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ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Columbia

Lake Neusiedl, Austria, April 17-26 2019 (1 Viewer)

3Italianbirders

Registered User
Supporter
Italy
We had been eyeing the calendar for a couple of years, as you don’t always get an Easter break in the second half of April, which even if it’s not the peak of the spring migration, can still be pretty good compared to most Easters. On top of this there was an Italian national holiday, April 25th, just after Easter, which meant that our daughter would get 10 days off school instead of the usual meagre 6 Italian kids normally get. We didn’t want the hassle (and expense) of flying during the school holidays and looked around for suitable birding destinations within drivable distance.

The Lake Neusiedl National Park in South-eastern Austria looked easy to reach and to visit, with enough information available online and some guaranteed target species: Eastern Imperial Eagle, Great Bustard and Syrian Woodpecker, along with many others among waders, birds of prey and warblers. As it turned out, we were a tiny bit early for some of the species we wanted to see, such as Barred Warbler and Lesser Whitethroat, and also for the Marsh Terns (personally among my favourite species). Also, the season had been very dry and the saline lakes had very little water in them, thus there were less waders (both in numbers and in species) than we expected to see, and usually very far away. But the weather was fantastic and all considered we had a very good time, seeing all our “most wanted” targets. We could have done with a Saker, but we knew it wasn’t easy.

Ubiquitous species were: Marsh Harrier, Greylag Goose, Ruff (we would never have thought that one day we would find Ruffs boring!), Yellow Wagtail.

We booked a self-catering accommodation which we found through the Austrian farm stays website https://www.farmholidays.com and asked for information here on BF, through Birdingpal and on the Austrian bird.at forum. We also purchased Leander Khil’s “watching birds in Seewinkel” booklet (available on Leanderkhil.com). Courtesy of the Italian Post, the booklet arrived when we were already in Austria, but the author was very helpful and had a copy waiting for us at the National Park Visitor’s Centre, which is well worth a visit for its helpful staff, good coffee and excellent shop which sells detailed maps of the Park, which are essential for visiting the area.

April 17
home - Udine

This was the last day of school, so we set off at lunchtime and stopped for the night in Udine, in the north-eastern corner of Italy, an hour’s drive from the Austrian border at Tarvisio. En route the usual things: Italian Sparrows, Common Buzzards, Swallows, Starlings, Hooded Crows, Little and Great White Egret, Grey Heron. Yellow-legged and Black-headed Gulls and an unexpected Crag Martin. In the garden of our B&B in Udine we hear a Willow Warbler and a far-away Cuckoo.

April 18
Udine - lake Neusiedl - evening in the Hansag area

We set off early and drive north, then at the border turn east for the long drive through southern Austria. Beautiful scenery but few birds, apart from a Kestrel, a Buzzard, the first Carrion Crows and then Rooks when we get closer to the Lake Neusiedl area.

The fields and vineyards that border the roads that cut through the Park are full of Greylag Geese with their chicks, Pheasants and Hares. We also see what will be the commonest bird of prey of the trip: Marsh Harrier, also the first White Stork, Crested Lark and House Sparrows. We settle in at our accommodation, after a difficult conversation in German with our hostess who doesn’t speak English and then set off for the Hansag area, where the Bustards should be. Some pools along the road that leads from the town of Tadten to the Hungarian border host the first of the uncounted Ruff we will see, by far the most common and numerous wader in the area, Lapwings and Redshanks. A Montagu’s Harrier flies in the distance. The road is dotted with birders and photographers and we soon see the first Great Bustards (although very far away), Curlews, Yellow Wagtails (many of those, too), a very welcome Reed Bunting along the canal, the first Skylarks and 2-3 Short-eared Owls that hunt on the fields. We reach the end of the road and turn left along the canal on the border and then left again on the road that leads to Andau. From the observation tower there, although the light is wrong at this time in the evening, the Bustards are much closer and a couple of males are displaying nicely.
 

