Austrian birding at the soda lakes and in the Alps

The morning was quite grey today in northwest Hungary with some very light rain so we could not enjoy lovely sunrise. Sandra and Dani was with me. Our main target was to have a day long excursion to north east Austria where the 2nd Pannonian Bird Experience was held. Once we were there some birding around the Neusiedler See and at the highest peak of the eastern Austrian Alps was essential.

Before we entered the territory of Austria I wanted to visit the habitat reconstruction site at Fertőújlak, in Hungary. This is the site I visited last week. The site slightly changed by the increased water level which was managed by the national park staff to avoid early drying-up of the soda lake in the breeding season.

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Abandoned house from the middle of the past century along the canal of Hanság. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Bird numbers and composition of species was similar to last weekend’s counting. Since the last weekend Eurasian Spoonbills have arrived. We saw 4 busy birds feeding at the edge of the wetland. Greylag Geese were escorting the week old goslings. The Caspian Tern was still present at the lake. Large number of Ruffs continuously left the area in the morning south east direction. Only Dunlin was almost completely missing from the area.

Shorebird numbers:
Pied Avocet 264
Black-winged Stilt 4
Northern Lapwing 15 (many sitting on nest)
Little Ringed Plover 8
Kentish Plover 6
Black-tailed Godwit 70
Eurasian Curlew 7
Common Snipe 4
Spotted Redshank 30
Common Redshank 10
Marsh Sandpiper 2
Common Greenshank 10
Ruff 600
Dunlin 4
Caspian Tern 1

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Eurasian Curlews were beautifully calling while flying to the feeding grounds. © György Szimuly

From Mekszikópuszta some of the Austrian soda lakes were visited. Near Illmitz a classic lake, the Zicklacke was visited, however due to the event, the main hide was closed from the public in the morning. Very few waders was found. Black-winged Stilts, Little Ringed Plovers, a single Kentish Plover and a few Ruffs were seen. Large number of breeding Black-headed Gulls made awesome noise in the corner of the lake. Greylag Geese, Garganeys, Red-crested Pochards, Northern Pintails and Northern Shovelers were also seen.

Our next stop was at Darscho which is another lovely lake and used to be a good breeding site especially for Pied Avocet and Kentish Plovers. The breeding island was not seen due to the high water level. Pied Avocets were chasing each other while Black-tailed Godwits were alarming over the grassy edges. This sound mix of these soda wetlands makes me relaxed and I always enjoy every second I can spend with these birds. West to Darscho a Short-toed Snake Eagle was chased by Hooded Crows.

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Only one pair of Kentish Plover was found at Darscho. © György Szimuly

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Black-tailed Godwit in full breeding plumage is one of loveliest wader species in Europe. © György Szimuly

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Green-veined Orchid (Anacamptis morio) was blooming at the edges of the lakes. © György Szimuly

The Central European bird fair, the Pannonian Bird Experience, was held for the second time in the visitor centre of the Fertő-Hanság National Park. A summary of the visit will be posted soon in my blog.

In the afternoon we had a trip to one of the most impressive peak of the eastern Alps, the Schneeberg which is the highest mountain in this region. I also have never been there so it was going to be a nice trip.

Birding wasn’t our primary target there but enjoying the scenic landscape. Anyway the SwaroVision was around my neck… Some of classic mountain species was seen but any special ones like Ring Ouzel, Red Crossbill, Dipper or Golden Eagle etc. Coal Tits were active everywhere as well as Great Tits, European RobinsCommon Chaffinches, Eurasian Greenfinches, Grey Wagtails and Yellowhammers. A nice flock of Western Jackdaws provided a perfect view next to the main road including a funny looking partial albino individual. On the hayfields Carrion Crows and Northern Ravens were looking for food.

Some images taken on our way to the bottom of the snow capped Schneeberg makes our story more enjoyable.

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The weather was not so pleasant for landscape photography but still showing the beauty of the montane scenery. © György Szimuly

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The Bear’s Ear is a common flower in the Alps. © György Szimuly

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This lovely Butterbur was blooming in the wet grasslands of the Alps. This plant was identified by János Soproni. Thanks for it. © György Szimuly

In the evening we spent some time in the city of Graz. This beautiful city has a lovely atmosphere with the mixture of stylish and historical buildings. The car-free and very narrow street makes the center of Graz really livable and calmed. In these days a nice Easter fair got place at the Hauptplatz in front of the Graz Town Hall. I wish I had more time to explore the area but we decided to return on a lovely sunny day. Here are some images taken with my iPhone.

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One thought on “Austrian birding at the soda lakes and in the Alps

  1. Hello Szimi!
    Really nice trip report, thanx for sharing.
    Your unknown blooming flower is an Bitterbur, perhaps Petasites paradoxus.
    Bye,Jani

    PS.: Valamilyen acsalaput fotóztál Gyuri bácsi 🙂

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