• BirdForum is the net's largest birding community dedicated to wild birds and birding, and is absolutely FREE!

    Register for an account to take part in lively discussions in the forum, post your pictures in the gallery and more.
ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Columbia

Birding halfway up the Alps (1 Viewer)

rosbifs

Well-known tool
France
Interesting obs. I have never bothered for breeding Wallcreeper - have not seen the point for me personally since they have been fairly easy to connect with at lower altitudes in October for me (in Haute-Pyrenees above Gavarnie and in the Polish Tatras above Zakopane) however, breeding altitude seems to depend on height of the localised mountain range, with breeding at lower altitudes in lower ranges - you may find this study interesting
Thanks for the PDF Debs. We are seeing a change in the wintering habits of our local Wallcreepers with fewer observations on the plains - winters getting warmer. In our village we had regular winter visitors which sadly haven't had for the last 4-5 years! Gavarnie is still a great spot for them you'll be pleased to hear.

As for breeders the summer plumage is a real bonus and worth the effort. That said at one of the nests I have to wind the electric window down and recline my seat to watch the nest (the recline is not electric so does require some effort). The second nest is 40m above the road but it's difficult to park under the nest so needs a 50m walk...

I have mentioned before that we started to find nests when we started to look at lower altitudes - everyone assumed they bred at the top of the mountain, like Breche du Roland for example, which they do, and a month or so later. However, males are generally back on their territories in April and young birds fledge mid July so we started looking in areas with sightings in May to find nesting areas.
 

Richard Prior

Halfway up an Alp
Europe
“What’s been happening bird-wise with our French Alps correspondent?”, I hear hundreds of you not asking :unsure: . Well, not a lot, Spring 2021 sees us again restricted in movement in France (10kms from home max., as opposed to 1km in 2019) but as mentioned up thread I have been avoiding contact anyway, next week should see the double whammy of the removal of distance restrictions and my first anti-Covid jab. With the second scheduled on 31st May I’ll be feeling more relaxed and ready to attack the Col de la Colombière in June to carry on with my Rock Partridge quest!

The return of the snow put paid to any nocturnal scrambling in the forest looking for small owl sp and damaging my knee doing some external water supply maintenance further restricted my wanderings until very recently. Therefore the birding has been pretty much home and village based, though I did manage to see a year tick Common Gull on my sole trip to Annecy on a mission of mercy for a poorly Aunt. Last week the Bonelli’s Warblers had returned to their breeding site at the base of the cliff face in Thônes, a lot more Crag Martin there now though a taste of winter still with the continuing presence there of the wintering Alpine Chough flock. All the other bird action has been around home (so already featured in the Garden /Yard List thread), the exception being the Wryneck I heard calling on 3rd April behind the village church, with another three days later just outside Manigod on my walks to the bakery.

I’ve dedicated more of my free time to scanning from up just behind the house, from where I can have a 360° vista, no dramatic migration events but still this viewpoint has produced 5 Marsh Harrier (including two migrating together on 28th March), I’ve been lucky to see one a year up to now, two flocks of northbound Cormorant (which remains the sole web-footed species I’ve seen from home in our five years here!) and a female Merlin heading the same direction on 9th April, two days after a male paused in the trees just before sunset. By now I was hoping perhaps to have seen an early returning Griffon Vulture or Short-toed Eagle but I have witnessed some impressive Goshawk display flying and various skirmishes between territorial Carrion Crows and patrolling Red and Black Kites. A lot of Golden Eagle sightings too, not just the local breeding pair but immatures of various ages in the area. I also had a ‘two Lammy’ day on 31 March when a scruffy immature ‘Bearded Vulture’ (as I prefer not to call them;)) flew almost overhead followed by a sighting of an adult over the mountains a few minutes later. A Collared Dove on 8 April was a first for up here and I suspect it decided the air was too thin as it hasn’t appeared since! Passerine highlights included a brief visit by a singing Short-toed Treecreeper on 25th March (Common being the default ‘creeper at our altitude), a few ‘Ring Ousel days’, the birds no doubt grumpy as their appearances always come when we have late March/April snow, forcing them to retreat from their breeding sites higher up. We also had two typically brief visits by single Rock Bunting, no doubt attracted in by the good numbers of Yellowhammer feeding on the ‘Pine Bunting’s food’ through to mid-April at least. Finally, today I was delighted to see a pair of Hawfinch, apart from 2018 when I saw an adult and juv in July I don’t see them between early March and October so watch this space. The local Bullfinch pair also present today, showing a liking for dandelion seeds, what messy eaters they are (see photo)!

