Basel, Switzerland: Day Two, Wandering the Rhine Valley

Eurasian Coot, Augst

Today I went wandering the Rhine Valley a very knowledgable guide named Mike. You can contact him at and read his blog at:

We started early-ish. I’m used to going out at 6 am but the sun doesn’t come up in the Basel area until around 8 am this time of year, thus 8 am is almost too early in this context, especially for photography.

Mallard (male) Common Merganser (female)

Our first stop was Tier Park Lange Erlan and the surrounding park lands in Basel itself. The Tier Park is an old zoo, now mostly devoted to animals native to Switzerland. We weren’t there for the zoo animals so much as looking for woodpeckers and White-throated dippers. White-throated dippers are interesting in that they can "fly" underwater. This is a bird that looks like a songbird but can live in two worlds, even if only briefly. Indeed we did find a Great spotted woodpecker and a White-throated dipper, who was singing his heart out on the rocks in the river. We also saw kites, a buzzard, jays, common blackbirds and gray herons, among others.

Egyptian Geese over the Rhine

Our next stop was Dreiländerecke. This is where you can stand at the crossroads of Germany, France, and Switzerland in Basel. The area is marked by a structure that looks a bit like a missile or rocket out of a bad 1960’s sci-fi TV program. We were here to see what was flying or swimming by. To my surprise Egyptian Geese flew by. They shouldn’t be here. Some think they are escapees from the Basel Zoo, though now they seem established on the banks of the Rhine. I don’t care where they came from, it was just cool to see them fly right by us through the border of three countries.

Mallard (female)

And now I have to mention the mallards. Now, anyone that has been reading this blog should know about the incident in Scotland where I was chastised by ducks. You can read it here. So I mention the mallards, that they were everywhere we went, and they are perfectly worthy of mention and should under no circumstances be referred to as “dirt birds” or “just Mallards.”
“Quaaaaack, quaaak”
That was okay then?
“Quack Quaaaaack”
Good, now will you leave me to blog in peace, please?
You always need to get the last word, don’t you?

European Tree Sparrow

We then headed out of Basel to Klingnauerstausee. Klingnauerstausee is a reservoir near Bottstein. If you want to see water birds this is the place to come. From Ruddy Shelducks to Water Rails to three species of Grebes and Little Egrets, they were all here. There are observation towers and plenty of paths to walk. Don’t let yourself get completely sucked in by the spectacle on the water, the fields around the lake, the trees, and the skies all hold equal interest. And there aren’t just birds here. The insect life is pretty amazing as well. I wish I had visited about a month earlier because the populations of resident and migrating birds and insects would have been multiplied astronomically.

Klingnauerstausee. Click to expand and you'll start to see just how many birds are out on that water.



Young Mute Swans

Tufted Duck with Little Grebe in background

Two young Great Crested Grebes with Coot and many ducks in the background.

Gadwalls, Common Teals, Mallards

Ruddy Shelducks, Cormorants, Yellow-legged Gulls, Gadwalls

Mallard (female), Coot

Coot. I love their weird feet (look in the reflection).

Water Rail (upper right background), Gadwall


There are a male and female white wagtail in the bottom right, directly across from the nose of the horse. I like this because both the birds and the horse are black, white, and gray.

Our final stop was a wander through Augst. Augst is best known as the location of Augusta Raurica, an Roman era archaeological site that is now an open air museum. In pre-Roman times this area was settled by the Gallic tribe, the Rauraci. Augusta Raurica is the oldest known Roman settlement on the Rhine and may have played a critical part in Caesar Augustus’s conquest of the Alpine region.

Augusta Raurica, ampitheater

There are some nice areas along the river to walk. Here we saw more mallards, moor hens, coots, marsh tits, Gadwalls, Little grebes, and Black redstarts, among others.

Reflection, Augst

Two Moorhens, among the leaves

Chaffinch (male)

Now you may be wondering where the photos of majestic, towering, snow-topped mountains and glacier carved valleys are. Next time. I’ve seen them. They are worth more than a day, which is all I had. In fact, they deserve a lifetime.

Places visited:
  • Lange Erlen (Tier Garten) L
  • Dreiländerecke D
  • Klingnauerstausee K
  • Augst A

Birds: 55 species


  1. Thank you for a great day - the Bright light in Autumn

  2. This is nice, I live in a city so I don't get a chance to see a lot of wildlife like this :) great pictures!

  3. All the pics of water birds are really amazing..If anyone want to see water birds then this is right place to see them..where nature throws all his beauty....


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