Basel Birding

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I took one birding trip here after finishing working in the collections. But I also managed to get a couple lifers from my hostel. While I was walking down the road it was on, I saw a White Stork fly by overhead. The building had a green roof. The kitchen/dining room/lobby area was only one story and I could see its roof from my window. A little Black Redstart was there everyday foraging in the plants. It liked to sit on top of a skinny pole and preen when it wasn’t catching food. There were also an enormous number of Common Swifts flying in flocks and screaming overhead every afternoon.

Black Redstart

Black Redstart

I had originally wanted to go to a natural reserve just across the French border, but it turned out there wasn’t an easy, cheap way to get over there and back. There was a smaller city park on the edge of Basel and a large patch of green on the map beyond it in an adjoining town, Münchenstein. I took one of the trolleys to the former and found out that it was mostly a residential area. And the way the place was set up, it was sometimes hard to tell where public walking paths stopped and private property began. Which meant that I didn’t hike to the top of any of the mountains and did a lot of backtracking in order to avoid accidentally trespassing.

But the trip was still worth it. I saw so many raptors both in transit and there. Lots of Common Buzzards seen from the trolley. A pair of Sparrowhawks were soaring the thermals together in Münchenstein. One of them perched on the top of a conifer for quite some time. I walked up the hill to try to get close enough for a good shot, but as soon as I rounded a bend that gave me a good view, it took off. A Black Kite was soaring overhead as well.

There were a lot of House Martins there (the European version of Tree Swallows). You could tell that some of the nests under the eaves of houses had been there for a while because the owners had installed overhangs over their windows to keep the poop from piling up in front of their windows, and there were some huge piles of poop on top of them.

The young ones were almost to the point of fledging. You could see them impatiently sticking their heads out of their nests and begging any time an adult flew nearby, even if they weren’t actually heading to the nest. I tried to get a shot of a parent actually handing an insect off, but they only alighted for a split second before taking off again.

Feed me!

This is the closest I managed to get. Setting your camera to take multiple shots with each press of the shutter button is a must with swallows…

Aside from the Black Kite, I was only seeing common birds, so I decided to head to the park. There were plenty of other things to look at, though. There was all sorts of fruit growing everywhere—blackberries, pears, something that looked sort of like a small plum but I’m not sure what it was, plus several types of berries that humans don’t eat. I found some little invertebrates hanging out on one of the trees.

Some sort of stinkbug

Some sort of stinkbug

The snails had retreated into their shells and plugged them up to keep from losing moisture.

The snails had retreated into their shells and plugged them up to keep from losing moisture.

The park I went to was called Park im Grünen. It was a rather nice place. There were a couple little restaurants, ponds, forest, grassland, creeks… All manner of good habitat for birds. I saw two separate people feeding cheese puffs to birds. Why, I don’t know. That….isn’t a good choice for bird food. Even bread would be better.

This one somehow managed to get four in his beak before leaving to eat them in private

This Carrion Crow somehow managed to get four in his beak before leaving to eat them in private

You can see here that some of their wing feathers are actually a slightly bluer shade of black

You can see here that some of their wing feathers are actually a slightly bluer shade of black. The Crows here were really chatty.

The waterfowl were the usual collection of European park fowl—Mallards, Eurasian Coots, Mute Swans, Tufted Ducks, Red-crested Pochards…

A sleepy female Red-crested Pochard

A sleepy female Red-crested Pochard

This is a male Red-crested Pochard, but he's an eclipse morph, so he lacks the red crest and basically looks like a female with red eyes and a hot pink beak.

This is a male Red-crested Pochard, but he’s an eclipse morph, so he lacks the red crest and basically looks like a female with red eyes and a hot pink bill.

Odd position to nap in...

Odd position to nap in…

I was very happy to spy a Cetti’s Warbler amongst the plants at the edge of the water. It stayed pretty hidden, though, so I wasn’t able to photograph it.

I did manage to remember that my new camera can take video, though I kind of suck at it. It doesn’t seem to make much difference for the minnows, but you’ll want to change the coot video to 1080p.
The baby coots were being very belligerent. There were also big schools of minnows swimming near the surface and eating the floating algal mats.

Mostly repeats here, but I still managed to get four lifers!

  • Wood Pigeon
  • Rock Dove
  • Carrion Crow
  • House Sparrow
  • Common Swift
  • Great Cormorant
  • *Black Redstart
  • *White Stork
  • Mallard
  • Mute Swan
  • European Coot
  • Common Moorhen
  • Red-crested Pochard
  • Tufted Duck
  • Common Buzzard
  • *Black Kite
  • Sparrowhawk
  • House Martin
  • *Cetti’s Warbler
  • Blackcap
  • Grey Heron
  • European Blue Tit
  • Great Tit

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American Food According to or as Adopted By Europeans

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One of the first things that get carried between cultures is food. But because different cultures grow up with different palates, or because the people spreading the new food to their culture might not know or care about how to be completely authentic, the food will invariably change upon introduction.

