Saturday, 6 August 2011

Blue Butterflies

With some many species of Blue Butterfly occurring in Switzerland, it was always going to be difficult to my head around them all.

What I did get were dozens of Idas Blue

Idas Blue

a few Chalkhill Blue

Chalkhill Blue

Mazarine Blue

Mazarine Blue

and a single Glanton Blue.

Glanton Blue
Plus a number that got away.

Friday, 5 August 2011

Brown Butterflies

The rain spoilt the number of butterflies available so it was hard going. Swiss Brassy Ringlets were by far the commonest of the brown butterflies,

Swiss Brassy Ringlets

followed by Lesser Mountain Ringlet 

A number of  Lessr Mountain Ringlets were difficult to photograph

and Blind Ringlet.

Blind Ringlet
I also had a few, nor many, Silky Ringlet

Silky Ringlet

and a  single Woodland Grayling was seen at Saas Fee.

Monday, 1 August 2011

Walk up the Saas Fee valley

On the 15th we walked higher up the Saas Fee valley having come down early from Allalin early due to the poor visibility. It was still raining on and off but proved to be a good day for birds. Walking up on the main path I twice glimpsed a bird in the riverside bushes without putting a name to it. There was only one way to find out what it was and that was to approach closer. The meadow between the path and river was still full of tall grass and unlike many had yet to be cut. That meant getting very wet walking through the rank soaking grass. But it was worth it as the unknown bird turned into not one but three Rock Buntings, two adults and a fledged juvenile. I only had my macro lens with me so apologies for the very poor one and only shot of one of the birds before they all flitted off.

There was a very nice bench just a little further up the hill which was ideal to view the meadows in case they returned and also to have a nice little snack and drink. Another good choice as it was not long before I heard a very surprising but unmistakable call. A crek-crek call from the next field, Corncrake! It called several times and by sheer luck I got a few glimpses of it as it moved through the field due to our elevated height. How's that for luck, especially as the Corncrake is a very rare bird in Switzerland, mainly confined to the Alps above 1000m (this was just below 1500m) . It has disappeared as a regular breeding species.
The wooden seat we were sitting on, a mile or so from any habitation, was one of those that had a plaque on dedicating it to deceased local. We were just settled down when a Swiss man appeared from nowhere and asked up to get up as he needed to take some photographs of the seat to sent to the relatives. Ten minutes later he was still composing his shots so we left,

Saturday, 30 July 2011

Mountain birds

Of course the best birds in Switzerland are those of  the high peaks and I was fortunate to catch up with most of them. Failed to see any Wall-creeper despite checking one spot twice where I had them in 2007 and at another site where they have been seen before. The weather was pretty wet during all attempts which certainly did not help. However most of the other birds were much more co-operative.

Water Pipit - Saw this species on 6 different mountains

Alpine Chough - Quite common on the mountain tops, especially around the
mountain restaurants, a bit like me.

Citril Finch - this was one of 4 on Mannlichen, I saw another one
at Schynige Paltten. Smashing birds.

Snowfinches - Another restaurant inhabiting species - these were at Allalin
Lesser Whitethroat, Lesser Redpoll and Linnet, all familar species at home, were also seen, but in Switzerland these species only occur at high altitudes. The Lesser Whitethroats for example were nesting above the treeline in stunted Mountain Pines, so different from here at home. I've been to the Alps many times before but only once before have I seen Ptarmigan, so I was very pleased to see one along the Eiger Trail.

Friday, 29 July 2011

Some of the Birds

The first week we stayed in the Saas valley in South Switzerland, not too far from the Matterhorn, at 1400m above sea level. Over the holiday I managed to see 67 species.

Common Redstart - a garden bird in Switzerland
On the way there from Geneva, there were dozens of Black Kites as well as a few Red Kite, Common Buzzard and 2 Marsh Harriers.

Black Redstart - common in the mountain villages
In Saas Fee, many Black Redstarts and a few Common Redstart  in the gardens and several Fieldfare. I still find it strange to see this 'northern' winter thrush to be hopping around with Blackbirds in central Europe in summer.

Summer plumaged Fieldfare
More typical of the Alps around the village were  a few Crag Martin, plus lots of House Martin and Common Swift, White Wagtail, Crested Tit, Serin and Crossbill as well as the more 'British' birds such as Blackbird, Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush, Carrion Crow, Great Tit, House Sparrow (no Starlings) and a good population of Spotted Flycatcher.

A rather ragged Black Kite

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Switzerland or what I saw on our holidays

Spent two and a bit weeks in Switzerland in mid July 2011. The weather was pretty rubbish with rain on most of the days. This reduced to a small degree the amount of natural history recording I could do, particularly with the butterflies. It snowed several times on the tops and I can confirm its not much fun standing on a 3500m mountain in a snowstorm wearing shorts and a tee-shirt.

I thought what I'll do is add a bit of what I saw together with a photo or two over the next week or so..