I just returned from a Waterbird Society conference in Wilhelmshaven, Germany. The locale was near to the Wadden Sea, one of the largest coastal wetlands and tidal areas (15,000 square kilometers) in the world, with a national park shared across 3 national boundaries (The Netherlands, Germany, and Denmark), and which is designated a UNESCO World Heritage site of dramatic importance to waterbirds, seals, and other living things. It is THE most important staging site and stopover area for waterfowl and shorebirds that pass through from the eastern Canadian Arctic and Greenland breeding sites, plus northeastern European, Scandinavian, and Siberian waterfowl and waders, some of which winter in northern, central, or southern Europe, but many of which go southward to winter in Africa. A staggering total of 12 million waterbirds use the Wadden Sea annually, either during migration, molting, or winter, plus many breed there as well. Fifty-two populations of 41 species use the Wadden Sea each year, and for 34 of those species, this location is their most important extensive stopover site each year.
I was there to present a poster at the conference on our offshore Lake Michigan waterbird research. I also attended one full-day field trip, where I was fortunate enough to see Eurasian Spoonbills, huge numbers of Black-headed Gulls, Common Shelducks, Eurasian Oystercatcher, some Dark-bellied Brent Geese (we call them Brant here), plus Greater White-fronted, Greylag, and Barnacle geese, and Eurasian Curlew, Pied Avocet, Bar-tailed Godwit, European Golden Plover, Northern Lapwing, Common Redshank, Spotted Redshank, Common Greenshank, Common Eider, Great Crested Grebe, Great Cormorant, and Grey Heron, plus Eurasian Kestrels, two species of harriers, White Wagtail, Meadow Pipit, and a list of other passerines.
To learn more, go to: http://www.waddensea-worldheritage.org/