The Wagbach depression near Waghäusel 


By Christoph Moning


The protected area of the Wagbach depression is situated between Mannheim and Karlsruhe east of the Rhine. The area is an important migration spot for waders and other migrating birds. 96 breeding species and a total of 250 species have been recorded. The Waghäusel (as it is called by German birdwatchers) is well known for Purple Heron, Little Bittern and Bluethroat which are difficult to observe in other parts of Germany.



Equipment: binoculars and a scope

Accessibility of the area: easy walk


Interesting species:

15 pairs of the Black-necked Grebe are breeding in the area. The Wagbach depression is one of the best places to see Purple Heron in Germany. Up to 10 pairs are breeding. This Herons can be observed between the end of April to the end of September in the reed beds (they like to stay at pond 5/5a). Even the Great White Egret can be encountered mainly in late summer until late autumn. A few pairs of the Little Bittern are breeding. Little Egret and Black-crowned Night Heron can be seen every year. The Night Herons mainly in July but also in June or August. There is a small colony of Cormorants at pond Nr. 5. Mediterranean Gulls are passing through between March and Mai and Little Gulls even in August and September. Black Terns are occurring commonly in May and August. Look also for White-winged Black and Whiskered Terns that are observed every year. Among the ducks Wigeon, Gadwall, Pintail, Shoveler, Teal, Garganey, Pochard, Tufted Duck, Goldeneye and sometimes Shelduck can be observed. 20 to 30 pairs of the Water Rail are breeding in the area. However Spotted Crakes can be seen along the reed beds in late summer to early autumn. 

The valley of the Rhine is a main migration route. Therefore European Hobby (also breeding in the area), Osprey, Red and Black Kite, Honey Buzzard, White and Black Stork, Wryneck, Cuckoo, Turtle Dove (several pairs breeding), Hoopoe (rare), Northern Wheatear, Savi's Warbler, and Whinchat can be seen on migration. The Red-footed Kestrel is also a rare migrant in May. Even the Marsh Harrier is a migrant but 1 to 8 pairs are also breeding in the area. Peregrine Falcon and Stock Dove are regular visitors. 1 to 2 pairs of the Kingfisher are breeding. The population of the Bluethroat is fluctuating between 2 and 85 pairs. The Wagbach depression is one of the most important spots for this species in the state of Baden-Württemberg. 10 pairs of the Great Reed Warbler are breeding. Also the Nightingale is a common breeder while only a few pairs of the Stonechat are breeding. Also the Penduline Tit is a breeding bird here, as is the Bearded Tit (15 to 30 pairs). During the wintertime the population of this bird increases. Therefore it is possible to see up to 150 birds in the reed beds in October or November. Barn Owl and Mediterranean Yellow-legged Gull are also breeding species in the area. By July the mudflats of empty ponds attract a lot of waders like Ruff, Dunlin, Little and Temminck's Stint, Curlew Sandpiper, Sanderling, Greenshank, Redshank, Spotted Redshank, Turnstone (rare), Knot (rare), Common Snipe, Ringed Plover, Curlew, Black-tailed and Bar-tailed Godwit (both rare). In October up to 2.000.000 Starlings can be watched coming in to sleep in the reed beds.

During the winter Merlin and Hen Harrier can be observed regularly. At this time of the year the Erlichsee (Lake Erlich) becomes more interesting. With some luck it is possible to observe Slavonian Grebe, Red-breasted Merganser, Smew and Velvet Scoter. To see Goosander you do not need too much luck. Even the Red-necked Grebe can be seen here between August and May. Uncommon winter visitors of the Wagbach depression are Great Grey Shrike, White-fronted and Bean Goose. Even in winter it is possible to observe the Bittern in the reed beds on migration (mainly at dusk). A maximum of 7 Bitterns have been seen flying at one evening (Lang 2000). A total of 15 birds have been observed in Spring 2000. From time to time even rare birds like Squacco Heron, Short-toed Eagle or Collared Pratincole are recorded.



A part of the protected area has been used as a sewage farm by the sugar factory Waghäusl until 1996. Soon the empty ponds attracted a lot of migrating waders. But the Wagbach depression owes its long species list not only to the mudflats but also to a mosaic of reed beds, shallow water, undisturbed shore vegetation and agricultural areas. 





The best point to start from is at the parking lot near the Wallfahrtskirche (Church) in Waghäusel (P). You can reach this parking lot via Highway A 5 (exit Kronau/Waghäusel) and Kirrlach. From the parking lot cross the road and walk on a path leading into the area. There are no observation towers, but You are free to walk on the paths on the embankments that are marked red in the map: 

Another interesting area nearby is the Erlichsee (lake) and some other lakes that can be found beyond the B 36 and a railway line. This area is most interesting during the winter months (see also interesting species). Take the B 36 and then the road in the direction to Oberhausen-Rheinhausen. Shortly before You reach Oberhausen a signed road leads to the right to the Erlichsee


valley of Rhine         map of Germany