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Zermatt 4th July - 11th July 2016

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Old Saturday 23rd July 2016, 10:35   #1
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Zermatt 4th July - 11th July 2016

Hi All,

Forgive me if this post is rather amateurish but it is my first post! My wife and I spent a week in Zermatt in early July and I wanted to post about our trip so that others who are visiting around the same time of year can (hopefully) learn from our experience. Just to put you in the picture I am a 'competent' UK birder who is familiar with the vast majority of bird species in the UK however I do have to refer to my Collins Guide when on the continent. Also, we were on Honeymoon during our visit so whilst we chose a few walks that allowed me to make a few new ticks birding was not the main purpose of the trip!

Right then - what did we see and where did we see it:

We took the mountain railway to Gornergrat a couple of times and both times we saw Snow finch on the way up the railway and on one occasion at the top. I never got a great view I'm afraid as they were always in flight however my wife saw one perched at the top of the Gornergrat by the hotel/restaurant whist I was scanning the glaciers with my binoculars. I am fairly certain that if you were keen on getting good views simply hanging around a bit would yield results. I saw them in flight at the Riffleberg station both times so that would be my recommendation based on our trips. Plenty of Wheatear and Marmot on the way up for those who keep their eyes open too. At the top of the Gornergrat there are plenty of Alpine Coughs. They hang around hoping the customers will feed them and come ever so close and it's then that you really appreciate just how beautiful they are. Looking over the edge toward the glacier allows you to watch them perform their acrobatics from above which is an interesting angle. Didn't see an Alpine Accentor that I could 100% guarantee however I am 95% certain I saw one up there but was too slow with the binoculars.

On the way down the mountain we stopped at Riffelalp which is just below the tree line and walked back to Zermatt. The plan here was to see crested tit and Nutcracker (both lifetime ticks for me) and within 150 yards had them both! Perhaps more experienced folk can discount this but my advice would be to google the call of both species, particularly the Nutcracker, prior to the walk as they are often heard before they are seen. We took a slow, quiet stroll from the top stopping frequently to look and listen. The Crested Tits would move through the forest just as mixed tits flocks do in the UK but they did seem to ''flit' around so we had to be quick with the binoculars. The steep slope had a path that meandered down (so was a relatively gentle walk) which meant that you are at the same height as the treetops of the trees just down the slope. This gives eye-level views of the birds at the top of the coniferous trees. The nutcrackers were often heard before spotted but once spotted were very obliging - we had excellent 20 yard views of these birds on half a dozen occasions on our way down which was marvellous.

We also saw Great Spotted Woodpecker and a red squirrel. One word of caution though - we done the same stroll later in the week mid-afternoon when the weather was sunny and hot and saw nothing of real interest so pick your time/conditions.

Other highlights of our week (bird wise) were three Golden Eagle we watched from Zermatt itself and Citril Finch around the town area. As I say though, I have to refer to the Collins Guide for species such as that though I am confident enough with my ID to believe that was what I saw.

We spent a great deal of time scanning cliffs in the hope of seeing Wallcreeper but never did. However, and this is based on someone else's experience who I was talking to whilst there, there is a reasonable chance if one walks from Zermatt to the rather isolated 'Edelweiss' restaurant halfway up the mountain behind the church. Never saw them myself but never went to try however he seemed a reasonable chap and reckoned he'd seen them a few times up there.

Hope that helps someone..
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Old Saturday 23rd July 2016, 14:32   #2
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Hi and welcome to the forum. This is certainly helpful information.

Originally Posted by Dezdez9 View Post
[...] my advice would be to google the call of both species, particularly the Nutcracker, prior to the walk as they are often heard before they are seen.
This is correct, both of them have very distinctive calls. Although I've heard a Jay giving a call once that sounded like an imitation of a Nutcracker, it wasn't entirely convincing.

One word of caution though - we done the same stroll later in the week mid-afternoon when the weather was sunny and hot and saw nothing of real interest so pick your time/conditions.
Yeah, forests in July/August can seem pretty "dead" thoughout most of the day. Also applies to other places with similar climate.

Last edited by Sangahyando : Saturday 23rd July 2016 at 14:34.
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Old Tuesday 26th July 2016, 20:09   #3
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thanks for this report, interesting.
Nick Moss.
Fav Birds - Hen/Pallid/Monty Harrier, Gyrfalcon, Great Grey Owl, Hobby, Golden Eagle, Merlin, SE Owl, Pom Skua, Hawfinch, Wryneck, Redstart, Shrikes, Roller, Bee-eater's, Nightjar, Smew, GN & BT Diver, Spotted Redshank, any Warblers (especially yank ones)!
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