Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Climate, Wildlife, Pests and Other Things

Just recently I was getting some information together for a German neighbor and friend of mine who is moving for the first time to the US. She's visited but, this will be her first time moving completely away to another country. Away from her family and friends. For me, this brought back memories of my first move OCONUS. As I boarded that plane and said goodbye to my family I was crying for sure. The finality of it all just hit me at that moment. It was scarey and sad. While a part of me was screaming, 'Don't get on that plane' another part of me was saying, 'Suck it up, you're gonna be OK' and I was......... but I had always wished I had someone near by to explain to me some of the "ins and outs" of my new home.

In the information I got together I put in some information about the local wildlife and pests for her area. This made me think....."Hey silly, you should really blog about German wildlife and pests!" so, here I go.

Our area of Germany is considered "foothills" or, at least that's what it feels like around here. "Foothills" is right before travelers hit mountains. There is still farmland but also lots of forest as well. This means that we have some forest critters to contend with. One of the more regular pests is ticks. If readers have pets that go outside regularly or adventurous children, they need to be checked when they come inside. Especially during the Summer. It's advisable to be sure and have children take baths when they come in from playing. Especially check around the bottom of the legs, behind the ears, and any other "crevices". For adults, hairy regions of the the body are important to check. For animals, it seems ticks love to latch on around the neck and head. However, give them a good rubdown everywhere. Most tick bites are painless therefore can go unnoticed. The local pet stores have an array of collars and other treatments available to fight ticks. For more information about ticks in Germany this thread can help!

Another precaution to take is against spiders. Although I haven't seen any poisonous spiders yet, (Knock on wood) venomous spiders in this region can be a threat. The majority of venomous/poisonous spiders here in Germany are the same as ours in the states. Most common is the Black Widow and the Brown Recluse. Both of these types of spiders can be dangerous but the Black Widow is not aggressive and the Brown Recluse usually lives up to it's name. When "discovered" black widows will most likely try to flee or run away. Brown Recluse will act aggressively if it's discovered. During the seasons take care to pack away garden gloves and shoes and take caution around wood piles or other outdoor things that have been sitting for a while. For more information about German Spiders click here.

There are several poisonous snakes in Europe. Most of them are the viper variety. These include the Common Adder, Long Nosed Adder, Pallas Viper, and Ursini's Viper. All of the names I've listed also have wiki links attached to them. However, for a "cliff notes" version, click on this link.

There are many many wild birds and predatory birds located here as well. I very much recommend having a bird house and a couple of feeders out. It's nice to have the birds singing during the Spring time. The colors and markings on these small birds is beautiful. Every time spring comes, all I can think about is Disney's Snow White singing with the birds. A precaution to move your window shades (ruladins) up and down periodically. If a shade is left untouched for a while it creates a perfect habitat for a nesting bird. If one wants to get up close and personal with predatory birds and local wildlife, there is a wild animal park in this area call Waldpark in Potzberg. This park also has non-local wild life like Bison and wolves but it's a fun day trip.

One more pest that is rare but, deserves some recognition. There is a type of German Weasel called a Steinmarder or Beech Marten in English. This species will nest in the car in the evening. (Since it's a nice warm spot to sleep) It will leave in the early morning hours so, not to fear. However, if the car is used for commuting to work and back one should be aware. If they go back and forth between to "male territories", this animal can cause considerable damage under the hood. The best precaution to take is to place chicken wire on the driveway. This creature does not enjoy walking on it and it will prevent them from making your car their little territory. There is however, another theory from Wikipedia that gives another explanation as to why these creatures enjoy destroying cars:

'Since the mid 1970s, the beech marten has been known to occasionally cause damage to cars. Cars attacked by martens typically have cut tubes and cables. A beech marten can slice through the cables of a starter motor with just one bite. The reason for this is not fully known, as the damaged items are not eaten. There is however a seasonal peak in marten attacks on cars in spring, when young martens explore their surroundings more often and have yet to learn which items in their habitat are edible or not.[26] The fishoil, often contained in the cables of cars of Japanese origin, may contribute to this.'

For more on this little creature, click here.

Also, for more information on wildlife in Germany click here.

On to the next subject! For German standards, the climate here is fairly mild. However, for me it took a lot of getting used to. My first winter here, it felt like the sunshine just forgot about Germany. We are far north which means we don't get a lot of light during the winter. The sun starts going down at around 3:00-4:00 in the afternoon. If we were lucky enough to have the sun come out from the clouds, we would literally drop everything bundle up and go outside. Snowfall here is usually minimal. There are strange years like of late where snowfall is generous. Just 2 years ago, the store ran out of salt for the roads. The Summers are very mild. It gets warm here for about a week. I would use the word "hot" cautiously as, it hits the 90's maybe. The reason why a lot of folks find it very hot is because there is no air conditioning. The majority of household don't have screens either. Most Summers we will have lots of flies, gnats, and sometimes the occasional bee or wasp will find their way in. It's important to keep things very clean during the Summer. If there is so much as a cut open onion on the counter top the gnats will attack! For some who are highly sensitive to heat and bugs there are portable AC units that are sold on Ramstein Yardsales or, out in town. Also, screens are sold out in town as well. There is a good amount of rain year round. Coming from California I was amazed that the farmland didn't have irrigation systems.....they don't need to. It just rains enough. According to some charts the driest time of year is April & September.

Well, there's my report for the day. I hope I helped. If anyone out there has anything to add, please let me know and I can include it in the post. Happy Trails!

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