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.

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.

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