Sunday, July 7, 2019

European trip visiting France, Germany and Iceland (plus a brief stop in Austria)

Common Redshank, Vogar, Iceland, Jul 1, 2019 (life bird #1500)
Back home after a trip over to Europe with stops in France, Germany and Iceland. It was not a birding trip but I was able to see a decent amount of birds during the trip (more on the totals at the end of the post).  The trip started off rocky with our red eye flight that was suppose to leave at 10PM out of Boston getting delayed until 6AM the following morning. The flight change messed up some of our other plans and we ended up not making it to our lodging near Bayeux, France until 1 AM local time (we also got to battle through thunderstorms and closed roads on our way there). The time change of six hours didn’t effect me too much as working the night before we left and all the delays messed up my sleep patterns enough beforehand. As this was not a birding trip I left the big camera at home so no great shots of birds for this trip. I added a few new species during the evening trip to our lodging near Bayeux including Common Wood Pigeon, Eurasian Magpie and Common Swift.
European Goldfinch, Tour-en-Bessin, France, Jun 25, 2019
White Wagtail, Tour-en-Bessin, France, Jun 25, 2019
Pegasus Bridge, Ranville, France, Jun 25, 2019
Eurasian Moorhen, Cambremer, France, Jun 25, 2019
I was up early our first day in France and explored a small area around the farm we were staying at and added 15 new life birds including Great Spotted Woodpecker, Eurasian Jackdaw, Rook, Carrion Crow, Eurasian Blue Tit, Eurasian Wren, European Robin, Song Thrush, Eurasian Blackbird, Dunnock, White Wagtail, Common Chaffinch, Eurasian Linnet, European Goldfinch and Yellowhammer. The rest of the day was spent checking out a few D-Day related sites starting off at Pegasus Bridge where the invasion began (northeast of Caen). This spot produced a few new birds including Eurasian Coot, Gray Heron and Spotted Flycatcher. It was interesting to walk through areas I had read so much about in the past (a common theme for the trip). After a few hours checking out the impressive museum on site we headed southeast to check out a couple of the local cideries. Those stops produced four more new species (Eurasian Kestrel, Common Buzzard, Common House Martin and Eurasian Moorhen).
Remains of Mulberry B harbor, Arromanches-les-Bains, France, Jun 25, 2019
Eurasian Kestrel nestlings, Tour-en-Bessin, France, Jun 25, 2019
The last stop for the day before we headed back to our lodging was back to the invasion beaches, this time to check out the remains of the one of the artificial harbors created to supply the invasion forces (known as mulberries, in this case Mulberry B). The visit to this ocean side site produced my first European Shag. After dinner at our lodging I once again checked out the small area of our lodging and found several more new species including European Greenfinch, Great Tit and Willow Warbler. I also found a nest of a Eurasian Kestrel with three young in it on the side of the building we were staying in.
Omaha Beach, Colleville-sur-Mer, France, Jun 26, 2019
Gray Wagtail, Bayeux, France, Jun 26, 2019
Pointe du Hoc, France, Jun 26, 2019
American cemetery, Colleville, France, Jun 26, 2019
Location of Brecourt Manor battle, France, Jun 26, 2019
The second full day in the Normandy area was spent on a guided tour with the morning dedicated to exploring the Omaha Beach area, the American Cemetery there and Pointe Du Hoc before stopping off for lunch in St. Mare Eglise. The afternoon was spent exploring locations associated with the exploits of E Company, 506 Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division, better known as the Band of Brothers from the famous book and mini series. Once again seeing places in person I had only read about or watched on television was an amazing experience and gave me an even greater appreciation for those who fought to rid the world of nazis and fascists. The new species for the day included Common Chiffchaff at the farm before we met the tour group in Bayeux, a family of Gray Wagtails along a stream in Bayeux, a Meadow Pipit near some old German artillery bunkers, Common Cuckoo, Short toed Woodcrepper and Goldcrest at the cemetery, a Marsh Tit near Pointe du Hoc and Eurasian Sparrowhawk and Little Grebe in the hedgerow areas north of Carentan.
Eurasian Magpie, Caen, France, Jun 27, 2019
On the 27th we were up early to make the drive to Caen where we dropped off the rental car and got abroad a train to Paris. After arriving in a sunny and hot Paris we hoped the metro and made it to the next station just in time to board a bullet train headed to Germany, where we arrived in the early evening after a train delay in Germany (so much for the trains being on time there!). Tough to bird at high speeds from the train but I nonetheless added both Black Stork and White Stork to my life list.
Entry building, Dachau Concentration Camp, Dachau, Germany, Jun 28, 2019
Crematorium, Dachau Concentration Camp, Dachau, Germany, Jun 28, 2019
Foundation remains of barracks, Dachau Concentration Camp, Dachau, Germany, Jun 28, 2019
