Glatt : A Swiss River

Glatt river is a tributary of the Rhine in Northern Switzerland. I was living very close to the river and I had a chance to observe all the four seasons and the transformation in Glatt River. There are bus stops, train stations, tram stations, shopping malls and many more places named by Glatt. The 36 Kilometer (22 mile) long river had a cycle path on both sides.The river ends at Greifensee. I either used to go on a walk or bicycle to my office. The two kilometer (1.2mile) distance between my office and flat has given me a wonderful experience in observing nature and the transformation from one season to the next. 

Though the connection between the Rhine river and Griefensee is natural, the path of the Glatt river was modified due to the construction of Zurich Airport. The affluents from Zurich City is processed and drained in this river. So the water is still clear and the fishes are the evidence for the quality of the water. Normally the resident birds build their nest in the spring and lay their eggs to feed their offspring when the food is abundant in the summer. During the summertime the day is long. The voice of the river can be heard in the late evening with bird chirpings.


As there is no obstacles or the rocky outcrop, the river flows silently except in a few places. There are a lot of European beech trees on the bank of the river. The fresh leaves of these trees hang down on both sides of the river touches the water surface. European Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis) is one of the most beautiful birds which I commonly see nearby the river. But the tiny birds are difficult to photograph. They flew away in a jiffy and go to the treetops. 

One day when I was going back home from the office, I saw a flock of Goldfinches fly away from the shrub. Assuming they would come back to feed, I left my bicycle at home and came back to the point with a camera by walk. I observed the flock come back and I was slowly approaching them to take a clear shot of the bird. The focus on the birds was disturbed by the leaves and flowers. I stopped at one place and waited for the bird to come for the open perch. Suddenly a cyclist passed that point and the flock flew away once again. As it was summer, the extended daylight helps to me hold my patience. After a few minutes, the flock came again to the same point to feed the seeds from Brown knapweed. There are a few wild carrot plants also blooming. Finally, I got a chance to take a picture of the Male bird perching on the Wild carrot plant.

European Goldfinch

Normally the sunflower seeds sowed during the spring are ready to yield during the beginning of Autumn. The agriculture fields near the river attract a lot of birds, particularly finches. While observing the field I saw a bird that is similar to the size of the Common Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs), a resident bird in Switzerland. Later I found, that is Brambling which migrates from Scandinavian countries during the summer. Until Autumn we sit out near the river for the lunch. The flights take off from the Zurich Airport just fly above us. I always wonder how the birds are able to accept the noise from the aircraft. Noise pollution is one of the biggest threats to wildlife across the world in recent years. 


European Beech Tree

The leaves start changing their colour in Autumn before it sheds. The green leaves of European beech trees changes to yellow and Orange. Once the leaves started shedding the footpath on both sides of the river filled with leaf litter. Thanks to the municipality workers for cleaning up the path for pedestrians and cyclists every year during the Autumn. During the winter, the trees lose their leaves. The unshed leaves wag on the wind. Once it was night long snowfall and the next day morning the entire landscape was covered with snow. The bare trees had covered with a thin layer of snow everywhere. The gregarious Long-tail Tits (Aegithalos caudatus) were actively playing in the branches and sprinkling the snowflakes into the ground.

Long Tail Tit

Along with Long-tail Tits, Great Tit (Parus major) and European Blue Tit (Cyanistes caeruleus) are also residents of Switzerland. The comeback of Fieldfares (Turdus pilaris) is a good indication of Spring. The colour changes from greyish brown to green in the entire landscape. The freshly sprouted trees bring butterflies and birds back. 

The day gets longer with more chirping. The benches on both sides of the river get occupied. During the spring once I saw the White stork (Ciconia ciconia) come to the grasslands near the river. White storks were extinct in the 1950s in Switzerland. Thanks to Max Bloesch for the reintroduction of white storks in Switzerland. 

White Stork

The captive breeding programme helped to increase the population. Now the free-flying White storks choosing different locations for breeding in Northern Switzerland. They normally nest on tall structures like rooftops, pylons or trees. I have also seen the White storks in different locations in Switzerland but only once near the Glatt river. Most of the resident birds are breeding in Spring. So they are very active and easy to sight. They fill the riverside with songs. I was able to spend a few minutes every day during my daily routine to fill my memories from the Glatt river until I leave Switzerland. 

Article Published in "The Vienna Times" (USA) Magazine Feb 2022. ©Satheesh Muthu Gopal

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