Switzerland is rightly famous for its stupendous upland scenery and crisp mountain air. The southern Valais region that borders with Italy is one of the most beautiful of all - and a prime location for alpine birding. Crested Tits and Western Bonelli's Warblers frequent the forests, boldly spotted Nutcrackers conceal themselves amongst the Arolla Pines and the trills of handsome ‘red’ Common Redpolls rise above flower-filled alpine meadows.
From Geneva, we follow the valley of the mighty Rhône eastwards to reach our base in the picturesque Val d’Hérens, which is both a Parc Regional and a Biosphere Reserve. With no changes of hotel to worry about during our stay, we shall be free to devote ourselves to some of the most spectacular birding and landscapes in all Switzerland: from the glaciers at the head of the lovely Val d’Hérens itself, east to the famous Gornergrat with its majestic views of the Matterhorn. In mid-late June, the weather in the Alps is typically warm with plenty of sunshine and our aim will certainly be to make the most of this!
The woods and mountains around about our hotel are the perfect place to start. Red-backed Shrike, Fieldfare and Serin are to be found in the gardens and meadows around town, and Dippers bob beside the mountain streams as we listen for the buzzing chatter of both Black and Common Redstarts, which nest in the town.
On one day, we will travel to Zermatt and take the mountain railway up to the Gornergrat. If visibility is good, we shall enjoy uninterrupted views across the glaciers towards the iconic chiselled peak of the Matterhorn - one of the most spectacular views in the world. Here, at an elevation of around 3000m, we’ll watch for Snowfinch and Alpine Accentor, while playful Alpine Choughs may even feed from our hands!
Should visibility on the high tops let us down, we will find birding along the floor of the Rhône Valley is equally rewarding. Bee-eaters now breed here and Black Kite, Honey Buzzard, Nightingale, Great Reed and Marsh Warbler plus Golden Oriole await our discovery here.
We'll also pay a visit to the stupendous Grande Dixence dam - scene of that death-defying bungee jump in the James Bond movie GoldenEye. Travelling up via a short cable car ride, we plan to make our descent on foot (rather than elastic!) and can expect stupendous views plus chances of some great plants and birds along the way. Wallcreeper, Golden Eagle, Alpine Accentor, Ring Ouzel, and Water Pipits in pastel blue summer plumage are possible, while plants can include Snowdon Lily, a variety of primroses and a good chance of Edelweiss.
Birdwatching in the Swiss Alps is full of surprises. Our June 2018 tour enjoyed brilliant views of Lammergeier (Bearded Vulture), soaring Golden Eagles and Nutcrackers feeding their vociferous young, along with nesting Bee-eaters, Marsh Warblers and a smart singing Snowfinch among other memorable highlights. We’ve even been lucky to find the shy Rock Partridge here once or twice in the past! The excitement of many butterflies on the wing - from Mazarine and Amanda’s Blues, through Mountain Dappled White and Clouded Apollo to Niobe and Alpine Marsh Fritillaries - all add to the ingredients for a wonderful wildlife holiday.
With relaxed, easy paced walks and plenty of invigorating Swiss mountain air, this tour offers an unbeatable introduction to alpine birds and butterflies. Limosa has been operating tours to Switzerland since 2002 and our June 2019 trip will be our 16th visit to the Swiss Alps in summer. It's a trip that's both designed and led for us by guide Brian Small, returning now for his 13th visit to the region. David Walsh shares Brian's passion for birds and butterflies and will be teaming up with him to co-lead our 2019 tour.