Thursday, 31 March 2011

Let's go (and see) fly a kite

We have been amazed since moving to Meilen by the number of big birds of prey we can see daily on our walks or even from the comfort of our balcony. Within a few hours of moving into our new home, we were gobsmacked to see that fella circling around our house!

Not that either of us is a keen bird watcher, but we had never seen a red kite in the UK! Red kites are quite big birds with a wingspan of nearly two metres. We have since found out that our house is inside the territory of a pair of kites whom we see most days flying over our neighbourghood and the lake looking for food. They make a beautiful sight. We were very excited last weekend to see one of the kites fly by with bits of twigs and vegetation in its beak, a sure sign they are thinking of nesting nearby. How wonderful would that be??!

Eddie buzzard also comes and visits us most days and sits on the tree in our back garden.

We felt quite sorry for Eddie when it was snowing and the weather was harsh, as it was probably hard for him (or her) to find food. So we helped Nature along a bit and started throwing bits of raw meat in our back garden. Although quite weary of humans, Eddie would eventually come down after a few minutes to eat, and if you don't move too much, you would be able to observe the scene from a few metres away. Since the weather has warmed up and small animals have come out of hibernation, Eddie does not come to visit quite so frequently but drops by every now and again.

What a privilege to have such a beautiful bird living in our garden! Although both red kites and buzzards are very common were we live, we always have to stop for a few moments and watch them every time we see them. They are such impressive birds.

There are plenty more birds around now that the spring is upon us, I just need to go for a walk with my camera and snap away...

Do come again!

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

We're going on a deer hunt

I was given the chance very recently to go and help some ecologists from the Univeristy of Zürich catch roe deer. One of the PhD student there is starting a study looking at the habitat use of roe deer in the presence and absence of their main predator, the lynx, as well as looking at the effect of hunting on the roe deer population demography in Western Switzerland. Alf and I went to spend a few days in the forest of Le Gibloux, near the Lac de la Gruyère. To my utter disappointment, the lake wasn't actually made of cheese, so there was no fondue to be had...However, we had lots of fun, especially Alf who looooooves snow (rolling in it and eating it!)

We were a team of about 30 people, half of which tended the nets that had been deployed around a 1km square area while the other half walked towards the nets, making as much noise as possible to scare the roe deer into the nets. 

Once disantangled from the nets, the roe deer were put in a box and carried to the nearest clearing where they were measured, weighed, tagged and, most importantly, where they were given a GPS collar that will record their GPS locations every few minutes so that scientists can follow their movements and their use of the habitat over the next few months.

We caught 6 female roe deer in total which wasn't bad considering none of us had any previous experience of this type of field work. We have no idea where the male roe deer were hiding! The "girls" did not seem to be too traumatised by the whole experience although they did not hang around for too long once they had been set free.

I had a really nice time despite my many falls in the thorny bushes trying to keep up with Alf running down some steep slopes. I'm sure he is still chasing them in his dreams...

Monday, 28 March 2011

Willkommen in Meilen

Welcome to Switzerland (or more specifically to Meilen as viewed from my balcony). We moved to Meilen early in January this year after Mr T got offered a job in neighbouring Zürich. We live on the top floor of a converted family house with amazing views on Lake Zürich and the mountains. 

Meilen is a small town on what is known here as the "Gold Coast" (or Goldküste) on the north bank of Lake Zürich. The Gold Coast has a seriously high concentration of millionaires per square km, even by Swiss standards! Tina Turner has been living in a nearby town on the Goldküste for the last 20 years...

Meilen has the combined benefits of being 15 minutes on the train from Zürich while retaining a real sense of community and some of its more rural heritage with its remaining working farms and vineyards. I have just found out on Wikipedia that 47% of Meilen's land area is used for agricultural purposes, while 24% is forested! That's a lot of green space!

After 7 years spent living in the busy West End of Glasgow, we still find it strange having access to so much green space on our doorstep but we have welcomed and embrassed the change of scenery and life style. Living in a house with a garden and near a forest and fields means that we have finally been able to do something we have been wanting for a long time: adopting a dog! Alf has joined our household 4 weeks ago now and will make regular appearances on this blog. Alf will have his own introductory post in the near future.

Do come back to see more of Meilen's inhabitants and local life!

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Giving credit where it is due

Before telling you about my new life in Switzerland and the little discoveries I have made in the past couple of months, I would like to thank my friend Petit Filoux who has opened to me the world of blogging and whose wonderful blog ( is full of little happy snippets of her life back in England. She has been an inspiration to me for many years, first as a school friend (she always got better geology grades!) and more recently as a gifted crafter.

The idea of a blog came from Mr T (aka the boyfriend) who suggested that starting a blog who provide a great incentive to keep all our friends back home updated on all the small details of our new life in Switzerland as well as connect with new ones from all over the world (maybe I am getting a little bit ahead of myself?). And more importantly, running the blog will likely help me retain my sanity over the next few months while I will be experiencing the sorry state of being "between jobs" (aka unemployed) in a new country. Right, let's keep a positive mental attitude and start this journey!
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