This was a week in Switzerland for nine of our family, six skiing, the rest, including me, sightseeing. Birding was limited to whatever was around the places we visited.
We travelled by train and the outward journey revealed small numbers of Common Buzzards, a few Ravens and some Roe Deer as we sped across France.
We stayed in the village of Wilderswil near Interlaken and on the Sunday morning became acquainted with the common birds; House Sparrows, Siskin (about the commonest bird around), Chaffinch, Greenfinch and Blackbird. The skiiers were up on the mountain early and we soon followed to meet them at First above Grindlewald. Alpine Choughs were common and tame here and came to eat chips from plates at the restaurant. A couple of Snow Finches and Ravens were the only other birds but up to 11 Chamois were on the slopes nearby.
On Monday a single Black Redstart was in Wilderswil. That day Karen and I took the train to Luzern, stopping briefly at the town of Meiringen which has been given a Sherlock Holmes theme thanks to the nearby Reichenbach Falls, which Conan Doyle chose as the location for the final encounter between Holmes and Moriaty. The town itself was buzzing with Alpine Choughs - easily the lowest altitude I've seen them at - and many appeared to be paired or displaying. A Grey Wagtail was on the river and Siskins and Blackbirds were common.
En Route the Brienzersee (and other lakes along the way) had several Great Crested Grebe, many Coot, a few Black-headed and Common Gulls and a Sparrowhawk. A few Chamois were on the hillside on the north side at surprisingly low altitude. A Roe Deer showed on the climb up to Brünig Hasliberg.
Other species seen en route were Carrion Crow, Magpie, Common Buzzard, Mute Swan, Wigeon, Shelduck, Tufted Duck and Cormorant. A Red Kite was near Sarnen. Luzern produced a Peregrine terrorizing the Feral Pigeons, 2 Goosander, Mallard and Black-headed Gulls.
Tuesday found us back in the high mountains for a trip up to the 007-themed revolving restaurant on top of The Schilthorn at 2971m. The restaurant featured in On Her Majesty's Secret Service and takes 55 minutes to do a complete turn. The scenery here was quite simply breathtaking and of course there were the inevitable Alpine Choughs for company as well as a Raven. We stopped in the village of Mürren on the way up where there were many Alpine Choughs, 4 Snow Finches and a singing Alpine Accentor.
Wednesday was another train trip for Karen and me, this time to the capital, Bern. Little Grebes and Goosander were on the river in Interlaken, there were 2 Red Kites near Spiez and the usual suspects on the lakes. In Bern a Short-toed Treecreeper was calling loudly as it made its way up trees around the Casino.
On the way from here to Lausanne we saw our only Starlings of the trip and our first Mistle Thrush. Lake Geneva held heoic numbers of Great Crested Grebes plus other waterbirds like Gadwall, Pochard, Tufted Duck and Goosander. There were many Grey Herons in the valley north of Aigle on our return via the new 34.5km Lötschberg Base Tunnel (the longest land tunnel in the world).
Thursday, and we were back in the mountains for some hardcore tobogganing. The route was via Wengen (Alpine Choughs) and the cablecar to Männlichen, where a couple of Chamois showed. At the top were more Alpine Choughs and one or two Snow Finches. The toboggan run down to Grindlewald passed through coniferous forest where we saw 2 Nutcrackers, Willow Tit, Crested Tit, Crossbill and a Great Spotted Woodpecker.
On Friday we decided to return to Mürren for some hiking. 6 Fieldfare were in Wilderwil that morning and a Dipper showed on the river just above Zweilütschinen on the way up and down. Again the village was packed with Alpine Choughs and had several Snow Finches and Alpine Accentors. The walk produced more Siskins, Mistle Thrushes, Greenfinches, Chaffinches and 2 Crossbills but the highlight was a party of c.6 pale alpestris Ring Ouzels feeding on Rowan.Higher up at Allmendhubel there were a couple of Ravens, Snow Finch and Chamois.
The train journey home was surprisingly productive with Goosander and Red Kite near Olten in Switzerland, then many Great White Egrets, plus a few White Storks and Grey Herons, a Little Egret and a Marsh Harrier along the Zorn valley between Strasbourg and Saverne in France. There were a few more Great White Egrets west of the Vosges Mountains but otherwise just a handful of Common Buzzards were seen for the rest of the trip.
Alpine Chamois Rupicapra rupicapria rupicapria
Alpine Accentor Prunella collaris
Siskin Carduelis spinus
Snow Finch Montifringilla nivalis
Alpine Chough Pyrrhocorax graculus
All pictures taken with Canon Powershot SX10