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3Italianbirders

Registered User
Supporter
Italy
April 19
lake Neusiedl: Deutsch Jarndorf area, Bruckneudorf area, Hansag

During breakfast we exchange messages with Roman, a local birder whom we had contacted through Birdingpal, and he suggests joining him in the Deutsch Jarndorf area, which he recommends both for Bustards and for Imperial Eagles. When we get there it’s probably already a bit late in the morning and we don’t see any eagles, but we do see a very close Short-eared Owl and Great Bustards closer than the previous night. Also Black and Red Kites, two species that are not easily seen elsewhere in the area. Also Kestrels, Buzzards, more Lapwings, Grey Partridge.

We follow Roman to a small reserve near the town of Bruckneudorf, with a path that runs along a stream, a wooded area and reedbeds. here we add to the list common woodland species such as Great Tit, Chiffchaff (heard only) and Blackcap, plus Great Reed Warbler, Cormorant, Shoveler, Sand Martins, Coot, Kingfisher. We also hear Savi’s Warbler and Water Rail. There are hundreds of frogs croaking among the reedbeds, but also many Fire-bellied Toads, which we hear very well, and, after much scanning of the water surface with our scope, also manage to locate. But the best is yet to come: on the way back to the car we hear a Black Woodpecker very close to the path. It’s only a matter of minutes before we see it making its way up a trunk, fantastic!

We say goodbye to Roman and head towards the Hansag area again where we hear from other birders that Imperial Eagles were seen in the morning and add Stonechat to our list.

April 20
lake Neusiedl: Hansag, Andau bridge, Warmblutkoppel hide, Oberstinkersee, Geißelsteller, Badesee

We have decided that an early start is in order, so with a yawning teenager in tow we drive to the Hansag, hoping to be in time for the Imperial Eagles, but we have no joy. We do see several Great Bustards and a Merlin, besides the usual Marsh Harriers, Ruffs, Yellow Wagtails, Lapwings and Curlews. A nice White-tailed Eagle also flies past, while Greenfinches call from the nearby trees. We drive to the small car park by the Andau bridge and walk across to the Hungarian side, adding Green Woodpecker, Golden Oriole, Yellowhammer, Raven, Nightingale, Mute Swan and Sparrowhawk to the list.

We drive to the town of Illmitz and then take the road towards the beach, stopping at the Warmblutkoppel hide, where a whole range of new species awaits us. Serin, Hoopoe, Red-crested Pochard, Common and Caspian terns, Teal, Black-winged Stilt, Wood Sandpiper, Shelduck, along with families of Greylag Geese, the usual Ruffs and Redshanks. We get back into the car and drive to the Oberstinkersee. Unfortunately the season has been very dry and there’s little water in the saline lakes, but we do see Garganey, Gadwall, Avocet and Little and Common Gull, besides the usual suspects. Also a very nice Grass Snake, swimming among the waders. In one of the hides we meet two German birders who tell us of a Jack Snipe along the path that heads west from the Visitors’ Centre and a Long-eared Owl by a recreational lake near Apetlon. So we get back in the car and drive to the Visitors’ Centre car park, then take the path that skirts another almost dry saline lake, seeing a Linnet on the way. We get to the Geißelsteller, an area of wet (well, not very much this year) meadows with some small pools and there, among the Redshanks, the Ruffs and the Ringed Plovers, G spots something smallish and brownish, half-hidden by the long grass. Sure enough it’s a Jack Snipe! Very nice and very obliging: we watch it for a long time and other birders come along, but it seems oblivious to the small crowd with various optics that has gathered along the path.

It’s getting late and we still have to find the owl, so we look up the small lake on the map and drive there not knowing exactly where to look, but when we get there it’s easy to locate the Long-Eared Owl as there are a number of birders and photographers around the tree that serves as its daytime roost. On the lake shore we also see a Common Sandpiper, then it’s time to go home.
 

