Visit your favourite destinations
Western Europe
North America
Eastern Europe
South America
Middle East
East Indies

A Report from

Switzerland 10-13 June, 2010,

Remco Hofland


Jan Bisschop (currrently living in Zurich), Bas van den Boogaard, Remco Hofland and Lucas Kaaij from the Netherlands. Pieter Bouma (currently living in Basel) joined on June 11.


Confiding pairs of Rock Partridge and Rock Ptarmigan, prolonged views of up to seven displaying male Black Grouse and a hammering male Three-toed Woodpecker were our best sightings. Other highlights included several Golden Eagles, Alpine Swift, Alpine Accentor, Nutcracker and Snowfinch (BB, LK), along with hundreds of blooming orchids, many obliging Alpine Marmots and great mountain scenery.


Black Grouse, Vals, June 12 (Jan Bisschop)


Birds we tried for in vain were Hazel Grouse and Wallcreeper. The former is easier in August, when they have young. Two pairs of the latter are said to breed in Vals gorge, but we failed to find any (in late morning). Citril Finch (my other possible lifer) eluded us, but is easier in western Switzerland. Unfortunately, Pygmy Owl and Western Bonelli’s Warbler were heard only.


All sites around Vals are described in Where to watch birds in Switzerland and can easily be found on Googlemaps.

Jan’s site for Three-toed Woodpecker in Obertoggenburg I cannot disclose. 

Rapperswil is situated on the northern shore of Lake Zurich, just north of the only road crossing the lake (four-fifth of the lake south of Zurich). The boardwalk that leads past the Black-headed Gull colony, from where we saw Common Eider, Red-crested Pochard, Great Reed Warbler and Mediterranean Gull, starts from the village and heads south (just east of the road crossing the lake). Little Egret was seen in the distant reeds west of the road. The boardwalk is easily found on Googlemaps.

Rottenschwil’s oxbow is found just west of Reuss river; a path leads along the edge from where the oxbow, and its Little Bitterns, are easily seen (see Googlemaps).


We paid € 234 for a KLM return ticket Amsterdam- Zurich. For three days’ rental car, two nights in hotels (we spent one night at Jan’s place in Zurich), all grocery shopping and a tank of gas we each paid € 180. Pizza’s were c. € 10 each.

Rock Partridge site, with BB, JB, LK & PB
Vals gorge, June 11 and Vals in background, June 11


Thu June 10

8.45 pm flight KLM Amsterdam – Zurich. Arrival c. 10.30 pm, half an hour late due to thunderstorms over Germany, causing a queue of airplanes and consequently a delay in landing. Picked up by Jan Bisschop, collected our spacious Sixt rental car and drove 10 mins to Jan’s house in a Zurich suburb. Chatted and had a drink on the balcony in the warm evening. To bed at 0.30.

Fri June 11

Up at 5 am, left at 5.30 am for the 2-hr drive to Vals (GR, through Chur and Ilanz). Arrived here 7.45 am and had a coffee at the local bakery while waiting for Pieter Bouma, another Swiss-based Dutch birder, coming from Basel. Together, the 5 of us ascended the mountain west of Vals village, the road of which starts opposite the post office (next to the bakery). Checking all areas with rocks amidst meadows adjacent to forest, we were successful at the uppermost patch, where a pair of Rock Partridge allowed good viewing c. 60m away. Other good birds included several Golden Eagles, three distant Alpine Choughs and some Northern Ravens. After about an hour we drove to the end of the road where we ended up in the snow. Walking even higher, we soon encountered a confiding, summer-plumaged, displaying pair of (Rock) Ptarmigan and a couple of Alpine Accentors. Water Pipit and Northern Wheatear were common and three Snowfinches flew past. Apart from a few raindrops towards the end of the morning, we had a bright clear day, birding in our t-shirts on occasion.

After lunch at the Vals bakery we checked a narrow gorge east of Vals village, said to hold two pairs of Wallcreeper. We did not find any, but saw few Crag Martins and heard a calling Bonelli’s Warbler. Hereafter, Pieter headed back towards Basel and we drove up into the forest just south of Vals village. In the past, Jan saw Hazel Grouse here on a number of occasions and Three-toed Woodpecker is supposed to occur; we failed to find both. Overall the forest was rather quiet, apart from Bullfinch (HO), Crested Tit and Treecreeper. We checked into a hotel in Vals and had an early pizza dinner and early night.

