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E Austria in spring - Tour Report - May 09

John Muddeman
04/06/2009 14:13:44

Another highly successful visit to this lovely corner of C Europe. The following is primarily from the final report for the trip.

Posted in: Flora, Butterflies and Moths, Birds | Other | Non-Iberian

The Travelling Naturalist & Limosa Holidays

Tour Report - Austria: Spring at Lake Neusiedl
May 16th ~ 23rd 2009

 © John MuddemanLycaena dispar The ever-impressive Large Copper© John MuddemanAustria is traditionally thought of as a country of mountains and forests, but tucked away in the south-east is one of Europe’s jewels, rich in a wide diversity of natural history.

Our birding and wildlife holiday in the Spring of 2009 was centred in the lakeside town of Neuseidl-am-See in Burgenland. Here between the Alps and the Hungarian Puszta lies a unique landscape on the western side of the Little Hungarian Plain - the Kisalföld. The National Park of Seewinkel in Austria and the Fertö – Hanság, the Hungarian National Park contain a mosaic of salt-marsh, wet pasture, grazing meadows and a huge belted reed-bed that encompasses the 320 km2 Lake Neusiedl. The lake has an average depth of 1.5m and to the south and to the east lies the Hanság, a former fen, now covered by woodlands and wet meadows.

 © John MuddemanAcrocephalus melanopogon
Moustached Warbler
© John Muddeman
The whole area is an important breeding ground for European avian life as well as providing rich feeding for migratory birds that pass through central Europe. Special projects to preserve ancient domestic livestock are also being carried out in various locations and throughout the landscape one can come across Hungarian Grey Cattle, Mangalitza Pigs, White Donkeys, Water Buffalos and the sturdy Przewlski Horses.

We spent eight days in the area and took in some of the best birding sites around Lake Neusiedl, the lower Austrian Alps and the riverine ancient forests on the river March.

Our early morning walks proved very profitable with great views of Moustached and Marsh Warblers, Bluethroat and Common Cuckoo. Penduline Tit and Bearded Reedling were also present with Great Reed and Reed Warblers. River Warbler was heard at our visit to Marchegg, which is a special place and holds the largest White Stork colony in Austria. Collared Flycatcher, Wood Warbler, Garden Warbler and Eurasian Nuthatch were also recorded here as well as many different dragonflies, damselflies and woodland butterflies. Middle Spotted, Great Spotted and Green Woodpeckers all showed themselves here as well.

 © John MuddemanAeshna isoceles
Green-eyed / Norfolk Hawker
© John Muddeman
The weather during our holiday was mostly warm with clear blue skies and light breezes although a dull day greeted us at Vienna airport. The rest of the week was just fabulous with only a few clouds and cooler temperatures high on top of the Schneeberg mountain. At 823m in height this was to be expected and although Alpine Accentor proved impossible to find, we were rewarded with fine views of Water Pipit, Alpine Chough, Common Redpoll, Ring Ouzel and the Chamois that roam along the Eastern Alpine chain.

Bee-eaters were seen at a colony close to the hotel and their rich colours lit up the sheer sandy face of their nest site. Some spectacular views were had there with Turtle Dove and Golden Orioles calling from the tree-line.

The wetland areas of course didn’t disappoint either and the hundreds of Greylag Geese with long lines of goslings were a constant sight. Breeding Avocets and Kentish Plovers could be seen with ease and in the background Common Shelduck fed with Garganey, Gadwall, Mallard, Northern Shoveler and numerous Common Pochard and the lovely and abundant Red-crested Pochard, as well as many other wetland birds.

 © John MuddemanAquila heliaca Eastern Imperial Eagle© John MuddemanHobbies were fairly common and the Common Kestrel and Marsh Harrier were the most prolific of the raptors. Common Buzzards regularly came drifting over our heads and we also had distant views of White-tailed and Imperial Eagle close to the Einser Kanal and a high flying Montagu’s Harrier on the edge of the Lange Lacke.

On the slopes leading to the Hohe Wand and again on the forested rolling hillsides, Honey Buzzards were also seen, some in their spectacular ‘butterfly’ display flight. We also watched a male Peregrine Falcon carry a pigeon back to its nest where the calling female waited to feed their hungry chicks. This wonderful cliff-face also gave us views of Nutcracker, Crag Martin, Firecrest and other woodland passerines. Views from the top of the Hohe Wand are spectacular and we were fortunate to watch a passing juvenile Black Stork.

