Sunday, 21 June 2009

The Bavarian Alps

Water Pipits are birds that are normally found at higher altitudes in Central Europe and are always a pleasure to come across and of course to watch. Their subtle grey-brown on the back and cap and warmer pink breast tinges make this a real stunner!

The Bavarian Alps are one of Europe’s special Jewels, containing many special birds, plants and butterflies.
Our tour was based on one of the lower lakeside towns on the outskirts of Kochel-am-See, where the stunning backdrop of the craggy limestone mountains of the Wetterstein Range rise dramatically behind our hotel. To the front the wide expanse of Lake Kochel stretches to the wet meadows where White Storks, Bluethroats, Curlews and Fieldfares nest.

Yellowhammers seemed to be singing every day around the lower woodland and meadows.

Ring Ousel collects food

Our evening meals were taken within the hotels excellent restaurant and what a delight it is to relax, dine and watch the sun setting with Goosanders paddling past and Honey Buzzards coming back to the forest to roost.
Some who took our pre-breakfast walks managed to catch sight of Black Woodpeckers that nest in the dense mixed foresta long the lakeside and Goldeneye males flew and displayed in the early Light across the lake!

A newly fledged White-throated Dipper on Lake Kochel

During our time in Germany we explored the large nature reserve at the Murnauer Moos where Common Rosefinches, Tree Pipits, Marsh and Grasshopper Warblers sang. A few good examples of Orchid were seen and butterlies and dragonflies danced through the verdant Meadows. As one would expect in Germany, the pathways and information at all the nature reserves were first class and a joy to walk through.

Goosander flight shots - seen most days around our lakeside hotel!

Woodland birds included (from top) Firecrest, Crested Tit, Common Rosefinch, Common Crossbills - both a really bright red male and the rather less colourful female that has a yellow-green tinge

A Comon Tern along the River Isar at the famous Pupplinger Au

An Alpine Chough flies past a small glacier on the Zugspitze

Common Bluet

Looking for scraps at 2,600m!

Eurasian Curlews nest on the wet meadows around the lakeside where we were based

A young Nightingale

Honey Buzzards came in to roost around the forest close to the hotel when we were having dinner. We would watch them fly past the restaurant's panoramic windows and below on the lake Goldeneye, Goosander and Great Crested Grebes paddled past!

We took the cable car to a rather unfortunately named mountain called the Wankberg. Yes, we all got lots of mileage out of all the names on the signs, the cable car, the restaurant and Alpine hut at the top - you name it, there were plenty of chuckles all around. This is a photo of the group where, once we had been to the top, a small ceremony took place and we were now officially deemed to be - yes, you've guessed it....'Wankers'!

No explanation needed here.... Some comments are invited though.....

On the lower slopes, we took in the warmer temperaturas along the river Isar at the famous Pupplinger-Au. This stretch of the river is divided into a canal and the old river has secondary tributaries with some marsh and flooded woodland. The canal was originally built for logging transportation and the steep, protective flood banks have a host of insect life amongst the many varieties of flowering plants. Crossbills, Black Kites, Green Woodpeckers and Common Terns were all present as was a European Beaver that made a brief appearance at a nearby fish farm.

Spotted Flycatcher

Ring Ousel

Reed Warbler

Red backed Shrike


Further excursions along thelarge lakes to the north at Ammersee and Stranberger See led us to watch Short-toed Treecreeper, Hobby, Reed Buntings and Icterine Warblers amongst a host of other splendid wildlife that included butterflies, damselflies, dragonflies and wild flowers.

Nickerl's Fritillary

On one dull day with an afternoon of rain showers, we walked around Lake Zell, with it's sizeable populations of Red-crested Pochards and Marsh Warblers. Hawfinches, Red-backed Shrikes, White Storks and Red Kites also flew around the area and at the nearby Peterzell ancient Yew tree forest we walked through the dark forest and come across a party of Crossbills sheltering from the wet weather.
It goes without saying that our excursion by cable car to the unfortunately named Wankberg close to Garmisch brought quite a few laughs. Here we searched for Nutcracker, not an easy bird to find. Again Crossbills were seen and Water Pipits, Ring Ousels and Dunnocks flew close to the summit.

The Church at Murnauer Moos Nature Reserve

Mullien Moth caterpillar

The incredible mimic - the Marsh Warbler

Village scene

A few more of the Goosander shots at the hotel

The quality of the hotel and the food we had at varous small gasthoffs or hotels were simply excellent whether it was a plate of lentil soup with smoked sausage and bread or fresh fish from the local lakes. The local beer, wines and fruit juces were a perfect compliment to the home-made dishes and the friendliness of the people from 'Bayern' was most appreciated– in fact everywhere we went, were helpful, courteous and wanted to tell us about the area and what it offered to tourists. I think we were all most impressed by the welcome and general hospitality we received, not to mention the delicious food and wines and beer.

Greater Burnet with fly

Firecrest fluffing up his bright orange crest

In full summer plumage and seen here collection food for hungry young - A fieldfare

Duke of Burgundy Fritillary

Dawn at our lakeside base - just stunning!

This was a great trip and a big thanks goes to all who took part, for your humour, and happy disposition throughout.
We hope that we may see some of you again on another tour, sometime in the future and wish you all health, happiness and fond memories of our great time together in the stunning Bavarian Alps.

Stephen Daly and Gary Elton, June 2009.

Dawn over the mountains

Crested Tit

Common Rosefinch male

Lakeside boathouses

Banded Demoiselle

Some more Water Pipit shots

Zugspitze scenes with Alpine Choughs looking extremeley well-fed!