Some mammal action, the most cooperative being the male Roe Deer which has been visiting our field almost daily recently, I counted eight together across the valley the other week, plus sightings of Wood Mouse, Chamois (distantly of course!), Red Deer, Red Squirrel, Hedgehog, Fox and today a Brown Hare lolloping up the field.
Some stupid mammal action witnessed yesterday when the Emergency Services helicopter was hovering over the very steep forested slope of the Sulens Mountain opposite us. A few weeks back we watched a similar scene as two people were winched up (one was tragically already dead, having fallen trying to help her dog) so I was fearing the worst. However this time the two people rescued were evidently upright when attached to the winch. It turns out they had reached a point where they decided they could neither go further down the slope (there is no path as it’s virtually vertical!) nor return back up so had phoned for help, the helicopter with doctor on board lifted them up and deposited them 1km away where they’d left their car before setting off. I hope they receive a hefty bill!
 

Attachments

  • Roe Deer April 2021.jpg
    Roe Deer April 2021.jpg
    1.4 MB · Views: 12
  • IMG_3200.JPG
    IMG_3200.JPG
    786.8 KB · Views: 10
  • M roy 16.4.21.jpg
    M roy 16.4.21.jpg
    1,003.2 KB · Views: 10
  • Collared Dove 8.4.21.jpg
    Collared Dove 8.4.21.jpg
    619.7 KB · Views: 10
  • IMG_3036.JPG
    IMG_3036.JPG
    837.6 KB · Views: 11
  • Rock B 14.3.21.jpg
    Rock B 14.3.21.jpg
    1.5 MB · Views: 12
  • Merle a p 7.4.21.jpg
    Merle a p 7.4.21.jpg
    880.4 KB · Views: 12
Last edited:

Jos Stratford

Beast from the East
Fantastic stuff! Got my first jab too a week ago, having somehow been elevated to a priority group, but likewise decided to continue to isolate on my land (or read that as excuse to continue birding) 👍
 

Richard Prior

Halfway up an Alp
Europe
April into mid May
No more Hawfinch sightings Rosbifs and the Goshawk activity has tailed off, just two sightings this month, one distantly high in the sky surrounded by a flock of angry Alpine Chough and another forced to leave its conifer tree hiding place by half a dozen raucous Carrion Crow. However the Sparrowhawk have become more visible since (the males are a prey item for Goshawk(!)), regular attacks over the past few days as the first Greenfinch and Mistle Thrush juveniles have appeared.

A happy event here today, when we saw the Black Redstart pair carrying food to their nest, just now I saw the male carrying away a faecal sack, who says males don’t help with the housework! They arrived back up here just before the White Wagtail did and cleverly took over the ‘custom built’ nest receptacle that the wagtails successfully used last year, an old saucepan. The wagtail pair have decamped to the new chalet next door where they are nesting behind a beam well out of the inclement weather which has characterised almost the whole month. Blue Tit and Great Tit pairs are using the two nest boxes positioned elsewhere on our house so I’m hoping the young don’t hatch until it warms (and dries) up a bit otherwise the adults may struggle to find them food.

The few dry days before April ended and right at the start of May brought a few more species back from their winter holidays, mostly expected but with one ‘mega’. The first Linnet of the year had whizzed over on 18th, heading higher up to its breeding grounds (1400 to 1700m asl around these parts), a tiny green flash in the hawthorns beside our field proved to be the first returning Firecrest on 13th, a singing Tree Pipit on 19th has continued to display fly just 200m from home ever since and I suspect I spotted a second (hopefully the female) near it last week. A second male is also on territory less than 1km away. After thinking I’d missed their spring passage I finally heard a staging Willow Warbler here on 24th, unusually it didn’t remain hidden as they usually do and came to check me out as I was planting onions, a couple more were about over the next two days before moving on. Wet weather on 29th had me checking through the low flying hirundines in Thônes (Barn Swallow and Crag Martin the regulars) for perhaps a Red-rumped Swallow but the only stranger in their midst was my first House Martin of the year. As usual I scanned the mighty Thônes rock for a sleeping Eagle Owl but came away with just another Bonelli’s Warbler for my efforts. At home the Yellowhammer continue to come to feed, just half a dozen most days but more magically appear if it snows (as it has a few times recently!).