 © John MuddemanNucifraga caryocatactes Spotted Nutcracker© John Muddeman

Great Bustards can still be found close to the Hungarian border, where we enjoyed watching a large group in the hot morning sun. We were treated to some displaying males turning themselves ‘inside out’ which was a real bonus! The area also contains the noisy but rather lovely Barred Warbler, another summer migrant. Icterine Warblers didn’t seem to be in the area and it wasn’t until the second to last day that we caught up with this other noisy species! Some special butterflies, flying iridescent beetles as well as numerous damselflies and dragonflies -including Banded Demoiselles and Green-eyed Hawkers- put on a riverside show over the famous wooden bridge at Andau on the Hungarian Border.

We ate out at local Gasthoffs or small restaurants during the day and even took traditional fare in the log cabin up on the Schneeberg – a most satisfying traditional meal on the mountainside.

On the wet grazing lands we watched Garganey, Wood Sandpiper, Eurasian Curlew, Black winged Stilt and Great Egrets. One strange looking distant bird which was thought to be a Temminck’s Stint on the brief views we obtained, was then reported a few days later as  © John MuddemanAnas querquedula Garganey© John Muddemana N. American Baird’s Sandpiper! Stephen and John returned to the site after the group had left for home (once it had been truly identified) to witness the bird feeding with other waders close to the Neusiedl Biological Centre.

On quite a few occasions during the week we heard the loud ‘booming’ from Great Bittern coming from within the huge reed-beds and in front we watched Common, Whiskered and the truly elegant Black Terns feed on the open water. We also saw the rarer White-winged Terns as well, as well as views of colourful Ruddy Turnstone and had a real ‘Austrian Rarity’ in the form of two Oystercatchers on their stop-over on one of the small salt-lakes. A massive emergence of dragonflies was also evident at one point, with hundreds perched on the tips of some dead trees and even the local Eurasian Kestrels took a leaf from the Hobby book to satiate their hunger on some of the thousands of Four-spotted Chasers.

Eurasian Spoonbills were seen around several lakeside sites with regular flypasts of Purple Heron and some Pygmy Cormorants. One Little Bittern  © John MuddemanGentiana clusii Clusius's Gentian© John Muddeman was seen, as was a single and (sadly now) rare Lesser Grey Shrike. On the other hand, Red-backed Shrike was seen most days on the tour. The rich farmland, particularly the acres of vineyards along the Seewinkel basin had good breeding numbers of these charming birds.

Common Wall Lizards were seen on the mountain slopes away from the lakeside as were several Grass Snakes around the ponds and lakeside. Fire-bellied Toads were heard ‘booping’ along some of the lakes tracks. European Tree Frog was a particularly ‘cute’ individual and gained much attention, particularly amongst the groups photographers.

A list of all the species recorded during our visit can be seen below.

All in all this was a great week of bird watching and nature appreciation with great weather, in one of the most pleasant central European destinations. Stephen and John would like to thank you all for being such appreciative guests and your company, humour and fun won’t be forgotten. Until the next time!

Stephen Daly and John Muddeman, May 2009

It is also important to note that despite not figuring in the report, the flowers were of course great too, including a terrific display on the top of the Schneeberg. Of particular note were hundreds of Snowbells Soldanella alpina adjacent to the melting snow patches, other patches studded blue with gentians, including Clusius's Gentiana clusii and Spring Gentians G. verna, plus the pinks and yellows of four primroses: Entire-leaved Primula integrifolia, Least P. minima, Auricula P. auricula and numerous Oxlips P. elatior. Small white flowers included numerous clumps of Alpine Buttercup Ranunculus alpestris and a few Alpine Butterwort Pinguicula alpina. The lowland meadows of the Seewinkel National Park were also alive with the colours of the early flowers, and a real delight to the eye.

