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Col du Markstein - Trehkopf - Fellering, Haut-Rhin (68)
Watchpoint
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The surroundings and the natural setting of the watchpoint

At Fellering, in Haut-Rhin (68), the site of Markstein is in the Vosgean Massif about 500 m north of the hamlet Le Markstein, towards the Hohneck. The watch point is situated in the heathland, at 1260 m above sea level, on the northeastern flank of a valley. It is overlooking the route des crêtes and is at least a 100 m from the latter. During autumn migration, most migrants are coming from the valley of Guebwiller; they are crossing the col and are following the Thann river valley. Against the slopes of the valley, the birds are passing in good light conditions; those flying over the heathland are also well visible on a background of Blueberries, from our high vantagepoint. Birds quite often land in the very few small trees of the valley (Mountain Ash and Beech). Down in the valley, birds will perch in the spruce trees, often giving good views. Next to these advantages, there is also a backdraw. Weather conditions are not always favorable and during the survey, fog may limit the visibility down to a few metres! Wind force and wind direction are also important factors in the observation of migrants. With a fairly strong southern to westerly wind (4 to 6 Beaufort, or about 20 to 50 km.h-1) the migratory flow is more important. Birds migrating against the wind are funneled into the valley and fly close to the heathland; then, counting becomes easier. When the wind is weaker, birds are flighing higher and over a wider area. By eastern, northeastern, northern or northwestern wind, we are observing few migrants.

History of the survey

Well before the 1980s, several birders from Alsace noticed an obvious migration of passerines across the various Vosgean cols. Raptors, however, are not so well-represented. In 1993, the Markstein sightings have been collected by the Centrale Ornithologique Alsacienne. The survey became regular from 1994 onward; ever since, counts have been realized by a small group of local volunteers, going to the site when they had some time off. The team collected the data and published an annual bird report. The results have been transmitted to LPO Alsace.

Ornithological interest and emblematic species

Numbers of migrants observed varied obviously from year to year, according to the weather conditions (fog, wind direction) and observer coverage. In 2006, 200.138 birds of 73 species have been noted during 152 hours 40 minutes of observation; this is uptil now the most important total, but in reality, at least a quarter of a million birds must have passed the col during daytime in that autumn. Between 1994 and 2007, 106 species have been noted. Chaffinch is invariably the commonest species with in general over 40% of the total. The species on the second rank varies from year to year: Bramblinb, Wood Pigeon or Siskin. During certain years, unusual number of a species are noted: e.g. 501 Jays in 1996, 2672 tits (all species) in 2005. There are also some more unusual records: waders (4 species), woodpeckers, both treecreepers, Common Redstart, Redpoll, Pied and Spotted Flycatchers, Ortolan Buntings, Snow Buntings, Rock Buntings, Great Grey Shrikes, Red-backed Shrikes, trumpeting Northern Bullfinches (108 in 2005). The col is not a privileged site for raptor migration; Sparrowhawks and Peregrine, however, are hunting regularly.

Calendar of migration

We start to watch in August, but the migration is still weak at that time and mainly concerns insectivorous birds. Finches are migrating later. The migration flow is culminating in October and still strong in November. October is the best month, both for species diversity and the number of migrants. The season ends as the migrations flow weakens and the weather conditions hamper observations. Quite often, the migration is slowing down strongly by mid November. The end of the survey is usually in the third week of November or rarely the first week of December. The most commonly encountered migrants are passerines; the three first hours of the day are generally the most interesting; for raptors, however, the warmer hours are better.

Visitors

The migration survey depends on volunteers and their availability; there is no permanency at the site during the migration period. There is rarely a migration watch during afternoons.

Access

The locality Le Markstein is a ski resort in the Vosgean Massif (Haut-Rhin, 68), situated at 1200 m elevation on the route des crêtes.
It is accessible by car from various cities in the lowlands:
- in the east, from Guebwiller via the lake of la Lauch (25 km).
- in the north, from Munster via Sondernach (23 km) or from Munster via col de la Schlucht (39 km)
- in the south from Thann, Willer-sur-Thur  via le Grand Ballon (28 km)
The watch point is about 500 m north of the ski resort. It is overlooking the route des crêts at the level of a hairpin bend.

Where to eat and where to stay?

• Restaurant Wolf (SA)
Route des Crêtes
68610 MARKSTEIN
Tel : 00 33 (0)3 89 82 64 36 
E-Mail : 
mailto:hotelwolf@aol.com

• Office de tourisme de Guebwiller
Tel : 00 33 (0)3 89 76 10 63

Contact

• LPO Alsace
8 rue Adèle Riton
67000 STRASBOURG
Tél. : 00 33 (0)3 88 22 07 35
E-mail :
mailto:alsace@lpo.fr

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