Walk in the fog

•September 27, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Fall has started – and with it comes fog. Luckily it is eaten away by the sun after a while. (Please click on the photos to enlarge)

foggy morning

fog on the water

fog on the water

waterbirds in the fog

The time of the sunflowers is over:


Not really: the birds dive into the field to pick the seeds. This is my favorite photo of the day.Kleiber - Nut hatch

And there were the birds enjoying the sun – finally. There are Eurasian Teals (Krickente) and some Common Snipes (Bekassine) in the photo.the sun is out


Fire salamander in the morning

•June 23, 2015 • 1 Comment

What a start into the day!

I walked on my normal way to work, along the Lake of Lucerne. Yesterday I saw a big dead fish on the shore and a very green caterpillar on one of the trees. This is the reward for my habit of looking around.

This morning it was wet and gray. I was a bit sad that all the feathers of the swans, that they are loosing now while molting, were wet and so I couldn’t collect them.

But suddenly I stopped in my walk – and I’m glad I did. One more step and I’d have stepped on a fire salamander!

It was definitely in the wrong place: on the tarmac between traffic and the lake. Absolutely not the place for an amphibian besides that it was wet (at the moment).

So I lifted it up and called karch.ch (coordination for amphibians and reptiles in Switzerland). She told me, that fire salamanders need a little creek in a forrest or so. Nothing like that close bye.

So I took the beautiful salamander to the office and showed it to my colleagues. The were all surprised and fascinated.

the box outside my office window, where it had to wait


beautiful salamandra salamandra terrestris

After another call I decided to bring it to the Rootsee, where there is a hopefully perfect habitat.
The person I called did not forget to tell me, that fire salamanders are poisonous and I should wash my hands.


How lucky am I to see such a beautiful creature!


Songbirds and a lifer

•April 21, 2015 • Leave a Comment

The first part about my walk of last Monday was about waders and waterbirds. Today I show you some photos of songbirds and my lifer #499. (Please click on the photos to enlarge.)

The lifer #499 showed me once again how important it is to look at every bird – even when it looks like a common sparrow:

As soon as it lifted its head I saw it wasn’t a sparrow but an Ortolan Bunting (Ortolan – Emberiza hortulana)Ortolan

There were even two of them:

One I haven’t seen in years in Switzerland is a male Common Redstart (Gartenrotschwanz, Männchen – Phoenicurus phoenicurus):
Common Redstart - Gartenrotschwanz

And never in Switzerland at all the Yellow Wagtail (Schafstelze – Motacilla flava):Yellow Wagtail - Schafstelze

The Grey Wagtail is pretty common (Bergstelze – Motacilla cinerea):Gray Wagtail - Bergstelze

Pretty common but I still don’t have a good photo of it: male Common Chiffchaff (Buchfink, Männchen – Fringilla coelebs): Chiffchaff - Buchfink

Tree Sparrow (Feldspatz – Passer montanus) collecting stuff for the nest:Tree Sparrow - Feldspatz

Tree Sparrwo - Feldspatz

A Barn Swallow (Rauchschwalbe – Hirundo rustica):Barn Swallow - Rauchschwalbe

A female European Pied Flycatcher (Trauerschnäpper, Weiblich – Ficedula hypoleuca):Pied Flychatcher - Trauerschnäpper

Great Spotted Woodpecker (Buntspecht – Dendrocopos major) made some noise:Woodpecker

And there was also a frog:Frog - Frosch

Waders and Waterbirds

•April 20, 2015 • Leave a Comment

I took Monday off because I really wanted to do some birding this April. And the weather was just great. I went to the Klingnauer Stausee a very well known place to bird in the German part of Switzerland and not too far away from Zurich. So I started my trip shortly after 7am at the dammed lake. Over all I saw 59 species and a lifer.

Today I show you the waders (mostly passing through Switzerland) and the other waterbirds I saw. Some of the photos were taken early in the morning, therefor the light is not so great. Other birds were far away. (Please click on the photo to enlarge.)