Early Purple Orchid Orchis macula
Hazel Grouse site
Alpine vegetation
All photos, Vals, June 11 (Remco Hofland)

Sat June 12

Up at 5.30 am. Drove to the parking at the chapel adjacent to (the northeastern corner of) the Zervreilasee about 5 km south of Vals village, arriving at 6.10. Soon we were watching seven male Black Grouse in courtship display, as close as 5m from the car. I even made a video of a displaying male on top of a coniferous tree, next to a Nutcracker, whereas Bas and Jan made great pix. Even though it rained heavily for half an hour, the birds kept displaying until 8, and showed really well. Afterwards we continued our search for Citril Finch, that we had started the previous day, to no avail unfortunately. We did encounter several Nutcrackers, Siskins, Bullfinch, Crested & Coal Tits and Treecreeper. The end of the morning was spent wandering around the lower forest one more time, but still we failed to find Hazel Grouse or Three-toed Woodpecker.

After lunch at the Vals bakery we drove towards Obertoggenburg, where Jan knew a better spot for Three-toed Woodpecker. Before reaching the site we dipped into Fürstendom Liechtenstein, to tick a new country. At the intended forest, we walked around half the afternoon, checking out the forest and its trails. Black Woodpecker was the best bird this afternoon, followed by Common Redstart in the village where we stayed. Again, an early pizza dinner and early night.

Sun June 13

Up at 4.30 am, early breakfast at the hotel and back in the forest by 6. Less than a km into the forest, we heard a Three-toed Woodpecker hammering away territorially in a coniferous tree next to the path. Not long after hearing it we found a male about 15m up the tree, and we were able to watch it for about 10 mins. Afterwards we continued our walk, looking for Hazel Grouse but again failed to find any. Best bird was a Pygmy Owl, heard calling only twice (JB, RH). Having seen our main targets, and having failed to find Hazel Grouse, we decided to focus on seeing some non-alpine species.

First we headed to Rapperswil, on the eastern shore of Lake Zurich. Here we walked the boardwalk and found 48 Red-crested Pochard, 6 Common Eider (a local rarity), an adult summer and a second-summer Mediterranean Gull in a Black-headed Gull-colony, a singing male Great Reed Warbler and a Little Egret (another local rarity and a new bird for Jan’s Swiss list!).

Next was an oxbow of Reuss river near the village of Rottenschwil, west of Zurich, home to two male Little Bitterns (that showed well a couple of times, both perched in reeds and in flight), a male Common Kingfisher and a calling female Lesser Spotted Woodpecker (the male was only heard). Black Kites and White Storks were common, and we also found Broad Scarlet Crocothemis erythraea, Downy Emerald Cordulia aenea, Large Red-eyed Damselfly Erythromma najas, Variable Damselfly Coenagrion pulchellum and Common Blue Damselfly Enallagma cyathigerum.

Black Grouse site, Zervreilasee, c. 5 km south of Vals, June 12 (Remco Hofland)

We ended the afternoon in Zurich, where we experienced some difficulty finding the Alpine Swifts that usually feed above the city centre. In the end we saw at least five, as well as several Black Kites and three Peregrines. After a shower and a cup of coffee at Jan’s place, we said goodbye to him and his pregnant wife Tanya and headed to the airport. After handing in the Sixt rental car, we checked in three hours prior to departure. Leaving at 7.25 pm, we landed at Amsterdam Schiphol airport at 8.35 pm (arriving at the gate at 8.55!). Today, we experienced quite a bit of rain, but all of it was pretty light.

Rock Partridge, Vals, June 11 (Jan Bisschop)


Bas and Jan made fine photographs of Rock Partridge and Black Grouse, that are published at I made some nice videos of Rock Partridge and Black Grouse, along with several of Red-crested Pochard, Great Reed Warbler, Great Crested Grebe and Goosander, which I published at


HO = heard only
W = west
S = south
imm = immature
E = east
c. = circa

Highlighted birds (i.e. Golden Eagle) are rare, or don’t occur, in Holland (and Britain), underlined is a lifer.

Recorded birds

1.   Mute Swan Cygnus olor: 10+ Rapperswil

2.   Mallard Anas platyrhynchos: common Rapperswil

3.   Red-crested Pochard Netta rufina: 48 Rapperswil, 1 pair Zurich city centre

4.   Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula: 10 Rapperswil

5.   Common Eider Somateria mollissima: 6 Rapperswil

6.   Goosander Mergus merganser: 1 male Reuss river, Rottenschwil (JB, RH)

7.   Rock Ptarmigan Lagopus muta: 1 displaying pair Vals (c. 2,000m altitude)

8.   Black Grouse Lyrurus tetrix: 7 displaying males, more HO, around chapel, S of Vals

9.   Rock Partridge Alectoris graeca: 1 pair, of which the male was calling, hillside W of Vals

10.   Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus: 20+ Rapperswil

11.   Great Cormorant Phalocrocorax carbo: 1 overhead Rapperswil

12.   Little Bittern Ixobrychus minutes: 2 males chasing each other, also clambering through reeds (one of them also heard calling) Rottenschwil

