Thursday, August 12, 2010

Back From Europe!

This blog has been silent during the last two weeks while the Education Department at the Audubon Center at Francis Beidler Forest took a break to visit Europe!

Our travels began with the aircraft landing in Frankfurt, Germany with our base of operations being in the small, nearby town of Ober-Ramstadt.

Although train travel took us to Paris, France; Brussels, Belgium; and London, England, the cities offered few bird sightings beyond Wood Pigeons (Columba palumbus), native House Sparrows (Passer domesticus), and Carrion Crows (Corvus corone).  St. James Park in London did have a collection of waterbirds including white pelicans, various species of ducks and geese, Common Moorhens (Gallinula chloropus), and Eurasian Coots (Fulica atra) shown below with a fuzzy-headed chick.

In Paris, we noticed a feline high above the street and theorized that its presence may be having an impact on the local bird population.

We also spotted a familiar friend in London's St. James Park.  Although the tag identifies the tree as a Swamp Cypress, the scientific name, Taxodium distichum, informs us that the Bald Cypress too is merely a tourist from the southeastern United States.

Most of our bird sightings occurred in the fields and woods around Ober-Ramstadt.  Actually, we first heard the birds.  Many of the sounds reminded us of birds we knew from our surroundings in South Carolina.  There was a chickadee-like call, a red-bellied woodpecker sound-alike, and a red-shouldered hawk cousin.  Upon inspection with our binoculars, we spied Blaumeise (Parus caeruleus) and Kohlmeise (Parus major), which are unmistakable cousins of our Carolina Chickadee (Poecile carolinensis) in the Family Paridae.  The woodpecker was a Buntspech (Dendrocopos major), which shares the Family Picidae with our Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus).  The Maeusebussard (Buteo buteo) stationed on the fence post ignoring the large European Hare (Lepus europaeus) loping by is related to our Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus) and Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis).

Unfamiliar birds included the European Magpie (Pica pica), which is in the crow family (Corvidae) and has a reputation for stealing shiny objects for its nest treasure collection.

In the local fruit trees, we saw the Serin (Serinus serinus).

At the field's edge, a Greenfinch (Carduelis chloris) picked seeds from unharvested crop.

Farther into the field was perched a European Robin (Erithacus rubecula), although the Amsel's (Turdus merula) size and behavior is more likely to remind one of the American Robin (Turdus migratorius).

Throughout the countryside, we saw large flocks of Starlings (Sturnus vulgaris) in their native habitat (no need to add European to the head of their common name).

Although happy to be back in the swamp, we did not miss the humidity!  Fortunately, the humidity here does not bring out European Red Slugs (Arion rufus).  Even the slightest rain in Germany would cause thousands of these 4-inch mollusks to ooze out onto the trails and sidewalks.  Not a pleasant experience when encountered by the tread of a running shoe or the wheel of rolling luggage.

Images by Mark Musselman.

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