Grüß gott Bayern! Or, hello from Bavaria! How much do I want to take this little European Red Squirrel home? SO MUCH!! They are just so adorable. It is so cute to see them in the pine trees with their ears sticking striaght up! Apparently they also come in black & grey, but I haven't seen any of those. I have had a great time spotting some wonderful birds here too, like the following...
The top left is a picture of a Great Tit, related to the US chickadees. It is a bit bigger, but very similar. I also saw several Blue Tits and Coal Tits. Stop laughing about their name now! On the top right is a Chaffinch. There were lots of these in Graefling, the neighbourhood in Munich where I am staying., and by goodness they sing their little hearts out. Spring has really arrived here, and there was a lovley loud dawn chorus this morning starting at about 6am when it was still almost completly dark.
On the bottom right is a European starling. This is the same bird that is a much maligned invasive species in North America, but seeing it in its real natural habitat, you can appreicate just what a wonderful bird it is with an increadibly complex and creative set of songs. On the bottom left is a Rook. I thought that one only saw rooks, relatives of crows, in the mountains, but I saw lots in the low lying areas just to the north of the Alps in south Germany. They appear to often be in groups with European Crows. The latter look similar to American crows, but sound diferent, and it seems like they act a lot different as well; they fly in a raptor like way with lots of gliding, and I have seen liots of fighting and chasing- possibly because it is nesting season- but I haven't really seen this behavior in other species of crows.
To the left is a White stork, or at least I think that is the translation- I only have a German bird book with me and I don't speak German! I was lucky to see one of these fine fellows, and almost ended up swirving off the road as I watched it! These storks winter in Africa and nest in this area or Europe and to the north. This individual is one was one of the first to be headed back to its northern breeding grounds. The fact that so many species use different parts of the world to breed in and then to winter in, make it important to consider conservation programs & initiatives across a very wide geographical landscape; just looking after one part of their habitat, say the areas where the animals winter, will not save a species.
Next to the right is a young European Kestrel. There have been raptors everywhere in the countryside, and while it is difficult to idnetify them all while driving, or without binoculars (stupid me to have forgotten them!), the kestrel shape, colouring and way of flying is usually enough to help figure out what they are!
And finally, on the right is a "Specht," or woodpecker. I'll look up the species when I have an English bird book in my hand. There was a couple of this species in my friend's backyward in Munich. Such lovely red rears!
More raptors! A falcon on the left (again, will look up species name in English asap!) and an Eurasian Hobby on the right. The latter is also a kind of falcon. I even saw a Peregrine Falcon during one day's drive! I think that they are more common here than in the States (though I did see one inIthaca shortly before I left! Really made me do a double-take!).
A Black Kite! I saw lots of these lovely and large birds. One even flew by just after grabbing a snack, and was struggling with it mid-air in its talons. I always feel somewhat conflicted when I see something like this. But I think better to go like this than by being sick & old, you know?
And finally, some waterbirds! I had to put in another picture of the White stork because it is just such a gorgeous bird! I found a lovely spot on a crystal clear light blue Alpen lake just on the Swiss/Austian border that had lots of lovely water birds. There is something so wonderful seeing animals like Swans in their natural setting, as opposed to being imported into parks in the US (I don't think that the swans that we know and love are native tot eh US- I will check!).
I also saw quite a few Herring Gulls, and had another near driving-off-the-road event when I saw a lovely Grey Heron just hanging out in a plowed field. I don't know that I've ever seen one away from water like this, and perhaps it was also mid-migration. It was also quite plain looking, not with the fancy head feathers as the one here, so maybe it was juvenile and wasn't quite sure where to land!
The little black bird witht he white beak/face is a Coot. I always think that these cute little guys have a certain tranquility and poise about them, but you should have seen the one I saw today, attacking all the Mallards and flying after them again & again! One angry bird- quite probably protecting eggs.
Back home tomorrow and wonder what wonders await with all my wildlife neighbours now that spring is coming to Ithaca!