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3Italianbirders

Registered User
Supporter
Italy
April 21
lake Neusiedl: Hansag, Lange Lacke, Hansag

We get up even earlier than the previous day, and drive to the Hansag hoping that this will prove to be the day when we finally get to see the eagles! We don’t, but we see instead a small group of Red-footed Falcons, 2 males and 2 females and a Black Stork. We also add to the list Sedge Warbler, seemingly abundant in the reeds along the canal by the side of the road.

Being Easter Sunday, and having seen on the previous day how packed with families and cyclists the paths along the saline lakes were we decide to skip the area around Lake Neusiedl proper and head to another saline lake, but further inland, Lange Lacke. Here we add to the list Corn Bunting and Dunlin, seen in a smallish group opposite the hide, but nothing else apart from the usual Ruff, Greylag Geese, Yellow Wagtail.

Next stop is the campsite by the village of St. Andrä, where there is a well-known colony of European Ground Squirrels, also known as Sousliks. Driving along the campsite fence it’s impossible to miss them, as they are everywhere, but not as confident as their Canadian counterparts which we saw a few years ago in BC. As soon as they spot a suspicious movement they disappear into their holes - it’s actually a wonder the the campsite is still standing given the number of holes (and supposedly tunnels that connect them) that we can see all over the grounds.

In the evening back to the Hansag, where a Hobby is showing very well, hunting in front of the western observation tower. Non- feathered species include Tree Frogs (species not yet identified) and an European Pond Turtle, very nice. Also a couple of Short-eared Owls and finally, a brief glimpse of an Eastern Imperial Eagle, but we want more!

April 22
lake Neusiedl: Hansag, Illmitz, Warmblutkoppel hide

We decide that the early mornings haven’t been very productive so we lie in a little longer and when we get to the Hansag the birders who are already there tell us that no eagles have been seen yet so apparently we made a good choice. There are Great Bustards, a Short-eared Owl, Red-footed Falcons, the usual Marsh and Montagu’s Harriers, a Buzzard and Curlews. Then after a while, G calls out: “eagle!”, not just one but THREE Eastern Imperial Eagles, in three different plumages, truly an Imperial Eagle show!

Another species which should have been very easy has been eluding us: Syrian Woodpecker. Whenever we ask we are told that it’s very easy, as they are usually seen in the local villages, in small parks and gardens, no real effort is needed! To this effect whenever we drive through one of the villages we do so at a crawling pace, looking left and right at the trees that flank almost every street, but so far we have failed miserably, despite having seen many “suitable” trees with woodpecker holes and once having done a u-turn after a UFWP (unidentified flying Woodpecker) had crossed the road in front of us. So we decide to look for suitable village parks, possibly with a bench where we can sit with our sandwiches and wait. We find one with decent-sized trees that also have some promising holes and as soon as we park the car we hear the unmistakable call of a woodpecker! And it’s there, a Syrian Woodpecker just above us, then it flies into the next tree, then over a wall and away. Now we can eat our lunch feeling a little lighter (also the sandwiches taste much better!) and watching a Song Thrush that also seems to like this park.

After lunch we head to the Warmblutkoppel hide again, where we are greeted by the usual sight of families of Greylag Geese, Red-crested Pochards, Common and Caspian Terns and Wood and Common Sandpipers. We also add to the list a pair of Whimbrel, Spotted Redshank and Little Ringed Plover and a splendid adult White-tailed Eagle flies over. We also hear Savi’s Warbler, but we fail to locate it, so another birder tells us that it’s easier to see them going further along the road to the beach. We try, but fail again even if we hear at least three different individuals calling from both sides of the road. We also see a raft full of Black-headed Gulls and add Great Crested Grebe to the list. In the meantime a very strong wind has started blowing and we decide to try the Hansag again for our usual evening birdwatch. We are rewarded with another (or one of the same) Eastern Imperial Eagle which hunts at length over the fields scattering hares left and right. Eventually it decides to have a rest a sits in the middle of a ploughed field for some time. When it flies it’s almost dark, it comes towards us and flies right above our heads - a magical sight to behold!
 

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3Italianbirders

Registered User
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Italy
Imperial Eagle Galore! You can tell how close it was!
 

