Breeding shorebird survey at the Seewinkel, E Austria

It’s been a while I posted anything in my blog. The main reason was the lack of time due to the launching of my new WorldWaders website. It took all my time from birding and from posting here. As a part of this new project I decided to organise a shorebird birding day and visited a area which is not too far from my home.

I picked up my kids and departed at 3:30 AM for the salt lakes of Eastern Austria. It was a kind of new experience for me as I haven’t been up that early for the last couple of months. Birding at the small natron lakes east of the Neusiedler See is always very nice. That is a unique place in a way. Best known by the vineries which embracing the lakes.


Beautiful natron lake nearby the Neusiedler See, Austria

I always love to visit this area as there are so many breeding and migrating shorebirds around. While in my home shorebird observations are fully depending on the availability of drained ponds, here they are everywhere. I wanted to get a big picture of the size and distribution of the breeding population of waders at the lakes and wanted to enter the data into the new Breeding Shorebird Mapping Project (BSMP). I know that for a detailed monitoring the time, lack of permission and guidance is not possible but for most of the places I have got a general overview about the current breeding population of shorebirds.


Incredible density of breeding birds on one of the small islets in the natron lakes. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Breeding shorebirds are the Pied Avocet, Black-winged Stilt, Northern Lapwing, Little Ringed Plover, Kentish Plover, Black-tailed Godwit, Common Redshank, Common Snipe and Eurasian Curlwe (which we have not seen). We have found nice number of Northern Lapwings and Pied Avocets and good number of Common Redshanks breeding in the area. Most of the Northern Lapwings escorted one or two weeks old chicks. Surprisingly Black-winged Stilts were somehow missing or maybe I just could not find them. I found only two incubating birds at Zicklacke near Illmitz.


Breeding Pied Avocets. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Pied Avocets were found breeding on a few ponds but the majority colonised on two larger islets holding more than 110 breeding pairs. Black-headed Gulls, a few Mediterranean Gull and Common Terns were mixing on the very same island making it a really busy looking nesting place.


Public is frequently warned by the road crossing small Greylag goslings. Some still could not survive the high traffic. © Gyorgy Szimuly

The mapping went well despite the weather was really unpleasant. The cold, windy and cloudy conditions didn’t make this morning so pleasant. Honestly without shorebirds I would have left the area way earlier than we did. I simply love the calls of the Black-tailed Godwits and the simplicity of the design of Pied Avocets.


Black-tailed Godwits are breeding in the wet grasslands often edging the natron lakes. © Gyorgy Szimuly

I have not counted other birds this time as migrating is a little bit over at this part of the world. However, I found some very nice species at the lakes and at the edge of the Neusiedler See. A lovely adult Ruddy Turnstone in full breeding plumage made my day. I also saw beautiful Dunlins and Temminck’s Stints, a few Common Greenshanks, Common Ringed Plovers and a single Ruff.

I hope I can develop a nice relationship with local guys and cooperating with them for the success of the BSMP. Luckily Martin Riesing, who runs a nice birdwatching website in Austria, has already offered his help for getting a better picture of the breeding waders in the Seewinkel.

We spent a part of the afternoon in Vienna, a beautiful capital of Austria. My kids have never been there so I was happy to show them another part of Europe. Too bad Kea and Andi could not come with us…


Sandra (two days before her 18th birthday), me and Dani at the Parlament of Vienna. © Gyorgy Szimuly


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