While I love this blog, I now pretty much only write on my other two blogs: BirdingBlogs.com and 10,000 Birds - I would love to see you there!

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Snow shoe birding in the Alps / Tirol

Christmas time saw great weather in the mountains - we had had fresh snow just before Christmas and lots of blue skies since. I tried to play in the snow every day - skiing, sledding, walking and - thanks to Father Chistmas - show shoe hiking.

It really is wonderful to spend hours of quiet and solitude in the tranquil mountains. There is something about the woods in winter - there is a stillness that the snow brings that I can't quite describe. It is as though everything is holding its breath, waiting for something.

Just before New Year's, I took a hike from Axams to Axamerkogel. The forest down near Axams was alive with life. Well, maybe not dripping with life, but pretty cool for winter birding at least. What I have noticed is that one can walk for long periods of time without hearing one little peep from a bird and not seeing anything anywhere, and then suddenly you stumble upon a mixed-species bird party. It seems that the birds form the roaving groups that can have as many as a dozen bird species in them, all feeding together. Common winter party-goers include Coal Tits, Great Tits, groups of Firecrests, Eurasian and Short-toed Treecreepers, and Eurasian Nuthatches (Tannenmeisen, Kohlmeisen, Wintergoldhänchen, Waldbaumläufer, Gartenbaumläufer, Kleiber). Sometimes one of the other tit species will join - Crested Tits, Blue Tits (Habenmeisen, Blaumeisen). The Long-tailed Tits seem to join these mixed-species feeding parties occassionally, but their association seems to be a lot more loose: groups of five/six Long-tailed Tits will move around foraging together, join a foraging party for a while, and then slowly drift off in their own direction...

Heading out of Axams in the morning, I saw a flash of a raptor (looking very Accipiter-like) through the trees but did not get a good enough look to make an ID. Later on, coming down the mountain, a beautiful, big female Northern Goshawk rushed through the trees overhead (Habicht). So the other, smaller Accipiter was probably the male.

I have seen a few Northern Goshawks lately - always deep in the forests and always rather shy. But lovely to see nonetheless.

The raptor life here is - at the moment - dominated by tons of Common Buzzards (Mäusebussards). Everywhere we go, we see them circling overhead, sitting in the fields and peering out from their telephone-pole lookouts. The Common Kestrels continue to pester the pigeons in town.

I have seen very few Golden Eagles recently. Their daily range is much increased in Winter and this may have something to do with it. But, a couple of times I have seen them right down low in the valleys - and on one occassion we even saw a pair circling over the Inn between Kematen and Zirl. It is very unusual to see them so low down. I wonder what they were doing...?

Winter might not be the most exciting time for birding in the Alps, but the beauty of the forest and mountains certain keep one entertained between birds!

Happy birding
Dale Forbes

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