Bird brained stories!

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Birds across the pond

I set off for my travels throughout Europe with high hopes of adding new birds to my life list. High on my list was the desire to see a stork on a rooftop, but any other sightings would be serendipity. I don't have a European field guide, so I had no expectations as to what else I might see.

I didn't really stop to consider that this itinerary I was traveling as a delegation leader for People to People was mostly urban. The times when we'd be in more rural settings, the alpine forests were thick and deep, making bird sightings difficult. Besides, I was busy concentrating on keeping the chocolate for my picnic lunch away from one of the belled cows roaming the Swiss Alps! For the most part, my bird sightings were pigeons and the ubiquitous house sparrows, both of which would mob anyone foolish enough to sit down on a park bench with anything edible.

So what exactly did I see? Well, we were finishing up an environmental project, removing invasive plants from a small river in Freiburg, Germany, when someone pointed out a stork watching a nest on a rooftop. Said stork had a webcam watching over it. I saw other storks in Cordoba, Spain, baking in the 116 degree heat on the top of a statue. In Parc Guell in Barcelona, there was a constant squawk of bright green parrots, flying jewels. Reading up on them, I learned they are an invasive species as well. Monk parrots, bought as pets but escaped from their cages, have reproduced and created problems for the local ecosystem, eating everything green they can find.

In Seville, I saw my first white doves flying about the square by the cathedral. Blackbirds were abundant and I enjoyed their singing; it gave new meaning to the lyrics of George Harrison, "blackbird singing in the dead of night." I heard cuckoos in the woods near my homestay in Switzerland, but sad to say, though I had three weeks overseas, not much new was added to my life list. Ah well, the trip was not one for birding.


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