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Friday, 12 June 2009

Epic birding in the high alps - 2

it's that time again - spring breeding bird surveys are happening all over the northern hemisphere and the alps are no different. except that they need to happen a little later in the high mountains. last year we risked life and limb to do a survey at the beginning of june, which - in hindsight - was probably a very silly thing to do given the meters of snow still covering the mountains in the bird survey region.

So this year we did the survey a little later and were greeted by surprisingly little snow up high. The different conditions also made a dramatic difference to our bird survey results - lots more northern wheatears (Oenanthe oenanthe, Gewöhnliche Steinschmätzer) and markedly fewer Water Pipits calling (Anthus spinoletta, Bergpieper).

Stunning scenery up in the high alps. the weather looked like it was going to turn nasty any minute. it never did. the big mountain is Acherkogel (3008m asl) overlooking Oetz / Oetztal on the other side of the mountain. Notice the faint trace of watermelon alga red in the snow.

My personal birding highlight of the trip was a wonderful male Rock Ptarmigan that showed for us (Lagopus muta, Schneehuhn). I have only ever seen them at a distance and found them to be quite flighty, but evidently spring is the best time to "stumble upon" them like this. And so we did.



Digibinning shots of Rock Ptarmigan on our hike through my Swarovski 8x32 binoculars. Learn more about digibinning here.

We came across alpine marmots fairly often during the day - normally given away by their high pitched "there's a golden eagle overhead" whistle.
Alpine marmot track in the snow

An earwig in the snow at 2500m. No idea how something this small and this exothermic could be active up at these levels right now.

The view from the top of a feather-thin ridge, looking down towards Oetz, Piburgersee and the Inn valley in the background.

Now just at about the tree line, the rocks stop looking rock-coloured and start looking green. This means that entire hillsides are green with these lichen-covered rocks. The photos may not look that stunning, but the in-person views are stunning.

A green lichen-covered rock up close and personal.

A hillside with green lichen-covered boulders.

8 comments:

John Theberge said...

Wow, lovely photos from a dramatic landscape that most people don't get to see.

Arija said...

The lichen covered hillside is so very beautiful. Nice bird and mountains too. The Oetztal is famed for its brown garnets.

Gaelyn said...

This place is beautiful and amazing. Love the red capped Rock Ptarmigan. And all the lichen makes the mountain just come alive with color. Excellent captures and post Dale.

Chris said...

Gosh, what a post Dale... I love the ptamirgan shot but I have to say that the panoramic is wonderful!! Looks like you enjoyed yourself!!

Dale Forbes said...

Hi John, as you said, the landscape was dramatic. I would even venture to say that the landscape was even more impressive in person - the sheer scale of the everything is breathtaking. And the ominous black clouds over the pock-marked snow fields was incredible and certainly had the effect of flushing a little bit of apprehension and fear through our veins (given that the weather could turn really nasty really quickly and after last years' experiences - which i blogged about at the time).

Hi Arija. I did not know that about the garnets in Oetztal, I will have to keep my eyes open for them. interestingly, the energy in the highest valley (where the first photo was from) was very much crown chakra, and lower down near the lichens it was powerfully sacral. How did you experience the images?

Thank you for the compliments Gaelyn! the colours were - throughout the hike - intense and powerful. but incredibly difficult to capture with the camera. if you ever make it out here, i will try to help you experience it yourself - that would be much much better than any photos I could ever take!

Oh yes Chris, we had a wonderful time. I was really really chuffed with the Ptarmigan shots because I never seem to be able to get within 200m of them normally, and I just managed to take advantage of our luck and snap off some shots through my binoculars.

William James Denver said...
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Sharon said...

Outstanding photographs of such beautiful mountains and I LOVE the Rock Ptarmigan. I'm sure the most rewarding part of your photos is getting there to take them. What an adventure!

Kelly said...

Wow! What an interesting post with such varied info. Loved it all! The Ptarmigan is so beautiful with that little red cap. Photographing him must have been amazing. (I have to admit the earwig is sort of creepy--but cool. He's definitely cool...) :-)