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Good morning, all.  I just returned from playing annoying American in Europe, lugging a grossly over-packed suitcase through train stations and over cobblestone streets, speaking tortured phrases to patient locals (my wife swears she heard me ask "Parlez-vous Inglés?" in Strasbourg), and gawking at mundane sights like castles and chaffinches as though they were from outer space.  Being the latest installment of the Dawn Chorus birding series, this diary will focus on the finches.

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First, some housekeeping. While our normal host is taking a break, hosting duties have been left mostly in the capable hands of juliewolf and Kestrel.  However, this week we’re scraping the bottom of the barrel and letting a dilettante through the gates.  If you would like to prevent this in the future, then please volunteer for a slot. "Julie/Open" means that Julie is available if necessary, but would rather have you fill in.  Please respond to the tip jar if you want to volunteer and I will update as I can.  Dawn Chorus is normally posted on Sunday mornings, 9am EST / 6am PAC.  Please plan to post on or near this time if you volunteer for a slot.  The current schedule is:

       

       * Jun 13: Kestrel
       * Jun 20: Lineatus
       * Jun 27: Julie/Open
       * Jul 4: Julie
       * Jul 11: Kestrel
       * Jul 18: matching mole
       * Jul 25: Julie/Open
       * Aug 1: matching mole
       * Aug 8: Kestrel
       * Aug 15: Lineatus
       * Aug 22: Lineatus
       * Aug 29: Lineatus

This was not a bird-watching trip, so all of these were incidental sightings, i.e., "point the camera at whatever’s chirping while racing to the next museum."  

One of the most striking sightings came in Amsterdam.  Living near a river in Texas, I’m no stranger to herons.  I was shocked, however, at the differences between American and Dutch herons.  In Amsterdam, they are roughly equivalent to pigeons: urban, dirty, and fearless.  Though I’m tempted to make a cheap quip about them being stoned, it’s more accurate to say they were smoking crack.  At any rate, here are some of the warriors from the Albert Cuyp Market, one of Europe’s largest outdoor markets:

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From a birder’s perspective, the most fascinating aspect of visiting a new continent was observing the parallel ecosystem, in which almost all of the same families exist, but with different species.  Though it’s above my pay grade to explain the evolutionary history, perhaps someone can pop in and provide insight.

I was thrilled that my favorite American family, Paridae (chickadees/titmice), was well represented in Western Europe.  Most common was the great tit:

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Many of the pictures come courtesy of a well-stocked bird feeder at the delightful little inn where we stayed in Fussen, Germany, including this tit:

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Here’s one in Strasbourg:

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And here’s the same tit feeding its fledgling:

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The common songbird I most wanted to see was the blue tit (it’s like a blue and yellow chickadee.  What could be cuter?).  Luckily, a tree in Zaandijk, Netherlands, provided my only spotting:

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I also found this remarkably close chickadee cousin.  It’s either a marsh tit or willow tit (help?):

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Perhaps the most commonly heard bird on the trip was the chaffinch.  Here’s one from Amsterdam’s Vondelpark:

ams-chaffinch1-w

Its song is similar enough to the house finch that I knew I was listening to a close relative.  It sounded to me like "chirpety-chirpety-chirpety-chew-chew-rick-steves," though I might have been hallucinating part of that from reading too many guidebooks.  Here’s one feeding a fledgling in Germany:

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Speaking of close cousins, this downy woodpecker wannabe is actually a great spotted woodpecker, distinguished by its red underparts:

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On the other hand, some families produced strikingly different species.  This is a jay:

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A magpie:

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A jackdaw:

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I think this is a black redstart, though I haven't fully ruled out the red blackstart:

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A crappy photo?  Whatever.  I had other priorities in Switzerland.

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This was a treat – a rose-ringed parakeet in Vondelpark.  Supposedly there are 10,000 of them in The Netherlands:

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Some familiar waterbirds:

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A "schwan," as they’re known in Lucerne where I saw this one:

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This is either a chiffchaff or willow warbler (or maybe something else, hopefully with a similarly alliterative name like jigjabble):

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And finally, I regret to report that Europe isn’t immune from feeder raiders:

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Originally posted to Adam S. (cardinal) on Sun Jun 06, 2010 at 06:03 AM PDT.

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