Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Austria - Andalucian Guides Tour to Lake Neusiedl

Common Cuckoo

Little Bittern climbs up the reeds at Illmitz

We had a wonderful week of sunny weather, great birding and general wildlife as well as good company, spent at the town of Illmitz, close to the vast reed-beds and huge freshwater lake that is shared by Austria and Hungary.

Turtle Doves

Our stay at the Hotel Post was extremely relaxing with large comfortable en suite rooms and an excellent buffet dinner each evening. The local beers and excellent wines of the area all added up to making our stay extremely relaxing, despite some very early (optional, pre-breakfast) birding outings in the morning.

Peekaboo! The Syrian Woodpecker nesting at the Hotel Post

The caring and considerate attention by the Egermann family and their staff, allowed us to feel at home from the moment we arrived as we sat watching for the nesting Syrian Woodpecker in the garden, with a courtesy welcome drink in our hands!

Sunset at Illmitz

Grasshopper Warbler

Some of the group, including Stephen Mabel and Janet, had flown into Vienna airport. Eddie and Hazel had taken a flight into Budapest and Andy and Kate had opted for fast rail travel to Vienna, nowadays a very efficient and comfortable option!

Purple Heron, a common sight around the lakeside

Traveling in our brand new nine seater VW Caravelle, collected from Vienna airport (our meeting point for the tour), we reached the north side of Lake Neusiedl in under an hour. Quite quickly we had collected lots of different birds including Marsh Harrier, Purple Heron, Great Egret, Bee-eater and Turtle Dove.

Wheat field with wild poppies

The first day of any tour is taken at a relaxed pace with man participants having had a very early start and once at the hotel
we settled into our rooms and in the late afternoon took a lakeside walk close to the hotel.

A male Reed Bunting sings out his call from a flowering Russian Olive tree

Penduline Tits close to Illmitz

The week’s weather couldn’t have been better with warm sunny mornings and hot, afternoons. Birding early is a key element around Lake Neusiedl to catch the ‘early birds’! It gets light around 0430 in late May and many species are already foraging for food for growing chicks. Bearded Reedlings, Penduline Tits, Savi’s, Marsh, Moustached, Reed and Great Reed Warblers were flashing past with bills often filled with insects. Marsh Harriers seemed to be plentiful with one in view in the air almost each time we were able to scan the landscape.
The haunting booming from Great Bittern and the calls from Little Bittern and the constant croaking of Marsh
Frogs and Fire-bellied Toads along the lakeside margins was a fascinating feast for ones ears! Surprisingly, biting insects weren’t really a problem for us with only one or two bites inflicted on a few of our party. Our hotel was equally spared and thankfully no problems were encountered there with mosquitos.

A moustached Warbler, often quite a tricky bird to watch

...and off he goes!

Syrian Woodpecker

Using our rental mini-bus, we took some excursions away from the lake to the town of Puchberg-am Schneeberg where the famous rack-and-pinion railway starts on it’s journey to the top of the Schneeberg on the Eastern Austrian Alpine chain. The railway climbs to 1800m to the station at the top and with great clear skies and sunny weather we quickly encountered one of our prize catches, the Alpine Accentor. Water Pipits, Ring Ouzels and Dunnock were also watched as were Alpine Ibex (or Chamois) and passing Ravens and Alpine (Yellow-billed). Choughs. We stopped off for lunch at a mountain hut for typical goulash soups washed down with beer!

Marsh Harriers nest building in the reedbeds

...adding the final touches

A Bee-eater pursues a passing Golden Oriole

(Melolontha hippocastani) beetles were plentiful

Reed jumping...Great Reed Warbler


Bearded Reedling collecting insects for hungry chicks

Red-backe Shrike. An adult male surveys it's patch

Icterine Warbler

The Icterine Warbler is just as noisy and unmelodious as it's southern cousin the Melodious Warbler, but always lovely to watch. See the broad lower mandible, typical of a phylloscopus.
Phylloscopidae warbler group is comprised of many small, tree-loving warblers. Many are canopy or sub-canopy species, gleaning insects from leaves. Many are long-distance migrants. Many are also rather plain little birds — in muted tones of green, yellow, or brown — and identification can be difficult. One very widespread species is the Common Chiffchaff

Hover fly

Common Bluet

Chery time!

