Europe — Wednesday, June 29, 2016 and Wrap-up

We didn’t add any new birds on our final day, although Frank got to see a Yellowhammer, which Barb had seen earlier in the trip. Also, we added one bird after-the-fact from photos – Western Bonelli’s Warbler. We birded areas where we had started the trip two weeks ago, hoping a morning outing would be more productive – it wasn’t.

We got to the airport early. We usually request a wheelchair for Barb at airports, but she thought the Zurich Airport was small enough that she wouldn’t need one. We found out otherwise when we arrived.

So for our departure, we asked for assistance. The check-in attendant directed us to a waiting area to request a wheelchair. We pushed the button and the voice on the other end said to wait there and some one would be there shortly. Well, 40 minutes later(!!) a guy shows up with a motorized cart. We get in and after several elevators and concourses, we arrive at the security checkpoint. We get through that and then go on another elevator, down another concourse, another elevator and arrive at a garage with vans. We transferred to a van and then were driven out to the international terminal. Then another elevator, a wheelchair, another concourse to our destination! It was like something out of a Monty Python movie…

The flight home was uneventful and on time, as was our limo drive home.

Here are some scenery photos, comments, and observations about our trip.

Above Treeline

Above Treeline

Switzerland

Switzerland

Switzerland

Switzerland

Switzerland

Switzerland

View from the cable car looking back up at Gemmi.

View from the cable car looking back up at Gemmi.

Switzerland

Switzerland

Switzerland

Switzerland

Switzerland

Switzerland

Switzerland

Switzerland

Switzerland

Switzerland

Switzerland

Switzerland

One of the brief views we got from Gemmi, looking for Lammergeiers.

One of the brief views we got from Gemmi, looking for Lammergeiers.

Leuk, Switzerland

Leuk, Switzerland

Leuk, Switzerland (Wallcreeper area)

Leuk, Switzerland (Wallcreeper area)

Switzerland

Switzerland

Switzerland

Switzerland

Memory Lane

Barb did get to see where she had lived 53 years ago. So that part of the trip was successful. Here are comparison photos.Cugy2

Roads

The roads in Switzerland were very well-maintained – in France, not so much.
We drove mostly on secondary (and tertiary) roads, except when time was of the essence. The major highways were up to US standards in width, lanes, etc. The lesser roads were remarkably narrow – frequently no more than a car-and-a-half wide (frequently less) – and no shoulders.
So trying to bird along them was difficult at best. We could stop to look at a bird, but if another vehicle came along, we frequently had to move to a wider portion of the road to let them pass, thereby losing the birding opportunity.

The drivers in both countries, being familiar with the local roads, drove them a lot faster than we felt comfortable with – especially downhill on mountain roads. And motorcycles were the worst! We had never seen so many motorcycles. They rarely obeyed the speed limit, passed on curves, tailgated, and just generally were pests. Considering the speed at which they descended the curvy mountain roads, we assume that a few thousand feet below each curve there is a pile of dead motorcyclists that nobody cares about…

We used a Garmin GPS to navigate and it did a pretty good job. But it appeared to not have a grasp on what a good road is versus a narrow country lane. It frequently took us on roads which had a posted speed limit of 50, but could not be driven more than 35 – thereby greatly increasing the time it took to get from point A to point B.

In towns and villages, the roads were often even narrower (they refuse to tear down old buildings to modernize their road system) and making turns and getting around oncoming traffic was a treat.

Stop signs and traffic lights are rarities away from the cities. Many of the intersections are round-a-bouts (traffic circles). This keeps traffic moving, but could be daunting when traffic is high.

Barb did all of the driving (I’m the navigator and photographer) and she did a fantastic job considering the conditions. But we would both be frazzled at the end of the day!

Hotels

We were not interested in staying at luxury resort hotels, but just average hotels. Except for the first night, we used Booking.com to find and book hotels from night to night. We booked our first week of the trip before we left and then did day-to-day booking the rest of the trip (to give us some flexibility).

We decided for the first night that we would stay in a familiar place to ease the transition. We are members of the Holiday Inn Priority Club and stay at Holiday Inn Express whenever we can. They meet our needs, are comfortable, have a great free breakfast, and a refrigerator in the room for cooling drinks for the next day.

Well, apparently Holiday Inn does not keep the same standards in Europe as in the US! The room was small, instead of two queen beds, it was two twin beds (I almost rolled out of bed when I turned over the first night!), parking was not free, the entrance to the hotel had no cover, so we had to unload our luggage in the rain, no refrigerator, it offered “free” WiFi, but it was slower than a phone modem from 20 years ago – you had to pay extra for “fast” wifi, there were no electrical receptacles next to the beds, so I had to borrow an extension cord and run it across the room in order to plug in my CPAP (I have sleep apnea) – I’m surprised they didn’t charge for the extension cord!