13.   Little Egret Egretta garzetta: 1 Rapperswil

14.   Grey Heron Ardea cinerea: 1 Rapperswil

15.   White Stork ciconia ciconia: 1 roadside, 10 Rottenschwil

16.   Golden Eagle Aquila chrysaetos: 2 adults, 1 juvenile Vals

17.   Red Kite Milvus milvus: 1 along the way, 8 Zurich

18.   Black Kite Milvus migrans: 5 Rapperswil, 5 Rottenschwil, 20 Zurich

19.   Common Buzzard Buteo buteo: 3

20.   Eurasian Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus: 1 Vals (RH)

21.   Northern Goshawk Accipiter gentiles: 1 Vals (BB, LK)

22.   Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus: 5

23.   Eurasian Hobby Falco subbuteo: 1 subadult male Rottenschwil

24.   Peregrine Falco peregrinus: 3 over Zurichcity centre

25.   Eurasian Coot Fulica atra: several Rapperswil, Rottenschwil

26.   Northern Lapwing Vanellus vanellus: 2 Rottenschwil

27.   Common Redshank Tringa tetanus: 1 Rottenschwil

28.   Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis: fairly common Rapperswil

29.   Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus: 2 (1 adult and 1 second-summer) Rapperswil

30.   Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundus: common Rapperswil

31.   Common Tern Sterna hirundo: 20 Rapperswil

32.   Common Wood Pigeon Columba palumbus: 5 Rottenschwil

33.   Eurasian Collared Dove Streptopelia decaocto: 1 pair in some village

34.   [HO] Common Cuckoo Cuculus canorus: 2 Vals, 1 Rottenschwil

35.   [HO] Pygmy Owl Glaucidium passerinum: 1 Obertoggenburg (not BB)

36.   Common Swift Apus apus: common over Zurich

37.   Alpine Swift Apus melba: 5 over Zurich city centre

38.   Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis: 1 male Rottenschwil

39.   Black Woodpecker Dryocopus martius: 1 Vals, 1 over the road btw Rapperswil and Zurich

40.   Green Woodpecker Picus viridis: 1 Vals (BB, RH)

41.   Great Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos major: 1 HO Vals, 1 Obertoggenburg

42.   Lesser Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos minor: 1 female Rottenschwil, the male HO

43.   Three-toed Woodpecker Picoides tridactylus: 1 male Obertoggenburg, territorially hammering at 6 am

44.   Sand Martin Riparia riparia: 7 Rottenschwil

45.   Crag Martin Ptyonoprogne rupestris: 5 Vals gorge

46.   Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica: few

47.   House Martin Delichon urbicum: 10 Vals

48.   Water Pipit Anthus spinoletta: 25 Vals, many singing

49.   White Wagtail Motacilla alba: few

50.   Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea: 1 pair and 1

51.   Dipper Cinclus cinclus: 1 juvenile Obertoggenburg

52.   [H] Dunnock Prunella modularis: somewhere

53.   Alpine Accentor Prunella collaris: 3 on the mountain W of Vals

54.   Robin Erithacus rubecula: few

55.   Common Redstart Phoenicurus phoenicurus: 1 male Obertoggenburg

56.   Black Redstart Phoenicurus ochruros: very common

57.   Northern Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe: fairly common above 1,800m at Vals

58.   Whinchat Saxicola rubetra: 1 singing male Vals village, 1 Obertoggenburg

59.   Song Thrush Turdus philomelos: fairly common

60.   Mistle Thrush Turdus viscivorus: fairly common

61.   Fieldfare Turdus pilaris: fairly common

62.   Common Blackbird Turdus merula: few

63.   Ring Ouzel Turdus torquatus: 1 male Obertoggenburg (BB, LK)

64.   Garden Warbler Sylvia borin: few

65.   Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla: fairly common

66.   Lesser Whitethroat Sylvia curruca: 2 Vals

67.   Reed Warbler Acrocephalus schirpaceus: common

68.   Great Reed Warbler Acrocephalus arundinaceus: 1 singing male Rapperswil

69.   Common Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita: few

70.   [H] Western Bonelli’s Warbler Phylloscopus bonelli: 1 calling Vals gorge (JB, RH)

