Te Anau: amidst tourists and birds

Te Anau is a small town of barely 2,000 inhabitants situated at the edge of New Zealand’s Fjordland National Park. It is erected along the shores of Lake Te Anau, the second largest lake in New Zealand and largest in Australasia by freshwater volume, and overlooked by Jackson Peaks (1622m), the Kepler Mountains and, further north, by the Murchinson Range.

Life in Te Anau revolves almost exclusively around tourism, which means only Europeans, Asians and North Americans will cross your path in summertime. Indeed, Te Anau is a popular base to access the hyped Milford and Doubtful Sounds by boat, as well as the Routeburn and Hollyford hiking trails by road. Float plane and heli-tours also daily take off from the lake for an aerial exploration of the fjords. But the most remarkable local attraction is the Kepler Track, a 67 km alpine hiking loop that ranks among New Zealand’s nine Great Walks and attracts many hikers from overseas.  Continue reading

Fishing lesson at the canal

Grey herons are excellent fishers. Until now, I only knew this from the many photos I had seen of these birds holding large fishes in their long grey-orange bill. Today, I finally got to see a heron fish with my own eyes. One of them welcomed me on a captivating 2-hour fishing lesson Continue reading

Oceans of Plastic

HOW WE FILLED THE OCEANS WITH PLASTIC IN JUST OVER 60 YEARS

“Man-made items of debris are now found in marine habitats throughout the world, from the poles to the equator, from shorelines and estuaries to remote areas of the high seas, and from the sea surface to the ocean floor.”

Impacts of Marine Debris on Biodiversity, UNEP Report, 2012

Seabirds lead a precarious existence. Their marine habitats worldwide are littered with so much plastic waste that they often mistake plastic for food. Scientists recently estimated that by now 90% of all individual seabirds have ingested plastic debris, compared to only 5% in 1960Continue reading

Quiberon: a former French island turned presque-isle

Presqu'ile de Quiberon

A NASA screenshot of the Presqu’ile de Quiberon

Situated in the Morbihan region of Brittany, the Presqu’île de Quiberon is a small French peninsula that used to be an island. Long ago, strong winds and currents formed a flat sandy isthmus that reattached the 9 km² territory to the mainland. Dubbed Isthme de Penthièvre, the narrow arm is no wider than 22 m in parts, just enough for cars and trains to circulate. Vulnerable to storms, it has been enlarged and reinforced by man-made dikes on several occasions since the 19th century.

Nowadays, Quiberon is a restful, invigorating and somewhat picturesque sea resort that welcomes thousands of visitors each year. Yet, tourism has not always been the dominant sector. From the second half of the 19th century fishing, especially sardine fishing, and canning concurrently developed as core industries leading to the peninsula’s Continue reading

Chicks that can’t fly

Each spring the bird realm is enriched by new avian lives. Watching hatchlings grow into nestlings grow into fledglings is fascinating. Spectacular changes rush the newborns into adulthood, and before they can realize it, they are on their own. The young we sight are those who were lucky and strong enough to survive the harsh stages of their early existence. The toll of those who perish at the hand of natural or man-made evils goes mostly unnoticed.

During my short time observing breeding great and blue tits (a few nests in the springs of 2014-2015) I noticed a recurrent evil: some young’s unability to fly despite seemingly healthy, functional wings. It is absolutely normal for fledglings of many bird species to leave the nest before they can fly, a skill they acquire within days. However, when this unability persists, in stark contrast with the development of the rest of the brood, it becomes a disability and jeopardizes the chick’s survival.

Most great and blue tits I saw fledge could fly immediately or within a few hours from leaving the nest. Encountering individuals lacking this essential character 5, 7, even 10 days later therefore called my attention and I thought it worthwhile recording.


(1) LIVELY & HUNGRY / Bayreuth, Germany – June 2015

I was busy when the blue tit nestlings raised in a natural tree cavity next to my building fledged. From my window, I heard them Continue reading