Saturday, 26 January 2013


I had 11 fantastic days visiting my friend Mary in Switzerland from 11th Jan. As I'm still de-toxing after my 2012 Year List race, I only had one bird on my wish list.....a Wallcreeper. I've tried for one several times before in Switzerland & the Pyrenees, but never managed to find one.

After lunch on 16th we set off to Burgdorf (North East of Berne), where a Wallcreeper often visits the cliffs during the winter. We spent 2 hours standing in freezing temperatures checking out the 3 cliff faces beside the river. As the light was starting to go, I was scanning with the scope when I finally came across a Wallcreeper & shouted to Mary who had wandered off to get a different view of the cliff. When she didn't appear & I couldn't hear the sound of running feet, I looked up to see her sauntering back towards me....she thought I was kidding. My frantic waving & shouting finally resulted in some speedy movement (well as fast as you can run on ice) & luckily the Wallcreeper was still there. It was amazing to watch  it flutter across the cliff face, looking very moth-like as it flashed its red wing patches. It hung about just long enough for Mary to digiscope a photo, before disappearing into a small hole for the night. To say we were pleased would be my first gross understatement of the year. We celebrated, & defrosted, over an alcoholic coffee in a local bar.

Wallcreeper hunting at the Burgdorf cliffs
The elusive Wallcreeper....
We only had one other specific birding trip, to Biel (North West of Berne). The area has 6 species of Woodpeckers, including Grey-headed & Middle Spotted. We had a very nice walk, but didn't find a Woodpecker of any variety.

We did see a few good birds on a walking trip to Diemtigtal (South of Berne). We found a few Alpine Chough in the village of Oey, although it was a shame that we hadn't arrived 20 minutes earlier when about 30 of them had been tucking into seed put out by an elderly local resident. We then came across a mixed flock of Willow & Marsh Tits. After a year of listening out for a Willow Tit, it was nice to finally hear one, all be it in the wrong year & wrong country! We actually got pretty good views of both of them, the most noticeable difference being the more definite white cheek of the Willow Tit. The only other notable birds were an unexpected Nutcracker (Mary thought we were too low to find one) & a Crested Tit.

Alpine Chough
Marsh Tit...unfortunately I didn't manage to capture a Willow or Crested Tit
We tried a spot of snow-shoeing, which even Mary had never tried before. It was an excellent way to explore the mountains. We followed signed snow-shoe routes, which took us to areas of pristine forest, well away from the beaten track & other people. The views were stunning & the silence golden..... I would thoroughly recommend it.


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