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November 28, 2005

Birding in Eastern Germany and Prague

Late last summer and early fall I traveled in eastern Germany from Berlin to the Baltic Sea, back to Berlin and onto Prague via the Spreewald and Dresden. Berlin, Dresden and Prague are treasure chests of history, art and archetecture. The public tranportation system of Berlin is one we would do well to emulate. Rather I should say "systems" for Berlin has trains, streetcars, buses and subways making every part of the city accessible.

The behavior, the general outline and vocalizations of a bird are important keys to bird identification even before getting close enough to see markings or colors. I could identify nearly every bird on my trip based on behavior and outline and yet when I got close enough to see its colors and markings nearly every bird was excitingly new. Everywhere on my trip was rich in birdlife, in the cities and countryside.

Trees filled with chickadee like birds revealed Coal Tits, Parus ater, and Willow Tits, Parus montanus. The colorful and noisy Blue Tit, Parus caeruleus, was a delight. The Great Tit , Parus major, found feeding on the ground more often. The kestral hovering over the farmers field is marked differently than our American Kestral. I check off Falco tinnunclulus on my list. My list of new sightings increased daily with almost every bird sighting in eastern Germany. The herons, egrets, gulls, raptors and even crows were new. The Rook and the Hooded Crow with its grey body and black wings and head were fascinating. The Magpies in Berlin were so common I think of them as Berlin's official bird.

On any trip abroad take your binoculars and buy a region specific birding book for all your new sightings. I don't remember enjoying a trip more than this one to Berlin, Dresden and Prague with its mix of great birding and history and archectecture. Check out this website for information and photos on storks www.storchennest.de. In the spring and summer the site has a live webcam on nesting storks.


November 07, 2005

Fall and Winter Birding

The fall rains have begun here in the Northwest. Snow is falling on the Cascade mountains. Several inches of snowfall every day. The nightly news carries stories of trucks stuck on the mountain passes and car accidents. Today at dusk I listened to the calls the Pileated woodpecker in our woods and reflected that the best birding of the year is about to begin. Our area is the winter home for thousands of waterfowl and the raptors that follow the waterfowl. Close by is the nightly roost for overwintering Bald Eagles. In winter at dawn we can watch the eagles fly over the Multnomah Channel and disperse over Sauvie Island and Ridgefield Wildlife Refuge. It is a thrill to experience dozens of eagles passing overhead at dawn.

A few thoughts about outdoor clothing to make winter birding enjoyable. Birding is not as active with more standing still than winter sports like skiing or snowshoeing. Being able to stay warm and dry makes winter birding not only more enjoyable but gives you the chance to stay in the field much longer to experience new bird behavior or see the more reclusive species. For me a waterproof parka and rainpants are a must for blocking the wind as well as rain protection. If I keep my neck as well as head and ears warm I can enjoy birding no matter how cold. I like a balaclava worn under a windproof cap or my rainhat with its built in fleece ear warmers. When the icy January winds come out of the Columbia River Gorge a down coat under my parka is a delight. Cozy feet are wonderful. Some of my birding friends are in the field wearing the same running shoes they wear in the summer. They are calling it a day and heading for the coffee shop long before I want to stop birding. Gators to cover your boots and lower legs are a great invention and a must have. Gators really help keep my feet dry and my legs warmer when I walking the wet and muddy fields where the waterfowl are abundant here in the winter.

Getting the right clothing will create more opportunities to be out in nature with our bird friends in any weather.

Seattle has a wonderful book shop Flora & Fauna Books located in Pioneer Square. They specialize in ornithology and natural history books for the entire world. Check them out at www.ffbooks.net. Recently I bought In The Company Of Crows and Ravens by John M. Marzhuff and Tony Angell at their book signing at Fauna and Flora Books. I also acquired a field guide to Butterflies of Britain and Europe to help me identify the butterflies I photographed on a recent trip to Germany.

Bill@ birdingguide.com

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