Sunshine Coast Birds

Birding and other wildlife experiences from the Sunshine Coast and elsewhere in Australia - and from overseas - with scribblings about travel, environmental issues, kayaking, hiking and camping.

Friday, 23 June 2017

Europe Part 6 - Copenhagen & Oslo

Barnacle Goose
Following our stay in Berlin (see following post) we took the bus north to the Danish capital of Copenhagen. It was an entirely relaxing mode of transit after our extensive travels in the hire car. We crossed the Baltic Sea on the ferry from the German port of Rostock.

Amalienborg Palace
In Copenhagen we had an Airbnb homestay in the district of Norrebro for 3 nights. We wandered the city centre and suburban streets, taking an on-off touring bus again, and were delighted by the beauty and general ambience of this place. We were told we were fortunate to be there for rarely warm summer weather; thousands of scantily clad (some naked) Danes were sunbaking by the numerous waterways.

Copenhagen canal

Copenhagen inner harbour
We took a ferry ride through the maze of canals and harbours.

City Library

Little Mermaid statue

Stock Exchange tower
We saw the Amalienborg Palace where the royal family lives; the imposing Christianborg Palace complex that includes the Parliament; the iconic Statue of the Living Mermaid along with City Hall; and other sites including the Opera House, Tivoli, Rosenberg Castle and the Botanic Gardens.

Hans Christian Anderson grave
In Norrebro we admired how the Danes have turned a cemetery into a fine suburban park. Here we saw the grave of Hans Christian Anderson.

Jackdaw was abundant in the city streets.

Oresund Bridge
 After Copenhagen we took another bus north, crossing the Oresund Bridge to Sweden, the 10th state to be visited since arriving in Europe a month ago. We crossed southern Sweden into Norway, arriving in the capital of Oslo and the home of our friends Ketil Knudsen and Bente Mjomen Knudsen.

Barnacle Goose
After picking us up at the bus depot, we stopped at the quaintly named Middle Aged Park in Oslo for the third lifer of the trip - Barnacle Goose. I've seen this species in many European parks but not ticked it previously. The Norway birds evidently have established a large and permanent breeding population; the extent to which this is an entirely natural phenomenon is impossible to determine but climate change is affecting other waterbird breeding behaviour; the Norway population is now accepted as wild.

Lesser Black-backed Gull

Common Gull
Common, Lesser Black-backed, European Herring and Black-headed Gulls were all numerous.

In Oslo we visited the Vigeland Park with its famous sculptures and the adjoining Western Graveyard - together creating a vast area of wonderful parkland in the city's heart.

Vigeland Park sculptures
 Common Goldeneye and Tufted Duck were among the waterbirds on the lakes.

Tufted Duck & Common Goldeneye

Viking Ship Museum
We enjoyed a visit to the Viking Ship Museum.

Common Eider family
We had a look at the Holmenkollen ski jump and the woods and coastal coves around the Nesodden Peninsula. Here were several Common Eiders with ducklings in tow.

Common Tern
Common Tern was feeding in the shallows.

Eurasian Oystercatcher
Eurasian Oystercatchers were about.

European Robin
European Robin, always a nice bird to see.

In a field nearby I finally connected with Redwing - my fourth lifer for the trip.

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Europe Part 5 - Germany: Bavaria to Berlin

Murnauer Moos
Following our stay in Switzerland (see following post) we opted to travel to Germany through western Austria. Bad move. We were not aware we needed a tollway sticker to enter Austria as we assumed it would be like elsewhere in the EU - you pay tolls as you go along. We were waved through by the Austrian border guards (no warning signs that we could see) and then pulled over  by the Austrian police and hit with a 120 euro on-the-spot fine for not having the sticker. We were left with a sour taste in our mouths - Austria sucks!

Murnauer Moos
After leaving the neo-fascists following a brief drive through western Austria we entered Germany for a stay in the delightful Bavarian town of Murnau. Here I checked out the beautiful moors and grasslands of Murnauer Moos, with their dramatic backdrop of the Alps in that neo-fascist country to the south.

I looked unsuccessfully for Spotted Crake, including before sunrise and after sunset (when they are supposed to be more active at this time of year) with no success. I heard several Corn Crake, a species I had seen in Kenya, and although none showed, they were most interested in my tape recording of the Australian frog Psuedophryne coriacea.

Common Cuckoo
Plenty of Common Cuckoos were about.

Common Chiffchaff
Willow Warbler
Coming to grips with the Palaearctic warblers was a challenge. I eventually sorted out Willow Warbler from Common Chiffchaff - both plentiful.

Blackcap Warbler
As was Blackcap Warbler, Eurasian Reed-Warbler and Sedge Warbler. A couple of Western Bonelli's Warblers showed.

Great Spotted Woodpecker
Great Spotted Woodpecker was about; no sign of the White-backed reported to be here.

A couple of Fieldfare were nice to see.

Long-tailed Tit

Marsh Tit
Marsh Tit was there along with plenty of Great Tit, Eurasian Blue Tit and Long-tailed Tit.

