|This is one of my favourite photos from the whole trip: Emma and I in Karwendel on the border |
of Austria and Germany at about 2000m elevation with the Austrian Alps in the background
Some might wonder, why visit Europe while doing a Big Year in Ontario? More importantly, why leave Ontario at all during a Big Year that I’ve been planning for two years?? Well, my beautiful, talented, and very interesting girlfriend Emma is currently working in Max Planck Institut Fur Ornithologie in Bavaria, Germany. She has been in Europe since September and probably will not be back until at least mid-April. I miss her a lot – seriously a lot – and I figured that going to visit her would help us both to feel a little more comfortable for the rest of the season while being so far apart. Also, my close friend Josh whose Big Year record I am aiming to beat jokes with me regularly about how any serious Big Year contender needs to leave the province for at least one significant period of time during said year, like he did a couple of times in his 2012 Ontario Big Year. By the way, if interested, read more about Josh’s 2012 Big Year and other adventures on his very interesting blog, which can be found at
|This is one of three 'gates' of Munich, certainly from a time when the city was not so large.|
|It was interesting and exciting to see many hundreds of German people in Munich taking |
part in the Women's March in protest of recent US political values.
|Common Gulls are basically Europe's version of our Ring-billed Gulls!|
|The Black-headed Gulls on the Starnberger See know some |
pretty cool tricks after being fed so much by people!
Emma had most of that day free so being a total sweetheart she met me at the airport so I wouldn’t get lost in Munich or its airport due to its entirely German signage, busy train stations, etc. We stopped in downtown Munich to take a short bus tour, and thoroughly enjoyed seeing some of the nice historical buildings and sights in the heart of the beautiful city. We then carried on to Starnberg, the smaller city closest to the institute where Emma is working out of and living at, where we briefly stopped to admire the Black-headed, Common, and Yellow-legged Gulls, Common Pochards and Tufted Ducks, and a number of other waterbirds present on the Starnberger See (Lake Starnberg). We eventually ran out of daylight so we boarded a bus to the institute.
|This Coal Tit posed just perfectly for us while we were out walking. Coal Tits are |
a lot like our Black-capped Chickadees but are arguably cuter and more compact.
|Emma was arguably the cutest bird in the whole forest!|
The first full day was a lot of fun too! We walked the nearby trails through beautiful forests and fields, seeing many of the European songbirds that I’m familiar with from England like Blue, Great, Coal, and Marsh Tits, Eurasian Jays, Carrion Crows, Goldcrests, and a number of finch species. Also, Emma showed me my first Yellowhammers and a Crested Tit, both being very pretty species. We eventually arrived at a monastery called Andechs where there is a pub type restaurant and locally brewed beer for sale. After a great meal we called it a day.
|Yellowhammer was new to my life list. I did not mind them being so common or so colourful!|
We picked up a rental car on January 23 and headed an hour south to the town of Mittenvald at the border of Germany and Austria, where we rode a gondola ski lift to the edge of Austria’s Naturpark Karwendel to search for alpine birds. When we got up the mountain we realized that the excessive snow this winter prevented visitors from walking more than a couple hundred metres on the trails, and we unfortunately did not see a single bird while we were up there. Emma somehow spotted a Chamois, a very nice looking goat-antelope species, at least five hundred metres away!
|It was neat to be standing on the peak of a mountain that divided Germany and Austria, and the view was not bad either!|
|I'm not sure what makes White-throated Dippers want to swim in such cold water |
in the winter rather than forage on land, but this one was ready to dive right in!
Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for my account of the rest of the trip!