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3Italianbirders

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Supporter
Italy
April 23
sightseeing in Vienna

Rain and wind are forecast for today so we opt for a little sightseeing in Vienna. Unfortunately the Natural History Museum is closed on Tuesdays so we walk around the centre and then go to the Kunsthistorisches Museum. No new birds seen, apart from those in the museum, and very nice they were!

April 24
Lake Neusiedl: Hansag, Warmblutkoppel, Oberstinkersee

The usual early morning visit to the Hansag yields the usual species plus one Imperial Eagle and a few Red-footed falcons. Back at the Warmblutkoppel hide we add four new species to the list, Purple Heron, Pygmy Cormorant, Greenshank and Spoonbill. In a small copse along a dirt track near the Oberstinkersee, which we were scanning for warblers, hoping to find some new arrivals, we see a single Pied Flycatcher.

We go back to the campsite at St. Andrä to try and have a better look at the Sousliks. When we arrive we notice a couple of photographers lying on the ground just past the entrance, obviously the are used to people pestering them to get closer to the cute beasts so they just nod when we ask if we can go through the barriers. We do get closer, but they are definitely shy!


April 25
Lake Neusiedl: Warmsee, Warmblutkoppel, Zicklacke, Oberstinkersee, Zicksee, Hansag

More wind is forecast for the afternoon so we opt for a morning visit to the reedbeds around the Warmblutkoppel hide to try and see Savi’s and other warblers. On the way, we see a few Black-tailed Godwits at the Warmsee. When we get to the hide we see Spotted Redshank, Greenshank and Little Ringed Plover, but walking along the road to the beach we finally manage to locate a Savi’s Warbler singing from halfway up a reed, and showing very well indeed!

We head to the Zicksee, said to host Bitterns (and Littles too) and Bearded Reedlings, but the reedbeds are a bit far away and despite seeing good numbers of Ruff, Black-winged Stilt, Avocet and Wood Sandpiper we don’t bag any new species.

Back to the Hansag for the last time, we add two new species: Whitethroat along the dirt road by the Andau bridge and Blue Tit (apparently rare in these parts) on the Hungarian side. Also Yellowhammer, Chiffchaff and more of the usual. That’s it! Time to pack… tomorrow we plan to leave at 5am for the 12-hour drive home.
 

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3Italianbirders

Registered User
Supporter
Italy
Full checklist

1. Little Grebe
2. Great Crested Grebe
3. Cormorant
4. Pygmy Cormorant
5. Cattle Egret
6. Little Egret
7. Great White Egret
8. Grey Heron
9. Purple Heron
10. Black Stork
11. White Stork
12. Spoonbill
13. Mute Swan
14. Greylag Goose
15. Shelduck
16. Gadwall
17. Teal
18. Mallard
19. Garganey
20. Shoveler
21. Red-Crested Pochard
22. Pochard
23. Black Kite
24. Red Kite
25. White-tailed Eagle
26. Imperial Eagle
27. Marsh Harrier
28. Montagu's Harrier
29. Sparrowhawk
30. Buzzard
31. Kestrel
32. Red-footed Falcon
33. Merlin
34. Hobby
35. Grey Partridge
36. Pheasant
37. Water Rail
38. Great Bustard
39. Black-winged Stilt
40. Avocet
41. Coot
42. Little Ringed Plover
43. Ringed Plover
44. Lapwing
45. Dunlin
46. Ruff
47. Jack Snipe
48. Snipe
49. Black-tailed Godwit
50. Whimbrel
51. Curlew
52. Spotted Redshank
53. Redshank
54. Greenshank
55. Wood Sandpiper
56. Common Sandpiper
57. Little Gull
58. Black-headed Gull
59. Comon Gull
60. Yellow-legged Gull
61. Caspian Tern
62. Common Tern
63. Wood Pigeon
64. Collared Dove
65. Cuckoo
66. Long-eared Owl
67. Short-eared Owl
68. Swift
69. Kingfisher
70. Hoopoe
71. Green Woodpecker
72. Black Woodpecker
73. Syrian Woodpecker
74. Crested Lark
75. Skylark
76. Sand Martin
77. Crag Martin
78. Barn Swallow
79. House Martin
80. Yellow Wagtail
81. White Wagtail
82. Nightingale
83. Black Redstart
84. Stonechat
85. Blackbird
86. Song Thrush
87. Savi's Warbler
88. Great Reed Warbler
89. Sedge Warbler
90. Whitethroat
91. Blackcap
92. Chiffchaff
93. Willow Warbler
94. Pied Flycatcher
95. Blue Tit
96. Great Tit
97. Golden Oriole
98. Jay
99. Magpie
100. Jackdaw
101. Rook
102. Carrion Crow
103. Hooded Crow
104. Raven
105. Starling
106. House Sparrow
107. Italian Sparrow
108. Tree Sparrow
109. Chaffinch
110. Serin
111. Greenfinch
112. Goldfinch
113. Linnet
114. Yellowhammer
115. Reed Bunting
116. Corn Bunting
 