The rest of the hotels we stayed in were okay, although they still tended to have much smaller rooms and beds than we are accustomed to. We always selected a hotel that offered breakfast and had a restaurant, however, several times, the restaurant was closed or the breakfast was not offered until 8 AM. So we had to scramble to get convenient meals.

Two of the hotels had small refrigerators in the room – but they didn’t work!

The hotels offered free WiFi and were usually fast connections, but one kept failing.

The hotels were very modern and clean on the inside, often old-looking on the outside. There generally was no coffee-maker in the rooms and when we did have one it was instant coffee.

The shower/tub stalls (especially in France) would have a hand-held shower and only a half-door. This meant you had to be very careful where you positioned yourself and the direction you sprayed or the bathroom floor would get all wet! Very impractical…

Birding

It was breeding time in Europe and we saw a number of juvenile birds during our trip. We knew birds during this period would not always be easy to see, but we were confident we could draw them out. At home, pishing will often bring out birds from hiding as their curiosity makes them investigate the odd sounds. In Europe, not a single bird responded to our pishing! We tried the usual pishing, squeaking and variations, but not one bird expressed any curiosity whatsoever.

The other strategy for seeing birds (especially during the breeding season) is playing their song so they come out to defend their territory against the intruder. Again, not a single bird responded to their call! We had a hard time figuring out what birds were calling, but even when we did, playing their call did not help. We had at least 20 to 30 birds that we heard, but never saw.

Of course, water birds were visible. And raptors.

Access to birding areas was also a problem. As far as we could find, there is only one book for finding birds in Switzerland, and it is 16 years old. It really should have been titled “The Hikers Guide to Finding Birds in Switzerland!” Most of the birding areas described consisted of getting to the area by public transport and then taking a 10-kilometer hike! Since Barb cannot walk great distances, we had to read between the lines and re-interpret the maps to find automotive access and short walks. This often failed. Many of the preserves had no public parking at all! And the maps for most preserves had no scale, so figuring out how far we might have to walk at any particular site was difficult.

The group of birds we missed the most were woodpeckers. We had two sightings of Middle-spotted Woodpecker, and that was it. We heard no drumming anywhere.

So we ended up with just 98 species (77 lifers) in two weeks. Pathetic…

Habitat

The northern part of Switzerland was remarkably similar to Pennsylvania – wooded hillsides and agricultural valleys. The mixture of trees was different – more conifers – but many of the tress looked familiar, poplars, basswood, sycamores, hornbean, oaks, etc. There were a lot of viburnums and elderberry in the understory.

The southern part of the country was the Alps, of course. We got above the treeline twice. Once using the cable car to look for the Lammergeier and once over a mountain pass. It looked very similar to Colorado.

In France, much of the area we birded along the Mediterranean coast reminded us of Florida and Arizona – flat, hot, sandy. Even inland, it resembled southeast Arizona – dry hillsides, olive-colored vegetation. But the vegetation was not thorny like Arizona.

The Crau in France was unique. It was flat, dry, and the ground was, in essence, cobblestones! Walking off the trails was impossible. No birds either.

Miscellaneous

In addition to Switzerland and France, we passed through portions of Italy, Austria, and Germany. The borders were open, no stopping.

On one of the autobahns, we stopped at a rest area and had this for a toilet.

Rest stop toilet

Rest stop toilet

The seat was spring loaded. You had to get ready to sit down, then push the seat down and sit on it. Once finished, the seat sprang up and automatically flushed!

We rented a Mazda CX-5 diesel manual transmission SUV. We got 44 mpg. It was comfortable, handled well, and just small enough to navigate the narrow roads. When you stopped at an intersection, if you put it in neutral, the engine stopped and would restart when you put it in gear. Also, the wipers had a rain sensor, so they automatically turned on in the rain.

Every gas station in America that has a convenience store has ice. Not in Europe! Out of all of the gas stations we stopped in or passed, we only saw one with an ice machine. So we were unable to have cold drinks in our cooler.

Everywhere we went in Switzerland (and to a lesser extent in France) there were cranes.

Cranes

Cranes

Every construction site of even just 2 or 3-story buildings had a crane looming over it. There must be some construction technique or OSHA-type requirements there that required cranes.

Best Birds

The best birds were Flamingo, Kingfisher, Roller, Bee-eater, Northern Lapwing, White Stork, Squacco Heron, Alpine Chough, and kites.

Biggest miss – European Robin!

