Bird #546 — Eurasian Treecreeper

certhia familiaris

Thursday, April 25, 2019 — 8:10 am

Böblingen, Germany — hiking trails through the woods along the Panzerstrasse

One of the weirdest things about birding in Germany is how similar it felt to birding in the Midwest. The woods felt and looked very much like woods I’ve birded in many times. And the birds were often very like birds I know well.

Take this Treecreeper for instance. If I saw it in the United States, I would identify it as a Brown Creeper without hesitation. There are actually two very similar creepers in Europe. I’ve identified this one as a Eurasion Treecreeper and not a Short-toed Treecreeper because of its prominent white line above the eye and the details of the pattern of the beige markings on its wing. It was an active bird, rarely staying still for more than a second. It circled the trunk of the pine it was on and even crept out onto the branches.

The only thing that separated it from the Brown Creeper is that when it flew to another tree, it didn’t seem to head to the bottom and spiral back up but would instead often land at the same level in the new tree. As I watched it flew from this tree to another non-pine across the path, then back to this pine, then into the branches of another non-pine maybe 40 yards away. I later saw a second one near a flock of tits.

The photo above has been cropped a great deal from the original. Here is the original, to give you an idea of how well camouflaged Creepers are.

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Bird #545 — Eurasian Bullfinch

pyrrhula pyrrhula

Thursday, April 25, 2019 — 8:00 am

Böblingen, Germany — hiking trails through the woods along the Panzerstrasse

On Wednesday evening, I developed a sore throat. I thought it might be an allergic reaction to the 100% pollen counts in the area. When I woke up on Thursday morning, I was in considerable pain. I debated whether I wanted to spend the morning birding as I’d planned. But then I remembered that this could very possible be my last ever chance to bird in Europe. I forced myself to get up and was out in the woods shortly after dawn.

At first, I didn’t see many birds. I could hear many, but I simply wasn’t finding them. I wandered quite a ways, beyond my furthest point when I explored the woods four days earlier. I saw and heard a small bird in the thick woods along the path and spent several minutes trying to identify it. I never did figure out what it was. But while I was making the attempt, another bird suddenly landed on a branch not far in front of me. It looked around, flew to another branch, looked around some more, then flew off into the woods. It was only in view for perhaps a minute, but that was long enough for me to identify it as a Bullfinch and get a few mediocre photos.

The Bullfinch is notable for its bright pink breast, short stubby bill, and lack of any neck to speak of.

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Dachau Concentration Camp

Lindy and Andrew had been wanting to visit Dachau, and although we knew it would be sobering, we were also interested.

The memorial, which feels huge, only covers maybe a quarter of the war-period footprint. The rectangle in the far right, with the U-shaped building and the rows of barracks make up memorial

The camp was established in 1933 to house Hitler’s political opponents. It was used as a work camp and became the model for other camps who adopted the violent methods developed by the SS guards. Dachau was never primarily an execution camp, but of the 200,000 people sent here, more than 40,000 were murdered though outright violence or overwork.

This is the gate house. The original gate was stolen, then found and is on display in the museum. It says “Work sets you free,” a Nazi lie to convince arriving prisoners that they had some control over their fate.

The large maintenance building houses a museum. It’s the building that surrounds my location in the photo below. Some rebuilt barracks can be seen in the distance.

This is the room where arriving prisoners were made to surrender all their belongings.

The museum went on for room after room. There were some artifacts, but mostly it signboards with pictures and history. It wasn’t very well curated. It seemed design to fill the massive amount of space rather than tell a concise history. After a while, I found myself reading the same information three and four times. There was a decent size crowd, but it wasn’t packed.

A rebuilt section of the wall around the camp. Many prisoners entered the forbidden zone, not as an attempt to escape but so that they would be shot and put out of their misery.

The Crematorium, where bodies were disposed of.

On the left is the back of the maintenance building. The building on the right was the camp prison were more important prisoners were held and also where the SS conducted their experiments on prisoners.

We were there for maybe three hours and left physically and emotionally exhausted.

On the previous evening, I had a sore throat just before I went to bed. On this day, I was feeling a little off, although I couldn’t point to anything specific. This evening, the sore throat came back with a vengeance and kept me awake most of the night.

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German Food

We spent Wednesday in and around Munich, about two hours from Böblingen. Before we got on the Autobahn, we stopped at the local McDonald’s. I don’ t know what language the guy behind the counter spoke, but it wasn’t English or German. The manager finally had to come out and take our order. I ordered a bacon, egg, and cheese McToast, a flat sandwich on pita-like bread. The ingredients were all fresh—no powered eggs here, and it was really good.

In the early afternoon, we drove into downtown Munich to the famous Hofbräuhaus. The street of Munich were chaotic, with narrow lanes, bicyclists who no (as in zero) attention to cars whether traveling along the lanes or cutting across. The pedestrians weren’t much better. A big construction project near the restaurant complicated things even more, but we finally found a parking spot in a narrow alley about three blocks away.

A four-piece band—two trumpets, a tuba, and an accordion—was playing on the first floor. (There are three floors and an outdoor garden.) We found a table tucked back in the clutter of the garden. And that’s where I saw the sole outright friendly German of the trip. (That’s him in the photo below between Lindy and Andrew.) A guy and his wife were sitting at the table next to ours. The guy saw how much we were struggling to make sense of the German menu, so he got the attention of the waiter and had him bring us English menus.

Sally ordered the pig’s knuckle. I ordered sausages. They came in a pot filled with hot water. Like all the meat I’d had in Germany, they were ground really finely, giving them a mushy texture I wasn’t crazy about. They came with a dark mustard that was surprisingly tasty and made the sausages edible. That yellow blog on Sally’s plate was some kind of potatoes that tasted bland and had the texture of potato jello. As with almost all the food I had in Germany, I wasn’t impressed. We also ordered a bread basket, and although our waiter never brought the butter we ordered, it was delicious.

After we ate, we wandered down an alley filled with shops then fought our way back through the chaos of Munich and headed home. Traffic was terrible on the Autobahn. When we came to a complete halt, we looked for an alternate route. The GPS took us down increasingly narrow farm roads. One of them appeared to be someone’s driveway. We had only gone about half a mile down it when we met a long string of cars coming back in our direction, each of them motioning to us to turn around. We somehow managed to get back on the highway beyond the obstruction and made it back to the house without further drama.

Earlier in the week, Lindy had gotten an email from a bank in Colorado Springs with a request for a job interview. She hadn’t been expecting this and had already taken a promotion at the credit union in Germany where she’s been working. But the Colorado bank liked her and made her an offer she couldn’t pass up. So next month, she’s moving into our basement to start her job and look for an apartment for when Andrew gets out of the Army in July.

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