Lake Neusiedl's best birding spots – scouted with the BTX
Spring is undoubtedly the climax of the birding year in Austria's Lake Neusiedl – Seewinkel region. Not only for the wide array of specialized and rare breeding birds. The region is also one of the most important stopover sites in Central Europe for all kinds of waterbirds.
A main highlight in April is the display of the magnificent Great bustard in the Waasen-Hanság. This endangered species with its 15 kg males is often referred to as the World's Heaviest Flying Bird. But whether it really deserves this title can well be questioned. Even the common Mute swan can weigh up to 22 kg!
The bustard is a flagship of the Waasen-Hanság area. But this grassland sanctuary at the border with Hungary has many more sought-after birds to offer: Short-eared owl, Eurasian curlew, Montagu's harrier, Eastern imperial eagle and Corncrake all breed in the protected meadows and if you're lucky, you might spot some of them. Crossing the small bridge of Andau to the Hungarian side, you are likely to add Black Stork, Black Woodpecker and other forest species to your list.
Watching Great bustards with the new BTX has been on my mind since I got my hands on it. Even though the bustards have become significantly more confiding since hunting them has been banned, they can still be far away from the roads and watching towers. Powerful optics are the key to a great experience.
I've been watching this extravaganza for 20 years now, but my recent observations through the BTX were the best of my life. Combined with a 95 objective module, resulting in a bright and crispy image at a fixed magnification of 35x, I could see details that I had never seen before. When the males get crazy about the presence of potential mates, they fluff up, turning from graceful vivid brown birds to massive white balls of feather. They achieve this by showing their white undertail, underwings and flanks, covering their brown mantle. Furthermore, they inflate air pockets on their neck and throat, adding to their impressive appearance.
The core birding area of the region is a few kilometers to the west, though. The shallow soda lakes of the Seewinkel, their adjacent meadows and pastures, are without doubt Austria's most interesting birdwatching destination. Flocks of ducks and waders, as well as egrets and herons, play a major role in spring. Some of them have their breeding grounds here, while others just stop over on their journey to northern latitudes.
Pied Avocets, Kentish Plovers and Common Shelducks do only breed here within Austria. The soda lakes somewhat resemble coastal habitats, where these species are usually found. Lots of other shorebird species are seen on migration only, among them Broad-billed and Marsh Sandpipers.
Another distinct habitat is the vast reed belt of Lake Neusiedl. Most of Europe's reed warbler species can be found singing at this time of the year. High on the list of many birders: The Moustached warbler, a species that has a stronghold of international importance right here.
Another rare and specialized bird is the Ferruginous Pochard. Not much is known about the population of this noble duck since it rarely leaves the reeds during breeding season. Also Great egret, Little egret, Eurasian spoonbill and Pygmy cormorant have their only Austrian breeding colonies in the inaccessible reeds, but can be found feeding and seen very well in other parts of the national park.
Join the birding fun in Seewinkel and get your very own impression of the BTX! Meet the Swarovski Optik team at the Pannonian Bird Experience in Illmitz on 21-23 April 2017.
About the author
Leander Khil is an ornithologist, birdwatcher and wildlife photographer from Graz, Austria. Driven by his love for birds, adventure and the outdoors he travels the world since he was a child.
web: www.leanderkhil.com facebook: facebook.com/leander.khil instagram: www.instagram.com/khil.birder.photographer