Wherever I go, I’m always interested in seeing and photographing the local birds. But there are some places you don’t expect to see any birds at all — like on top of Mount Pilatus, near Lucerne, Switzerland.
On my first day in Lucerne, I hopped the cable cars for a ride to the peak of this majestic mountain, which rises 2,000-metres above the city’s skyline. And getting to the top, I was expecting magnificent views. What I wasn’t expecting was a flock of Eurasian blackbirds — the same birds you see in people’s gardens and public parks from London to Copenhagen. But here they were, soaring above the clouds like a coven of mountain spirits.
I was shivering a bit in the chill wind and the thin air, but it didn’t seem to bother these birds at all. In fact, they were having the time of their lives, jumping off the rock face to fly back and forth across the viewing platform. Sometimes they zoomed down the snow slopes, like skiers on a cushion of air; at others, they chased each other around the mountain peaks until they tired and landed on the nearest wire, or rooftop. Now and then one even landed near enough for a me to take a closeup.
The sight of them whizzing back and forth was great entertainment. At the same time, it was another demonstration of life’s ability to thrive even in the harshest environments. According to the literature, Eurasian blackbirds breed in Europe, Asia, and North Africa — all pretty temperate places. But for some reason, these ones decided that the frigid peak of Mount Pilatus was a fine place to be, cold or no cold. And there they live, like mountain spirits, high above Lake Lucerne and the rest of the world. I wonder what they do when winter sets in and howling gales haunt the mountain peak. Do they fly off, or huddle together — or just vanish into thin air.