Switzerland- Lausanne and a day out to the Bernese Oberland, 5-7 June 2015

I have composed the following notes and images to help any visitors that may be heading to either place and have an interest in wildlife.  Despite being very well travelled in Europe, the most mountainous country wasn’t on my list. My wife booked surprise flights and accommodation at he Ibis Hotel, Lausanne for a weekend break to remedy this. We flew from Bristol to Geneva with Easyjet, took a train to Lausanne where we stayed for two nights. We used the metro and our legs to explore the town and shores of Lake Geneva. In addition we hired a car from Hertz for the day to explore the Bernese Oberland for a day, this spectacular region was only a two hour drive away. Highlights and images (copyright M.J.McGill) to follow.

Junkers Ju-52 from Murren, Bernese Oberland- 6 June 2015
This aircraft was built in 1938 and has an interesting history, it was used in the 1968 film-Where Eagles Dare, a much repeated but favourite childhood film.

JU-52 Junkers, Murren, Switzerland, MJMcGill

An early start due to a 2 hr drive to our target area, we stopped for provisions at the supermarket in Wilderswil and arrived at our destination in good time. The drive up through the Lauterbrunnen Valley to reach the car park is awesome, with more time to explore it has Wallcreeper written all over it. Offering sheer rock faces, spectacular waterfalls and sun spots aplenty it seems perfect, one for another day. Taking the Stechelberg 922m cable car (c£150 for us both) to the summit passing a close group of Chamois (one kid) which browsed the choice bits of a scree slope. We cruised past the limestone walls, crags, forests, meadows and snow fields.

At the top of the Schilthorn 2971m I estimated 15+ individuals of Alpine Accentor, many were viewable from the ‘James Bond’ revolving restaurant/cable car station. Pairs seemed to be in competition and males were in full song. I left the ‘safe’ area and followed a walking trail away from the busier tourist area. It was quiet, only birds, the breeze, Alpine Marmots calling (and showing below), this was a new species for me. The loudest sounds came from the rumble of avalanches on the steep mountain slopes adjacent. Snow Finch have been recorded here but I could not locate any, possibly too early or just not nesting in the area this year. Inquisitive Alpine Chough were numerous both here and lower down at the Birg cable car station. We had a drink and a bite to eat from the Piz Gloria restaurant and enjoyed the changing scenery as the restaurant rotated, Bond fans may want to visit the ‘museum’ below as On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was partly filmed here.

Views from all of the cable car stops are stupendous, we watched a Golden Eagle rise from beneath us and soar to great heights within minutes from the Birg platform. Having the Eiger and Jungfrau as a backdrop in bright, sunny and clear weather was brilliant. Dropping down to the Murren platform we walked back up hill through alpine meadows and butterflies to initially have a drink at a restaurant (it was another very hot day, 30 C+)then to picnic next to a stream. I chilled the food and drink in the cold water, it allowed our melted Toblerone to reform but not in the distinctive shape.

I was pleased to see and hear a 1930’s Ju-52 transport plane  in the valley, pic above. Around the car-less village we saw Black Redstarts, Serins, Siskin and Redpolls as well as Continental Coal Tit and Firecrests, both feeding young.

Alpine Accentor (next three images) Summit of the Schilthorn.

Alpine Accentor, Shilthorn, 002, MJMcGill

Alpine Accentor, Shilthorn, 003, MJMcGill

Alpine Accentor, Shilthorn, Switzerland, 001, MJMcGill

Black Redstart- singing male, framed in a Murren Chimney Pot with the Eiger beyond.

Black Redstart and the Eiger, Murren, Switzerland, MJMcGill

Alpine Choughs (next two)

Alpine Chough, Shilthorn, Swiss Alps, MJMcGill

Alpine Chough, Shilthorn, MJMcGill

Lausanne Ouchy
Note the Red-crested Pochard

Ouchy, RCP, MJMcGill

Tour de l’Ale, Lausanne- this medieval tower was the home for many Alpine Swifts, their chattering calls could be heard all over the town but concentrations both here and around the cathedral were noted in the evenings. A Hobby at the latter site caused them and the hirundines to form up a dense nervous party, I estimated c 30 Alpine Swift. The tower acts as a giant nest box, it may have been home to these boomerang winged birds for centuries. Black Redstarts were very common about the town.

Tour de L'Ale Tower, Lausanne

Red-crested Pochard
These smart ducks were common on Lake Geneva and approachable, we hired a pedalo and got some great views! It just goes to show once again that being approachable does not always mean that they escaped from a captive collection. This species has increased rapidly in Switzerland from the 1990’s, improved water quality allowing aquatic vegetation (their choice of food) to grow again.

Red-crested Pochard, Ouchy, MJMcGill

Red-crested Pochard, Ouchy, Lake Geneva, MJMcGill

Red-crested Pochard, Lake Geneva, MJMcGill

RCP and pedalo, Ouchy, Switzerland, MJMcGill

Red-crested Pochards, Lake Geneva, MJMcGill

The Ouchy marina held a variety of common water birds including White Wagtail, Yellow legged Gull, Common Tern, Mute Swan, Pochard, Tufted Duck, Red-crested Pochard and Cormorant.
Great Crested Grebe

Great Crested Grebe, Ouchy Marina, Lake Geneva, MJMcGill

Lausanne Ouchy marina, busy with waterbirds, some kind soul had provided a raft for the grebes to nest among the boats.

Great Crested Grebes and Red-crested Pochard, Ouchy Marina, Lake Geneva Great Crested Grebe, Lausanne Marina

Other species of note were the numerous Black Kites along the shore of Lake Geneva and in the lowland valleys, 100’s were seen during the weekend. One Red Kite was seen between Bern and Interlaken both on the way and returning from the Bernese Oberland. I hope you enjoyed the images and notes.

Martin McGill July 2015






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