A couple of cracking sightings at the beginning of May, firstly on 3rd when I went up to Les Frasses to start fence repairs with my brother in law (the snow having done a lot of damage during the winter). I had various tools but not my bins with me so Murphy’s Law came into play as we had to slow down on the track through the forest as a PAIR of Hazel Grouse crossed sedately, flew a couple of metres, walked a bit more and then flew, giving crippling views of the grey tail as they whirred off into the forest. After explaining why they weren’t Ptarmigan(!) to my bro in law we had a very cold morning’s work but when the sun came out it prompted a couple of Dunnock to start singing as well as a Tree Pipit. Nutcracker, Black Woodpecker and Common Crossbill added to the experience, as did a nice beer and home-baked (by yours truly) olive, red pepper and fets loaf when we'd finished our labours! The next day was a red letter, or rather a Red - footed one – in both 2019 and 2020 I had possibles in late April and early May but brevity of views and distances left me with falco sp only, but this time luck was on my side, the rain had finally stopped late afternoon so I did a session with my telescope and soon spotted a distant falcon doing erratic toing and froing flights over a field at the Col 2kms away. I was pretty sure what it was but against the sky I had no chance, fortunately it flew left in front of the trees, grey back, orangey yellow head and underparts, a female Red –footed Falcon! It has become so regular in Haute - Savoie in late spring that it isn’t even a description species now but it was nevertheless a special moment.

As was 10h45 on 6th when I received my first jab(y), before sticking the needle into my arm the (retired) doctor asked “Are you well?” “Apart from the pains in my knee” I quipped. “Ah”, he said “We’ve done lots of research but so far we haven’t developed an anti Covid vaccine that sorts out arthritis too, sorry”;). Driving back home I saw my first Swift of the year, at least 50 flying low in the rain near Annecy. Since then the weather has remained dire, cold and wet in the main making ‘green’ birding, walking and gardening very unpleasant, the only bright spark was the brief visit of a handsome male Common Redstart on 14th. Of interest (to me anyway) has been the regular visits of what looks to me like a hybrid Italian x House Sparrow. At our last place we had a male Italian Sparrow that bred each year between 2011 and 2016 (when we moved here), producing lots of hybrid young. This male looks very similar to those, the grey area on the crown is much reduced and flecked with brown, the supercilium both in front and behind the eye and the cheeks whiter than typical House. I shall have to check the two nearest farms to see if any more oddities are amongst the hens!

Last year the first Red-backed Shrike were back up here on 17th May (around Geneva and Annecy they’ve been back for a couple of weeks now), however the dry weather in April enabled the local farmers to do a lot more ‘tidying’ in the fields so a few nesting bushes have gone to enable more grass to grow for the livestock. Being a big fan of the goats’ cheese our neighbouring farm produces I am a bit torn obviously :rolleyes: , though the nearest nest site to the house (about 200m away) was bushes growing around a rocky outcrop so perhaps could have been left - it’s a sad sight now (see photo).
 

Attachments

  • Proud parent.jpg
    Proud parent.jpg
    2.1 MB · Views: 7
  • Yellowhammer in pear tree.jpg
    Yellowhammer in pear tree.jpg
    645.4 KB · Views: 3
  • Common Redstart May.jpg
    Common Redstart May.jpg
    916.9 KB · Views: 6
  • Hybrid May 2021.jpg
    Hybrid May 2021.jpg
    475.6 KB · Views: 8
  • Shrike nest site as was.jpg
    Shrike nest site as was.jpg
    604.2 KB · Views: 9

MikeInPA

Well-known member
Wow! That’s probably the longest post I’ve ever seen Richard.
Hard to say what’s happening here. For a couple of weeks the weather was not conducive for migration. Numbers have been very low compared to other years. The female warblers have been turning up in the yard the last few days and they are normally after the males. I’m still missing several species that I’ve normally seen in the yard by now. Chestnut-sided is the obvious one, I’ve seen them but not here. Maybe this afternoon. I’m sitting in my blind at the waterfall and the only warbler I’ve seen has been a female Common Yellowthroat. I’m hopefully going to get something and the light is nice and diffused at the moment.
 

