Author: Michaela Schwarz
First, it is only a few tufts of grass that seem to move on their own. But then, a white head with a jaunty black crest pops up and looks directly toward the spotting scope – a powerful telescope on three legs that allows the observation of even the smallest of details. It is a northern lapwing, whose melodious cry can be heard from great distance, and which breeds every spring in the marshes of Lake Neusiedl. Now, just need to capture a few quick photos. But wait a minute – why quick? It can only be out of habit, because hurriedness is certainly out of place here. The very process of slowing down, accompanied by this lovely serenity and concentration, is one of the most important qualities of every birdwatching expedition. In any case, with your smartphone connected to the spotting scope, you are sure to capture impressive close-up shots. ‘Phonescoping’ is just one of the many great ideas that the staff of Neusiedler See-Seewinkel National Park employ to ensure that even novices become caught up in the joys of birdwatching.
“Look over here!” The ranger points into the air as curious eyes peer excitedly through the binoculars that the National Park lends out for free. Above, two kestrels are engaged in an aerial battle over a field mouse that one of them had apparently just caught. After a few moments, the fight is over and the victorious bird flies off with its prey. Despite never being able to predict exactly what kinds of birds will be seen on a birdwatching safari, sightings are pretty much guaranteed. After all, more than 300 species of birds nest and breed in the meadows and reed belts surrounding Lake Neusiedl – a diversity unmatched by any other inland region in Europe.
Soon after, there’s the screeching spectacle of a male Eurasian skylark spiralling up into the air and then drifting down again like a parachute. A male bird will seemingly stop at nothing to impress the females, and this spectacular manoeuvre is purely a display of courtship. One can’t help but wish the little fellow luck with his efforts! No less impressive is the courtship display of the great bustard, the world’s heaviest bird capable of flight. The males turn their greyish-brown feathers around so that their normally hidden bright white plumage becomes visible, suddenly transforming them into something resembling a white shuttlecock. This spectacle can only be observed in the Hansàg, a low bog on the Austrian-Hungarian border where a small community of these endangered birds still exists. Why not undertake another birdwatching safari tomorrow? After all, today’s adventure has left us hungry for more.
Why not discover the wonderful world of birds at Neusiedler See-Seewinkel National Park for yourself? Here are a few feathery tips to get you started.
The feathering of the Eurasian bee-eater is extremely colourful: its stomach and breast area is turquoise, and its neck and back are rust-brown, as are its wings which also have some grey hues. Above its yellowish chin is a black eye stripe.
The northern lapwing is also known as a peewit, and this is exactly how its melodious call sounds: “pee-wit! pee-wit!”
The bustard is the world’s heaviest flying animal. Although it is endangered all over the world, one can still observe this bird at Neusiedler See-Seewinkel National Park in the low bog of the Hansàg region on the Austrian-Hungarian border.
It is no wonder that the famed Austrian zoologist Konrad Lorenz was so fascinated by greylag geese. In a kind of ‘kindergarten’, these extraordinarily social birds protect not only their own young but also those of other members of their species.
The reed belt surrounding Lake Neusiedl has an area of some 180km², after the Danube Delta the largest unbroken reed area in all of Europe.