Europe, March 11-16, 2007
I was on a business trip to Europe in March that took me through 5 cities in 6 days and while it was a bit grueling, I was still able to get a bit of spare time, usually VERY early in the morning, to get a few shots of the local flora and fauna. The trip started out in England, then went to Rotterdam and Amsterdam in The Netherlands, on to Oslo Norway then to Stockholm Sweden and finally back to London, England where I ended my journey on a Saturday which actually gave me a few hours to focus specifically on taking pictures of birds, etc.
For the most part, the weather was quite pleasant, usually in the low to mid 40’s and up into the 50’s during the day. Quite cold in the north at night but the week I was there was pleasant, calm, dry and mostly sunny throughout Europe. I want to apologize for the poor image quality and graininess of some of the images. There were a lot of very low-light situations due mostly to the fact that I only had very early morning hours for the most part to photograph and the fact that it was overcast almost constantly. I had just purchased a new Canon Rebel XTi which I assumed was the same quality (or better) than my Canon Rebel XT (which I love) however, it is NOT. It has a constant underexposure problem and I was not familiar enough with the camera in advance to correct the problems so I ended up with a ton of very, very dark photographs that needed to be lightened and the result is graininess.
I spent the first afternoon/evening at the Heathrow Hilton on the grounds of the London/Heathrow International Airport and still I was able to pick off a few quick life-birds early in the morning before heading out for the days activities. First bird of note was a Woodpigeon, which I already had seen on previous trips to England along with the ubiquitous Black-throated Magpie’s where were everywhere. However, I was able to get a good look, although not good picture of a Winter Wren (I would later get the good picture) but he turned out to be the first lifer of the trip for me, followed close behind by a Chaffinch and Mistle Thrush, European Blackbird and European Greenfinch.
In the flight path at Heathrow Airport in England
This Mistle Thrush was in the hotel parking lot
Woodpigeons were common around the airport as well
Chaffinch in very poor light, early in the morning at Heathrow
A Winter Wren singing in the early morning at Heathrow
The rest of the day was spent in business meetings and traveling, departed London for Rotterdam that afternoon and arrived in The Netherlands after dark.
My first meetings the next morning were at 9:00 A.M. which gave me a little time early in the morning to see if there was anything of interest in the area. I got on line with my trusty Google Earth maps and quickly surveyed the area using the “hybrid” mode which allows you to see both the roads as well as satellite imagery meaning you can see areas with trees, water, etc. – a great tool for areas where you may not be familiar. Anyway, I found an area that was within walking distance of the hotel, a series of canals lined with trees and I was out of the hotel as dawn was breaking over the city of Rotterdam. The Netherlands as you may know is an area notorious for being below sea level, great efforts have been made to keep the North Sea from poring in and inundating the land, the famous dikes and canals are prevalent in many areas and this area was no exception. I walked the length of this small canal (see photo below) as I waited for the sun to come up, first active birds of the day were the Magpies again, followed by Eurasian Blackbirds. The first bird of note was this Great Spotted Woodpecker which quickly made its way from tree to tree energetically looking for sustenance. Next I heard the peep of a small bird, the Blue Tit, watching me from a small tree as I was trying to get shots of the Woodpecker. I quickly turned my attention to the small Tit before he too shot off into the early morning sky. As the sun began to rise above the Rotterdam skyline the bird activity hastened with a myriad of gulls and herons flying high overhead and numerous smaller birds quickly moving through the area. Unfortunately my time as up and I had to get back to the hotel, change into my suit and get ready for the day. Here are some photos from the early morning foray in Rotterdam.
There were several waterways in the area like this. This one went on for about 1/2 mile and had a surprising variety of bird life considering that it was smack dab in the middle of Rotterdam.
Eurasian Blackbirds were very common
A Great Tit - another commonly encountered bird throughout my travels in Europe
Surprisingly when I returned home I realized that this was the same species I had observed in Japan as well, apparently they are well traveled as well as being quite common!
Unknown Duck species
Another nice surprise for me was the Great Spotted Woodpecker
There were actually a pair of them that were foraging in the trees. They did not stay put for very long, moving quickly from tree to tree.
A Song Thrush was foraging in the grass
Common Coot nesting
This European Greenfinch looked surprisingly similar to a Waxwing at first glance.
Unfortunately I didn't get any good, clear shots of the European Goldfinch, they are very attractive birds with bright red faces.
This was the scene behind me as I walked along the canal, as you can see it was in a densley populated area.
We drove to Amsterdam after finishing our morning briefings, had some more meetings there and then flew off to Oslo, Norway where we would have meetings in the morning before heading over to Stockholm Sweden for more meetings in the afternoon. We arrived in Oslo late in the day and it was way after dark by the time we got to our hotel rooms. I got up early again the next morning to a drab, overcast sky but after getting dressed and packed I decided to take a quick walk around the town square in Oslo where I was able to get a few photographs.
Downtown Oslo Norway at 5:30 AM
The ubiquitous House Sparrow in his native setting
There were a lot of gulls in the town, mostly Herring Gulls like this one.
