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A Harpia at the Bodensee, in Austria (1 Viewer)

Troubador

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Its 07:30 and it’s cold and dull but at least it’s dry and windless. There is blue sky in the distance but for now overhead it’s grey. My companion has set up a Harpia 95 and out on the simply massive Bodensee there are the black dots of water birds through my binos. The Bodensee or more accurately the biggest part of it called the Obersee, stretches out in front of us for 63km / 39 miles meaning it extends well beyond the horizon and covers an area of 536 sq km / 207 sq miles and to our right is Germany, to our left is Switzerland while we are actually standing on Austria the eastern end of the lake. Lake? Inland sea is more accurate.

OK, here is the Harpia set to 23x magnification for maximum field of view. A sweep around reveals a raft of ducks and zooming in we can see they are Tufted Ducks but a longer something is diving and surfacing a bit further away. Up it comes and it briefly turns sideways and it’s a Goosander male, one of my favourite birds. The dim light isn’t a problem and in these temperatures the heat shimmer hasn’t become apparent yet.

Back down to 23x scanning along the margins of the reed beds I can hardly believe how many Great Crested Grebes there are. I mean there are dozens of them and mostly in pairs, some of them engaging in their curious pairing-up displays. And then a shape in the upper part of the field of view grabs my attention and I angle the Harpia up a little and there, gliding serenely across the view is my first Continental-form Cormorant with startlingly white cheeks and huge white patches on the thighs and looking quite different from the all-black Cormorants that we see off Scotland. I watch it glide across the full field of view and then return to scanning the surface of the lake.

Having found nothing more exotic than the grebes we pack up and move to a new site hoping to get more viewing before the strengthening sun stirs up the thermals. Half an hour later and closer to the Swiss border we hit pay-dirt. A flock of wintering small grebes that is a mix of Black-necked and Horned (or Slavonian) Grebes. Wow. I have only ever seen these in 4-6 maximum and usually fewer but here is a mixed raft of well over 20 birds. They are moving along together and groups of them are diving together. They appear excited, almost hyper-active and vary widely in appearance as they come out of winter into breeding plumage.

Bu now the blue sky has reached us and the warmth of the sun that our hands and bodies welcome has already started a heat shimmer and the sharpness of the images is waning. Overhead a Red Kite effortlessly circles with its tail twisting impossibly and then a kite with a slighter build and darker plumage briefly joins it before making off. A Black Kite, which reminds me a little of the Yellow-billed Kites I have seen in South Africa.

Near the mouth of the Rhine 2 Crag (Rock) Martins swoop over the water and in the trees behind us many Chiff-Chaffs chant their repetitive song that brings with it the promise of spring moving north through Europe.


Lee
 
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dalat

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Hi Lee, nice! Was this this morning? It's my favorite patch and I'll probably go there on saturday ;)
 

Troubador

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Thanks Lee. Nice report. You call it Lake Constance in English don't you?

John

Hi John

The English do call it Lake Constance but I call it the Bodensee for two reasons. The first is that I have been doing business in Germany since my first job in 1972 and have got used to it being called Bodensee whereas I don't think I have ever heard an English person actually refer to it at all. The second reason is that I am uncomfortable with the way many perfectly decent and pronounceable names of places in Europe have been anglicized. Such as Goeteborg to Gothenburg, Koeln to Cologne and Muenchen to Munich. However I can't preach too forthrightly on this subject because try as I might I can never remember to call Paris Paree.

Lee
 

Troubador

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Hi Lee, nice! Was this this morning? It's my favorite patch and I'll probably go there on saturday ;)

Sorry to say it was almost 2 weeks ago now. By the way from the north shore near Friedrichshafen there was a pair of Goosander with a young male Red-breasted Merganser having a feeding frenzy on a shoal of small fish. I was told the Merganser is quite a rarity and one had also been seen near the township of Hard in Austria but of course it might have been the same one.

BTW in the woods on the Austrian side there were spring flowers such as Coltsfoot and Wood Anemone and all the usual early butterflies such as Brimstone and Small Tortoiseshell.

A little further north in Germany near Ulm I saw 2 Swallows!

Good luck

Lee
 
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Tringa45

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Europe
The second reason is that I am uncomfortable with the way many perfectly decent and pronounceable names of places in Europe have been anglicized.

