Sternenpfad - English Translation

Welcome to the Star Path!

Here you will find information and discovery points on the value of darkness in the Wilderness Area, on the nocturnal life of wild animals, and the importance of celestial bodies for orientation.

011. Importance of the night

What would the night be like if there were no street lamps and illuminated buildings? Hard for us to imagine. However, only about 100 years ago there was a spectacular starry sky all over the world.

Our nights are getting lighter and the light that many of us humans produce radiates into the sky. We call it light pollution. This not only affects our human health, but it also causes problems for nocturnal animals and plants.

Here in Lieberose Wilderness Area there is hardly any infrastructure and therefore very little light pollution. This makes the Wilderness Area a haven for nocturnal animals such as wolves, bats, and owls. And we humans can also experience the original darkness here with its unique starry sky.

 02Where is the night still dark?

The places with high light pollution can be seen as bright spots on the map.

Can you find Lieberose Wilderness Area?

 112. Orientation at night

We humans are often anxious and cautious in the dark. No wonder, because our senses are made for daylight activities. However, the situation is quite different for some animals that live in the wild.

Take a look through the eyes of animals!

What distinguishes the eyesight of the different night dwellers?

Orientierung113The masters of the night are bats. They have a sophisticated echolocation system. They constantly emit ultrasonic waves into their environment. Everything that stands or flies in front of them reflects these waves. The bats catch these reflections. They use the time lapse to calculate the distance, something movement, and its speed.

Owls, such as Tengmalm's Owl, have very large eyes; they are particularly sensitive to light and therefore perfectly adapted to the conditions at night. But its ears also help the Tengmalm’s Owl in the dark. Its face feathers pick up all sounds of the environment, so it also locates its prey acoustically.

Deer see in the dark 100 times better than humans. Their eyes are on the side of their heads, giving them a larger field of vision. In addition, their pupils opening significantly wider than ours. This allows much more light to reach the retina and improves vision in the dark.

The wolf is also made for the dark. Its forward-looking eyes enable it to see well in three dimensions and to more effectively process the little remaining light at dusk. Its very good sense of smell also helps it find its way around at night.

3. Light as a clock


Despite the constant availability of artificial lighting, light and darkness have a decisive influence on our psyche, relaxation, and capabilities. Only in the dark does the body produce melatonin, which we need to fall asleep.
Light has always been the most important clock for animals and plants. The requirements and active phases are very different. During the course of the year, the active phases shift and change depending on the time of sunrise and sunset.

Who is active when?

At this discovery point we present five animals and their nocturnal activities. Spin the wheel and you can see when each animal opens or closes its eyes.

Can you solve the riddles and match the descriptions to the respective animals?

I really wake up at dusk. I smell my favourite food and I am on my way. When my prey goes back to sleep, I also retire and rest. But even during the day I like to see what is going on in my territory.

Because I have spent most of my life as a larva in the ground, I am used to the dark. I become active at night and explore the area around my favourite tree. If you are lucky, you can also find me here during the day.

I am a real sleepyhead during the day. I either have it nice and dark and cosy in my tree hole, or I snuggle up against a tree trunk in the dense forest. Some of my relatives are also active during the day, which I find quite strange. The mice only taste best to me when it is completely dark. I always know where they are because I can hear them very well.

When evening comes, I feel refreshed and wander around in search of the best food. But I also like to set off during the day when I feel safe and undisturbed.

Nobody will see me during the day, it is much too hot and exhausting for me in the daylight. Only when it gets dark in the evening do I set off and fly on my rounds through the forest. I especially like to fly over the lake – there are lots of insects to eat here.

A = Wolf; B = Stag beetle; C = Tengmalm's owl; D = Red deer; E = Barbastelle bat

Orient314. Orientation to celestial bodies

Just as light rules the natural rhythm of living creatures, it also affects their orientation. Natural phenomena such as celestial bodies, magnetic fields, smells, and sound ensure that many animals can find their way around in the dark.

The inner compass
Migratory birds such as geese, cranes, and many songbirds have a very special sense. The so-called “magnetic sense” enables them to orient themselves using the Earth's magnetic field, which also works very well at night. This inner compass registers the strength and orientation of the magnetic field. For example, it allows the Arctic tern to cover a distance of around 20 000 kilometres from its breeding grounds in Greenland and Alaska to its winter quarters in the Antarctic.

Light as a trap
Often we humans unintentionally create barriers and distractions that can mislead animals. An example is the night lighting of our streets, houses, and sometimes even gardens, which attracts countless insects into a trap every night.
Moths and other nocturnal fliers orientate themselves using the Moon, which they cannot distinguish from an artificial light source. Lured by this, they lose their bearings and often their lives.
Too much light at night not only throws animals and plants out of their natural rhythm, in the long run it can also make us humans ill as well.