Another Great Tit in Oslo.
A younger Herring Gull in downtown Oslo.
We took off for Stockholm after finishing our morning meetings and arrived there in the early afternoon. We had an hour to kill before our first meeting so again I had an opportunity to do a quick walk around. Here are some shots from Stockholm, which I'd like to add, is one of the few places from my trip that I would like to go back to in terms of cities, it's a very interesting place, as most of Europe with lots of history but as cities go, not such a bad one.
Stockholm was quite interesting, again I was in the middle of the city, in this case, completely surrounded by large waterways that transversed this section of the city.
There was a large congregation of birds in the waterways, a large feeding station was built along the edge of the waterway attracting a variety of birds including these two Mute Swans.
Black-headed Gulls were quite common
Tufted Ducks nearly outnumbered the Mallards
Here's a Tufted Duck showing why it's called such.
One of my favorites is the European Jackdaw
Jackdaw's are monogamous and may mate for life, they are almost always found in pairs and stay very close to one another.
There were plenty of Mallards to go around!
Here are a few scenes from around the area, again in Stockholm Sweden
Looking down a large cobblestone street toward the main waterway
Sentry standing guard in front of a government building
The cruise ship gives you a good perspective as to the size of the waterways.
After a long day and a quick dinner of Swedish meatballs at a restaurant that has been serving food continuously since the 1500’s we took off for London England and one more day of business. The day in London was jam packed so there wasn’t any opportunity for photography but the next day, my last in Europe for this trip, was Saturday and my flight out of Heathrow was not until 1:00 PM, giving me ample time to do a quick exploratory tour of the area. I was staying at the Savoy hotel right along the River Thames and I decided to do a quick walk along the river and to the nearest park which happened to be St. James park, near Big Ben and the Westminster abbey. I had taken off from the hotel at the break of day and the walk along the Thames was quite uneventful other than a couple of gulls that I was not able to ID. I did manage to scare up this Winter Wren however at a small garden along the waterfront. He was quite busy calling out to his fellow Wren’s and not so concerned about me which allowed me to get a few decent photos of him despite the poor lighting conditions. I arrived at St. James Park around 7:00 AM, just as the sun was starting to have some effect on the lighting (which, due to the problems I was having with underexposure with my camera, was very important!) There were only a few people around which made the conditions quite good and I was able to get a number of good shots of new birds as well as some others that I was already familiar with. There is a large lake that runs the expanse of the park and there was numerous concentrations of waterfowl throughout the area along with planted flower gardens that seemed to attract the smaller species. Here are the highlights from my morning tour of the area.
I photographed and searched as long as I could but had to get back and finish packing so it was again off to the races and that turned out to be my last opportunity for photography for the trip. All in all not too bad considering that I had to cram this all in between 23 meetings over the week and stops at 5 different European cities!
A tiny but very attractive bird that I ran into around London was the Blue Tit
They seemed quite unconcerned with me as I photographed them
A Female Eurasian Blackbird photographed in a garden along the River Thames
This little Winter Wren was sure singing about something, he was so loud that it was hard to believe that such a tiny bird was capable of making such a ruckus
He was quite content to hop from one perch to another and sign his song
Perhaps in need of a diet?
There were many Gulls flying over the river, most remained unidentified by me
Big Ben, near the park I was walking to while taking the pictures above
The River Thames
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Yet another Great Tit
These little gardens and grassy areas were in front of many of the larger buildings such as this one, each with one or two interesting birds like European Robins and Blackbirds
From in front of Big Ben, near St. James Park
Here's where I was walking to, St. James Park, a nice open area in downtown London, about a mile walk from one end to the other with a nice lake in the middle. I was there very early in the morning and there were only a handful of people in the park.
A pair of Great White Pelicans
Squirrels seem to have the same behavior here as they do in the states...
One of my favorites from the trip was this Red-crested Pochard
European Robin staying low in the brush at St. James Park.
Early Spring meant beautiful flow beds
Look closely at his mouth, he's got a very large seed!
I ran into a group of Long-tailed Tit in the park, unfortunately, they move non-stop and I only got a couple of blurry photographs!
Another Long-tailed Tit
A group of Bar-headed Geese
One you should be familiar with, a Ruddy Duck
Female Eurasian Blackbird sitting still as I approached to within a couple of feet of her
There was a small group of beautiful, Red-breasted Geese grazing along the shoreline
Another Great Tit
This family of Black Swan were interesting to watch!
As they passed by low hanging green branches they would tear them off and throw them in the water for the youngsters to munch on. Right after I took this shot, the Goose closet to you in this picture decided that I was a hazard to the young ones and took off in a bee-line straight toward me, hissing, huffing and puffing, feathers fluffed out it swam right up to me and started lunging at me, it was enough to get me to back off...:o)
Black-billed Magpies were everywhere, gathering nesting materials and just being overall obnoxious. In the heavily back-lit sky however they were not easy to photograph!
Common Gull soaring over the River Thames
Thanks for looking!
Great Spotted Woodpecker
Lesser Black-backed Gull
European House Sparrow