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.
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.