Birds of the Léman

My last post about birds concerned the great crested grebe (which appears in a most hilarious way in Scoop — “Lord Copper,” he was saying, “no man shall call me a liar unchastised. The great crested grebe does hibernate.”)

Although a more recent week-end excursion on the Léman was richer in raptors, it was also a pleasure to watch the noble heron (Héron cendré, I guess) guarding the piers:

However, the thrilling part was to watch raptors fishing; to be precise, I think most of them were the same species

which — interpreting my bird-book — is quite likely to be the Milan noir (Milvus migrans) (it might be the Milan royal, but that seems much more unlikely). Of course, most of my attempts to photograph the fishing of the milans resulted in blurry pictures of the surface of the lake; however, some succeeded, like this one

or that one

Lago Maggiore

Mathematicians coming to Verbania, on the Lago Maggiore, for tourism may be interested either in Riemann’s grave, in borromean rings or in getting some rest. Charmingly, these can all be combined at will. I haven’t yet visited the first, but visiting the Borromean islands

A Borromean island

naturally leads to

One ring


Two rings

with the

Three rings

second. As for resting, I had an amusing elementary inequality in mind (almost) wherever I went, and that was actually rather nice…

Another highlight was the opportunity to witness the mating display of the Great Crested Grebe (or grèbe huppé, or Podiceps cristatus)


something which — according to my bird book — is not so common. I even took a short movie, but in true Murphy’s Law fashion (probably to compensate for its failure when photographing geckos making hand signals) I just missed the few seconds when the birds actually stood on the lake (as in this picture, though the ones I saw did not hold a fish at that time).

A restaurant recommendation in Verbania-Intra is the Trattoria Concordia; bear in mind that local red wines are, typically, slightly fizzy; it can make for a real vacation feel…

More animals

And now for something completely different: the amazing African Jacana (or Actophilornis africana, for the cognoscenti), another denizen of the Zürich rain forest, which is distinguished by having (relative to size) the longest toes, and the longest claw on the rear toe (if I believe, as I have no reason not to, the official Masoala rainforest guide). Here is a first picture:

Baby and adult African Jacana

Notice the baby Jacana on the left (the adult is likely to be the father, since the male takes care of the eggs in this species).

Here is a closer view of the baby:

Just the baby African Jacana

It gets its big toes pretty young…

Chameleons again

Continuing the tradition of the ever-popular series of posts on animals of the Zurich rainforest, here are some of yesterday’s pictures of a baby chameleon:

For scale, the whole animal is about 10 centimeters long (4 inches).

(We believe this is a baby and not a dwarf chameleon, though there certainly exist much smaller adult ones, simply because there is no species of dwarf chameleon in the Masoala exhibit).