Archive for Austria 2011-2012
Why would this girl be smiling on leaving Budapest? Because she knows that Vienna is at the other end of the line.
It was a magical week, with the annual cathedral fair on
and the weather more beautiful each day. We even did some shopping.
Furs, jewelry, luxury goods of all kinds are to be had in Vienna’s great pedestrian zones; what we needed, though, was a high-quality German pizza cutter, and that’s exactly what Alison got. That important acquisition out of the way, we spent the rest of our time just wandering around enjoying the scene.
We spent a day in the Kunsthistorisches Museum.
Alison had never seen the Egyptian rooms, so we explored that collection at leisure.
After all that, we barely stopped in to the painting galleries.
Without a set program, we worked around Alison’s research schedule and just ducked in to whatever seemed interesting. Somehow neither of us had ever been inside the Minorite church.
This Virgin and Christ Child is especially fine.
The saints and apostles of the west portal are some of Vienna’s most important Gothic statues.
All that art can make you hungry.
Knowing that our time was limited, we sometimes had “coffee” twice a day, relishing the atmosphere as much as the cake.
Sometimes Alison started planning the next episode while the dishes were still on the table from the first.
We especially wanted to go to the Museum der Stadt Wien, which we hadn’t visited together for a decade or longer. The special exhibition was Klimt drawings, too many of them to really take in; but it was funny to see his famous smock hanging in the case.
It’s a great museum, especially the medieval floor with sculpture and glass from the Stephansdom.
We’d meant to hit some of the fine urban birding spots around town, but there’s just too much to do in Vienna! Next time.
These fine crows had found a great place to bathe in Vienna’s Stadpark. I felt a bit like one of Susannah’s elders spying on them, but there’s something unusual about these birds: I have no idea what they are.
And neither, in a sense, do they.
Lower Austria’s breeding “black” crow is the handsome gray Hooded Crow, much like this one facing off with a European Red Squirrel in the Schönbrunn gardens last week.
Come winter, though, all identification bets are off. Carrion Crow genes course through the blood of many, perhaps of most, of the thousands of non-Rook, non-Jackdaw Corvus roosting and feeding in the city, producing some handsome combinations of plumages.
Dark birds like this one might pass for a Carrion Crow on casual inspection, but the gray thighs and nape gave it away as a hybrid or intergrade; its exact heritage is likely very complex, full of the crosses and backcrosses typical of these birds in Mitteleuropa.
Many superficially Hooded Crows also showed clear signs of mixed ancestry, with extra black appearing most frequently on the mantle and lesser coverts.
With so many of these Hoodarrion Crows around, the suspicion is unavoidable that even visually “pure” birds aren’t. But–and this is the important point–who cares? We’re stuck enjoying what’s out there, and if it’s crows with fascinatingly muddy bloodlines, so much the better.
I’ll admit to a fondness of all things coot, and Eurasian Coot is surely one of the most elegant of the genus.
They’re no less fractious than their American cousins, of course, but still, a beautiful sight when they’re floating, peaceful for the moment, on a lovely little park pond.
Here’s a good quiz: can you find half a dozen visual differences between the bird in the photo and American Coot? Bet you can.
There was a discussion not long ago on one of the mailing lists about a “mystery bird” in a European park: all black, with an orange bill.
There’s no doubt that the puzzle bird was a male European Blackbird, one of the commonest birds of many landscapes in western Europe. At the time, I put the description of the bill color down to poor observation. But this latest trip to Vienna made me reconsider.
This male Blackbird, photographed in Vienna’s Donaupark last week, had a bill nearly red–and the orbital ring was just as deep and vivid. Astonishingly, this was just one of at least four such birds I saw over the course of our stay; “normal” birds of this species have yellow bills and orbital rings, and I’d never seen anything this bright before. Interestingly, the tarsi and toes, as readily visible here, were the standard dull gray-horn color, obviously unaffected by whatever factor had resulted in the hyper-pigmentation of the remaining soft parts.
Michael suggested that the culprit might be an immodest consumption of ornamental honeysuckles, but so far as I know, that has been implicated only in plumage variation, and should (shouldn’t it?) have affected the tarsi as well. I thought instead of the bright-billed (and bright-footed) Laughing Gulls one encounters in the eastern US, and recalled, too, the two orange-billed European Starlings hanging out at Sandy Hook this winter.
Who has a real answer?