Animal-friendly light
We can use simple means to help reduce this "light pollution" in our environment and at the same time save money and energy: lights should be as energy-efficient as possible and only used for a limited period of time where it is necessary for safety.
They should shine down onto the pavement or doorway and avoid illuminating the night sky as much as possible. A warm, light colour is favourable, with as little ultraviolet and blue content as possible. This is less similar to moonlight and is therefore less attractive to nocturnal animals

GrosserWagenOf sailors and astrologers

Stargazing played a very important role in our past. The stars offered approximate orientation to the first seafarers.
For example, the further south the observer is, the further north the Pole Star is located in the night sky.
Even Neolithic cave paintings indicate that stars have fired people's imaginations for a very long time. In the arrangement of the stars, people thought they recognized patterns that they assigned to animals, mythical figures, or objects. These so-called constellations were recorded in star charts.

A well-known example is the constellation the Great Bear (Ursa Major), which includes seven particularly bright stars. If you extend an imaginary connecting line between the two stars at the base of the Great Bear, you will meet the Pole Star, which lies in the constellation of the Little Bear.

4The northern night sky
You can see how the sky will look at this point at 10 pm if you set the appropriate date on our star map. The lower part of the map shows you looking north. From there, the map extends like a dome across the night sky. The centre of the map is directly above your head.

5. Orientation to celestial bodies


Sun dial

Until the beginning of the 19th century, the sundial was used to determine the time of day. Only a few materials are needed for this method: a stick, a clock face on the ground, and of course the sun. The upright stick casts a shadow that becomes visible on the clock face. The number on which the shadow falls tells the time.
The shadow, and thus the time, works all year round, depending on how high or low the sun is in the sky.
The sundial does not differentiate between summer and winter time. Depending on how our mechanical clocks are set, the face of the sundial is shifted by one hour.

 6. Creatures of the night and their myths


For centuries there have been stories, fairy tales, and myths about the animals of the night. They fascinate us and still make us shiver today.

Fairy tale or truth?

We bring to light the mean of stories about animals of the night.
First fold down all the flaps.
Then read the texts at the top of the flaps and compare them with the answer that is under the flap.


"Goatsuckers are birds the size of a blackbird in appearance, nocturnal predators, by day they are blind. They enter the shepherds' folds, and fly to the udders of the goats in order to suck the milk, from which injury the udder dies away, and blindness falls upon the goats which have been so sucked ‘‘

Pliny the Elder ca. 23–79 AD


The nightjar, sometimes called the goatsucker, is a secretive bird. Its perfect camouflage and its body nestled tightly against the ground make it almost indistinguishable from the bark of the branches on which it sleeps during the day.
The most striking thing about it is the churring noise it makes when it becomes active at dusk, chasing moths and other insects in low flight above the ground.
Pastures and open stables must have been good hunting grounds for it in the past. This mysterious way of life has inspired people to make all sorts of speculations.
Unfortunately, this peace-loving bird has become rare in Germany today, as its habitats are disappearing more and more due to building and land use.
It feels particularly at home in the semi-open heathlands and the developing forests of Lieberose Wilderness Area.
With a bit of luck, its churring trill song and wing clapping can be heard here in early summer in the evening hours.


There sits the owl in the elm tree
And howls and howls in the elm tree.
The world has room for both of us!
Wherefore does the owl howl in the elm tree
Of dying and of dying?

And across the way the nightingale,
Over the way the nightingale whistles.
Oh woe, all love has vanished!
Wherefore does the nightingale whistle so sweetly
Of love and of love?

To the right, brightly, a love song,
To the left, piercingly, a song of death!
Ah, when love has vanished, does nothing remain,
Nothing but a song of death
Barely the width of a road away?

Theodor Storm, 1817–1888


Today, owls are a popular image and they are considered clever and wise. In earlier times, however, they were often notorious as messengers of death or companions of the devil.
The call of an owl was already considered an ominous announcement of impending death in ancient Greece and triggered terror. In the Old Testament, in Grimm's Fairy Tales, and in Shakespeare's plays, owls also appear as unpopular messengers of misfortune.
Nevertheless, the owl was depicted in ancient Greece as the companion of the goddess Athena and the bringer of wealth.
The saying "bring owls to Athens" is derived from this. Even today, an owl is depicted on the Greek one Euro coin.
The rare Tengmalm's owl is native to Lieberose Wilderness Area. About 25 cm tall, this owl is dependent on natural forests and builds its nests in old tree cavities. It sleeps most of the day. It draws attention to itself with a loud winnowing call.


‘‘The cause of this apparently was that at the bottom of his heart he knew all the time (or thought he knew) that he was in reality not a man, but a wolf of the Steppes. Clever men might argue the point whether he truly was a wolf, whether, that is, he had been changed, before birth perhaps, from a wolf into a human being, or had been given the soul of a wolf, though born as a human being; or whether, on the other hand, this belief that he was a wolf was no more than a fancy or a disease of his .’’

