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A Report from

Switzerland (south west) 9th – 17th July 2004,

Nick Crouch

We flew from Nottingham East Midlands to Geneva with Easyjet. This was not a birding holiday, but several days were spent in places were I could look for alpine species.  We spent much of our time in Lausanne, and relied on public transport and the kindness of our hosts (my girlfriend’s aunt) to get around. We found the trains very efficient, but expensive.

9th July

We arrived in GENEVA in the late afternoon, with the first bird of the trip being a Black Kite seen from the plane as we taxied into the terminal.  We then travelled to Lausanne, noting a number of common species from the car, including more Black Kites, a couple of Common Buzzards, lots of Wood Pigeons and Common Swifts, a single Collared Dove, numerous House Martins, Carrion Crows and House Sparrows, and two Greenfinches.

Having arrived at our accommodation in LAUSANNE, we made an evening visit to Sauvebin, an area of park/woodland in the north of the town, with a tall timber viewing tower looking out over Lac Leman and the Alps beyond. A few typical woodland species were seen or heard, including Green and Great Spotted Woodpecker, Robin, Blackbird, Coal, Blue and Great Tit, Nuthatch and Chaffinch. Around the café, there were Carrion Crows and House Sparrows in abundance, whilst on the adjacent lake there were c. 20 Mallard, plus a fully-grown juvenile Goosander. From the top of the viewing tower, a single Alpine Swift was amongst the Common Swifts.

10th July

In LAUSANNE we paid a quick visit to an area of vegetable gardens planted up on an old industrial estate. A number of common species were noted here, including Wood Pigeon, Blackbird, House Sparrow, Carrion Crow, along with a single Greenfinch, and a Serin that was heard singing, but could not be seen. We then drove east along Lac Leman towards the Alps, seeing numerous Black Kites en route. Additionally, two Black-headed Gulls were noted on the lake at Ouchy, a Peregrine was glimpsed above Montreux, and a Mute Swan and 15 Coot were on the lake at Villeneuve, along with a few Barn Swallows hawking over the water.

We then headed south, stopping briefly at Monthey, where the first White Wagtail of the trip was noted, before turning south-west up into the mountains, reaching our destination, Troistorrentes, at lunchtime. The chalet we were visiting had a resident pair of Black Redstarts nesting under the eaves, with three small chicks, whilst a range of other species were observed visiting the garden – Jay, Nuthatch, Willow Tit, Coal Tit, Blackcap, and Robin amongst them. Overhead, Black Kite, Common Buzzard and Raven were noted, and a small group of Alpine Chough (6) flew down, and then back up, the valley.

After lunch, we went further up the valley, beyond Champéry, where we parked at Chemin sous la Braye on the Route de Barme, then taking the footpath for approximately 1.5km up to Barme. Notable species here included Mistle Thrush, Kestrel, Chiffchaff (c.3) and a small colony of Crag Martins. At BARME itself, Grey and White Wagtail, Kestrel (2), Black Redstart and a single Citril Finch were in evidence.  Walking back down the valley, we were very fortunate to glimpse a stunning (female) Wallcreeper.  It was only seen for literally a few seconds about 300 hundred metres to the east of the easternmost buildings in BARME, perched on a rock face opposite us, where the river went goes through a narrow gorge area  (with the footpath running along the top). However, it was at a range of about 40 metres, and more or less at eye level, so views were good, if brief! It then flew up, out of the gorge and away from us to the far side of the valley, where it was seen to land on a small rocky outcrop in a meadow area where it was soon lost from sight.

11th July

Starting the day in Troistorrentes, Raven, Common Buzzard (8), Black Kite, Grey Heron (1, flying down the valley), Great Spotted Woodpecker and Black Redstart were noted. We then drove to another chalet located further to the south, taking the E62 to Martigny, then turning off the main road towards TRIENT. Just beyond TRIENT, we turned off to Finhaut, and then finally to Giétroz, arriving at a place called Les Combes. It was near the chalet we were visiting (the last chalet along this track) that my first Nutcracker was seen, first located by call, but then seen perched on top of a spruce tree. Unfortunately weather conditions were not great (it was raining), so only poor views were obtained.