Common Snipe landing (Bekassine am Landen) – Gallinago gallinago:Common Snipe - Bekassine

The Common Snipe in comparison with a Coot. (Die Bekassine im Vergleich mit einem Blässhuhn.):Common Snipe - Bekassine

Common Sandpiper (Flussuferläufer) – Actitis hypoleucos:Common Sandpiper - Flussuferläufer

Two Common Terns far out in the lake. (Zwei Flussseeschwalben weit draussen im See) – Sterna hirundo: Common Tern - Flussseeschwalbe

The Common Greenshank never came closer. (Die Grünschenkel kamen nie nahe.) – Tringa nebularia:Common Greenshank - Grünschenkel Common Greenshank - Grünschenkel

I’m not 100% sure if this is a Wood Sandpiper. (Ich bin nicht 100% sicher, ob das ein Bruchwasserläufer ist.) – Tringa glareola Wood Sandpiper - Bruchwasserläufer

The Little Ringed Plover breeds in Switzerland. (Der Flussregenpfeifer brütet in der Schweiz.) – Charadrius dubius:Little Ringed Plover - Flussregenpfeifer

A Spring Day

•April 12, 2015 • Leave a Comment

For four hours we walked around the Flachsee, where the river Reuss gets broader like a lake. It was a warm and overcast spring day. Just perfect – before all the young green leaves hide all the singing birds.

Over all we saw 54 species: some migrating waders like the Black-Tailed Godwit (Uferschnepfe – Limosa Limosa)

or the Common Greenshank (Grünschenkel). But also a breeding colony of Yellow-Legged Gulls (Mittelmeermöwe _ Larus Michahellis) – at least 50 nests and almost 150 gulls.
Yellow-Legged Gulls

and at least four families of Greylag Geese (Graugänse – Anser Anser) with up to seven goslings.
Greylag Goose


Just as the sun came out there was a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker (Kleinspecht – Dendrocops Minor) picking away in the tree above us.

Lesser Spotted Woodpecker

Waterfowl count – January 2015

•January 25, 2015 • 3 Comments

As every year, the weekend mid-January is reserved for the international waterfowl count (here is the link in German). The Saturday before the temperature was very mild. The weekend of the count it was raining or snowing all over Switzerland for Saturday. The weather forecast for Sunday was so much better that I decided to do the count on Sunday.

Over all I saw 56 bird species (not only waterfowl) and counted about 2220 birds that are included in the count.

While doing the count I don’t have too much time to take photographs. But now and then I take the big camera out – please click on the photos to enlarge.

Taking the train to the upper Lake of Zurich took me through a wonderful foggy morning landscape:
foggy landscape

The sun was rising behind the fog…

… and gave a beautiful light:morning light

I think it’s the first time that I saw a frozen freshly cut marsh:marsh

Mew Gull  (Laurs canus – Sturmmöwe)mew gull

Yellow-Legged Gull (Larus michahellis – Mittelmeemöwe):yellow legged gull

To get an impression of the different sizes: left Yellow-Legged, two bigger Mew Gulls in between the Black-headed Gulls (Larus ridibundus – Lachmöwe)gulls

Can you spot the Water Pipit (Anthus spinoletta – Bergpieper)?water pipit

The Gull and the Starlings take advantage of the holes that the Curlews make with their big beaks.

European Curlew (Numenius arquata – Grosser Brachvogel)eurasian curlew

I also counted the birds at a little pond…landscape

…where I digiscoped (no real gear) this beautiful male Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus – Sperber)


Warm and Stormy January Day – part II

•January 11, 2015 • 3 Comments

This female Great Spotted Woodpecker (Buntspecht – Dendrocopos major) was going for food. She sat very close but behind some other sticks, so the photos are not perfect. But I was able to see how she got that fat maggot (3rd photo) and a photo with her tongue (4th photo). In case you haven’t seen that great post of Laura Erickson about bird tongues – go see it.
Click on the photos to enlarge.

Dendrocopos major

Dendrocopos major

Dendrocopos major

Dendrocopos major

Those photos give a little impression, on how windy it was.

