Red Squirrels and a Shag

Thursday 12th - Sunday 22nd November 2015
Shag, Sharpness
Saturday felt very cold in the biting wind as I carried out a Winter Random Square Survey at Brand Green, near Upleadon. Only 25 species in two hours, mainly counting Wood Pigeons and Carrion Crows, but there was a nice flock of 50 Linnets in a stubble field. The square included part of the Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust's Collin Park Wood nature reserve, which I've never been to before. This a beautiful wood, with Small-leaved Lime, Sessile Oak and Wild Service Tree, although not many birds on my visit, I must go back in the spring.
Shag, Sharpness
In the afternoon, news of a Shag at Sharpness found by Andy Jordan provided motivation to venture back out into the cold. I've seen a few Shags in the county, but they are always nice to see. It was still present on Sunday when I went back with Andy and Mark, where other highlights included a Rock Pipit, a Kingfisher, a pair of Stonechats, and at the NedWest building the first-winter Black Redstart provided further entertainment; also a Grey Wagtail and a Chiffchaff here.
Black Redstart, Sharpness
I recently spent several days based in Basel, Switzerland, with excursions to Colmar in Alsace, France, and to Freiburg in Germany. It was a fantastic break, visiting my eldest daughter who is living there for a few months. I wasn't birding (as such!), just enjoying the sights in these beautiful cities, plus a trip into the Jura Mountains at Reigoldswil. I saw several Red Squirrels around Basel, in the Botanical Gardens and the Zoo grounds. I saw my first ever Red Squirrels in Switzerland in the 1980's near Zermatt, and I can't get enough of them - much cuter than Greys:
Red Squirrel, Botanical Gardens, Basel
The Botanical Gardens were a couple of minutes from our hotel. Attached to the university they are free to visit, including the tropical glasshouses, and really interesting. The visit to Freiburg produced a lifer in the shape of a Middle Spotted Woodpecker at Schlossberg, a wooded hill on the edge of the Black Forest overlooking the city.
View from Schlossberg over the city of Freiburg, Germany
The views from Passwang in the Jura Mountains was fantastic, with the Bernese Alps visible some 55 miles to the south:
Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau
View from Passwang, Switzerland

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