Most-wanted birds that we missed – Lammergeier, Wallcreeper, Hoopoe

Trip List (* = lifer)

Graylag Goose*
Mute Swan
Ruddy Shelduck*
Common Shelduck*
Mallard
Green-winged Teal
Red-crested Pochard*
Common Pochard*
Tufted Duck
Little Grebe*
Great Crested Grebe*
Greater Flamingo*
White Stork*
Great cormorant
Gray Heron*
Purple Heron*
Little Egret*
Cattle Egret
Squacco Heron*
Black-crowned Night-Heron
Glossy Ibis
Eurasian Spoonbill*
Short-toed Snake-Eagle*
Eurasian Sparrowhawk*
Red Kite*
Black Kite*
Common Buzzard*
Eurasian Moorhen*
Eurasian Coot*
Black-winged Stilt*
Pied Avocet*
Northern Lapwing
Common Sandpiper
Slender-billed gull*
Black-headed gull
Yellow-legged gull*
Little tern*
Common Tern
Pin-tailed Sandgrouse*
Rock Pigeon
Common Wood-Pigeon*
European Turtle-Dove*
Eurasian Collared-Dove
Common Cuckoo
Alpine Swift*
Common Swift*
Common Kingfisher*
European Roller*
Middle Spotted Woodpecker*
Lesser Kestrel*
Eurasian Kestrel
Eurasian Hobby*
Eurasian Jay*
Eurasian Magpie*
Yellow-billed Chough*
Eurasian Jackdaw*
Carrion Crow*
Common Raven
Calandra Lark*
Crested Lark*
Eurasian Crag-Martin*
Barn Swallow
Common House-Martin*
Great Tit*
Eurasian Blue Tit*
Eurasian Nuthatch*
Eurasian Treecreeper*
Western Bonelli’s Warbler*
Eurasian Wren
Eurasian Reed-Warbler*
Great Reed-Warbler*
Zitting Cisticola*
Sardinian Warbler*
Eurasian Blackcap*
Common Nightingale*
Common Redstart*
Black Redstart*
Rufous-tailed Rock-Thrush*
Blue Rock-Thrush*
Whinchat*
Eurasian Blackbird*
Fieldfare*
European Starling
Alpine Accentor*
Western Yellow Wagtail*
Gray Wagtail*
White Wagtail*
Water Pipit*
Yellowhammer*
Common Chaffinch*
European Greenfinch*
Eurasian Siskin*
European Goldfinch*
Eurasian Linnet*
European Serin*
House Sparrow
Italian Sparrow*
Eurasian Tree Sparrow*

Summary

We ain’t goin’ back…

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

We birded this morning in Ramosch — a small village in the eastern tip of Switzerland.

We finally saw a flock of Tree Sparrows (Red cap, black cheek, white collar, small bib).

We also picked up Common Sandpiper and Gray Wagtail — though no photos of either.

We also saw a male Whinchat.

We then headed through Austria back to northeast Switzerland. We went this way to avoid going over the mountains. Instead we went under them — through four 4-mile tunnels and one 8.6-mile tunnel (and many shorter ones)!

We are spending tonight in St Gallen. Tomorrow morning, we will bird the areas that we did in mid-afternoon on our day of arrival. Then on to the airport and home.

We expect to arrive home around 11:30 pm tomorrow. I have a bunch of Bird Screen orders to fill, PSO duties, and PAMC stuff to attend to before I will finish up the trip blog.

I will be adding a large section of non-birding stuff — from hotels to habitat descriptions, etc. So tune in again in a few days.

The trip list is 97 with 76 lifers.

Only a few photos today.

Whinchat, Ramosch, Switzerland, June 28, 2016

Whinchat, Ramosch, Switzerland, June 28, 2016

Tree Sparrow (finally!), Ramosch, Switzerland, June 28, 2016

Tree Sparrow (finally!), Ramosch, Switzerland, June 28, 2016

Mallard, St Gallen, Switzerland, June 28, 2016

Mallard, St Gallen, Switzerland, June 28, 2016

Eurasian Coot, St Gallen, Switzerland, June 28, 2016

Eurasian Coot, St Gallen, Switzerland, June 28, 2016

Monday, June 27, 2016

We started the day in Locarno, Switzerland.

Since arriving in Europe, we forgot that there were not just House Sparrows, but also Tree Sparrows (which look similar). We had been ignoring the many “House” Sparrows all along. We finally wizened up and started to pay attention.

The Tree Sparrow is first recognized by a red cap (instead of gray on the House Sparrow). So this morning while birding a local park, we spotted some red-capped “House” Sparrows. Ahah! Well — not so fast.

They turned out to be Italian Sparrows (A cross between House and Spanish sparrows) now considered by some authorities as a separate species. The Italian Sparrow has the red cap, but also has the black chest of a House Sparrow and lacks the black cheek and white collar of the Tree Sparrow.

So we are still looking for Tree Sparrows.

We also added Water Pipit to our trip (and life) list. The Water Pipit was split from what is now known as the American Pipit several years ago.

Tomorrow, we head north towards Zurich.

The trip list is 93 with 73 lifers.

Only two photos today.

Wood Pigeon, Locarno, Switzerland, June 27, 2016

Wood Pigeon, Locarno, Switzerland, June 27, 2016

Italian Sparrow, Locarno, Switzerland, June 27, 2016

Italian Sparrow (with breakfast), Locarno, Switzerland, June 27, 2016

Sunday, June 26, 2016, Leuk, Switzerland

Today we hunted for our two most-wanted birds — Lammergeier and Wallcreeper..

We went to where a local Swiss birder referred us — Leuk.