Mandarin Duck (Mandarinenente – Aix galericulata) in the wind:
aix galericulata

Black-headed Gull (Lachmöwe – Larus ridibundus) haning in the air:Larus ridibundus

The Lake Greifensee with waves

I also saw this female Northern Pintail (Spiessente – Anas acuta):

Mew Gull (Sturmmöwe – Larus canus)Mew Gull

Eurasian Chiffchaff (Zilpzalp – Phylloscopus collybita):Chiff Chaff


Warm and Stormy January Day – part I

•January 10, 2015 • 1 Comment

They announced warm 14°C (57°F) weather for today and I decided to take my camera and go for a long walk along a lake (Greifensee) with lots of nature. Here are my impressions (click on the photos to enlarge).

I started around 8.30am just when the sun came out behind the clouds.

morning sun

Walking along the little river I suddenly saw a beaver (Biber – Castor fiber) – I probably have never seen one that close.
Beaver - Biber - Castor fiber

Some of the birds I saw:

Red Kite (Rotmilan – Milvus Milvus) – there were many of them dancing in the wind.


Northern Shoveler (Löffelente – Anas clypeata)2015_01_10-11

Grey Heron (Graureiher – Ardea cinerea)2015_01_10-12

European Blue Tit (Blaumeise – Cyanistes caeruleus)2015_01_10-16

Califera – Grasshoppers

•September 12, 2014 • 3 Comments

Here are some of the (what I think) identified grasshoppers (califera – Kurzfühlerschrecken)

Pezotettix giornae – Kleine or Rossis Knarrschrecke:Pezotettix giornae

Pseudochorthippus parallelus – Gemeiner Grashüpfer:Pseudochorthippus parallelus

Egyptian Locust – Anacridium aegyptium – Ägyptische Wanderheuschrecke:Anacrididum aegyptium - Egyptian Locust

Sort of pygmy locust – Tetrix Kraussi – Kurzflügel-Dornschrecke:
Long-horned Groundhopper – Tetrix tenuicornis – Langfühler Dornschrecke
Tetrix Kraussi

Immature grasshoppers

•September 12, 2014 • 1 Comment

update: Thanks again to the expert Florin at orthoptera.ch for the id help! These are not only immature ones.

Another post with unidentified (probably immature) grasshoppers. Every help welcome!

Photos taken end of August/beginning of September in the Ticino (southern part of Switzerland).

Grown up female Pezotettix giornae – Ausgewachsene weibliche Kleine Knarrschrecke:


different individual but same kind:Larve-12

The structure of the adult wing is good to see:


Chorthippus sp. last nymphe phase:Larve-11

as well:




•September 12, 2014 • 1 Comment

update: thanks to the expert Florin from orthoptera.ch he helped me with the identification where possible.

(I made this post for the experts from orthoptera.ch to help me identify the grasshoppers I photographed. That’s why the text is in German.)

Danke für die Hilfe! Alle Fotos wurden Ende August/Anfang September im Tessin gemacht.
Zum Vergrössern drauf klicken.

deutlich einwärts gebogene Halsschild-Seitenkiele ohne weisses Flügelfeld:

Chorthippus sp. – female:


Chorthippus sp. (if male Chorthippus mollis ignifer – Verkannter Grashüpfer or  Chorthippus brunneus – Brauner Grashüpfer):


Male Common field grasshopper (Chorthippus brunneus – Brauner Grashüpfer, Männchen):
slender long wings and coloring are typical. Schmale lange Flügel sowie die Färbung sind typisch:


Most probably a female Common field grasshopper:Gomphocerinae-12

Most probably a Woodland Grasshopper (Omocestus rufipes – Buntbäuchiger Grashüpfer).


Chorthippus sp. (maybe a female from the Chorthippus biguttuls group)

Very difficult to identify without seeing the wings.Gomphocerinae-15

Also a female from the Chorthippus biguttulus group:


Two unsure Chorthippus brunneus grasshoppers:



female Mecostethus parapleurus – Weibliche Lauchschrecke:Gomphocerinae-20

Chorthippus sp. female (maybe Chorthippus mollis ignifer – evtl. Verkannter Grashüpfer):


Maybe male and female Common fiele grasshopper (evtl. Männchen und Weibchen des Braunen Grashüpfers):

Gomphocerinae-14 Gomphocerinae-13

Ensifera – Bush Crickets and Katydids

•September 10, 2014 • 3 Comments

I have done more macro photography lately and so I’ll post some insects photos over the next time. Please click on the photos to enlarge. All photos taken in the southern part of Switzerland.

