Steve White’s Animaux

On a company ski trip to Austria, I saw tight flocks of the Alpendohle (Alpine Chough).

By way of systematizing my investigation of Potsdam and its surroundings, I followed each tram line to its end. Sometimes there was good bird watching.

At the end of the Marie Juchacz Straße line, there are piles of construction waste, full of hidey-holes for birds and other creatures. Here I saw Larks (see more below), and Neuntöter (Rotrückenwürger, Red-backed Shrike). There was more than one. They would sit conspicuously in a small tree, and suddenly dive into the grass. One came back up with something fairly big and quite dead in its beak— maybe a big spider or small mouse.

On my Springtime walk to work, across a field in Golm, I would often hear a very complex and melodious twittering and chirping, but where was it coming from? I would scan the field wherefrom the sound seemed to emanate and see nothing. Walk a little further, and…the bird has moved…but I didn’t see it fly!

It took me a couple of weeks to look up. The bird is slowly circling, flittering, twittering, chirping, and finally plummets to ground, pulling out scarcely before it hits. Due to this maneuver, it is hard to locate the downed bird. When I finally get a good look, I see a brown bird a little bigger than a sparrow, with a hint of a crest. It is Feldlerche (Skylark). He keeps this activity up all summer.

Another conspicuous bird one finds in this field is Bachstelze, the Pied Wagtail.

Thanks to a long line of Königen named Fredrick, Potsdam is a town of many huge parks. These include Neuer Garten, which contains Schloß Cecilienhof and borders the Heiliger See. The variety of mature trees brings in many species of birds.

This Spring in the Heiliger See, I was witness to the beautifully choreographed, and mostly silent, mating dances of the Haubentaucher, the Great Crested Grebe.

Here I also saw my first Grünfink, the Greenfinch.

The Rotkehlchen, or “Little Red-throat”, is the European Robin! A very pretty bird indeed, whom I met after sunset. He was singing his song to the planet Venus blazing above.

Besides the Rotkelchen, the main singer here is Amsel who sings his beautiful alto song throughout the Summer and is known in English simply as Blackbird, or Woozle or Black Ouzel. Notice it has blue eggs!

Across the street from where I work in Golm is a dilapidated communal farm. There are lots of birds in the high grass beneath the concrete building frames. In the adjoining orchard, I saw a gorgeous Fasan (the same bird as the North American Ring-necked Pheasant, and also imported from Asia), and the first of many of the eye-popping Blaumeise, the Blue Tit.

Herds of six or eight skittish Reh, capreolus capreolus the Roe deer (of whom the male is a "roebuck" (der Rehbock).

Going to Rostock, Hase (hares) and deer

I took an afternoon walk in Park Babelsberg. Besides Schloßen and Turmen, with which the place is littered, I found foraging on tree limbs, Kleiber, the European Nuthatch.

Walk in Sanssouci:

A loud knocking overhead, in a big tree. I find the culprit, must be 60 feet up. A man with a hammer couldn’t have made a louder noise. It’s no accident, it’s Buntspecht, the Great Spotted Woodpecker, making a point.

The Eichelhäher, the Eurasian Jay, is common in the park. It’s a big and very striking thing. The sandy brown seems out of place in the woods somehow, but the stippled electric-blue sides are what really catches they eye.

I watched a pair assembling a nest in the ivy on a big tree: The one I took to be the male brought a bit of what appeared to be plastic netting, put it in the nest, and went off in search of more nice items. The other then spent considerable energy to remove the same netting from the nest.

Here’s a little brown bird. It has nice gray head, with very nice gray top and back. Wow a very pretty song. Then it turns around and holy moly, its butt is leaf-green, and it’s your Buchfink, or Chaffinch.

These two birds are a surprise: rather than having a white “V” on the tail, they have a dark red one: Gartenrotschwanz (Redstart) and Hausrotschwanz (Black Redstart).

I attended a conference at Louisiana State University. We went on a boat excursion that featured alligators, fire ants, and a damselfly (here shown on my colleague Thomas’ hand.

Driving randomly on country roads South of Abilene with my Sister Jo and Mom, we came upon a Roadrunner. It ran through ranch gate with festooned with iron Roadrunner, as if for our amusement.

In the Buffalo Gap cemetery that we visit much too often these days, I saw my long-awaited Painted Bunting with the help of my sister Linda. We must keep in mind that while the bunting is indeed a very pretty bird, prettiness is but one nice aspect of birdiness, and it is birdiness that we seek, not mere prettiness.

In their own way, Texas red ants are pretty too. We had begun to worry that they would fall victims to the invading fire ants, but they seem to be holding their own.

I accompanied a group my sister Jo Helen’s lady friends on a journey to a derelict bridge over the Texas Colorado. Besides the shadows of me and the bridge (note also the light shines through the bridge), the dark spots are a lot of big turtles, and a Gar. I also saw a pair of Woodpeckers.

There are at least two bug-snatching birds common in the Potsdam area. First there’s the very loud and swoopy Mauersegler, or Chimney Swift. Another is the Mehlschwalbe, or Common House Martin.

Farms west of the Max Planck campus in Golm, saw hundreds of Erlenzeisig (Siskins).

My sister Linda came to visit for a week. It was a birdwatching extravaganza.

In Park Sanssouci we saw Rötelschwalbe (Red-rumped Swallow), Grünspecht (Green Woodpecker), Grauschnäpper (Spotted Flycatcher), and one of Weidenmeise (Willow Tit) or Sumpfmeise (Marsh Tit) (we lean toward latter), a variety of Schwanzmeise (Long-tailed Tit) with a completely white head, Kernbeißer (Hawfinch) and Mittelspecht (Middle Spotted Woodpecker).

Walking West of Golm, we saw several birds of prey. In Neue Garten, I spied a small group of the copper-topped Feldsperling, (Eurasian Tree Sparrow), and in the adjacent Heiliger See, the Kormoran (Great Cormorant), Höckerschwan (Mute Swan), and Tafelente (Common Pochard).

In an evening walk west of Golm, we saw several birds of prey (Greifvögel), including Rotmilan (Red Kite), and Mäusebussard (Eurasian Buzzard). Just before sundown, I saw one of these heading home with its evening meal.