We followed the directions to a chasm of shear rock faces over a roaring stream cascading down the mountainside. We stared at the canyon walls for almost two hours, hoping to see a Wallcreeper fly. They are almost impossible to pick out on the rock face.

No luck!

We did see some other new birds — Alpine Chough and Alpine Swift — and got some photos of other birds.

We then took the cable car from Leukenbad up to Gemmi — which had been recommended to us as THE place in Switzerland to see Lammergeier.

As we entered the cable car and looked up at the cables, they disappeared into the clouds — as did we.

It was totally socked in up top, and we only had a few minutes at a time of breaks in the cloud cover below for us to scan. So we dipped out on that one too!

However, we did pick up Alpine Accentor and Snowfinch for the trip.

We are now heading to the eastern tip of Switzerland to finish up before heading back towards Zurich.

The trip list is 91 with 71 lifers.

Here are more photos.

Juvenal Black Redstart, Leuk, Switzerland, June 26, 2016

Juvenal Black Redstart, Leuk, Switzerland, June 26, 2016

Eurasian Jay, Leuk, Switzerland, June 26, 2016

Eurasian Jay, Leuk, Switzerland, June 26, 2016

Eurasian Jay, Leuk, Switzerland, June 26, 2016

Eurasian Jay, Leuk, Switzerland, June 26, 2016

Crag Martin, Leuk, Switzerland, June 26, 2016

Crag Martin, Leuk, Switzerland, June 26, 2016

Alpine Chough, Leuk, Switzerland, June 26, 2016 (Barb took this one with her cell phone!)

Alpine Chough, Leuk, Switzerland, June 26, 2016 (Barb took this one with her cell phone!)

Alpine Chough, Leuk, Switzerland, June 26, 2016

Alpine Chough, Leuk, Switzerland, June 26, 2016

Alpine Accentor, Leuk, Switzerland, June 26, 2016

Alpine Accentor, Leuk, Switzerland, June 26, 2016

 

Saturday, June 25, 2016

We birded The Dombes in France today. It is an area just north of Lyon consisting of hundreds of lakes and marshes, which are alternately drained and filled for agricultural purposes, making for a rich variety of wetlands throughout the year, but also making it difficult to know which ones to go to!

In the middle of all of this is the Parc des Oiseaux (Bird Park). We thought it was a nature preserve. It was a zoo — not only figuratively in number of people there, but also literally!

However, the habitat attracts native birds as well, so we decided to take advantage of the photo ops. I tried to take photos only of native birds taking advantage of the zoo’s hospitality — but I am not sure in all cases.

We then visited some of the nearby lakes and found Spoonbills, Lapwings, stilts, and Ruddy Shelducks, as well as our only nuthatch for the trip.

We then drove back to Switzerland, where we plan to try for Wallcreeper and Lammergier tomorrow! Our most-desired birds for the trip.

Tune in tomorrow for the results…

Trip list is 87 with 68 lifers.

Here are some photos.

Wood Pigeon, The Dombes, France, June 25, 2016

Wood Pigeon, The Dombes, France, June 25, 2016

Eurasian Spoonbills, Black-winged Stilts, Lapwings, Black-headed Gull, The Dombes, France, June 25, 2016

Eurasian Spoonbills, Black-winged Stilts, Lapwings, Black-headed Gull, The Dombes, France, June 25, 2016

Shelduck, The Dombes, France, June 25, 2016

Shelduck, The Dombes, France, June 25, 2016

Pochard, The Dombes, France, June 25, 2016

Pochard, The Dombes, France, June 25, 2016

Eurasian Nuthatch, The Dombes, France, June 25, 2016

Eurasian Nuthatch, The Dombes, France, June 25, 2016

Moorhen (Gallinule?), The Dombes, France, June 25, 2016

Moorhen (Gallinule?), The Dombes, France, June 25, 2016

Lapwings, The Dombes, France, June 25, 2016

Lapwings, The Dombes, France, June 25, 2016

Gray Heron, The Dombes, France, June 25, 2016

Gray Heron, The Dombes, France, June 25, 2016

Great Cormorant, The Dombes, France, June 25, 2016

Great Cormorant, The Dombes, France, June 25, 2016

Black-headed Gull, The Dombes, France, June 25, 2016

Black-headed Gull, The Dombes, France, June 25, 2016

Thursday and Friday, June 23-24, 2016

No, we didn’t die…

The internet connection at the hotel we stayed in last night kept disconnecting, so I gave up trying to update the blog. Also, our days seem to be getting longer and busier, giving me less time to work on the blog. I will add a lot more when we get home.

In the meantime…

Although we added new birds each day, few were expected species at the locations we went to. Most were birds seen while traveling from one birding “hot spot” to another. Many of the birding sites are not as described in the book.

Be that as it may, we are still seeing birds and hearing a lot more that we cannot identify.

Yesterday, we added Blue Rock Thrush, Rock Thrush. Today, Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Crag Martin, Black Redstart, and Whinchat.