Nymphenburg Palace, Munich

Nymphenburg Palace, Munich
After leaving Murnau we headed north to Munich to visit the historic Nymphenburg Palace on the city's western outskirts. The elaborate collection of carriages was particularly impressive.

Greylag Goose
Among the waterfowl on the palace lakes were plenty of Greylag Geese and a few Common Pochards.

Common Pochard
We decided to overnight in the pleasant village of Schleiz before confronting Berlin's mayhem. We stayed in the Hotel Luginsland, where a wall of pictures is devoted to Australian motorbike rider Roger Barker, who died outside the hotel in a 1957 accident.

Fields outside Schleiz
From there we drove a short distance to the village of Modlareuth, one of many German towns to be divided by the old border between East Germany and West Germany. This fine site includes a museum and remnant stretches of the border wall that was dismantled in 1989.

Modlareuth - East German border post & fence

Section of original border wall that divided German village of Modlareuth
Here also were House Martins and Barn Swallows nesting in the old buildings.

House Martins on nest
From Modlareuth we had a tortuous drive to Berlin, where road repairs and a couple of spectacular motor vehicle accidents (no speed limits on the autobahns) meant it took 5+ hours to travel 240kms. We checked into our hotel and dropped the car off, having clocked up almost 4000km since leaving Rome 19 days earlier.

Brandenburg Gate

Checkpoint Charlie
Berlin is a delightful city. We indulged in the usual el fresco dining and beer-drinking. We took in sites including the Berlin Cathedral, Checkpoint Charlie, Alexanderplatz, the Reichstag (Parliament), Charlottenburg Palace and the Brandenburg Gate.

Berlin Cathedral
Charlottenburg Palace display


Sunday, 11 June 2017

Europe Part 4: French Alps & Switzerland's Lake Constance

Eurasian Pygmy-Owl
Following our stay in Fitou in the far south-east of France, we headed north to the French Alps and the town of St Egreves. Our hotel was at the base of a large cliff at the southern end of the Chartreuse Mountains.

Chartreuse Mountains above St Egreves
We had a full day in the Parc Natural Regional de Chartreuse - a beautiful area of streams, rocky outcrops, alpine meadows adorned with a bewildering array of wildflowers, fir and broad-leafed forests.

Chartreuse Mountains

Spruce forest in Chartreuse Mountains
Chartreuse Mountains
I was happy to find a Eurasian Pygmy-Owl, my second lifer of the trip, being mobbed by an assortment of small passerines.

Eurasian Pygmy-Owl
A pair of Black Woodpeckers was another nice find, although I've seen the species previously in Japan and Romania.

Black Woodpecker
Mistle Thrush was common, including a couple of recently fledged juveniles. Other birds included Eurasian Treecreeper, Blackcap Warbler and Eurasian Bullfinch.

Mistle Thrush juvenile
Mammals included my first Chamois clambering across a rocky scree. We saw adult and fawn Roe Deer, and large numbers of Wood Mouse Apedemus sylvaticus.

Wood Mouse
We continued north-east, visiting the scenic lakeside French town of Annecy.

We crossed the Swiss border and drove through Switzerland to the village of Scherzingen, where Australian friends Luke and Erin had kindly loaned us their apartment for a stay.

From Kruezlingen across Bodensee to Germany

Scherzingen, Swiss side of Bodensee

Scherzingen, Swiss side of Bodensee
This is a lovely area indeed, on the shore of Bodensee (Lake Constance) - an expanded section of the Rhine. We took a long walk along the lake edge to Kruezlingen, just across the border from Germany. We admired the mix of stylish and old buildings, agricultural fields, wetlands, and the weekend bustle of locals taking to an armada of assorted boats.

Kruezlingen, Switzerland

Looking across Swiss border to Konstanz, Germany
There were plenty of waterfowl about, including many Mute Swans nesting.

Mute Swan
Also nesting in large numbers was Great Crested Grebe, including one pair on the appropriately named duckboard of a power boat.

Great Crested Grebe nest on boat duckboard

Great Crested Grebe nest
I was surprised to see large numbers of Red-crested Pochard, many of them nesting. It was a pleasant change to see so many waterbirds nesting on the lake and wetland edges so close to human interlopers, apparently undisturbed by dogs and cats.

Red-crested Pochard
Black-headed Gull was fairly common.

Black-headed Gull
As was Grey Heron.

Grey Heron
Common Terns in breeding plumage were present. Passerines included Great Tit, Eurasian Reed-Warbler and Common Chiffchaff.

Great Tit
Plenty of frogs were calling and visible, mostly big Rana temporaria.

Rana frog
On our second day at Scherzingen we took the train to Kruezlingen and walked across the border into Konstanz. Then we boarded a passenger ferry up the Rhine, the scenery as delightful as we anticipated.

Napoleon Museum
Napoleon Museum

We got off at the Swiss village of Mannenbach and checked out the Napoleon Museum and a bustling open  air market.

Red Kite
A few Red Kites were among the many Black Kites.

Konstanz, viewed from the boat while returning, was stunning, framed by the Rhine and the distant snow-capped Swiss Alps.