Where agriculture is in sound with the nature

To explore and learn about what you have (that you don’t know of) and to appreciate it, is the greatest discovery.

In the middle of the winter and just few days after the blue Monday I wanted to reminisce some of the nicest job opportunities that happened to me so far. The job involved being outdoors, watching birds and riding a bike.

Last year in Spring I got in touch with Swiss Ornithological Institute (Vogelwarte Sempach) and got involved in the Skylark Monitoring in an agricultural region near Schaffhausen: Klettgau. The region ist characterised by grain/vegetable production, and by wine growing, mostly Pinot Noir and Müller-Thurgau (or: Riesling-Sylvaner). Klettgau belongs to an organization called Blauburgunderland bringing together local wine producers. The landscape is shaped by chains of woodland hills with vineyards nested on the lower slopes. Surrounded by the hills, a flat central area is where the grains and vegetables grow. Most of the region belongs to Naturpark Schaffhausen.

My task was to monitor the Skylark population at several plots in the region. I was doing it by marking single territories of all the Skylarks breeding there. Easy as it sounds (does it?), reality was, that while moving slowly along paths between fields I was scanning for singing Skylarks (here you can listen to some Skylarks). The males usually take off from the ground and continue singing through the whole flight, which can last up to 10 minutes. They fly quite up high (50-100 meters), and are actually encircling their territory allowing me to mark it on the map. But sometimes they would just stay in one spot up there in the sky, in the full Sun for minutes and all you have to do is to keep an eye on the bird for the whole time. One glare left or right, and it is almost impossible to locate that tiny dot in the sky again! Skylarks nest on the ground in the grain fields and sometimes, a male sings from the ground, somewhere in a field of wheat. Unless the bird decides to fly, recognising where exactly it nests is a waste of time.

Klettgau is a very special place on the map of Switzerland. Not only Skylarks feel here at home. Other birds associated with the agricultural landscape thrive here too. The cultivated land is also home to foxes, dozens of hares and roes. For many people who visit this place it is a big surprise, that the biodiversity here is so high. Well, to see hares and roes one has to be up before 6 o’clock in the morning. Once the sun is high up and there is a lot of dog-walkers and bikers, all the animals turn back to the safety of dense and high wheat and rapeseed fields, where they can wait for quieter hours.

With these memories and pictures in my head I feel recharged and ready for another few days of gloomy winter days…

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