Tomorrow is our last day in France — back to Switzerland.

The trip list is 80 with 63 lifers.

Here are some more photos.

Whinchat, France, June 24, 2016

Whinchat, France, June 24, 2016

Crag Martins, Doux Valley, France, June 24,2016

Crag Martins, Doux Valley, France, June 24,2016

Chaffinch, France, June 24, 2016

Chaffinch, France, June 24, 2016

Common Buzzard being harassed by Eurasian Kestrel, France, June 24, 2016

Common Buzzard being harassed by Eurasian Kestrel, France, June 24, 2016

Linnet, Old Island Marsh, France, June 23, 2016

Linnet, Old Island Marsh, France, June 23, 2016

Black Redstart, Dentelles de Montmirail, France, June 23, 2016

Black Redstart, Dentelles de Montmirail, France, June 23, 2016

 

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

As productive as yesterday was, today was the opposite.

We headed for The Crau, a dry, desert like area just east of the Camargue. We hoped to see Little Owl, Little Bustard, Stone Curlew, Lesser Kestrel, and more.

Not to be…

The temperature was in the 80s, not a cloud in the sky, and no shade.

We arrived at the museum in town to purchase an entrance pass, got a map and headed out to the preserve. Unfortunately, the map did not have a scale on it (all of the maps we have gotten at local preserves, etc. have been very poor), and so what looked like a short stroll around the preserve became a slog of several kilometers!

Barb turned back after we realized how far around it would be, but I slogged on. But I soon realized it was a lot farther than I had figured. So I also turned back.

If it weren’t for Jackdaws, Magpies, and Kites, I wouldn’t have seen anything.

While waiting for me to return, Barb had a Lesser Kestrel. This is THE place in France to see them — the place is managed for them. Well, I have to say their management plan sucks…

After returning to the car, we drove down a short road and did find a Calandra Lark.

We left that section and headed to the nearby landfill (don’t birders go to the neatest places?) to look for Egyptian Vultures which are supposed to summer there. When we got to the landfill, there was absolutely no dumping going on, so there were no birds hanging around — let alone, vultures.

We did however, find a Crested Lark.

Crested Lark, The Crau, France, June 22, 2016

Crested Lark, The Crau, France, June 22, 2016

We decided to go over to Berre Lake, which, although highly developed, was supposed to have some bird-friendly areas. By the time we got there, the traffic was horrible, routes that we expected to take were closed for construction, and it certainly had not cooled down. So we headed back.

By the way, France has an interesting definition of two-way road!

The road to our hotel. This is what France calls a two-way road! Note the width of the car hood.

The road to our hotel. This is what France calls a two-way road! Note the width of the car hood.

This road is barely wide enough for a car and bicycle to pass each other. If you meet a car coming, someone has to pull into a driveway or off the road to get by. And we thought Swiss roads were birder unfriendly…

With all that said, the trip has been fun so far. Here are a few photos of where we stayed the last two days (and tonight). It is very rural, lots of trees and bushes, but few birds…

It was originally built in the 16th century as a priory. It has 6 acres.

Hotel du Mas de la Chapelle. Our room exterior, June 22, 2016

Hotel du Mas de la Chapelle. Our room exterior, June 22, 2016

Hotel du Mas de la Chapelle. Hotel grounds, June 22, 2016

Hotel du Mas de la Chapelle. Hotel grounds, June 22, 2016

Hotel du Mas de la Chapelle. Our room, June 22, 2016

Hotel du Mas de la Chapelle. Our room, June 22, 2016

The trip list is 73 with 56 lifers.

Tomorrow we head north.

Tuesday, The Camargue, France, June 21, 2016

Today we birded the Camargue, a huge coastal preserve on the Mediterranean in southeastern France. It is like Brigantine on steroids. Marshes, salt-pans, brush, ponds, woods, etc. I have no idea how large it is, but is somewhere around 20 x 25 miles.

There were a lot of birds. Some of them, we couldn’t identify until we got back to the hotel and studied the photos!

The highlights were the Flamingos (of course), but also the Bee-eaters, and Short-toed Eagle. We discovered the eagle was banded when we saw the photos. The Bee-eaters, unfortunately stayed just far enough away that the photos were not sharp — but certainly enjoyable.

We will be birding more of this area tomorrow.

The trip list is 70 with 53 lifers.

Here is a gallery of some of today’s birds.

