Trip Report: Switzerland and Vienna, August 9-25, 1994

Urs Geiser, Woodridge, IL, USA;

This trip was a vacation of my American family (wife and teenage step-daughter) with my Swiss family (parents, siblings, and other relatives). We made many day trips where I kept my eyes open for birds, but with a few exceptions, I couldn't call it birding. I birded alone twice, an afternoon along the Aare River near Bern (between the zoo and the Elfenau nature preserve) and several hours at Fanel on the shore of Lake Neuchatel. In the company of my wife, I birded a small preserve (artificial island) on the Aare River near Walliswil (canton Bern). The birds from Vienna were almost entirely from the gardens of Schoenbrunn palace.

Thanks for those of you who responded to my request with helpful suggestions and exceptionally detailed instructions for finding places. You all convinced me that Fanel was the one place in Switzerland that I couldn't miss. That was a truly exceptional location, and my only regret is that I didn't own a scope, since there were thousands of water birds visible in the far distance, too far for binoculars. I also would have enjoyed the company of an expert for all the warblers that I caught quick glimpses of and couldn't identify with much confidence. Even in breeding plumage, old world warblers just about all look the same, and in many cases can only be distinguished by song. Not much luck in August and the middle of the day... Birding at Fanel involves a half-mile hike on a wide trail along the Broye canal from the parking lot to the lake-side reed beds. There is one large trail on a dike through the reeds with occasional views onto ponds and the lake front. Willows and shrubs flank the trail. There are some observation towers, but I didn't have the necessary keys. My wife and daughter spent the time at the live tropical butterfly exhibit in nearby Marin, which is one of several recommended alternatives for non-birding companions. [Note added later: the butterfly house burned down on New Year's day 1995 and may not reopen for some time to come.]

Thanks especially for your suggestions about the Wallcreeper. I went to one of the suggested places, the Aare Gorge near Meiringen (Bernese Oberland). It was a spectacular location which my companions enjoyed very much, too, but I just couldn't find any Wallcreepers. Maybe next time...

Rather than giving a day-by-day report (the most abundant bird would repeat too often), I'll group it by species, with some comments as appropriate. Asterisks (*) denote life birds and question marks indicate uncertain identification. The abbreviation B E is used for the Canton (state) of Bern.

The total of ca. 66 species is obviously nothing to brag about. The next time, I'm going to bring a scope to Fanel and try to find somebody who knows warblers to come along. Volunteers?

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Urs Geiser;; June 2, 1995