A Travellerspoint blog

Mürren - Spiez - Verbier

Switzerland

semi-overcast 74 °F

After our final breakfast in Mürren, my dad and I packed our bags and started our journey to Verbier by train. We enjoyed the final views from Mürren and Winteregg:
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As well as river views on our second train of the day:
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One of our rail layovers today would be Spiez, a beautiful town on Lake Thurnesee which we had passed on our way into Mürren. Seeing that we would stop there today, too, I planned a walking tour of Spiez to be our “activity” for the day: stopping by the Schloß castle, a walk along Lake Thurnesee for birds, and lunch before continuing our train journey to Verbier. The walk through town was gorgeous:
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And birds were seen along the way, like this EURASIAN KESTREL:
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Getting mobbed by a COMMON SWIFT:
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EURASIAN COLLARED-DOVE; great to see in its native range:
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As well as HOUSE SPARROW — I never take photos of these back home, but in their native range, sure!
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Grapes!
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BLUE TIT:
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A brief stop on the grounds of Castle Schloß was gorgeous.
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And I spotted a view birds in the lake such as this immature GREAT CRESTED GREBE, a bird I have seen very few times before!
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MALLARD duckling:
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And this BLACK KITE, my first of the trip:
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The walk along the lake was decent for birds, too, with EURASIAN SERIN:
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EURASIAN COOT:
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Family of WHITE WAGTAIL:
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CARRION CROW:
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YELLOW-LEGGED GULLS:
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The views did NOT disappoint!
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“Classic” view of a BLACKCAP, these guys are loud but near impossible to spot:
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BLACK-HEADED GULL was nice to see in it’s “more-expected” range; I have seen these as vagrants in North America before.
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Nice family of COMMON MERGANSERS:
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RED KITES:
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Then, I found this small, drab-colored passerine which turned out to be my first COMMON NIGHTINGALE of the trip, and I think possibly my photographic life bird!
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Nice to see some COMMON HOUSE-MARTINS at a nesting site:
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BLACK REDSTART:
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Bye-bye, EURASIAN MAGPIE:
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And more beautiful Spiez views before getting back on the trains to Visp, Martigny, Le Châble, and eventually, Verbier!
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Finally, by 16:30 in the afternoon, we made it to Verbier, my home for the next three weeks as a Verbier Festival young artist! I have one full day off tomorrow, I move in with my host family sunday, and then the festival commences on monday! (at which point I will stop posting unless I stumble upon something really unexpected or new)
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Bird-of-the-day to the Common Nightingale with runner-up to the Great Crested Grebe. In case I don’t post until then, “see you” in Idaho/August!

Happy birding,
Henry
World Life List: 1147 Species

Posted by skwclar 16:21 Archived in Switzerland Comments (0)

Lauterbrunnen

Switzerland

all seasons in one day 70 °F

Today was our last full day staying in Mürren, so my dad and I took the train down to the Lauterbrunnen in the valley below to walk along the river, bird, and get some views of the local waterfalls.
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No surprise here — BLACK REDSTARTS were common:
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As well as GREAT TIT:
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And COAL TIT:
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EUROPEAN GOLDFINCH:
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WHITE WAGTAIL:
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FIELDFARE was a great species to see, only my second ever:
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And also my second-ever sighting of EURASIAN NUTHATCH, including this juvenile in a family group of five:
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EUROPEAN SERIN, one of my favorite Euro finches:
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Distant COMMON WOODPIGEON:
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Immature COMMON FIRECRESTS:
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COMMON SWIFTS:
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Which were soon joined by a beautiful RED KITE:
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And more gorgeous views of the falls:
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After lunch in beautiful Winteregg, a voice lesson, and a bit of a rest, I headed back out to find more birds — such as this picturesque male EURASIAN BLACKBIRD:
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COAT TIT:
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I recorded one woodpecker call that I believe to be a Eurasian Three-toed Woodpecker, which would be a life bird; however, I am waiting on confirmation of my recording from another birder before I call it as a lifer, as I never saw it.