Zitting's Cisticola (Fan-tailed Warbler), Camargue, France, June 21, 2016

Zitting’s Cisticola (Fan-tailed Warbler), Camargue, France, June 21, 2016

Yellow Wagtail, Camargue, France, June 21, 2016

Yellow Wagtail, Camargue, France, June 21, 2016

Yellow-legged Gull, Camargue, France, June 21, 2016

Yellow-legged Gull, Camargue, France, June 21, 2016

White Stork, Camargue, France, June 21, 2016

White Stork, Camargue, France, June 21, 2016

Turtle Dove, Camargue, France, June 21, 2016

Turtle Dove, Camargue, France, June 21, 2016

Stonechat, Camargue, France, June 21, 2016

Stonechat, Camargue, France, June 21, 2016

Short-toed Eagle (with leg band), Camargue, France, June 21, 2016

Short-toed Eagle (with leg band), Camargue, France, June 21, 2016

Sardinian Warbler, Camargue, France, June 21, 2016

Sardinian Warbler, Camargue, France, June 21, 2016

Lizard, Camargue, France, June 21, 2016

Lizard, Camargue, France, June 21, 2016

Little Egret, Camargue, France, June 21, 2016

Little Egret, Camargue, France, June 21, 2016

Eurasian Jackdaw, Camargue, France, June 21, 2016

Eurasian Jackdaw, Camargue, France, June 21, 2016

Glossy Ibis, Camargue, France, June 21, 2016

Glossy Ibis, Camargue, France, June 21, 2016

Greater Flamingo, Camargue, France, June 21, 2016

Greater Flamingo, Camargue, France, June 21, 2016

Cattle Egret, Camargue, France, June 21, 2016

Cattle Egret, Camargue, France, June 21, 2016

Black-winged Stilt, Camargue, France, June 21, 2016

Black-winged Stilt, Camargue, France, June 21, 2016

Black-headed Gull, Camargue, France, June 21, 2016

Black-headed Gull, Camargue, France, June 21, 2016

Bee-eaters, Camargue, France, June 21, 2016

Bee-eaters, Camargue, France, June 21, 2016

Avocet, Camargue, France, June 21, 2016

Avocet, Camargue, France, June 21, 2016

 

Monday, June 20, 2016

We spent most of today traveling (7 hours) from Cugy to Arles, France.

We got in a little birding in Switzerland and added Wren (our Winter Wren) to our list.

As we neared our hotel near Arles, Barb spotted some Cattle Egrets and, shortly thereafter, a European Roller.

European Roller, Arles, France, June 20, 2016

European Roller, Arles, France, June 20, 2016

That was our only lifer for today.

We will be birding the Camargue — a large coastal preserve — the next few days. The most notable bird that breeds here is Flamingo! Plus, we should see some shorebirds, gulls, terns, waders, etc. (At least they won’t be hiding in the trees…)

41 lifers so far.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

We started down memory lane today by driving over to Cugy (where Barb had lived for 5 months). Remarkably, we found her old apartment building — although with some changes (I thought we had brought along photos of it from 1963, but apparently not, so we will post comparison photos when we get home).

Barb's apartment building, Cugy, June 19, 2016

Barb’s apartment building, Cugy, June 19, 2016

Barb's apartment building, Cugy, June 19, 2016

Barb’s apartment building, Cugy, June 19, 2016

Okay, enough of non-birding!

We headed up to a nature preserve called Chavornay — a wetland, fields, and marsh. Just before we got there, we found a Eurasian Collared-Dove.

Eurasian Collared-Dove, Chavornay, June 19, 2016

Eurasian Collared-Dove, Chavornay, June 19, 2016

At the first pond, a Purple Heron was preening.

Purple Heron, Chavornay, June 19, 2016

Purple Heron, Chavornay, June 19, 2016

From the observation blind, we saw Coots, Tufted Ducks, and this Great Cormorant.Great Cormorant, Chavornay, June 19, 2016

Great Cormorant, Chavornay, June 19, 2016

Another Purple Heron flew by.

Purple Heron, Chavornay, June 19, 2016

Purple Heron, Chavornay, June 19, 2016

Also there, a Reed Warbler posed.

Reed Warbler, Chavornay, June 19, 2016

Reed Warbler, Chavornay, June 19, 2016

I decided to walk down to check a nearby channel. Although I didn’t find any new birds, I did find Deer tracks — the closest we have come so far to seeing any wild mammals here.

Deer track, Chavornay, June 19, 2016

Deer track, Chavornay, June 19, 2016

And another frog (at all of the wetlands we have visited so far, the frogs and toads are in full chorus).

Frog, Chavornay, June 19, 2016

Frog, Chavornay, June 19, 2016

While I was doing that, Barb started walking back to the car. In a field of Swiss Chard (!), she found a Yellow Wagtail, which conveniently reappeared when I caught up.

Yellow Wagtail, Chavornay, June 19, 2016

Yellow Wagtail, Chavornay, June 19, 2016

We next headed for the Vallee de Joux. As we pulled into the first wetland parking area, a Hobby flew in and raced back and forth over the stream and marsh for several minutes.

Hobby, Vallee de Joux, June 19, 2016

Hobby, Vallee de Joux, June 19, 2016

Hobby, Vallee de Joux, June 19, 2016

Hobby, Vallee de Joux, June 19, 2016

Out on the lake were many Coots, Great Crested Grebes, and Black-headed Gulls. We drove down the lakeside, but didn’t find anything new. But as we pulled into a parking lot to turn around, a small bird flitted into a tree in front of us. It was a Redstart.

