The Rieselfelder Münster bird sanctuary
A nature reserve and bird sanctuary within easy reach of the city centre
A bird sanctuary within a stone’s throw of the city centre? At Rieselfelder Münster, visitors can observe rare birds and enjoy leisurely walks in a watery landscape.
Just six kilometres to the north of the centre of Münster lies an idyllic natural landscape of shallow waterways, reed beds, wet grasslands and avenues of fruit trees. Above all though, this 230-hectare nature reserve is a sanctuary for a wide variety of bird species. Many endangered birds are able to find shelter here to breed as well as enough food for themselves and their young.
The origins of this paradise for nature and wildlife were actually man-made. Around 100 years ago, the city began treating its sewage at this spot between the Ems and Aa rivers in a process which involved allowing the wastewater to trickle into the soil after a mechanical pre-treatment step. The side-effect of this process was the emergence of a watery landscape with over 130 ponds, now used as a stop-over and moulting site by all kinds of migratory birds.
Welcome to Münster’s green quilt
Today, the sewage farm is divided into two distinct usage areas. The southern part was only recently restored to a wetland after farmers had drained the land and used it for agriculture. The northern section has on the other hand been irrigated with wastewater for decades. As such, it has largely retained the chessboard pattern of the sewage farm, which resembles a huge blue-green quilt from the air. Expanses of water and reeds dominate the nature reserve, which is criss-crossed by a dense network of paths. Almost all of the ponds are surrounded by a green belt of reeds in square-shaped plots which traditionally measured 100 x 100 metres, but which are now often combined into larger units.
A circular trail leads through this idyllic wetland, allowing visitors to observe the in some cases rare birds without disturbing them. Even better views are possible through a pair of binoculars from one of the hides dotted along the way. Meanwhile, a nature experience reserve has been established to create even more terrain for rare animal and plant species. The south-east of the former sewage farm, which was drained following the construction of a large wastewater treatment plant in the mid-1970s and then intensively used as farmland, was allowed to flood again around the year 2000. Since then, it has become another important habitat for a wide variety of bird species. Two fairly large reservoirs, areas of fallow land and wetland meadows and meadow orchards as well as signposted circular trails with excellent look-out points allow visitors to spend a relaxing time here surrounded by nature.
Information and nature trail at the biological field station
The biological field station is the obvious starting point for any exploration of the wetlands. Here, visitors can pick up information brochures and leaflets and learn about the landscape they are about to see in the exhibition space. A nature trail designed for younger visitors in particular provides greater insight into the different habitats found in the reserve and how the entire ecosystem works. The biological field station also provides up-to-date bird population lists with bird-watchers in mind. Armed with this information, they can plan a route for a better chance to observe their favourite birds.