Dinner was delish and we were rewarded once again by the spectacular valley views on our brief walk back to the lodge:
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Bird-of-the-day to the family group of Eurasian Nuthatches, and runner-up to the Fieldfare. Hopefully, I made the correct call on the woodpecker!

Happy birding,
Henry
World Life List: 1167 Species

Posted by skwclar 19:58 Archived in Switzerland Comments (1)

Birds, mountains, and alphorns

Mürren, Switzerland

all seasons in one day 60 °F

Very tired from another gorgeous day of hiking with my dad here in Switzerland so keeping this to the point!

THREE more lifers were found today with bird-of-the-day to the Lesser Whitethroat and runner-up to the Spotted Flycatcher. Full list with photos of almost every species is found here:
https://ebird.org/checklist/S143632116

And more scenery pics below!

Happy birding,
Henry
World Life List: 1167 Species (3 life birds today: Lesser Whitethroat, Spotted Flycatcher, Willow Tit)

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Posted by skwclar 21:19 Archived in Switzerland Comments (3)

Hallo Switzerland!

Mürren

all seasons in one day 69 °F

Time for a week in Switzerland with dad before my young artist program at the Verbier Academy. Let’s dive in!
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We flew over the Normandy D-Day Beaches on the direct flight to Zürich.
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Our first day involved many a train transfer, made bearable thanks to apple juice.
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And these increasingly-stunning views:
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Our final push of the day was to take the funicular up to Mürren, our first destination in Switzerland — where we could see this gorgeous waterfall!!
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Incredible view from our lodge.
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Today my dad and I hiked in the direction of the Schilthorne Hütte, a small cafe in an alpine area below some huge mountains. Since this was the nicest weather forecast for the coming days, we chose the big hike for today and it turned out wonderfully. My target birds were European alpine specialties such as Yellow-billed Chough, Alpine Accentor and others…possibly Wallcreeper if I was really lucky.

Our hike started directly from town, and of course I started birding, finding this adult EURASIAN BLACKBIRD right off the bat:
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And singing its telltale “Chiff! Chaff! Chiff! Chaff!” song was my first lifer of the day, COMMON CHIFFCHAFF!!! Hooray — a long overdue European lifer!
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EURASIAN WREN, almost identical song to Winter/Pacific Wrens:
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Always nice to reconnect with COMMON CHAFFINCHES which I first got in 2014 in New Zealand:
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BLACK REDSTART:
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Lifer mammal in the form of an Alpine Ibex!!
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Female chaffinch:
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My next lifer came in the form of one of my target birds today — YELLOW-BILLED CHOUGH!! Super cool!
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EURASIAN MAGPIE:
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The day was turning out to be beautiful.
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Some ski lifts in the area, though I think these particular ones were only operational to bring supplies to and from the cafe:
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One heard-only bird for a while was a singing COMMON CUCKOO giving its characteristic “cuc-koo” call, the original cuckoo song if you will. Well, it was heard-only until I spotted this one shooting overhead:
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More Choughs flying over. So cool!
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And a very distant RED KITE almost disappearing into the clouds:
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MISTLE THRUSH was great to see:
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Any ideas on this bird? My initial thought was Ring Ouzel…is it just a weird thrush-like angle at a Black Redstart? I’m stumped…

EDIT: Yes! Ring Ouzel. Apparently, they can sometimes show a variable white patch on the wings which is on display here. Super cool and a life bird!!!
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My next lifer came in the form of this juvenile FIELDFARE which was absolutely phenomenal to see! Even as a juvenile, you can see the white eyebrow which is pretty distinctive.
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More Ibex:
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Wildflowers proliferated.
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The lifers just kept coming — this time, in the form of a NORTHERN WHEATEAR which is a tundra bird I’ve been wanting to see for a while! Cool!
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And another high-elevation life bird, WATER PIPIT! This is turning out to be the most life birds in one day in a LONG time…
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Female Wheatear:
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My dad stopped at the café but I wanted to continue on to Bietenlücke which was a nearby saddle, so I made the extremely-steep hike up. I was super close to chickening out and calling it quits in a rather precarious-looking section but decided to take it really slow and steady and power on…