71.   Goldcrest Regulus regulus: few Vals

72.   [H] Winter Wren Troglodytes troglodytes: few

73.   Spotted Flycatcher Muscicapa striata: 1 Obertoggenburg (RH, LK)

74.   Pied Flycatcher Ficedula hypoleuca: 1 female Obertoggenburg (JB)

75.   Blue Tit Parus caeruleus: few

76.   Great Tit Parus major: few

77.   Coal Tit Periparus ater: common

78.   Crested Tit Lophophanes cristatus: fairly common

79.   [H] Willow Tit Poecile montanus: 3 Vals

80.   [H] Long-tailed Tit aegithalos caudatus: few Vals

81.   Eurasian Nuthatch Sitta europaea: few Obertoggenburg, Rottenschwil

82.   Treecreeper Certhia familiaris: few Vals, Obertoggenburg

83.   Eurasian Jay Garrulus glandarius: few Vals

84.   Nutcracker Nucifraga c. caryocatactes: c. 6 daily Vals

85.   Common Magpie Pica pica: few roadside

86.   Northern Jackdaw Corvus monedula: 1

87.   Alpine Chough Pyrrhocorax graculus: 3 Vals

88.   Carrion Crow Corvus corone: fairly common

89.   Northern Raven Corvus corax: fairly common Vals

90.   Common Starling Sturnus vulgaris: fairly common

91.   [H] Golden Oriole Oriolus oriolus: 1-2 Rottenschwil

92.   House Sparrow Passer domesticus: fairly common in towns and cities

93.   Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus: 1 Rottenschwil

94.   Snowfinch Montifringilla nivalis: 3 flying past, W of Vals (c. 2,000m)(BB, LK)

95.   Common Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs: fairly common

96.   Linnet Carduelis cannabina: few Vals

97.   Lesser Redpoll Carduelis flammea cabaret: few singing, chapel S of Vals

98.   European Greenfinch Chloris chloris: 1

99.   Siskin Carduelis spinus: fairly common Vals

99.a Citril Finch Carduelis citronella: 2 possibles in Siskin flocks, Vals (BB, RH)

100.   [H] European Serin Serinus serinus: 1 singing male next to Vals bakery (JB, RH), with one calling individual over Vals square during Fri evening’s pizza dinner

101.   Bullfinch Pyrrhula pyrrhula: singles, also HO, Vals and Obertoggenburg

102.   Hawfinch Coccothraustes coccothraustes: 1 over Rottenschwil (not RH: was dragonflying :-)

103.   [H] Common Crossbill Loxia curvirostra: a flock over Hazel Grouse forest, E of Vals

104.   Common Reed Bunting Emberiza schoeniclus: 1 Rapperswil, several HO Rottenschwil

105.   [H] Yellowhammer Emberiza citronella: 1 near Obertoggenburg (RH, LK)

Obertoggenburg, June 13 (Remco Hofland)

Recorded mammals

Chamois (Gems) Rupicapra rupicapra: 1 male crossing high-altitude snowfields, W of Vals; 1 imm fedding low down in Vals gorge

Alpine Marmot (Alpenmarmot) Marmota marmota: common Vals, sev seen c. 10m from the car

Roe Deer (Ree) Capreolus capreolus: sev Obertoggenburg, incl a female with two bambi’s

Red Squirrel (Eekhoorn) Sciurus vulgaris: 2 Vals, 2 Obertoggenburg. A very dark-brown subspecies.

Recorded dragonflies (only at Rottenschwil oxbow)

Broad Scarlet (Vuurlibel) Crocothemis erythraea

Downy Emerald (Smaragdlibel) Cordulia aenea

Large Red-eyed Damselfly (Grote Roodoogjuffer) Erythromma najas

Variable Damselfly (Variabele Waterjuffer) Coenagrion pulchellum

Common Blue Damselfly (Watersnuffel) Enallagma cyathigerum

Recorded butterflies

Swallowtail (Koninginnepage) Papilio machaon: 2 Vals

Large White (Groot Koolwitje) Pieris brassicae: 1 Vals (RH)

Eastern Bath White (Oostelijk Resedawitje) Pontia edusa: 1 male Val (RH)

Orange-tip (Oranjetipje) Anthocharis cardamines: sev Vals

Clouded Yellow (Oranje luzerne) Colias crocae: 1 male Obertoggenburg

Green Hairstreak (Groentje) Callophrys rubi: 2 Vals

Blue sp (blauwtje spec) Polyommatus species: 1 somewhere (RH)

Holly Blue (Boomblauwtje) Celastrina argiolus: 2 Vals gorge (RH)

Small Blue (Dwergblauwtje) Cupido minimus: common Vals

Silver-washed Fritillary (Keizersmantel) Argynnis paphia: 2 Vals

Pearl-bordered Fritillary (Zilvervlek) Boloria euphrosyne: common Vals

Large Wall Brown (Rotsvlinder) Lasiommata maera: 2 Vals (RH)

Ringlet sp (Erebia spec) Erebia species: sev Vals

Recorded orchids

Southern Marsh Orchid (Gevlekte Rietorchis) Dactylorhiza praetermissa: hundreds Obertoggenburg

Early Purple Orchid (Mannetjesorchis) Orchis macula: 10 Vals (Rock Partridge area)

Common Spotted Orchid (Bosorchis) Dactylorhiza fuchsii: dozens Obertoggenburg

Obertoggenburg orchids, June 13 (Remco Hofland)








Alpine flora, Vals, June 11 (Remco Hofland)

14 June 2010
Remco Hofland
The Netherlands


Why not send us a report, or an update to one of your current reports?