Berchtesgaden, Germany, Jun 28, 2019
Carrion Crow, Berchtesgaden, Germany, Jun 28, 2019
After a night in Munich we hopped the train to make a trip to the Dacheu Concentration Camp north of the city. A truly sobering example of man’s inhumanity to man. Midday we came back by train to Munich where we picked up our luggage and then got back on the train to head toward the alps. We arrived in Berchtesgaden late in the afternoon.
View north from Eagle's Nest, Berchtesgaden, Germany, Jun 29, 2019
Panoramic view from Eagle's Nest, Berchtesgaden, Germany, Jun 29, 2019
Looking down on Eagle's Nest, Berchtesgaden, Germany, Jun 29, 2019
Looking southwest from Eagle's Nest, Berchtesgaden, Germany, Jun 29, 2019
Enjoying a beer at the Eagle's Nest, Berchtesgaden, Germany, Jun 29, 2019
Panoramic view of German and Austrian Alps, Jun 29, 2019
The first day in the Bavarian Alps found us heading up to the Eagles Nest (Hitlers Bavarian retreat and another stop on our little Band of Brothers tour). The views from the top were spectacular but the crowds were a bit too much. Nonetheless still great to get up there and see it in person.
Great Crested Grebe, Hintersee, Berchtesgaden, National Park, Germany, Jun 30, 2019
Eurasian Coot, Hintersee, Berchtesgaden, National Park, Germany, Jun 30, 2019
Hintersee, Berchtesgaden, National Park, Germany, Jun 30, 2019
White throated Dipper, Wimbachklamm, Berchtesgaden,  Germany, Jun 30, 2019
On our second very hot day in Germany we made a few short hikes in Berchtesgaden National Park including around Hintersee which featured a few new birds including some great looks at a Great Crested Grebe.
Tufted Duck, Chiemsee, Germany, Jul 1, 2019
Black headed Gull, Chiemsee, Germany, Jul 1, 2019
Graylag Geese, Chiemsee, Germany, Jul 1, 2019
Looking north, Vogar, Iceland, Jul 1, 2019
Common Redshank, Vogar, Iceland, Jul 1, 2019
Black tailed Godwits and flyby Common Redshank, Vogar, Iceland, Jul 1, 2019
On the first of July we left Berchtesgaden and started our trip to Munich to board a flight to our next destination, Iceland. On the way to the airport we made a brief stop at a large lake known as Chiemsee. Although the stop was short the area featured a decent variety of waterfowl including my first ever Red crested Pocard and Common Pocard, Graylag Geese plus my first ever Yellow legged Gull. We arrived into Keflavik Airport in Iceland late in the afternoon and then made the short drive to our lodging in nearby Vogar. Our lodging was right on the water and the place was teeming with shorebirds and waterfowl (and others) and produced several new species within just a few minutes including Common Ringed Plover, Black tailed Godwit, Common Snipe and Common Redshank (all of which were nesting on site). The Common Redshank became species #1500 for me ever.
Looking north at 4:30am, Vogar, Iceland, Jul 2, 2019
Common Ringed Plover, Vogar, Iceland, Jul 2, 2019
European Golden Plover, Krýsuvíkurberg, Iceland, Jul 2, 2019
Waterfalls, Seljalandsfoss, Iceland, Jul 2, 2019
Field full of Eurasian Oystercatchers, Skogafoss, Iceland, Jul 2, 2019
Looking toward mountains from beach, Reynisfjara, Iceland, Jul 2, 2019
Seastacks, Dyrhólaey--Arnardrangur, Iceland, Jul 2, 2019
Whooper Swans, Dyrhólaey--Arnardrangur, Iceland, Jul 2, 2019
We made the most of our full sunny day in Iceland visiting a variety of hiking trails, waterfalls and vistas all along the southern coast all the way to Vik at nearly the southern most point of the island.  We were actually up around 4:30am and headed out early.  Impressive numbers of seabirds nesting at multiple locations.  A total of half a dozen lifers for the day throughout our travels.  Iceland featured nearly continuous light with sunrise at 3:30am and sunset at midnight.  Even at two in the morning it was still light enough to see well...great in the summer but winters must be very long at this latitude.
Eurasian Oystercatcher, 
Southern Greenland, Jul 3, 2019
On our last day we had the morning into the early afternoon free before our flight back home. Unfortunately the day featured overcast conditions with multiple bouts of rain that occasionally would be reduce to a drizzle. In between the rain showers we made it out to the point at Garour where I did some seawatching and turned up a few more new species before more rain moved in. We spent the rest of the morning and early afternoon checking out a natural history museum as well as a Viking museum before heading to the airport. Our flight home took us over the southern part of Greenland which was cool to see, even from 35,000 feet.

Overall for the trip I saw a total of 110 species with 74 of them being life birds bringing my life list up to 1510.  Even without much focus on birds for the trip travelling to a brand new location (and hemisphere) certainly helped push the total up.  The total species count per country visited came out as follows:  France-55 species, Germany-47 species, Austria-4 species and Iceland-47 species. Full album of photos at the following link.

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