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Europe

Great Spotted Woodpecker, Oslo

During our short stay in late June we visited Bergen and Oslo. Some birds, especially Greenfinches, were refreshingly numerous in comparison with their current low numbers in many parts of Britain, and it was a good opportunity to compare subspecies of some common birds in Norway with those in Britain.

In addition to much of cultural interest, avian highlights included my first Swifts of the year(!), Hawfinches feeding young, Pied and Spotted Flycatchers, and Peregrine.

Given the observation by an American visitor that Norway is ‘just like Alaska without the animals’, we were perhaps fortunate to see this Red Squirrel:

Red Squirrel, Bergen

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Goshawk, Berlin

Another

When I last visited Berlin, the wall was still standing and it was not a good place to be. Now the wall has gone; the regeneration of the city is impressive, though like other European cities Berlin has its share of homeless people who sleep in public spaces.

I had heard the hype about Berlin’s Goshawks without knowing how much to believe. For once experience matched the stories: during our short stay I saw Goshawk on three occasions in different areas of the Tiergarten (male, at least two juveniles, and female). German attitudes to birds of prey are clearly more enlightened than those in Britain.

Icterine Warbler, Berlin

Mandarin, Berlin

Other birds seen in and around the city and parks included Serin, Icterine Warbler, Black Redstart, Redstart, Nightingale, Spotted Flycatcher and Mandarin (which has established a significant population). The only LWHG I saw well looked like a Caspian x Herring hybrid.

No visit to Berlin would be complete without a visit to the Museum of Natural History. Like others of its kind it is in the process of reinventing itself, and only part of the collection is open, but some of the taxidermy and especially fossils are outstanding (Archaeopteryx to name just one).

Fossil dragonfly, Museum of Natural History, Berlin – very similar to those flying today

Apollo, France

Apollo, France

Here are two of the high altitude species which we saw during our stay in the French Pyrenees. The Apollo is widespread but tricky to photograph. We found the Gavarnie Blue in three areas, of which the best was the valley behind Lac des Gloriettes.

Other species of note included more former British or rare migrant species: Mazarine Blue, Bath White and Long-tailed Blue.

Last but not least, we also saw this Pyrenean Brook Salamander in water so clear that it could be photographed.

Gavarnie Blue in typical habitat

Gavarnie Blue in typical habitat

Pyrenean Brook Salamander

Pyrenean Brook Salamander

Black-veined White, France

Black-veined White, France

A short break in the French Pyrenees has been blessed with fine, sunny weather. As a result we have identified over 50 species of butterfly in three days, ranging from former British butterflies like this Black-veined White, to those which are rare in Britain like the Queen of Spain Fritillary below, and local specialities like the Gavarnie Blue.

Around the meadows which provide habitat for butterflies, the birds include Red-backed Shrikes. Long may they remain.

Queen of Spain, France

Queen of Spain, France

Nettle-tree Butterfly, Mystra

Nettle-tree Butterfly, Mystra

During the last week of March in central and southern Greece we encountered a variety of butterflies from striking swallowtails to subtle skippers.

Amongst others, Large Wall Brown, Gruner’s Orange-tip, Eastern Dappled White, the stunning Grecian Copper, Camberwell Beauty and the extraordinary Nettle-tree Butterfly stand out.

It was also a good opportunity to brush up on the variation in Clouded Yellow.

Scarce Swallowtail, Greece

Scarce Swallowtail, Greece

Eastern Dappled White, Greece

Eastern Dappled White, Greece

Mallow Skipper, Greece

Mallow Skipper, Greece

Greek Algyroides, Mystra

Greek Algyroides, Mystra

During the past week in Greece we came across a few reptiles and amphibians. In addition to those shown here, they included Hermann’s Tortoise (in Athens) and Greek Rock Lizard.

The Algyroides seems to be quite shy – I have not recorded one before – but the others are all relatively conspicuous. I am certainly not an expert on any of these, so informed comments will be welcome.

More on the butterflies will follow in the next day or two.

Peloponnese Wall Lizard

Peloponnese Wall Lizard

Greek Marsh Frog, Tiryns

Greek Marsh Frog, Tiryns

Ring-billed Gull, Galway

Ring-billed Gull, Galway

During my journeys between Shannon and Sligo, I called in at Nimmo’s Pier, Galway, to pay my respects to the gulls.

On the way north, the highlights were an Iceland Gull and two Sandwich Terns. Two days later, in the same place at the same stage of the tide, there were three Ring-billed Gulls (two adults and a second winter).

Fortunately all the gulls I saw were relatively straightforward, so I wasn’t left with any more complex gene piles to ponder.

Iceland Gull, Galway

Iceland Gull, Galway