After lunch, we walked up the path from the chalet towards Lac d’Emosson in France. The first stretch of path rose through fairly dense conifer woods, before opening up slightly. Crested Tit (4), Goldcrest, Coal Tit, Dunnock, Chiffchaff and Great Spotted Woodpecker were seen or heard, although a Treecreeper sp. eluded identification. Then towards the top of this path section, we flushed a group of Hazel Grouse from in front of us. About 10 birds scattered in all directions, flying up into the trees and generally out of sight. One, however, landed in a tree adjacent to us, perhaps 30 metres away. It was soon located and identified as a female, and gave good views as it sat almost motionless whilst we watched it for about half an hour. Continuing on, the path shortly flattened out (briefly), before dropping down into the valley beyond. We walked partway up to the Lac d’Emosson dam, before retracing our steps. There was no further sign of the Hazelhen, but about 3 or 4 Nutcrackers were watched feeding in a large spruce tree back near the start of the path, although our enjoyment was cut short when they were disturbed by other walkers.

12th July

Leaving Troistorrentes, we returned to LAUSANNE, spending the rest of the day in the town centre. Birds seen here included an Alpine Swift around the cathedral, Starling in a small park (seemingly a scarce bird in Switzerland), Blackbird, Black Kite and Collared Dove. In the evening, Green Woodpecker (juvenile), Black Redstart, Greenfinch, House Sparrow and Common Swift were seen in a small park opposite our accommodation.

13th July

We left LAUSANNE in the morning (after noting the usual flocks of Common Swifts), catching the train to Villeneuve at the eastern end of Lac Leman. We then walked the short distance to the Les Grangettes nature reserve, seeing both Red-crested Pochard and Common Pochard on the lake.

Entering the reserve, we crossed the area of waste ground on the right of the road, flushing a Little Ringed Plover, and looked out over the reedbeds towards the breakwater. A range of water birds were seen, including more Red-crested Pochards (c.20), Common Pochard (c.2), Tufted Duck (c.200), Great-crested Grebe (very large numbers, at least 300), Coot (numerous), Goosander (1f), Common Sandpiper (1), Mallard (a few), Yellow-legged Gull (many), Black-headed Gull (many), Cormorant (many), Mute Swan, and Common Tern (20-30). A number of Reed Warblers were also seen and heard.

We then continued through the wet woodland beside the lake, noting Blackcap (many), Chiffchaff (many), Spotted Flycatcher (an adult feeding juveniles), Great, Blue and Marsh Tits, Eurasian Treecreeper (family group), Blackbird, Song Thrush, Black Kite, Common Buzzard, House Martin, Golden Oriole (heard only), Great Spotted Woodpecker, Nuthatch, Wren, Jay, Carrion Crow, Wood Pigeon and Goldfinch. Towards the centre of the reserve there was a small group of houses and a campsite, around which Serin, Black Redstart, House Sparrow, Tree Sparrow and Starling were found.

We continued on through the woods until we reached the Grand Canal. Where the canal enters the lake, Reed Bunting (1), Little Grebe (2), Moorhen (2), White Wagtail, and Common Sandpiper were noted, whilst on the lake beyond, a group of six Eider were seen in the distance. These birds have apparently only started summering on the lake fairly recently. We then returned to Villeneuve across the farmland at the back of the site, seeing little of note, before returning to LAUSANNE.

14th July

We caught the train from LAUSANNE to Montreux, from here we took a ‘tourist’ train up to the Rochers de Naye, from which an immature Golden Eagle was seen circling over the mountainside.