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kb57

Well-known member
Europe
Enjoyed your report, brings back some very distant memories of a birding holiday here in my youth. It remains the only place I've ever seen a Savi's warbler. Good to know that great bustards are still near Andau.
 

3Italianbirders

Registered User
Supporter
Italy
Enjoyed your report, brings back some very distant memories of a birding holiday here in my youth. It remains the only place I've ever seen a Savi's warbler. Good to know that great bustards are still near Andau.

Thank you. Same here. We had heard it many times before burt had never succeeded in setting eyes (or binoculars) on one and not for lack of trying!
 

Swissboy

Sempach, Switzerland
Supporter
Switzerland
Full checklist

……...

Hi Gianni,

Thanks for your detailed report! Very interesting, indeed. And I very much like the photos as well. By sheer coincidence, we did a similar tour in early May. We only had 4 and a half days in the area, however. But we also did not take photos, basically. We flew from Switzerland to Vienna, then stayed four nights at Illmitz. Essentially, we concentrated our observing in the SE , with three visits to Hungary by car, to the area they call Mexican Puszta which is right across the border. But to get there, one has to do a bit of a detour.The first visit there was excellent except for too much wind, then bird numbers declined, but a superb adult Imperial Eagle compensated for it on the second visit. Fortunately, we did not have to sacrifice any major time to non-birding activities due to weather problems, but my wife already mentioned she wants about two days in Vienna the next time we visit the area. ;)
 

Bitis

Well-known member
Austria
Thanks for the report. Sounds like you had a good time and saw some awesome species! The pictures are excellent as well :)
The Austrian tree frog species ist Hyla arborea ;)
 

3Italianbirders

Registered User
Supporter
Italy
Thank you all!

Robert: we had heard about the Mexican (I wonder why?) puszta but we never got there! For some reason we tended to stick to the same places - possibly because in the Hansag there was always something to see.

Flo: thank you for the Tree Frog ID! We had thought it was a Hyla arborea, but still hadn't looked into it.
 

Swissboy

Sempach, Switzerland
Supporter
Switzerland
Thank you all!

Robert: we had heard about the Mexican (I wonder why?) puszta but we never got there! For some reason we tended to stick to the same places - possibly because in the Hansag there was always something to see.

.........

The puzzling name, apparently, comes from the fact that it once belonged to a member of the Habsburg family who reigned in Mexico for about two years or so. The area has only been opened to the public after the fall of the iron curtain, and it has since been upgraded biologically with a number of measures. One being the fact that they can now regulate the water in the lake north of the Einserkanal.
 

3Italianbirders

Registered User
Supporter
Italy
The puzzling name, apparently, comes from the fact that it once belonged to a member of the Habsburg family who reigned in Mexico for about two years or so. The area has only been opened to the public after the fall of the iron curtain, and it has since been upgraded biologically with a number of measures. One being the fact that they can now regulate the water in the lake north of the Einserkanal.

Thank you for the explanation Robert!
 
ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Columbia
ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Colombia
ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Colombia
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