The Hills are Alive...Eddy photographing Alpine Accentors

Alpine Accentor at the Schneeberg

Our day visit to the Hohe Wand, a massive limestone outcrop on the lower Alpine slopes is another great place to visit and offers nature lovers different habitat as well as numerous form of insect life, particularly with butterflies. Below the crags are numerous walking trails and we spent time exploring one such country path and admiring the tranquil beauty of the area. Woodland birds were present and above we watched a male Peregrine Falcon fly into a high tree with a freshly caught Jay, attempting to lure it’s young away from the nest.

European Hare a very common site in Burgenland

Black-tailed Godwits

Our travels around the open countryside of Hungary took us to the southern end of Lake Neusiedl and the Hungarian National Park and it’s new visitor centre. Lunches are great value for money if you are feeling peckish in Hungary! Fuel prices are very high on the other hand and it would be better to fill up in Austria before heading over the border.

Bee-eater at the colony near Weiden

Hummingbird Hawk-Moth

On both sides of the border there are ample opportunities to pick up some of the rarer bird species like Honey Buzzard, Ferruginous Duck and Black Woodpecker. Literally a few kilometers back into Austria we explored the roads and tracks along to Tadten, Wallern and Pamhagen. This was an important border area between East and West during the ‘Cold War’ and is now an open area with little traffic, especially early in the morning. Great Bustards were watched at the reserve as Yellow Wagtails, Whichats, Stonechats, Skyarks, Barred Warblers, Golden Orioles and Icterine Warblers sang in the warm air.

Burnet Moth sp.

about to fly


Greylag Geese

Common Buzzard


In Summary

Illmitz is the ideal base and is a fantastic location for birding and natural history groups. With the Hotel Post we found an exceptionally comfortable and birder friendly hotel.

Breakfast and evening meals were excellent and the English speaking staff were extremely helpful in offering a lot of up-to-date information, maps and advice about the area.

We all felt very welcomed and would not hesitate to recommend this a base for other groups

Bee-eater showing that fantasic plumage in the sunlight

The Beetles

List of Species


Grey Partridge Perdix perdix

Common Pheasant Phasianus colchicus

Greylag Goose Anser anser

Mute Swan Cygnus olor

Common Shelduck Tadorna tadorna

Gadwall Anas strepera

Mallard Anasplatyrhynchos

Northern Shoveler Anas clypeata

Garganey Anas querquedula

Common Teal Anas crecca

Red-crested Pochard Netta rufina

Common Pochard Aythya ferina

Ferruginous Duck Aythya nyroca

Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis

Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus

European White Stork Ciconia ciconia

Eurasian Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia.

Eurasian Bittern Botaurus stellaris Heard

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

Red-footed Falcon Falco vespertinus

Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus

European Honey Buzzard Pernis apivorus

Black Kite Milvus migrans

Western Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus

Hen Harrier Circus cyaneus

Montagu's Harrier Circus pygargus

Common Buzzard Buteo buteo

Great Bustard Otis tarda

European Water Rail Rallus aquaticus Heard

Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus

Common 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

Common Gull Larus canus

Caspian Gull Larus cachinnans

Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis

Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundus

Whiskered Tern Chlidonias

Black Tern Chlidonias niger

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

Syrian Woodpecker Dendrocoposs syriacus

Great 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 Heard

Eurasian Jackdaw Coloeus monedula

Rook Corvus frugilegus

Carrion Crow Corvus corone

Common Raven Corvus corax

Coal Tit Periparus ater

Great Tit Parus major

Eurasian Blue Tit Cyanistes caeruleus

Eurasian Penduline-tit Remiz pendulinus

Common Sand Martin Riparia riparia.

Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica

Northern House Martin Delichon urbicum

Long-tailed Tit Aegithalos caudatus

Crested Lark Galerida cristata

Eurasian Skylark Alauda arvensis

Grasshopper Warbler Locustella naevia Heard

River Warbler Locustella fluviatilis Heard

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

Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla

Barred Warbler Sylvia nisoria

Lesser Whitethroat Sylvia curruca

Common Whitethroat Sylvia communis

Bearded Reedling Panurus biarmicus

Northern Wren Troglodytes troglodytes

Eurasian Nuthatch Sitta europaea

European 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

Alpine Accentor @ Schneeberg

Dunnock Prunella modularis @ Schneeberg

Yellow (Blue-headed race) Motacilla flava flava

White Wagtail Motacilla alba

Water Pipit Anthus spinoletta @ Schneeberg

Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs

European Serin Serinus serinus

European Greenfinch Carduelis chloris

European Goldfinch Carduelis carduelis

Common Linnet Carduelis cannabina

Corn Bunting Emberiza calandra

Yellowhammer Emberiza citrinella

Reed Bunting Emberiza schoeniclus


Red Fox Vulpes vulpes Dead on road
European Rabbit Oryctolagus cuniculus

European Hare Lepus europaeus

European Suslik Spermophilus citellus Dead on road

Weasel Mustela nivalis

Shrew sp (see how they ran...)

Western Hedgehog Erinaceus europaeus Dead on road

Red Deer Cervus elaphus

Western Roe Deer Capreolus capreolus

Alpine Chamois Rupicapra rupicapra

AMPHIBIANS Fire-bellied Toad Bombina bombina Heard

Common Marsh Frog Pelophylax ridibundus


Common Wall Lizard Podarcis muralis

Grass Snake Natrix natrix


Scarce Swallowtail Iphiclides podalirius

Large White Pieris brassicae

Small White Artogeia rapae.

Green-veined White Artogeia napi

Bath White Pontia daplidice

Orange-tip Anthocharis cardamines

Berger's Clouded Yellow Colias hyale

Brimstone Gonepteryx rhamni

Wood White Leptidea sinapis

Small Copper Lycaena phlaeas

Large Copper Lycaena dispar

Sooty Copper Lycaena tityrus

Holly Blue Celastrina argiolus

Little Blue Cupido minimus

Brown Argus Aricia agestis

Common Blue Polyommatus icarus

Red Admiral Vanessa atalanta

Painted Lady Vanessa cardui

Woodland Ringlet Erebia medusa

Meadow Brown Maniola jurtina

Small Heath Coenonympha pamphilus

Grizzled Skipper Pyrgus malvae

Speckled Wood Pararge aegeria

Wall Brown Lasiommata megera


Reed Leopard Phragmitaecia castaneae

Six-spot Burnet Zygaena filipendulae

Three-spot Burnet

Latticed Heath Chiasmia clathrata

Speckled Yellow Pseudopanthera macularia


Banded Demoiselle Calopteryx splendens

Migrant Spreadwing

Common Winter Damsel Sympecma fusca

Azure Bluet Coenagrion puella

Variable Bluet Coenagrion pulchellum

Common Bluet Enallagma cyathigerum

Large Red-eye Erythromma najas

Common Bluetail Ischnura

Green-eyed Hawker Aeshna isoceles

Blue Emperor Anax imperator

Lesser Emperor Anax parthenope

Hairy Hawker Brachytron pratense

Broad-bodied Chaser Libellula depressa

Four-spotted Chaser Libellula quadrimaculata

Black-tailed Skimmer Orthetrum cancellatum

Thank you to all who made this a such a great holiday and memorable wildlife experience!

Stephen Daly May 2011

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