Hi Lee,

I don't think there's anything wrong with that and it's certainly not exclusive to the Englsh language. Most languages have their own terms for foreign countries and many of their major cities.

I live in Köln, Deutschland (!!), formerly Cölln, Cologne for the English and French, Colonia for the Romans, Italians and Spanish, Keulen for the Dutch (sorry, Nederlanders) and Kölle for the Kölsch-speaking locals.

Regards,
John

PS.- Kölsch is a language you can drink - it's also the term for the local brew. If you ever come this way I can promise to fill you up with it! B :)
 

dalat

...
Sorry to say it was almost 2 weeks ago now. By the way from the north shore near Friedrichshafen there was a pair of Goosander with a young male Red-breasted Merganser having a feeding frenzy on a shoal of small fish. I was told the Merganser is quite a rarity and one had also been seen near the township of Hard in Austria but of course it might have been the same one.

Shame, so I won't see you and your Harpia then...

Last sunday I saw about 15 Red-breasted Merganser in full display mood, from the southern Shore (Swiss side). This was my highest count so far. They prefer deeper water, so are quite rare in the eastern side near Austria, but regular winteres in the western parts of the lake.

You should come here in September, when local birders here get exited and do pelagic tours on the lake for spotting resting Skuas (mostly juv. Artic and Long-tailed). I guess that would be quite amusing for someone used to bird in Scotland...

Nothing wrong with "Lake of Constance". The French call it Lac de Constance, if that's a consolation ;) Similarly, German speakers call Genfer See what French speakers call Lac Léman.
 
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Troubador

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Hi Lee,

I don't think there's anything wrong with that and it's certainly not exclusive to the Englsh language. Most languages have their own terms for foreign countries and many of their major cities.

I live in Köln, Deutschland (!!), formerly Cölln, Cologne for the English and French, Colonia for the Romans, Italians and Spanish, Keulen for the Dutch (sorry, Nederlanders) and Kölle for the Kölsch-speaking locals.

Regards,
John

PS.- Kölsch is a language you can drink - it's also the term for the local brew. If you ever come this way I can promise to fill you up with it! B :)


Interesting! I never made it to Koeln but the promise of Koelsch is intriguing. Is it a kind of schnapps?

Lee
 

Troubador

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Shame, so I won't see you and your Harpia then...

Last sunday I saw about 15 Red-breasted Merganser in full display mood, from the southern Shore (Swiss side). This was my highest count so far. They prefer deeper water, so are quite rare in the eastern side near Austria, but regular winteres in the western parts of the lake.

You should come here in September, when local birds here get exited and do pelagic tours on the lake for spotting resting Skuas (mostly juv. Artic and Long-tailed). I guess that would be quite amusing for someone used to bird in Scotland...

Nothing wrong with "Lake of Constance". The French call it Lac de Constance, if that's a consolation ;) Similarly, German speakers call Genfer See what French speakers call Lac Léman.

If I had known this was an area that you visit I would for sure have contacted you before my trip to see if we could meet. If the opportunity for me crops up again you can be sure I will get in touch in advance. We stayed in the township of Hard at Hotel Angelika which was quite comfortable and home to at least 3 cats with a flair for international relations and a determination to get their own way!

Lee
 

jring

Well-known member
Interesting! I never made it to Koeln but the promise of Koelsch is intriguing. Is it a kind of schnapps?

Hi Lee,

first of all thanks for a great birding story and good to hear that the Harpia is doing well in its natural domain of wide field scanning as well as close up.

Btw. Koelsch is a kind of beer - and please never order it in Duesseldorf - or Alt in Koeln for that matter...

Joachim
 

Tringa45

Well-known member
Europe
Btw. Koelsch is a kind of beer - and please never order it in Duesseldorf - or Alt in Koeln for that matter...

I believe you can get Kölsch in the forbidden city of Düsseldorf. They say Kölsch is one of their favourite soft drinks :C.
If you try to order Alt in Köln you'll land up on the street. We'd say Alt is what your kidneys produce after drinking Kölsch ;).

John
 

Troubador

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Gentlemen I didn't know Altbier was so controversial. Next time I have a Gatzweiler I will say a brief toast: Never in Koeln! On the other hand it might be safer to stick to my favourite Weissbier Hefe and avoid the controversy.

Lee
 

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