Arriving on top of the Rochers de Naye was slightly disappointing at first, with few birds in evidence other than Alpine Choughs, and thick cloud masking the view. We decided to walk down from the Rochers de Naye to the previous train stop at Dent de Jamon. The initial section of the path along the main ridge produced Northern Wheatear (adult plus juvenile) and Water Pipit, and when we dropped down into the valley below, Alpine Accentors were much in evidence, with at least 10 noted. Other species seen included Citril Finch and Linnet (in a mixed feeding flock), Black Redstart and Magpie. Having reached the train stop, we climbed up the Dent de Jamon, enjoying incredible views in all directions, with Lac Leman to the west, and the Alps dominating in the other directions. A group of Alpine Choughs (c. 15) soon arrived (attracted by our afternoon snacks), and were almost close enough to touch, whilst two Ravens were also in the area. Climbing back down, we caught the train back to MONTREUX, and returned to LAUSANNE.

15th July

Today was a leisurely day spent by the Lac Leman at Ouchy. Little was seen in the way of birds, with the usual species noted.

16th July

Leaving LAUSANNE mid-morning, we ventured in the direction of the Jura, catching the train up to STE-CROIX, from where we took a short walk up into the hills to the north of the town. The birding wasn’t up to much, with Yellowhammer being the only new species added to the trip list; in fact, the butterflies provided more of an interest. However, a calling woodpecker was a tantalising suggestion that a Grey-headed was in the area, but unfortunately the bird didn’t reveal itself. Jay, Common Buzzard, Black Kite, Kestrel, Magpie and Blackbird were amongst species that gave themselves up much more easily.

17th July

Our last morning – Black Kite, Common Swift and House Sparrow were seen from the car as travelled from LAUSANNE to GENEVA, in order to catch our flight back to the UK.

Species List

Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis
Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus
Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea
Mute Swan Cygnus olor
Mallard Anas platyrhynchos
Red-crested Pochard Netta rufina
Common Pochard Aythya ferina
Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula
Common Eider Somateria mollissima
Goosander Mergus merganser
Black Kite Milvus migrans
Common Buzzard Buteo buteo
Golden Eagle Aquila chrysaetos
Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus
Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus
Hazel Grouse Bonasa bonasia
Moorhen Gallinula chloropus
Common Coot Fulica atra
Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius
Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos
Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundus
Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis
Common Tern Sterna hirundo
Wood Pigeon Columba palumbus
Collared Dove Streptopelia decaocto
Common Swift Apus apus
Alpine Swift Apus melba
Green Woodpecker Picus viridis
Great Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos major
Crag Martin Ptyonoprogne rupestris
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica
House Martin Delichon urbica
Water Pipit Anthus spinoletta
Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea
White Wagtail Motacilla alba
Wren Troglodytes troglodytes
Hedge Accentor Prunella modularis
Alpine Accentor Prunella collaris
Robin Erithacus rubecula
Black Redstart Phoenicurus ochruros
Northern Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe
Blackbird Turdus merula
Song Thrush Turdus philomelos
Mistle Thrush Turdus viscivorus
Reed Warbler Acrocephalus scirpaceus
Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla
Common Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita
Goldcrest Regulus regulus
Spotted Flycatcher Muscicapa striata
Marsh Tit Poecile palustris
Willow Tit Poecile montanus
Crested Tit Lophophanes cristatus
Coal Tit Periparus ater
Blue Tit Cyanistes caeruleus
Great Tit Parus major
European Nuthatch Sitta europaea
Wallcreeper Tichodroma muraria
Eurasian Treecreeper Certhia familiaris
Golden Oriole Oriolus oriolus
Eurasian Jay Garrulus glandarius
Magpie Pica pica
Nutcracker Nucifraga caryocatactes
Alpine Chough Pyrrhocorax graculus
Carrion Crow Corvus corone
Common Raven Corvus corax
Common Starling Sturnus vulgaris
House Sparrow Passer domesticus
Tree Sparrow Passer montanus
Common Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs
European Serin Serinus serinus
Citril Finch Serinus citrinella
Greenfinch Carduelis chloris
Linnet Carduelis cannabina
Common Crossbill Loxia curvirostra
Yellowhammer Emberiza citrinella
Reed Bunting Emberiza schoeniclus


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