Redstart, Vallee de Joux, June 19, 2016

Redstart, Vallee de Joux, June 19, 2016

Although Tufted Ducks are common here, most of the ones we have seen have been distant. So a closer one on a pond was nice.

Tufted Duck, Vallee de Joux, June 19, 2016

Tufted Duck, Vallee de Joux, June 19, 2016

While driving back to the hotel, we spotted a Common Buzzard.Common Buzzard, near Cugy, June 19, 2016

Common Buzzard, near Cugy, June 19, 2016

In Pennsylvania, when a farmer is out mowing the hay, he is followed by a swarm of swallows. Here, he is followed by kites!

Kites, near Cugy, June 19, 2016

Kites, near Cugy, June 19, 2016

Kites, near Cugy, June 19, 2016

Kites, near Cugy, June 19, 2016

Kites (Red on right), near Cugy, June 19, 2016

Kites (Red on right), near Cugy, June 19, 2016

Black Kite, near Cugy, June 19, 2016

Black Kite, near Cugy, June 19, 2016

The triplist is 52, with 40 lifers.

We head to France and the Camargue (a large coastal preserve) tomorrow.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

We started the day outside our hotel in Twann and added Serin to our list.

Serin, Twann, June 18, 2016

Serin, Twann, June 18, 2016

And had nesting Barn Swallows.

Barn Swallow, Twann, June 18, 2016

Barn Swallow, Twann, June 18, 2016

We headed west to the Fanel and Chablais de Cudrefin preserve and found the La Sauge Nature Center there instead (I told you the book was out-of-date). However, this was a terrific spot. We spent most of the morning there. It had woods, ponds, brushy areas and blinds at the ponds. Here are some of the birds we got there.

House Sparrow (they're native here!), La Sauge Nature Center, June 18, 2016

House Sparrow (they’re native here!), La Sauge Nature Center, June 18, 2016

Mute Swan (they're native here!), La Sauge Nature Center, June 18, 2016

Mute Swan (they’re native here!), La Sauge Nature Center, June 18, 2016

Great Tit, La Sauge Nature Center, June 18, 2016

Great Tit, La Sauge Nature Center, June 18, 2016

Graylag Goose, La Sauge Nature Center, June 18, 2016

Graylag Goose, La Sauge Nature Center, June 18, 2016

Gray Heron, La Sauge Nature Center, June 18, 2016

Gray Heron, La Sauge Nature Center, June 18, 2016

Common Kingfisher, La Sauge Nature Center, June 18, 2016

Common Kingfisher, La Sauge Nature Center, June 18, 2016

Female Blackcap, La Sauge Nature Center, June 18, 2016

Female Blackcap, La Sauge Nature Center, June 18, 2016

Squacco Heron, La Sauge Nature Center, June 18, 2016

Squacco Heron, La Sauge Nature Center, June 18, 2016

Wood Pigeon, La Sauge Nature Center, June 18, 2016

Wood Pigeon, La Sauge Nature Center, June 18, 2016

White Wagtail, La Sauge Nature Center, June 18, 2016

White Wagtail, La Sauge Nature Center, June 18, 2016

The Fanel area is adjacent to the Nature Center, but required a long walk. So Barb continued to bird the nature center while I walked down to the Fanel Preserve. My first encounter was a Cormorant rookery.

Great Cormorants, Fanel, June 18, 2016

Great Cormorants, Fanel, June 18, 2016

A little farther down, I spotted some Red-crested Pochards.

Red-crested Pochard, Fanel, June 18, 2016

Red-crested Pochard, Fanel, June 18, 2016

Red-crested Pochard, Fanel, June 18, 2016

Red-crested Pochard, Fanel, June 18, 2016

Down near the observation tower, a Nightingale flew up from the pathway and landed on a post.

Nightingale, Fanel, June 18, 2016

Nightingale, Fanel, June 18, 2016

I added Black-crowned Night-Heron and Little Egret to the list and saw some terns way out, but couldn’t identify them. The common corvid the past three days has been Carrion Crow, but they have proved difficult to get close to for photo ops — until today. On the walk back, three of a flock of four crows flew off, but one stayed and didn’t care that I was there!

Carrion Crow, Fanel, June 18, 2016

Carrion Crow, Fanel, June 18, 2016

We headed further west to the Auried at Kleinbosingen — a nature preserve of ponds, fields, marsh and woods. Although we saw Little Grebes at La Sauge, this one here was more cooperative.

Little Grebe, Auried at Kleinbosingen, June 18, 2016

Little Grebe, Auried at Kleinbosingen, June 18, 2016

It was also a good place to look for raptors. As mentioned in a previous post, pulling ff the roads here is almost impossible, so most of the hawks we have seen have been fly-bys. By the way, Red Kites are everywhere and half-a-dozen or more at times. At this location we saw Red and Black kites and Common Buzzard.