Richard Prior

Halfway up an Alp
Europe
Wow! That’s probably the longest post I’ve ever seen Richard.
Hard to say what’s happening here. For a couple of weeks the weather was not conducive for migration. Numbers have been very low compared to other years. The female warblers have been turning up in the yard the last few days and they are normally after the males. I’m still missing several species that I’ve normally seen in the yard by now. Chestnut-sided is the obvious one, I’ve seen them but not here. Maybe this afternoon. I’m sitting in my blind at the waterfall and the only warbler I’ve seen has been a female Common Yellowthroat. I’m hopefully going to get something and the light is nice and diffused at the moment.
Light? Light? Oh yes, I vaguely remember that golden globe in the sky, but it’s been such a long time........
 

rosbifs

Well-known tool
France
We've returned to snow in the mountains - bet some fo those birds wish they had stayed in warmer climes...

Surprised Firecrest so late - they are more altitudinal and start singing here in Feb...
 

Richard Prior

Halfway up an Alp
Europe
We've returned to snow in the mountains - bet some fo those birds wish they had stayed in warmer climes...

Surprised Firecrest so late - they are more altitudinal and start singing here in Feb...
Same here this morning, fresh snow on the ground from around 1350m. Firecrest are down by the lakes Annecy and Leman during the winter but it’s not before late March at the earliest that we see them up here, a few Scops Owl have colonisés in recent years but at low altitudes and not before late April, we’re a lot further from the Med of course.
I meekly bought some cheese from the farm yesterday without referring to the unnecessary grubbing out of the shrike bushes, ( see photo that sort of sums up my dilemma :unsure:). Lunch interrupted by a bang on the window, a female Yellowhammer on the deck looking groggy and closing its eyes, thankfully 15 minutes in our bird recovery room (a shoe box) in the warm and she was off like a rocket when we offered her her freedom again. Didn’t even chirp “merci”!
 

Attachments

  • 27FDB274-01A3-4511-825E-D40DCA02E953.jpeg
    27FDB274-01A3-4511-825E-D40DCA02E953.jpeg
    630.9 KB · Views: 6

Richard Prior

Halfway up an Alp
Europe
To replace the grubbed out bushes, maybe make a "shrike pile" in a discreet corner/hedge edge? They can work like magic :)
If only I owned a bit more land Jos! Funnily enough the farmer has left two piles of the grubbed out hawthorn and wild rose, one just inside the forest which I’m sure the Wrens will like, another on the edge of a field, hopefully my nearest pair of RBShrike will move in ( I must admit there’s a lot of other attractive bushes etc left for them, last year there were four pairs within 500m of each other and their sites have been left untouched).
 

KenM

Well-known member
hopefully my nearest pair of RBShrike will move in ( I must admit there’s a lot of other attractive bushes etc left for them, last year there were four pairs within 500m of each other and their sites have been left untouched).
3-4 pairs of RB’S just a stones throw away....ah yes! circa 63years ago! 😢
 

Richard Prior

Halfway up an Alp
Europe
Some of the birds are really struggling with this weather, this soggy Bullfinch and a muddy Green Woodpecker for example, though the Marsh Tit seems to have just come from the hairdresser's with a nice blow dry!
 

Attachments

  • bou.jpg
    bou.jpg
    1.6 MB · Views: 5
  • M nonnette.jpg
    M nonnette.jpg
    233.4 KB · Views: 7
  • Pic vert 17.5.21.jpg
    Pic vert 17.5.21.jpg
    571.4 KB · Views: 5

Richard Prior

Halfway up an Alp
Europe
Thunderstorm with snow yesterday early eveningo_O , it’s getting silly now! As often happens when a cold snap arrives, the Yellowhammer numbers jump as they seem to know there’s seed being put out around the house, at least 17 getting drenched for their pains. Today saw a wintry dawn scene looking out from the kitchen, only 3C, but by the afternoon it was warm enough to tempt a couple of Swift and half a dozen House Martin to visit our airspace. Maybe tomorrow we’ll be able to get the potatoes planted before the next lot of rain .......... The Black Redstart pair are working a big shift bringing food items to their chicks in the saucepan nest, we can just see the chicks’ yellow gapes straining to be the chosen recipient each time an adult arrives, another week and they should fledge.
Dawn photo attached
 

Attachments

  • C683C176-9D1B-4832-8A68-AC85CD86D042.jpeg
    C683C176-9D1B-4832-8A68-AC85CD86D042.jpeg
    869.6 KB · Views: 8
ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Columbia
ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Columbia
ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Columbia

Users who are viewing this thread

Top