I think most of us are aware that “ethnic” food is rarely truly ethnic. “Mexican” in the US is actually Tex-Mex. Chinese American is nothing like actual Chinese. And the “French” food in China was just confusing. So it was fun to see what other cultures think American food is like. I saw the following faux American foods for sale in Europe.

Paris–La Americaine

Ham, egg, lettuce, tomato, and mayonnaise on a baguette (Though apparently there’s another sandwich by the same name in France that’s very different? I didn’t see it, but it’s what searching for this sandwich on the internet pulls up.)

Aside from the baguette and egg, that’s spot on for a basic ham sandwich.

London–Southern Fried Chicken Salad

Macaroni, mayonnaise, yogurt, creme fraiche, sweet corn, red pepper, spices, and bits of fried chicken

Southern fried chicken is apparently a big thing here. I saw it in salads and wraps. The yogurt and creme fraiche are definitely not correct, but the rest is par for the course (You think we use them fancy things in Southern cookin’? Ha!).

Basel–American Restaurant

A little grab-and-go cafe in the train station.

It seems American food is muffins, desert breads (e.g., walnut bread, banana bread), and sandwiches on bagels. Including a “Nordic Bagel”. I couldn’t understand the ingredient list, but why is there a “Nordic” bagel in an “American” cafe?

Basel Exhibits and Marktplatz

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The day I walked around the exhibits, the place was oddly empty. I talked to the security guard and he said that, since it was such a nice day out, people were spending their time outside instead. They get more visitors on rainy days. It was strange to me that that day was considered nice by the locals because it was horribly hot and muggy. The cool, dry interior of the museum was far preferable to me.

My camera battery was about to die on me because I’d forgotten to charge it the night before, so I didn’t take many pictures of the exhibits.

Chalicotheres! One of my favorite extinct groups. They're related to rhinos, tapirs, and horses. There were two groups of them. The group in the picture here was characterized by having long arms like an ape and knuckle-walked like them too.

Chalicotheres! One of my favorite extinct groups. They’re related to rhinos, tapirs, and horses. There were two groups of them. The group in the picture here was characterized by having long arms like an ape and knuckle-walked like them too.

And their relative the tapir, demonstrating what the attachment site of a proboscis looks like.

And their relative, the Malayan tapir, demonstrating what the attachment site of a proboscis looks like.

Cainotherium, a member of Cainotheriidae, which is distantly related to camels.

Cainotherium, a member of Cainotheriidae, a group I’d never heard of that Wikipedia tells me is distantly related to camels.

They used actual patterned feathers to make this Archeopteryx reconstruction. They had several other fake taxidemied extinct birds as well, but I only took one picture because of my battery.

They used actual patterned feathers to make this Archeopteryx reconstruction. They had several other fake taxidemied extinct birds as well, but I only took one picture because of my battery.

One of the interesting things about the Basel exhibits was that some of their objects were just out on the floor with no stands or rope fences around them. This is unusual, because those are normally put into place to prevent people from touching the specimens and causing damage to them. But I have to admit, it was kind of cool to just walk right up to a life-size Woolly Mammoth.

One of the interesting things about the Basel exhibits was that some of their objects were just out on the floor with no stands or rope fences around them. This is unusual, because those are normally put into place to prevent people from touching the specimens and causing damage to them. But I have to admit, it was kind of cool to turn a corner and see a life-size Woolly Mammoth just standing in the middle of the room.

Stick insects! Demonstrating what's probably the closest to true isometric growth I've ever seen in nature. ...And no, it's not completely isometric. I'm a big enough nerd that I actually took measurements to find out.

Stick insects! Demonstrating what’s probably the closest to true isometric growth I’ve ever seen in nature.
And no, it’s not completely isometric…I’m a big enough nerd that I actually took measurements to find out.

This was an interesting room. You see a set of glass double doors with no apparent way to open them, but they slide open when you get near with a sound and slickness that seems very sci-fi. Then you enter this room that's even more sci-fi. Taxidermied mounts and skeletons in white and aqua boxes in a climate controlled room. It's full of recently-extinct and highly endangered animals, like the panda, dodo, Steller's sea cow, and saiga. One can very much imagine an archive like this, of species humans drove to extinction, in a futuristic building or ship. It was very well done.