Species Lists


 © John MuddemanLimosa limosa Black-tailed Godwit© John MuddemanGrey Partridge Perdix perdix
Common Pheasant Phasianus colchicus
Greylag Goose Anser anser
Mute Swan Cygnus olor
Common Shelduck Tadorna tadorna
Gadwall Anas strepera
Mallard Anas platyrhynchos
Northern Shoveler Anas clypeata
Garganey Anas querquedula
Common Teal Anas crecca
Red-crested Pochard Netta rufina
Common Pochard Aythya ferina
Ferruginous Duck Aythya nyroca
Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula
Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis
Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus
Black Stork Ciconia nigra
European White Stork Ciconia ciconia
 © John MuddemanPrimula auricula Auricula primrose© John MuddemanEurasian Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia
Eurasian Bittern Botaurus stellaris
Little Bittern Ixobrychus minutus
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea
Purple Heron Ardea purpurea
Great Egret Ardea alba
Little Egret Egretta garzetta
Pygmy Cormorant Phalacrocorax pygmeus
Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo
Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus
Eurasian Hobby Falco subbuteo
Peregrine Falco peregrinus
European Honey Buzzard Pernis apivorus
Red Kite Milvus milvus
Black Kite Milvus migrans
White-tailed Eagle Haliaeetus albicilla
Western Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus
Montagu's Harrier Circus pygargus
Common Buzzard Buteo buteo
Eastern Imperial Eagle Aquila heliaca
Great Bustard Otis tarda
European Water Rail Rallus aquaticus
Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus
 © John MuddemanOtis tarda A Great Bustard male in the haze!© John MuddemanCommon Coot Fulica atra
Eurasian Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus
Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus
Pied Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta
Northern Lapwing Vanellus vanellus
Grey Plover Pluvialis squatarola
Common Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula
Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius
Kentish Plover Charadrius alexandrinus
Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago
Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa
Eurasian Curlew Numenius arquata
Common Redshank Tringa totanus
Common Greenshank Tringa nebularia
Wood Sandpiper Tringa glareola
Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos
Ruddy Turnstone Arenaria interpres
Temminck's Stint Calidris temminckii
Baird’s Sandpiper Calidris bairdii
Curlew Sandpiper Calidris ferruginea
Ruff Philomachus pugnax
Common Gull Larus canus
 © John MuddemanHyla arborea After rain Common Tree Frogs
often sit out in the sun and go brown!
© John Muddeman
Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis
Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundus
Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephala
Little Gull Larus minutus
Whiskered Tern Chlidonias hybrida
Black Tern Chlidonias niger
White-winged Black Tern Chlidonias leucopterus
Common Tern Sterna hirundo
Rock Dove Columba livia
Common Wood Pigeon Columba palumbus
European Turtle Dove Streptopelia turtur
Eurasian Collared Dove Streptopelia decaocto
Common Cuckoo Cuculus canorus
Common Swift Apus apus
European Bee-eater Merops apiaster
Common Hoopoe Upupa epops
Middle Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos medius
 © John MuddemanMerops apiaster European Bee-eater© John MuddemanGreat Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos major
Black Woodpecker Dryocopus martius
Green Woodpecker Picus viridis
Red-backed Shrike Lanius collurio
Lesser Grey Shrike Lanius minor
Eurasian Golden Oriole Oriolus oriolus
Eurasian Jay Garrulus glandarius
Common Magpie Pica pica
Eurasian Nutcracker Nucifraga caryocatactes
Eurasian Jackdaw Coloeus monedula
Rook Corvus frugilegus
Carrion Crow Corvus corone
Hooded Crow Corvus cornix
Common Raven Corvus corax
Marsh Tit Poecile palustris
Coal Tit Periparus ater
Great Tit Parus major
Eurasian Blue Tit Cyanistes caeruleus
Eurasian Penduline-tit Remiz pendulinus
Common Sand Martin Riparia riparia
Eurasian Crag Martin Ptyonoprogne rupestris
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica
Northern House Martin Delichon urbicum
Long-tailed Tit Aegithalos caudatus
 © John MuddemanPulsatilla alpina Alpine Pasque Flower© John MuddemanCrested Lark Galerida cristata
Eurasian Skylark Alauda arvensis
Grasshopper Warbler Locustella naevia
River Warbler Locustella fluviatilis
Savi's Warbler Locustella luscinioides
Great Reed Warbler Acrocephalus arundinaceus
Moustached Warbler Acrocephalus melanopogon
Sedge Warbler Acrocephalus schoenobaenus
Eurasian Reed Warbler Acrocephalus scirpaceus
Marsh Warbler Acrocephalus palustris
Icterine Warbler Hippolais icterina
Willow Warbler Phylloscopus trochilus
Common Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita
Western Bonelli's Warbler Phylloscopus bonelli
Wood Warbler Phylloscopus sibilatrix
Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla
Garden Warbler Sylvia borin
Barred Warbler Sylvia nisoria
Lesser Whitethroat Sylvia curruca
Common Whitethroat Sylvia communis
Bearded Reedling Panurus biarmicus
Firecrest Regulus ignicapilla
Northern Wren Troglodytes troglodytes
Eurasian Nuthatch Sitta europaea
 © John MuddemanLuscinia svecica a typical white-spotted Bluethroat© John MuddemanEuropean Starling Sturnus vulgaris
Ring Ouzel Turdus torquatus
Eurasian Blackbird Turdus merula
Fieldfare Turdus pilaris
Song Thrush Turdus philomelos
Mistle Thrush Turdus viscivorus
European Robin Erithacus rubecula
Common Nightingale Luscinia megarhynchos
Bluethroat Luscinia svecica
Black Redstart Phoenicurus ochruros
Whinchat Saxicola rubetra
European Stonechat Saxicola rubicola
Northern Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe
Spotted Flycatcher Muscicapa striata
Collared Flycatcher Ficedula albicollis
House Sparrow Passer domesticus
Eurasian Tree Sparrow Passer montanus
Dunnock Prunella modularis
Yellow [Blue-headed] Wagtail Motacilla flava flava
Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea
White Wagtail Motacilla alba
Water Pipit Anthus spinoletta
Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs
 © John MuddemanAcrocephalus palustris Marsh Warbler© John MuddemanEuropean Serin Serinus serinus
European Greenfinch Carduelis chloris
Eurasian Siskin Carduelis spinus
European Goldfinch Carduelis carduelis
Common Redpoll Carduelis flammea
Common Linnet Carduelis cannabina
Hawfinch Coccothraustes coccothraustes
Corn Bunting Emberiza calandra
Yellowhammer Emberiza citrinella
Reed Bunting Emberiza schoeniclus

European Rabbit Oryctolagus cuniculus
European Hare Lepus europaeus
European Suslik Spermophilus citellus
Stoat Mustela erminea
Western Hedgehog Erinaceus europaeus
European Mole Talpa europaea
Red Deer Cervus elaphus
Western Roe Deer Capreolus capreolus
Chamois Rupicapra rupicapra

 © John MuddemanLycaena tityrus Sooty Copper© John MuddemanFire-bellied Toad Bombina bombina
European Tree Frog Hyla arborea
Common Marsh Frog Pelophylax ridibundus

Common Wall Lizard Podarcis muralis
Grass Snake Natrix natrix

Scarce Swallowtail Iphiclides podalirius
Clouded Apollo Parnassius mnemosyne
Large White Pieris brassicae
Small White Artogeia rapae
Green-veined White Artogeia napi
Bath White Pontia daplidice
Orange-tip Anthocharis cardamines
Pale / Berger's Clouded Yellow Colias hyale / alfacariensis
Brimstone Gonepteryx rhamni
Wood White Leptidea sinapis
Small Copper Lycaena phlaeas
Large Copper Lycaena dispar
Sooty Copper Lycaena tityrus
 © John MuddemanPrimula integrifolia Entire-leaved Primrose© John MuddemanLittle Blue Cupido minimus
Silver-studded Blue Plebejus argus
Brown Argus Aricia agestis
Common Blue Polyommatus icarus
Duke of Burgundy Hamearis lucina
Red Admiral Vanessa atalanta
Painted Lady Vanessa cardui
Small Tortoiseshell Aglais urticae
Glanville Fritillary Melitaea cinxia
Queen of Spain Fritillary Issoria lathonia
Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary Clossiana selene
Woodland Ringlet Erebia medusa
Meadow Brown Maniola jurtina
Small Heath Coenonympha pamphilus
Speckled Wood Pararge aegeria
 © John MuddemanPhragmitaecia

Reed Leopard moth
© John Muddeman
Wall Brown Lasiommata megera

Reed Leopard Phragmitaecia castaneae
Six-spot Burnet Zygaena filipendulae
Latticed Heath Chiasmia clathrata
Speckled Yellow Pseudopanthera macularia

Banded Demoiselle Calopteryx splendens
Migrant Spreadwing Lestes barbarus
Common Winter Damsel Sympecma fusca
Azure Bluet/Damselfly Coenagrion puella
Variable Bluet/Damselfly Coenagrion pulchellum
Common Bluet / Common Blue Damselfly Enallagma cyathigerum
Large Red-eye / Red-eyed Damselfly Erythromma najas
Common Bluetail / Blue-tailed Damselfly Ischnura elegans
Green-eyed/Norfolk Hawker Aeshna isoceles
Blue Emperor [Dragonfly] Anax imperator
Lesser Emperor Anax parthenope
Hairy Hawker/Dragonfly Brachytron pratense
Broad-bodied Chaser Libellula depressa
Four-spotted Chaser Libellula quadrimaculata
Black-tailed Skimmer Orthetrum cancellatum

 © John MuddemanPyrrhocorax graculus Alpine Chough© John Muddeman
Field Cricket Gryllus campestris
Hornet Vespa crabro
Violet Carpenter Bee Xylocopa violacea
Shiny Blue Dung Beetle ??
Rose Chafer Cetonia aurata

Roman Snail Helix pomatia

Brown Trout Salmo trutta

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