European Vacation - July 2012
by Henry Detwiler

A fine trip with Suzanne and Gaby visiting relatives, ancestral homes, and of course birds! my parents in Carbondale, and doing a lot of biridng in Jackson

132 species seen from 12-31 July.  Click here for bird checklist
Click on thumbnail pictures for full-sized photos.


Our first stop in Germany was Kaufungen, where we spent five days visiting and touring the area with relatives. Rainy, cool weather was our unwelcome companion during much of our visit--I'd planned on getting up early, prior to breakfast, on several occasions, but the weather always changed my mind. We did spend several hours at Dankmarshäuser Rhäden Nature Preserve (just east of Obersuhl) one morning on the way to Eisenach and the Wartburg castle. The spot was excellent for water-loving birds--we saw numerous LAPWINGS, a large flock of GRAYLAG GEESE, several WHITE STORKS, three WATER SANDPIPERS, MALLARDS, and two TUFTED DUCKS.
During our stay we enjoyed touring castles, medieval cities, and eating like kings.

American Redstart

Cottonmouth (Water Moccasin)


Our next destination was Rothenburg ob der Tauber, with its imposing city wall, narrow alleys, and beautiful half-timber architecture. A short detour on the way took us to the Ober-Moos Nature Preserve where we played hide-and-seek with a pretty little ROBIN. The rains set in before we could scope the area lakes

  The next day was a long drive to Langendorf, Switzerland. On the way we detoured to the Federsee, and walked the long boardwalk through the reeds to the lake. The northern rains and cold weather had been replaced by sunshine and warm temps--so the walk was pretty toasty. Dozens of Mute Swans, a few grebes, and some coots were the only visible birdlife. Finally, a fly-by Common Tern and a Yellow-legged Gull brightened up the walk



Red-bellied Woodpecker

The next day we walked around the town of Langenbruck, where some of both Suzanne's and my ancestors hailed from. After that we moved on to Ursenbach and Oberburg, also home to Suzanne's forefathers, via a country road that was often barely wide enough for one car and featured 20% grades. Along the Emme River we hiked in a small nature preserve and were rewarded by sparkling jewel of a bird, the "Eisvogel", or KINGFISHER. Other birds we came upon were the more common CHAFFINCH, BLACKBIRD, and GRAY WAGTAIL.

On our second morning we drove south to Interlaken, at the foot of the Swiss Alps. We headed up the gorgeous Lauterbrunnen Valley, stopping to marvel at the many waterfalls cascading over the high cliffs. Birding along the forest edges, in the meadows, and along the streams, we spotted BLACK KITE, NUTHATCH, a variety of tits, and WHITE WAGTAIL. At Grindelwald we ate a fine lunch of fondue at an outdoor cafe overlooking the valley and the Eiger Mountain. A KESTREL hunted in the field below us as we watched the thick clouds swirling about the majestic peaks. After eating we drove higher up to the end of the road and hiked for a while in the forest. Not much bird activity, but we did find a few WRENS before the rains called an end to our wandering.

Kentucky Warbler

Summer Tanager

Wood Ducks

In the Alsace Lorraine we spent a night in the small village of Graufthal, at the edge of the large Vosges du Nord Natural Park. Gaby and I explored the centuries-old troglodyte homes built into the face of a cliff, and then Suzanne and I ventured out to explore the countryside, looking at more of her ancestral homesites. Our gasthaus was situated close to some nice walking paths along a stream and a few fishing ponds. A short walk before the afternoon rains produced GRAY HERON, GREAT-SPOTTED WOODPECKER, TREECREEPERS, and NUTHATCHES. The Hotel Au Vieux Moulin had nice rooms in a beautiful location, but its greatest claim to fame (in our eyes) was the best meal we had during our entire trip. The multi-course meal was a culinary and visual treat with appetizer, soup, a pork filet mignon, dessert, and after-dinner treat--all of which melted in our mouths!

Our next destination was Paris. We didn't do any birding, but we did see a lot of odd ducks there. And in the Louvre were some fine rabbit slippers...

Cottonmouth (Water Moccasin)


On the ferry from Calais to Dover we picked up a few more COMMON GULLS and COMMON TERNS, and lots of HERRING GULLS. Alas, no pelagics on either leg, but we did have fine views of the White Cliffs and the Dover Castle. Driving on the left side of the road was a bit unnerving, especially around curves and on turns--but I managed well enough until I had to back out of a narrow country lane for an on-coming student driver. She probably wondered where I had learned to drive. On the way to our motel in Ramsgate we did a walk through Pegwell Bay Nature Reserve. The birding was good, and we made another trip there the following day, too. Some of our finds were COMMON SHELDUCK, AVOCET, OYSTERCATCHER, CURLEW, GREAT REED WARBLER, MARSH WARBLER, and LINNET.


Blackpoll Warbler


Bald Eagle

Close to Canterbury we stopped at a preserve next to Grove Ferry along the Great Stour River. The acres of marshes and damp fields yielded a flock of GRAYLAG GEESE, a singing ___ WARBLER, and a pair of HEN HARRIERS.


A stop close to Calais at the Platier d'Oye Reserve turned up our first SPOONBILL, lots more SANDWICH TERNS, COMMON SANDPIPER, and a variety of ducks.
Brown Thrasher


Canada Geese at sunrise

In Brugge we were enchanted by the canal-laced town, and took a guided boat trip through the waterways. The beer and the chocolates were fine, as was my rabbit dinner, and we stayed in a fancy little room in "Guesthouse 17" with a view of the main canal.  

Prothonotary Warbler

Rose-breasted Grosbeak


On our last day in Germany we hiked up a forested hill trail at the edge of Idstein, where we even got a new bird for the trip: CRESTED TIT.

Scarlet Tanager



Our return to the states was broken by another layover in Iceland, but this one for only a day and a half. We stayed at the Guesthouse Gardur, on the southwestern-most spit of land in the country. Even though it was rainy on this visit, it was still great for birding, and we added some good finds in the cliffs around Gardur: BRUNICH'S (SHORT-BILLED) GUILLEMOT, __ SHEARWATER, and good numbers of GANNETS, a bird that so far I'd only seen from the plane on our first stop here. A trip to the center of Reykjavik revealed a thriving, modern city. Our final stop in Iceland was a small woods close to ____, where we visually verified FIRECREST, which we had only heard up to now.

Box Turtle

Cerulean Warbler

About Us | Site Map | Advertising | Contact Us | ©2012 Southwest Birders