This was an interesting room. You see a set of glass double doors with no apparent way to open them, but they slide open when you get near with a sound and slickness that seems very sci-fi. Then you enter this room that’s even more sci-fi. Taxidermied mounts and skeletons in white and aqua boxes in a climate controlled room. It’s full of recently-extinct and highly endangered animals, like the panda, dodo, Steller’s sea cow, and saiga. One can very much imagine an archive like this, of species humans drove to extinction, in a futuristic building or ship. It was very well done.

And I’m not going to devote an entire extra post to the marketplace outside the museum, but it was cool.

A very colorful building

A very colorful building

This is the weird charge I mentioned previously. It's a very stylized bishop's crozier and the symbol of the city.

This is the weird charge I mentioned previously. It’s a very stylized bishop’s crozier and the symbol of the city.

I'd never seen a male siren before. You're probably most familiar with them through the Starbucks logo, which is taken straight from a 16th century Norse woodcut.

I’d never seen a male siren before. You’re probably most familiar with them through the Starbucks logo, which is taken straight from a 16th century Norse woodcut.

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Basel Collections

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The Basel museum is predominantly a mammal repository. There are a few cabinets of crocodylomorph fossils, mostly scraps. But they do have a few good skulls I was interested in seeing.

There was a nice, nearly complete, 3D Diplocynodon ratelli skull and jaws. Its sutures were almost as good as that braincase in Paris. It’s also an example of why modern fossil restoration doesn’t restore parts with similarly-colored material. Back in the day, fossils were restored purely for display, so they wanted them to look as un-jarring as possible. Nowadays, they care more about making it easier for future scientists to tell what’s real from what’s fake. It’s not always as easy as it sounds because some of them do a really good job of making their parts look real.

You can pretty easily tell by the coloration that part of the tip of its snout is fake here. There are other fake bits visible, like parts of the jaw joints, but the lighting in this picture makes it a little harder to tell.

You can pretty easily tell by the coloration that part of the tip of its snout is fake here. There are other fake bits visible, like the same part of both jaw joints, but the lighting in this picture makes it a little harder to tell. If one couldn’t tell the jaw joints were fake, though, they might code them (and the restorer won’t necessarily have looked at other specimens of the same species to restore them), resulting in false codings.

There were also two skulls of a species that used to be called Hispanochampsa muelleri, but it turned out to be synonymous with Diplocynodon, so now it’s D. muelleri.

Dorsal view of D. muelleri's skull with jaws

Dorsal view of D. muelleri‘s skull with jaws

And the ventral view! Someone prepped out both sides of this slab while still keeping it safely supported by the matrix. Nice prep job!

And the ventral view! Someone prepped out both sides of this slab while still keeping it safely supported by the matrix on the sides. Nice prep job!

They also had a partial skeleton of an Italian Diplocynodon. I had originally planned to go to Italy to see more of them, but that didn’t work out, unfortunately.

Italian Diplocynodon in lignite

Italian Diplocynodon in lignite

They had a few other crocodylomorphs outside the crown group, as well.

Alligatorellium, an atoposaur

Alligatorellium, an atoposaur

Pelagosaurus, a teleosaur (a type of obligately marine croc)

Pelagosaurus, a teleosaur (a type of obligately marine croc)

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First Impressions of Basel

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  • Wait, French isn’t terribly common here even though we’re right across the border? Crap. I don’t know much German. Sometimes I hear it being spoken, but most written stuff is in German.
  • I like all the trams!
  • Ooo, my hostel’s schnazzy.
  • There’s an awful lot of construction going on in this city.
  • Apparently I look European, not American? At least that’s what a Swiss guy at my hostel told me.
  • Wow. The Rhine flows really fast on top of being a big river. Historians weren’t kidding when they said it had to of frozen over for the Vandals, Alans, and Suevi to cross it to go on their warpath through Gaul.
  • Why is food so expensive here?! I don’t want to pay the equivalent of $5.50 for a grilled cheese sandwich. 😦
  • They eat an awful lot of meat and bread here. Or, at least, that makes up almost all of the “cheap” food.
  • There’s a green rooftop outside my window and I got a lifer as soon as I looked out on it! Sweet!
  • A little farmer’s market outside the museum? Cool!
  • Heraldry is alive and well here. They seem to really like putting their very peculiar-looking charge everywhere.
  • Smokers everywhere! And no restrictions on where they can do it. My lungs are not happy.
  • Why are all the children crying within earshot of me?! Three fell down and started crying my first day here! Then a fourth who was just being a brat.
  • Nothing says cute like a naked kid gleefully choking a swan ’til it pukes.
"Animal abuse is so fun!" thought the sculptor. :/

“Animal abuse is so fun!” thought the sculptor. :/

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