Thursday, 18 August 2011

Alpine Choughs, Marmots and the leaning tower of Pisa.

For the last two years, my girlfriend and i, have taken our summer holiday travelling
abroad in our campervan. Last year, we spent time in the French and Andorran
Pyrenees, this year we decided to spend a fortnight travelling from Dunkerque to
Luxembourg, Switzerland, Italy and Austria. In total, we drove just over 3200 miles,
visiting lot's of interesting places. Although this wasn't a birding holiday as such, i
couldn't leave my optics at home!


Herring Gull on the ferry

Kittiwake

first camp at Luxermbourg, Esch-Sur-Sure
The village near the campsite had breeding Fieldfare, Hawfinch
and Honey Buzzard

Honey Buzzard (above) mobbed by common Buzzard

Honey Buzzard (below) with Common Buzzard

male and female Honey Buzzards
Red Kite

The next day (Aug 2nd) we visited two villages in Luxembourg before heading for
Switzerland. At the border we had to pay forty euros to drive on the roads. The Swiss
are very good at relieving you of your money!
On route i saw Golden Oriole, White Stork and Honey Buzzard.

picture postcard Swiss village


Grindelwald

Alpine Salamander

birding the forest trail

mist draws in


On the morning of the 3rd we visited Grindelwald and spent the morning walking on
one of the forest trails up the mountain. Unfortunately the weather closed in and we
spent a lot of time sheltering from the rain.Whilst doing so i encountered my first Nut-
cracker, which was to be one of many.
Other highlights were the abundance of Crested and Willow Tits and Black Redstart.
A single Pallid Swift was over the town.

Leaving Grindelwald we headed for the Grimsel pass, a very scenic drive in
Switzerland, stopping frequently to take in the outstanding views.





Snowfinch
this adult bird was feeding young

Swiss cow meets camper!


The Matterhorn one of Switzerland's highest mountains was next on the visit list and
we spent a full day hiking up to 2500+ metres in plimsoles!
This was the best day of the trip so far, for birds anyway, with the following seen:
Pallid Swift, Crag Martin, Alpine Chough, Red-backed Shrike, Golden Eagle,
Serin, Water Pipit, Nutcracker, Firecrest, Goshawk and of course Black Redstarts.


The Matterhorn from Zermatt



Julie, with the town of Zermatt in the distance


nearly there!

Black Redstart

Wheatear (juv)

Red-backed Shrike



Juv' Goshawk

Water Pipit

The next day we drove down to Italy. Where we spent a few days visiting
various coastal towns and villages along with Pisa and Venice. I didn't get the chance for
much birding but saw my first Italian Sparrows and had a huge flock of migrating Bee eaters
fly over the van on the morning of the 7th.



Yellow-legged Gulls

Pisa

I can save it!




Views from up the tower



Venice





Med' Gulls, Venice

On route to Venice we stopped at Port Levante, the site is basically lagoons and
was excellent for birds. Curlew Sandpiper, Whimbrel, and Wood Sandpiper were
some of the many waders. Pygmy Cormorant, Black-necked Grebe, Purple,
Squacco and Night Herons, Flamingo, Montagu's Harrier, marsh Terns, etc, it was great.

Black Tern

Greater Flamingo


Montagu's Harrier

Pygmy Cormorant

Next stop after Italy was Austria, on route we came across a bridge with a gathering
of Crag Martins that gave excellent views.




Crag Martin

leaving Italy for the Austrian Alps


The highlight of the trip for us was the time we spent at Grossglockner in Austria.
The entry of 29 euros was well worth it for the sheer abundance of mammals, in
particular Alpine Marmots and Ibex.
Prior to our arrival, we saw only half a dozen Marmots in Switzerland, here we saw
around forty! A small group near the main car park had become habituated, as you can
see from the images, they were not timid!

We arrived at Glossglockner during a snow shower




thank you









This chap was a little heavier than a typical Marmot

Alpine (Yellow-billed) Chough feeding juvenile




The Alpine Choughs came so close that this image was taken with a wide angle lens.



The views were stunning and made better by the improving weather as the morning
wore on. Again, in plimsoles we walked as far as possible, (around 3000 metres)
before it became too dangerous to continue.
A steady stream of climbers made it to Grossglockner summit that day, helped by the
calm, sunny conditions. Bird interest comprised, Golden Eagle, Alpine Accentor, Raven,
Water Pipit, Black Redstart, Snowfinch, Wheatear and numerous Alpine Choughs.



Grossglockner

Observation tower and information centre. I saw Wallcreeper here, albeit a stuffed one!

Mr 'Happy'



Male Ibex

Alpine Accentor (look hard)




Snowfinches

Me, photographing Snowfinch. We saw three at this picnic site, they were present for
only two minutes before flying off strongly.



The road into the park




Later that day we drove the van up to Edelweisspitze, at 2571 metres above sea level
it offers the best view point of the area. The views were stunning.


on the way down




We spent the night in one of the valley bottoms by a waterfall and headed for Krimmler
Falls in the morning. The woods held good numbers of Nutcracker and Crested Tit but
the place was soon over-run with tourists by late morning.

Crested Tit



Krimmler Falls

Nutcracker

Not standing still for a minute, in the afternoon we drove to Mayrhofen and took a cable
car to around 2000 metres and walked back down through woodland to the valley
bottom. Nutcracker, Crested Tit, Western Bonelli's Warbler were the best birds in the
woods and a lingering group of Alpine Swifts were over the town.


Mayrhofen from the cable car

looking for Citril Finch (didn't find any!)
The next day we visited 'The Eagles Nest' near Berchtesgaden in southern
Germany. The building was given to Hitler for his 50th birthday. It's impressive position
gives outstanding views in every direction and is now a restaruant, serving many thousands
of tourists every year.
We walked through the tunnel, cut into the mountain and took the the lift up to the house
itself. The views, like so many we experienced on this trip were amazing, in the air above,
several Ravens were displaying and ever present Alpine Choughs hung around for food
scraps.

'Eagles Nest'

spot the birder


Alpine Chough

Raven

Entrance to the tunnel, with the house on top of the
mountain.


some of the views


From Berchtesgaden, we began to move North West, stopping to spend the night at a
service station in Stuttgart. Next day, the journey was broken with a few hours spent in
Luxembourg City before making camp at Dunkerque itself for the early ferry the
following morning. A couple of Great Skuas and Porpoises were seen during the
crossing back to Dover.

It was another succesfull and busy summer trip, i wonder where to visit next year in the van...

2 comments:

  1. Thanks Nick. You wanna try a trip abroad in your van sometime!

    ReplyDelete