Entries tagged with “wildlife”.


This evening I saw the first bat of 2014, it was probably Pipistrellus pipistrellus or Pipistrellus pygmaeus (based on previous identifications). Interestingly this sighting is later than in the last two years, it was 26th March 2012 and 30th March 2009. Maybe I haven’t been looking out enough.

I take the bat sighting as a sign of the coming summer, a couple of times recently I thought I heard swifts overhead, but have yet to see any, so I can’t confirm their presence just yet.

Update 19-4-2014: Noticed today the swift calls I have been hearing aren’t actually from swifts, they were from starlings mimicking swifts, which is a new one on me. I have heard starlings mimicking a range of other sounds before, including a car alarm.

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Der Kaiserstuhl, literally the Emperor’s Chair, a range of hills in south west Germany, is the remains of an extinct volcano rising out of the Upper Rhine Plain like an island, and a fine place to go for a walk. The place got its name from Otto III who held a court nearby in 994. At this time he was merely King of Germany and the hills were given the name Königsstuhl, the King’s Chair. Some time after Otto had himself made ruler of the Holy Roman Empire in 996, the name was changed to Kaiserstuhl, although it is not clear if this happened before his death in 1002 (the change in name may not have occurred until the 13th century).

Walking up the Kaiserstuhl

Late summer shadows on the Kaiserstuhl

The hills today are a fascinating mix of vineyards, woodland and high hay meadows, with a near Mediterranean climate. This leads to it having an interesting flora and fauna, a number of the species living here have disjunct distributions, meaning that they are away from their normal areas. One such species is the European green lizard (Lacerta viridis) which normally only found east of the Alps, sadly we didn’t get to see any. The Kaiserstuhl is also famous for its orchid flora with over 30 different species having been recorded there. However, as we were visiting in September, we didn’t see any of these either. We did get to see a range of invertebrates, including Praying Mantis (Mantis religiosa) for which the Kaiserstuhl is well known, and a range of other bugs and butterflies.

Praying Mantis (Mantis religiosa)

Praying Mantis (Mantis religiosa)
Praying Mantis (Mantis religiosa)

Streifenwanze or Minstrel Bug (Graphosoma lineatum) on the Kaiserstuhl
Streifenwanze or Minstrel Bug (Graphosoma lineatum)

Chalkhill Blue (Polyommatus coridon) on the Kaiserstuhl
Chalkhill Blue (Polyommatus coridon)

Knappe (Lygaeus saxatilis)
Knappe (Lygaeus saxatilis)

Berger's Clouded Yellow (Colias alfacariensis)
Berger’s Clouded Yellow (Colias alfacariensis)

Euplagia quadripunctaria
Russischer Bär or Jersey Tiger (Euplagia quadripunctaria)

There where also a number of snails (as yet unidentified) hanging from grass stalks, I am told they do this to avoid the midday heat.

Snail on grass

Snail on grass

shades of autumn

The floral highlight we did come across was Autumn Crocus (Colchicum autumnale).
Autumn Crocus (Colchicum autumnale) on the Kaiserstuhl

After the hay cut

Given that this is a wine producing area, after the walk you might suppose that we repaired to a hostelry to sample the local produce, but we didn’t. I once asked a German friend (who harks from the Mosel region) and who is something of a connoisseur to recommend a good German wine. His reply was that there was no such thing and that I should stick with French, Italian and Austrian wines, advice I have followed since (when in Germany). So instead we adjourned to sample the café culture of Freiburg, a visit I touched on in the last post, but I feel that is for yet another post.

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I have just seen the first bats of the year, two of them flying around at the back of my flat. Unfortunately it was just too dark for taking photos. It was flying in roughly clockwise circles at about 12 to 15 m above the ground, actively hunting, wing span approximately 20 to 25 cm, the body appeared dark, I didn’t see any light patches on the body. First seen at 19:25. It was probably Pipistrellus pipistrellus or Pipistrellus pygmaeus.

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It is strange how some noises can rouse you from a deep sleep to full alertness in a moment. This morning I heard one such noise, a strange voice at about 03:30, the odd thing about this one is that it was it was a blackbird (Turdus merula) singing. At this time of year in Edinburgh the sun rises at 04:26, but it starts to get light about an hour earlier and so that’s when the dawn chorus starts.

Normally the dawn chorus doesn’t bother me too much it is a daily event in spring and early summer, I am used to it and if it does wake me I use roll over and go back to sleep. This time was different the blackbird singing was a stranger, it wasn’t one of the locals which I was used to. The song was less complex and had slightly different tone, possible a juvenile male trying out his voice for the first time or maybe a vagrant who has moved in from another area, although it is rather early in the year for such migrations. Either way I lay and listened to it for half and hour or so before going back to sleep.

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This morning, sitting at breakfast looking out at a dreich and misty Arthur’s Seat, I started scanning the trees nearby, just as something to do. Over the last few years we have seen a wide range of birds around this area, Ulli, seeing me looking commented that we haven’t seen anything unusual recently. Just after she said it I noticed something odd in the top of one of the limes (Tilia Sp.), so I dug out a pair of bins and took a closer look. At first we were both puzzled and took some notes and after a wee bit of searching around we able to identify it as a Great Grey Shrike (Lanius excubitor), not your common or garden urban bird, sadly it is too dull a day for photos.

Update:

A couple of hours later there were a number of Long-tailed tits (Aegithalos caudatus) moving though and I started to wonder if I had made a mistake about the Shrike, but am not so sure, it looked bigger than a tit mouse.

Long-tailed tit 2
Either way this is definitely a Long-tailed tit (Aegithalos caudatus).

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Bear