Common Buzzard, Auried at Kleinbosingen, June 18, 2016

Common Buzzard, Auried at Kleinbosingen, June 18, 2016

Black Kite, Auried at Kleinbosingen, June 18, 2016

Black Kite, Auried at Kleinbosingen, June 18, 2016

Black Kite, Auried at Kleinbosingen, June 18, 2016

Black Kite, Auried at Kleinbosingen, June 18, 2016

We also had a lot of frogs an toads.

Frog (species?), Auried at Kleinbosingen, June 18, 2016

Frog (species?), Auried at Kleinbosingen, June 18, 2016

Our triplist stands at only 44, but 33 lifers!

We are spending the next two nights in a hotel near Cugy, which is the village that barb lived in 53 years ago. So we will be exploring that a little bit in addition to our birding.

Zurich – Thursday and Friday, June 16-17, 2016

In September 1962, Barb traveled to Europe and didn’t return until December 1964. She lived and worked in Switzerland, Austria (Innsbruck Winter Olympics!), Germany, and Luxembourg. The longest period of time in one place was Lausanne, Switzerland (Nov 62 – Feb 64), which is in western Switzerland, not far from Geneva. She has always wanted to return to reminisce and see what it looks like now.

So we have planned this trip as a birding trip with a pause in the middle down memory lane. We will be starting in Zurich, bird our way across northern Switzerland to Lausanne, look for her old stomping grounds, then on to the Camargure in southeastern France, bird our way back to Switzerland, across the southern half and back to Zurich.

The trip will be two weeks, and practically every bird we see will be new!

So here goes…

After an 8-hour flight from Newark, we arrive in Zurich around noon. Although we tried to sleep on the flight, we got very little. I had planned to visit three sites this afternoon, but skipped the last one, as we were worn out.

This first impression of this part of Switzerland is how much it looks like Pennsylvania — wooded hillsides and agricultural valleys! A slightly different mix of tree species (more conifers), but superficially the same. Also, the roads here are not birder-friendly — they are narrow and have no shoulders, so pulling off to look at a good (or great) bird is usually not an option. Although we are getting raptors, crows, etc. as we drive along, most of the birding is being done at “sites” from the Where to watch birds in Switzerland book (which is out-of-date).

Since it is the breeding season, seeing woodland birds was difficult at best. They were singing up a storm, but not knowing the songs (even though we tried to prep ourselves) made it very frustrating. Anyone who ever worked on a breeding Bird Atlas is familiar with this problem.

In spite of this, we saw a lot of birds (not enough!). We picked up a bunch of lifers the past two days and saw some AOU birds in a new light (Fieldfare, for instance).

We were totally wiped out last night (and the internet service at our hotel was laughable), so we did not get to the blog until now. Even tonight, it is almost 11 pm as I am writing this (6 hours ahead of EDT, by the way).

We will list our lifers and birdlist on another day as we reduce our itinerary (we bit off more than we could chew the first two days).

In the meantime, here is a gallery of photos so far (in no particular order).

White Wagtail, near Zurich, Switzerland, June 16, 2016

White Wagtail, near Zurich, Switzerland, June 16, 2016

Tufted Duck, near Zurich, Switzerland, June 16, 2016

Tufted Duck, near Zurich, Switzerland, June 16, 2016

White Stork, near Zurich, Switzerland, June 16, 2016

White Stork, near Zurich, Switzerland, June 16, 2016

Great Crested Grebe, near Zurich, Switzerland, June 16, 2016

Great Crested Grebe, near Zurich, Switzerland, June 16, 2016

Gray Herons, near Zurich, Switzerland, June 16, 2016

Gray Herons, near Zurich, Switzerland, June 16, 2016

Fieldfare, near Zurich, Switzerland, June 16, 2016

Fieldfare, near Zurich, Switzerland, June 16, 2016

European Coot, near Zurich, Switzerland, June 16, 2016

European Coot, near Zurich, Switzerland, June 16, 2016

Red Kite, near Zurich, Switzerland, June 16, 2016

Red Kite, near Zurich, Switzerland, June 16, 2016

Middle Spotted Woodpecker, near Zurich, Switzerland, June 16, 2016

Middle Spotted Woodpecker, near Zurich, Switzerland, June 16, 2016

European Greenfinch, near Zurich, Switzerland, June 16, 2016

European Greenfinch, near Zurich, Switzerland, June 16, 2016

Fieldfare06162016

Eurasian Kestrel, near Zurich, Switzerland, June 16, 2016

Eurasian Kestrel, near Zurich, Switzerland, June 16, 2016

Common Swift, near Zurich, Switzerland, June 16, 2016

Common Swift, near Zurich, Switzerland, June 16, 2016

Chaffinch, near Zurich, Switzerland, June 16, 2016

Chaffinch, near Zurich, Switzerland, June 16, 2016

European Blackbird, near Zurich, Switzerland, June 16, 2016

European Blackbird, near Zurich, Switzerland, June 16, 2016

More tomorrow.