#536-538 at the Ammersee

Sunday, March 20th, 2011

Saturday the weather wasn’t looking good so I stayed close to home, and revisited the English Garden. Fortunately the promised rain never did come, and I managed to explore pretty much the entire garden from one end to the other and back (about eight miles). However it was still relatively quiet. The birdiest spot was in the far northeastern corner where I added a couple of new trip species including Eurasian Jay. A little south of there near what looked like some sort of community garden, I saw one small new bird and heard a second. Unfortunately I couldn’t identify either one. :-( Such are the perils of birding alone in unfamiliar territory.

Saturday afternoon I went back to Park Schloss-Nymphenburg to check out the Wildlife Photographer of the Year Exhibit at the Museum Mensch und Natur. I could have seen this the previous weekend, but I hadn’t known it was there. At least this time I knew where the tram was. :-) I didn’t do any serious birding of the grounds this time, but I did find one really obvious Eurasian Treecreeper with a big white eyebrow. (According to my field guide, in this part of Europe only Eurasian Treecreepers have white eyebrows. Some Eurasian Treecreepers don’t have white eyebrows, but no Short-toed Treecreepers have them.) Update: going over my records, I found that although I have seen Treecreepers before I’ve never had one with enough distinguishing characteristics to conclusively call it a Eurasian Treecreeper. That makes this bird #535!

Sunday, though, was a lot sunnier; and I hopped the train down to Herrsching on the Ammersee. As near as I could tell, this seemed to be the best spot I could reach outside of the city without renting a car. Trains weren’t running frequently on Sunday. I just missed one in Munich so I had to wait 30 minutes at the Hauptbahnhof, and another 15 minutes in Wessling. While waiting to change trains at Wessling, I ticked off a few birds from the platform including a Great Spotted Woodpecker, a European Greenfinch, and the only Eurasian Collared-Dove I saw the entire trip.

I finally reached Herrsching just before 10:00 AM. Given my complete lack of even basic reading German, I wasn’t sure where to go from the train station. I wandered around for a bit looking for a sign that made any sense. I never did find one, but I did find a Marsh Tit. Looks a lot like a Chickadee back home.

I eventually remembered that water flows downhill and into the lake, at least most of the time, and thus was able to point myself toward the lake by orienting along a stream. Turned out I had to go under the train station to reach the other side of town. Once I did that, finding the lake was easy. Herrsching proved to be a lakeside vacation community. It reminds me a little of Block Island. Once I reached the lake, I simply followed the lakefront to see what I could see.

Birds along the lake included Whooper Swan, White Wagtail, Red-crested Pochard, and many Black-headed Gulls. My guidebook had suggested I take the ferry around the Ammersee to several other lakefront towns, and I was hoping to do a little pelagic birding on the way; but it turns out the ferry wasn’t running for another month or so. :-(

Fortunately, a small trail continued around the lakefront even after the paved path ran out, and in a small but of brush between the path and the lake, I saw quite a bit of activity. First was a small olive-brown bird which was wagging its tail. Plumage wise there were two obvious possibilities: Common Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler, either one a lifer. However, only the Chiffchaff wags its tail like that. #536!

And in the same patch of brush I then found several Eurasian Siskins #537! These were easier to identify since they’re more distinctively plumaged, and yet are obviously related to our Pine Siskin back home:


#532-534 at Schlosspark Nymphenburg

Sunday, March 13th, 2011

I woke up Sunday about 7 AM local time, so jetlag was effectively over after less than a day. Hooray for melatonin! I had a solid breakfast with quite a lot of sausage including Weisswurst at the hotel. Then I grabbed a tram outside the central station to the Botanic Gardens. At least I thought that’s where it was going but it turned the wrong way down Bayerstrasse so I had to hop off at the next stop and catch it going back the other direction.

Nonetheless I got to the Botanic Gardens around 10 AM. Almost immediately as soon as I entered I heard an unfamiliar song and spotted the bird, a Green Finch, not a lifer but the first one I’ve seen in several years. A little further in, I heard another unfamiliar song, and this one did prove to be a lifer, number 532, Green Woodpecker. He did not hang around for a photograph though.

I spent the next couple of hours exploring the Botanic Gardens in depth and racked up a nice list of species including Great Spotted Woodpecker, Carrion Crow, Great Tit, Eurasian Blue Tit, Eurasian Nuthatch. European Robin, Eurasian Blackbird, and Common Chaffinch. By 12:15 or so I had thoroughly covered the grounds a couple of times so I exited out the back and headed into the much larger Schlosspark Nymphenburg.

The park is the grounds of an old 19th century castle so, while it does have a couple of hundred wooded acres, it also has several hundred acres of mowed lawns and man-made canals and ponds. And what would a European castle be without ducks, swans, coots, and geese? Usually in an urban European park like this, the geese are Graylag geese, but here they were Canada Geese and some funny looking smaller geese. Oh my God, those are Barnacle Geese!

2 Barnacle Geese grazing in the grass

#531 Mistle Thrush

Saturday, March 12th, 2011

I’m in Munich for a week starting today. I got to my hotel room about 1:00 PM and took a quick nap. I woke around 2:00 and, while still jet lagged, didn’t feel especially sleepy so I checked my map and decided to walk over to the English Garden. However I went by way of the little known Alter Botanisch Garten. No life birds there, but some nice reviews of common European park species including Great Spotted Woodpecker, Chaffinch, Blue Tit, Nuthatch, and Carrion Crow.

I eventually found my way over to the English Garden. The first pond had a nice selection of waterfowl including Mallard, Tufted Duck, Bar-headed Goose, and Greylag Goose. Most likely these are either kept or feral. There were also some European Coots and one Common Moorhen. Those are more likely to be natural.

For about a mile after that I really didn’t pick up anything new, just more Blue Tits, Carrion Crows, Chaffinchs, and the like. I was getting discouraged (and hungry) but then I heard something unrecognized up ahead in a tall tree with few leaves but much mistletoe. And then a fairly large bird (flew out of one of the mistletoe clumps to the next tree. I got my binoculars on it and it looked spotted and thrush like. It did not immediately seem to be a Fieldfare or a Redwing (no color) but that could just be the late afternoon light. Song Thrush maybe? Before I could see more the bird flew back into the mistletoe and vanished.

I backed up down the path and so I’d have front lighting instead of backlighting if the bird reappeared. I didn’t see it, but I did see two Greater Spotted Woodpeckers fly into the same level in the tree, and interestingly they looked noticeably smaller than the first bird had looked. Whatever this was it was a pretty big bird.

The bird still wasn’t coming out so I risked a quick look at the Thrush section of my field guide, and what did I find on the same page as Song Thrush, Fieldfare, and Redwing but a bird I’d never heard of before, a Mistle Thrush. The book didn’t say why this bird was called a Mistle Thrush, but the name sounded very suggestive.

And then, a couple of minutes later, the bird finally flew out of its Mistletoe clump back to the neighboring tree where this time I got s really good look at its underparts with all the field mark fresh in my head. Dark, distinct spots. Check. Long tail. Check. High in tree. Check. No yellow or red wash visible anywhere on the breast. Check. Mistle Thrush it is! #531.