Starting with “long antenna Grasshoppers” or better the ensifera (bush crickets and katydids – Langfühlerschrecken in German). Please feel free to correct me on wrong identifications!

Great Green Bush Cricket – Grosses Heupferd – Tettigonia viridissima:
Great Green Bush-Cricket

“Conehead bush cricket” – Grosse Schiefkopfschrecke – Ruspolia nitidula
Ruspolia nitidula - Conehead

Katydids / Phaneroptera falcata – Gemeine Sichelschrecke
Phaneroptera falcata

Nymph of Phaneroptera (either falcata or nana):
Phaneroptera falcata

Phaneroptera falcata

I really like the look of this one:
Phaneroptera falcata

Phaneroptera falcata

Phaneroptera nana – Vierpunktige Sichelschrecke
Phaneroptera nana

Gryllomorpha dalmatina – Stumme Grille
Gryllomorpha dalmatina

Also a Gryllomorpha dalmatina (Stumme Grille) found at night in the bath room:

Thanks for extra info Florian at http://www.forum.orthoptera.ch/viewtopic.php?f=5&t=431#p1285

What the bird… #6: Mute Swan

•February 12, 2014 • 5 Comments

Again –  the Mute Swan normally is just “the swan” and actually the only Swan we have. As winter guests on Lake Constance we do have other all-white Tundra- and Whooper Swans with partially yellow beaks.
Mute Swan

The Mute Swan has a beautiful orange beak in nice contrast with the all white appearance.
Mute Swan

When I was still little I always thought that the nose hole is the eye. And my mother told us the story that the swans are married if they are wearing a ring. Today she says that she never would have said something like this and maybe I heard the story somewhere else or I invented it myself.
In German the Mute Swan (cygnus olor) is called Swan with knuckle (Höckerschwan). It isn’t really mute – it can grunt and its wings creak when flying. So the mute is probably to show the difference to the Whooper Swan (called Singing Swan in German) – but I have never heard one of these and so I can’t say anything about it.

And by the way: can you see an “ugly duckling” here?

More information: http://vogelwarte.ch/mute-swan.html

Portrait in German

What the bird… #5: Mallard

•February 5, 2014 • 1 Comment

One of the most abundant ducks on Swiss lakes is probably the Mallard, that’s why most people just call it “the duck”.
Mallard female

Male and female are pretty easy to distinguish. A small problem is, that there are some other female ducks looking very alike, e.g. the Gadwall, who doesn’t have the blue part on the wing* or the Eurasian Teal who is much smaller. The male Mallard is unique in his colorful breeding plumage.
Mallard male

Mallards start courting in fall. Here are two older blog posts about males fighting and the courtship behavior. When they have found each other they stay together until spring.
Mallard with chicks
Only the females look after their little ones in spring and summer.
male Mallard while molting

The shiny drake gets very dull in summer while molting and looks almost like the female. As a child I always thought that they are gone, spending summer somewhere “on holiday”. But they stay – distinguishable from the females almost only by their yellow beak.

*no blue wing feathers visible on the first photo

More information: http://vogelwarte.ch/mallard.html

Portrait in German

What the bird… #4: Collared Dove and Wood Pigeon

•January 29, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Besides the “normal pigeon” the two more unknown but still abundant pigeons in Switzerland are the Eurasian Collared Dove and the Common Wood Pigeon.

collared dove
The slender Collared Dove is beige-grey and its name giving black collar is a good field mark. The German name “Turkish Dove” shows that it came from the orient but is spreading more and more, for example in cities:
collared dove in nest in the middle of Zurich

The bigger Wood Pigeon is mostly seen on fields or in woods. It is definitely bigger than the other pigeons and it has a white dot on the side of the neck. While flying it shows a white band on every wing.
Wood Pigeon

Even I can distinguish the two pigeons by sound:
Collared Dova three parts: du-Duu do
Wood Pigeon five parts: DUH-duu, doo-doo … du

More information: http://www.vogelwarte.ch/eurasian-collared-dove.html http://www.vogelwarte.ch/common-wood-pigeon.html

