildcat.