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Birding in The Alps (3 Viewers)


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I've got a question about birding in The Alps (not only Austria) in September.

I'm going on a holiday for 2 weeks in September. We are planning to make a large round trip by car through the Alps. We haven't booked anything yet nor decide on the route, but it will be in multiple countries.

I am a dutch birder, my girlfriend likes nature and walking, but we will not be doing whole days of birding or long, hard hikes. We will just be driving around, getting out of the car to see the views, visit villages and nature and see as much of the mountains as we can. We will be making short walks, look around at easy accessible viewpoints in the mountains and maybe take a few cable cars up the mountains. Of course I will be keeping a sharp eye on birds and take my binoculars with me, so some light birdwatching is definitely planned but not like you would do when birding is the main priority.

- What I really would like to know is which species of birds you will come across in 2 weeks, after driving around in the alps a lot, without extensive searching and twitching them for hours on specific locations?

- And if more effort is necessary, do you know great locations with a high chance of encountering these species or locations with a larger amount of those species, possibly with multiple species on the same location?

- what height (above sealevel, or below/above the treeline etc.) or biotope do I have to look for which species?

- For species that can only be found higher in the mountains, is it possible to to get to a good location and travel high enough with a car or by cable car?

My absolute must-see targets are:
- Rock Ptarmigan
- Bearded Vulture
- Golden Eagle
- Alpine Swift (still possible in September?)
- Eurasian Crag Martin (still possible in September?)
- Alpine Accentor
- Spotted Nutcracker
- Alpine Chough
- Citril Finch
- Rock Dove (when are they considered wild and pure?)
- White-winged Snowfinch
- Italian/Iberian Yellow Wagtail (cinereocapilla)

What I also would like to see or hear but may be too difficult in the Alps in September(?):
- Western Capercaillie
- Hazel Grouse
- Rock Partridge (are the reintroductions considered wild?)
- Tengmalm's Owl
- Grey-headed Woodpecker
- Eurasian Three-toed Woodpecker
- White-backed Woodpecker
- Cirl Bunting
- Rock Bunting

Hope you can help me out!
Hi, DutchSparrow, I guess your route is all settled by now, maybe you are even already on your way. Still, a few points which might still be helpful:

For most of your targets I´m afraid your chances of seeing them are very, very low. Lots of specialties among your choices.

To start with the good news:

Alpine Chough should be an easy bird. Depending on the weather they can even come down to villages like Mittenwald (Germany) or to the city of Innsbruck (mostly in winther though). Other than that, very easy at several tourist hotspots high up in the mountains, for example Nordkettenbahn in Innsbruck or Karwendelbahn in Mittenwald (both cable car options) or at the Franz-Josefs-Höhe (Großglockner-Hochalpenstraße). They are very bold and are easy to approach.

Spotted Nutcracker is also a very common bird. Pretty much on any walk in forest area a bit higher up (say above 1,000m) you should see them without trying too hard.

All others are already quite tricky, though some are doable.

Rock Ptarmigan is normally a very shy bird but on top of the Karwendelbahn ("Karwendelgrube") they can be observed quite easily with a bit of luck, I saw nine of them just two weeks ago. This is also a good spot for Alpine Accentor and (if you are lucky) Snow Finch and (if you are extremely lucky) wallcreeper.

The cable car from Innsbruck (Nordkettenbahn) should also give you some of the alpine specials. Golden Eagles and Bearded Vultures are a matter of luck - I´ve seen both this year, but on longer hikes and usually pretty far away. Again, the Großglockner Hochalpenstraße could be good for raptors with patience, and for vultures in general the Rauris valley and Kals in Osttirol are good options. But sightings are by no means guaranteed.

Alpine Swift and Crag Martin should soon be gone. Both quite rare, but Crag Martins are even around in the city of Innsbruck. Alpine Swifts are more difficult, I´m not aware of any reliable places but I´ve seen them on hikes this year.

I don´t think we do have any "wild" Rock Doves at all in Austria, and not sure we really ever get Ashy-Headed Wagtail (cinereocapilla) either. Citril Finch is very rare, some of them were seen this year at "Naturpark Dobratsch" in Carinthia.

From your second group I´m sorry to say pretty much impossible (especially at this time of the year) without a lot of effort. Maybe the Woodpeckers. Eibsee in Germany has a good reputation for White-Backed and Three-Toed. Grey-Headed Woodpecker should be a bit easier, seen them a couple of times in Carinthia especially.
About Woodpeckers and other some other alpine birds.

Rock Bunting is almost impossible in Bavarian.
Check area at river main e.g. at ornitho.de look for Zippammer.
White-backed Woodpecker ( Weissrueckenspecht ) was seen also in Murnauer Moos, but rare. Better check Tatzelwurm ( see bavarian woodpeckers ).

See at this map

Crag Martin is very hard to find in Bavarian, but not so difficult in Austria also in September. Check ornitho.at for Felsenschwalbe.

Hazelgrouse is hard everywhere. In some years I see no Hazelgrouse, eventhough after 80 - 100 monutain hikes per year.

Three toed Woodpecker e.g. Tatzelwurm ( near Austrian border on the way from Munich to Kufstein ).

If You can read German language, the information from book autor Christoph Moning will help.
Hi, I was indeed already on my way to the Alps, we had a great time with 9 of 10 targets seen and 1 bonus!

Species I saw:

- Alpine Accentor: Säntis and Gornergrat
- Snow Finch: Säntis, we loved this mountain. fog was thick as soup when we ascended, but the clouds broke after 2 hours when we were on the top and the views of the clouds rolling against the mountains with the late afternoon sun were magnificent!
- Alpine Chough: Everywhere :D
- Golden Eagle: Grossglockner Hochalpenstrasse
- Nutcracker: Ebenalp and lots at Riederalp/Aletsch forest
- Citril Finch: Riederalp
- Rock Ptarmigan: 2, after searching for hours at Karwendelspitze, 2 of them came very close and I got one of them on a photo, flapping its wings!
- Eurasian Crag-Martin: A few different places
- Alpine Swift: A lot above the city of Bern

We missed Bearded Vulture on Gemmi because the weather was bad and foggy.

- But Grey-headed Woodpecker at Ebenalp and Grindelwald was a bonus!

Next to that we also saw Alpine Chamois and Alpine Ibex

Kind regards,
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