Hermann Hesse, 1877–1962



Ideas that humans can turn into wolves and wreak havoc have existed for a very long time.
The Epic of Gilgamesh, which is over 3,800 years old and in which a shepherd is transformed into a wolf, is the oldest written testimony to these werewolf stories.
In the times of witch hunts, many shepherds were persecuted and executed as supposed "werewolves". One explanation for the myth could be the behaviour of people who contracted rabies after being bitten by animals.
People still have mixed feelings about the wolf. They range from fear to reverence and can greatly influence our assessment. In the past, the persecution of the wolf meant that it was extinct in Germany for over 100 years.
These fascinating wild animals have been at home again in Lieberose Wilderness Area since 2011. The large, undivided wilderness areas provide wolves with sufficient space and food, such as roe deer, wild boar, and red deer.

 The bat

A little mouse crawled
Always unsatisfied in its hole;
Always wishing: If only I were
Like a little bird
And fly in the open air!
Zeus said to Mercury:

I will grant the fool's wish,
Appear, Mouse! - It came,
to hear the word of the gods.
Well, said Zeus, to pass the time,
I will put wings on your body.
Now fly!

Half bird and Half mouse
It flew and was called the bat.
Mercury saw it and laughed;
Now it only flies at night.

Johann Wilhelm Ludwig Gleim, 1719 –1803


No other species of animal has been so persecuted by humans and associated with rumours and superstitions as the bat. In the Middle Ages it was said that it flies into your hair and makes your head bald. The animals were also hung on front doors as lucky charms or used in love potions.
They were also associated with the belief in vampires, often associated with the idea that the dead come back to life and bring misery to the living.
One of the most famous vampires is the blood-sucking Dracula. The idea that vampires can turn into bats probably comes from South America. One explanation is provided by the so-called “vampire bats”, a group of bats that are the only mammal species that feed exclusively on animal blood.
European bats feed on insects. They make an important contribution to containing other bloodsuckers because they can eat up to 2,000 mosquitoes per night. Numerous species of bats are native to Lieberose Wilderness Area, including the rare Barbastelle bat.

  7. Selfie-Points

1021. Barbastelle bat

I am known as a late riser. I do not start my day until early dusk. But once I am awake, there is no rest.
With fast and agile flight I go in search of my breakfast. I find my favourite food along the edges of the forest and forest paths: tasty moths and soft mosquitoes!
I do not see very well, but the insects cannot escape me. My special echolocation enables me to find my way anywhere.
I prefer to set up my home with friends and family in dead trees behind protruding bark or in tree crevices.
But I also like the old bunkers here in the Wilderness Area, because I can have a nice hibernation there.

And another little tip: my friends often make fun of me. They say my face resembles that of a small dog!

Can you guess who I am?



2. Stag beetle

Some say I am a show-off.
But in Europe I am one of the biggest of my kind. That is reason enough to be proud, is it not?
Also, I only spend a few weeks of my life above ground, so I do not have much time for restraint. Before that I live underground in secret for many years.
Between May and June you can see me flying around at dusk. I am looking for a perfect partner or something to eat.
I am a vegetarian; I like the sap from deciduous trees best.
My home is in open forests with many dying oak trees. Here I can place my offspring on the roots and they feed on the dead wood.

A final tip: the males of my species are adorned with impressive antlers, which they use during their impressive fights. It is actually an upper jaw, because we are not deer.

Can you guess who I am?

1223. Wolf

I am a real family pet! I live with my parents and siblings in our hunting ground, where we hunt deer as a team. Sometimes a sibling leaves our family, goes on a long trip, and starts its own family.
I have been gone from Germany for a long time, but in the past few years I have felt comfortable again here in wilderness areas and other large areas. I attach little importance to whether I live in a forest or on a military training area. It is only important to me that there is enough delicious game to hunt and that I can find an undisturbed place for my family. I can smell and see really well – nothing escapes my sense of smell and hearing!
They help me especially when hunting and if there is danger. I can smell something up to 2.5 kilometres against the wind!

In case you do not know who I am, I will give you one last tip: my family and I are known for howling at night, which we do together in our pack.

Can you guess who I am?

1324. Tengmalm's owl

During the day you will find me snuggled up against my favourite tree while I take a nap. I only get really active when it gets dark.
As long as it is dark, I fly around silently and look for my next snack.
Mice taste best, but when I am really hungry, I sometimes eat a little bird. I act very calmly and wait for the right moment. My good hearing helps me to grab my prey on the ground at the right moment in a thrusting strike.
When the time comes and I care for my offspring, I will look for a cosy tree hole. I like to take the old burrows from my friend the black woodpecker and lay my eggs there.

Something that often gives me away is my beautiful singing. But I only do this after sunset.

Can you guess who I am?

1425. Red deer

My friends often describe me as an imposing daredevil. I admit that I am aware of my masculinity and like to pose, but I also have my sensitive side.
I am a bit greedy, but I make sure that my diet is only vegetarian.
My hunger dominates my daily rhythm. Eating, ruminating, and resting, that is all I usually have in mind.
The exception is autumn, when I am looking for a bride and try to win the hearts of the ladies with loud shouts and exhibition fights. I have exceptionally good senses. With nose, eyes, and ears I check where dangers hide. I am easily scared by humans.
I am at home in structured forests and open clearings.

And another tip: my autumn calls are also called bellows, and I am one of the largest free-living wild animals in Central Europe.

Can you guess who I am?