Then, turning my eyes to the sky a pair of EURASIAN KESTRELS was circling above, a species I have only seen once before in Istanbul!
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The EXACT MOMENT I summited the ridge of Bietenlücke, I heard telltale “laughter” that I had only dreamed of hearing until now: the maniacal sounding alarm call of ROCK PTARMIGANS! And sure enough, I had accodentally flushed SEVEN of these amazing tundra birds a bit down the ridgeline. An awesome, hugely unexpected lifer and perhaps one of the hardest birds to find in western/central Europe. Super, super cool and my first ever Ptarmigans of any kind. I was immediately so glad I had pushed to the top!
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Look at those white wings:
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They lined up on the other end of the ridgeline, just barely in view:
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And the views from the top were unparalleled, though they came and went through the clouds. Here’s a view into a tiny village in the valley opposite of the Mürren side:
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And the mountains behind:
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As well as those on the Mürren side:
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At times, it was completely sunny with great views and then three minutes later clouds would roll in from the Mürren side, though the ridge on which I was standing acted as a barrier, forcing the clouds up — they never seemed to spill over to the other side, allowing me at least one side of clear views at all times. It was super interesting, and rather unnerving, to witness clear weather on one side with a completely dark cloud on the other and to be at the literal edge of it all.
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More of the awesome Ptarmigan:
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Then, just as I said bye to a couple of passing German rock climbers, my lifer WALLCREEPER flew by at point blank. I hurried to the top of the ridge to try to get a view of where it went, but unfortunately just as fast as it appeared, it was gone. Alas. It was a stunning bird with a coal-gray body and pink flashes on the wings — absolutely unmistakable at a close range and how awesome to get it on my first try for this species. To say I was thrilled to get this, on top of the Ptarmigans, is an understatement.

On my way down, I found a few passerines and they in turn completed my high-alpine trifecta of life birds: ALPINE ACCENTOR! Absolutely another awesome high-elevation specialist that few get to see.
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More of the resident Eurasian Kestrels:
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I met my dad back down at the mountain café just five minutes later than I had estimated, and we enjoyed a delicious meal with a great view:
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The hike was 2600 feet of elevation gain over 5 miles round trip which is extremely steep, and my added spur at the end added an extra half mile with an extra 700 feet of gain, so suffice to say…we were more than ready for lunch.
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There was also a hut nearby that rents out to skiers, backpackers, and the like, but was open at the time:
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Then, my dad and I simultaneously spotted a huge, condor-like bird which at first I thought was my lifer Eurasian Gryphon but upon further research it turned out to be another high elevation specialist, my lifer BEARDED VULTURE! Sooooo cool.
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Two more high-elevation alpine birds I got as lifers on the way down, though unphotographed, were WHITE-WINGED SNOW-FINCH and EURASIAN NUTCRACKER!

The day got clearer and clearer, providing magnificent views:
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CARRION CROW on the way down:
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And a lifer mammal: European Marmot!
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COMMON LINNET:
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Nice slick of butterflies on the trail:
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EUROPEAN ROBIN:
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One heard-only lifer in the area of this Robin was a COMMON FIRECREST singing a song very reminiscent of the “see-see-see” that Golden-crowned Kinglets sing back in the states — a close cousin of theirs.

Right after this, we had one final challenge of the hike: cows in the trail! My dad took a long circuitous route through the woods while I scampered along the side of the hill, clinging to tree roots and branches mere feet from the gentle giants.
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And we ended the hike back in Mürren with this COAL TIT:
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What a phenomenal trek, in terms of views and of birds! This hike alone netted me twelve life birds which is the most I have gotten in a single day since visiting Torres Del Paine Nt’l Park in Chile back in January of 2020.

