Bislicher Insel wetlands near Xanten on the Lower Rhine
The wintering grounds of the wild geese
Romantic watery landscape on the Lower Rhine: Thousands of wild geese overwinter on the Bislicher Insel wetlands. Visit the NaturForum centre to learn more about this habitat.
Every year in October, they touch down in the water meadows around Bislicher Insel island near Xanten: a gaggle of up to 250,000 wild geese arriving from the Arctic to set up their winter abode on the Lower Rhine. With them come busloads of nature lovers, keen to observe every beat of these magnificent birds’ wings through their binoculars before they depart again by the end of February. Whether they are flying in formation or alighting on the green meadows in their thousands, the wild geese provide an unmissable spectacle for wildlife fans visiting the Lower Rhine.
The migratory birds have been coming to this spot every year since the 1960s, completing a journey of almost 6,000 kilometres on each occasion. For the wild geese, the Lower Rhine provides a positively warm winter climate compared to their Arctic home, as well as plentiful sources of food. Once they arrive after their long journey, they single-mindedly set about the important business of refuelling. Bird-lovers can watch the geese grazing in the meadows practically all day long – a necessity for these aquatic birds since they are not able to store much energy. At night, they seek out a quiet spot on one of the gravel lakes or by the banks of the old branch of the Rhine. This is where they find refuge from potential predators like foxes, which are known to be fond of goose for dinner.
Learning more about nature at Bislicher Hof Information Centre
The landscape around the island of Bislicher Insel provides a safe habitat for geese, beavers and great egrets in an area larger than 1,000 football fields. Bislicher Insel is one of the few unspoilt wetland landscapes remaining in Germany. It is inundated by the Rhine every year, and the dykes have been purposely moved back so that the river can flow over the meadows once again. In times of flood, the romantic watery landscapes thus formed provide diverse habitats for many species of wildlife. The banks of sand and gravel, the reed beds and the muddy banks of the tranquil old branch of the Rhine also provide shelter and food for beavers and other animals. The landscape also features artificial lakes from which gravel was extracted in the post-war years and which are now a characteristic sight in the wetlands of the Lower Rhine.
NaturForum Bislicher Insel is the ideal starting point for a tour of discovery. This information centre in the Eyländer Hof buildings has a wealth of interesting information packaged for both children and adults. At the Biberburg (beaver castle), children can explore nature in the wetlands in a fun way and observe the wild geese from a viewing platform. The Bislicher Insel information centre has a permanent exhibition full of information on this natural habitat and offers guided tours to visitors. A circular trail also departs from the NaturForum centre, passing by orchard meadows, benches and a farm pond.
1 April - 31 October: Tuesday to Sunday 10:00 - 18:00
1 November - 31 March: Tuesday to Sunday 10:00 - 17:00