German version

What the bird… #3: Rock Pigeon

•January 22, 2014 • Leave a Comment

There is a saying in German “rather the sparrow in the hand than the pigeon on the roof top”. Meaning, that having something small is better than looking at/not having something big. I like pigeons and sparrows where they belong. Pigeons used to belong on rocks or in the woods. But streets and houses are like rocks and so the Rock Pigeon or Rock Dove came to stay. They also eat whatever is around. The more food the more offsprings and then there are suddenly too many pigeons and too much dirt.
Rock Pigeon

But have you ever looked closely to see their sparkly neck part. Beautiful pink and turquoise – the undervalued beauty of a Rock Pigeon.
Rock Pigeon

More information: http://www.vogelwarte.ch/feral-pigeon.html

Portrait in German

What the bird… #2: Tree- and Italian Sparrow

•January 15, 2014 • 1 Comment

Do those little brown birds all look alike for you, too? Last time I wrote about the House Sparrow. It is abundant in Switzerland and mostly just “the sparrow”. If you are a little bit used in bird watching you can see the differences between a House and an Eurasian Tree Sparrow.
Eurasian Tree Sparrow

The male House Sparrow has a grey cap, the Tree Sparrow a brown one. Male and female Tree Sparrows look the same, not like the House Sparrow. A good field mark to identify the Tree Sparrow is its brown dot on the cheek.
Eurasian Tree Sparrow

The Italian Sparrow has only one big difference to the House Sparrow: a brown instead of a grey cap. It lives south of the Alps, in the Ticino and in Italy. I once saw them in the very south of Italy and I wasn’t able to take a photo.

More information on the Tree Sparrow: http://www.vogelwarte.ch/eurasian-tree-sparrow.html
More informatione on the Italian Sparrow: http://www.vogelwarte.ch/italian-sparrow.html

Portrait in German

What the bird… #1: House Sparrow

•January 8, 2014 • 2 Comments

The House Sparrow is everywhere in Swiss towns. They clean out all the crumbs of sandwiches and other food consumed on the street.
House Sparrow

Whole shrubs seem to tweet when families of sparrow gather together for information sharing.
House Sparrow

Even though they seem abundant, their number is declining. If sparrow parents feed their fledglings too much bread instead of chewy protein in forms of caterpillars and insects, the little ones don’t survive.
House Sparrow female with food
House Sparrow egg

Even sparrows are important for our biodiversity. An evident story is the one from China: Mao thought that sparrows eat too much corn or rice on the fields. They handed out money for dead sparrows and soon millions of them were killed. But the missing birds did not only eat no rice but also no insects and soon there was a plague of locusts, followed by a famine.
House Sparrow female
House Sparrow male

For a long time I didn’t know that there is more than one sparrow. The field sparrow and the italian sparrow do look very similar. More next time.
More information; http://www.vogelwarte.ch/house-sparrow.html

Duck, Gull, Pigeon and Sparrow – what the bird…

•January 2, 2014 • 3 Comments

There is a children’s song in German called “Amsel, Drossel, Fink und Star” (Blackbird, Thrush, Finch and Starling). Probably not too many know how those birds look like. And most of the time people just say “the” duck, gull, pigeon or sparrow.
In the series “What the bird…” I’d like to give a little information and show some photos of the birds, that are around us (here in Switzerland).

Black-headed Gull
For the start of the new year I show the first bird I saw on January 1st: “the gull” or more precisely the Black-headed Gull.In the winter months big flocks sit on bridges or in harbors. As soon as there is food they come flying and then fight about the pieces they caught.
Black-headed Gull

Gulls are pretty hard to identify, because they look just a little different every calendar year. The Black-headed Gull is not so hard. It is one of our smaller Gulls and the juveniles don’t look too different from the adults.
Black-headed Gull juvenile
They still have some brown feathers but already have the brown spot on the ear. The adults don’t have any brown anymore and in breeding plumage they have a distinctive chocolate brown hood.Black-headed Gull breeding plumage

More information: http://www.vogelwarte.ch/common-black-headed-gull.html

Portrait in German

What the bird…

•January 1, 2014 • Leave a Comment

In 2014 I will post some bird portraits. I call the series “What the bird…”. It is the translation of the German portraits I publish on the blog A Scanner’s Life.

Some sentences, some photos and the link to more information. Enjoy!