Bird-of-the-day goes to the fabulous surprise of finding seven ROCK PTARMIGAN, a regional eBird high-count and of course a great lifer, and WALLCREEPER, which would have gotten top spot if it had allowed for photos. Too many other highlights to even mention, except below in the lifer list!

Happy birding,
Henry
World Life List: 1164 Species (13 life birds today)

Life birds:
Alpine Accentor
Water Pipit
Rock Ptarmigan
Bearded Vulture
Wallcreeper
Yellow-billed Chough
Common Firecrest
White-winged Snowfinch
Eurasian Nutcracker
Common Chiffchaff
Northern Wheatear
Fieldfare
Ring Ouzel

Posted by skwclar 21:44 Archived in Switzerland Comments (1)

Summer Doldrums

Lake County, IL

all seasons in one day 89 °F

Today, we finally had a (relatively) smoke-free day, so Parker and I joined my friend Oliver for a day of birding and herping the Illinois Beach State Park area. Targets were: King Rail, Common Tern, Brewer’s Blackbird, Chestnut-sided & Hooded Warblers, Eastern Foxsnake, and Eastern Hognose Snake.

We started just across the state line at an adjacent prairie area where we were greeted by EASTERN BLUEBIRDS:
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And a proliferation of DICKCISSELS:
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It was already heating up substantially and this drought has resulted in very few wet patches in areas that would usually be marsh, so we decided the long(ish) walk to some longshot King Rails was not worth the sweat. So, we headed into the State Park to check for snakes and on the way in found some Eastern Painted Turtles out basking:
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EASTERN KINGBIRD:
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BELTED KINGFISHER:
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No snakes were found at our snake spot, probably due to the fact that it is mid-summer and hot, so we continued on to search for Brewer’s Blackbirds and anything else that might be around.

GREAT EGRET:
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While waiting for the Brewer’s Blackbirds to appear, we had this KILLDEER along the lakefront:
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And right after Oliver said “I bet we will get them further back in the dunes,” as we were walking into the dunes from the lakefront, this male BREWER’S BLACKBIRD materialized on a shrub in front of us! Super cool that this population, the only one in the entire state of Illinois, persists. This is a western species.
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And more Painters on the way out.
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Our next stop was Lyons Woods in search of Chestnut-sided and Hooded Warblers. RUBY-THROATED HUMMINGBIRD:
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And my heart skipped a beat when I saw this bird — seeing a bright yellow bird with a bright white vent immediately brought “Evening Grosbeak” to the front of my mind which triggered quite the psychosomatic response, but my rational brain corrected within three seconds to the more logical, and correct, ID of CEDAR WAXWING — Oliver got quite a laugh when I explained this to him. Eh, heat hallucination…
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Yep. Waxwing, lol…
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Again, due to the midsummer heat, we dipped on our targets…midsummer birding is tough and today was no exception. Luckily, after a bit of searching at our next stop, Waukegan Harbor, we snagged our main target there: COMMON TERN, which annoyingly never banked to the side for a decent shot so I’m just left with this rump shot. Was an IL year bird for us, and this is also the only place in IL where this species breeds to my knowledge.
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One nice surprise on the way out was this ratty HOODED MERGANSER in the harbor:
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Bird-of-the-day to the Brewer’s Blackbird with runner-up to the Common Tern. Nice to see these Lake County specialties, and to bird with Oliver, even if the rest of the day was slow.

Now: off to Verbier, Switzerland!!! I’ll arrive there this monday, and I sing in the young artist programme there from July 9-31, followed by my annual Idaho vacation for birding & hiking August 1-8, followed by another hop across the pond to sing in the great cathedrals of England from August 9-21 before flying back to New York. I will most likely again fall far behind in posting, but eventually everything will get posted here!

Happy birding,
Henry
World Life List: 1151 Species

Posted by skwclar 00:21 Archived in USA Comments (0)

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