Thursday, 11 September 2008

Back again... Austria aftermath

Sooo... back from a rather hectic few months in all, with a two-month contract on the Isle of Man for the planned new breeding bird atlas, then a week in Cornwall with the Seawatch SW project ( and then a couple of weeks ringing and holidaying with N in Austria. I know I only posted a couple of grotty pictures from the first two sections, but I propose to tell you further about Austria in this and future blogs. With pictures.

The mysterious - as Mr. Lewis refers to her - Na and myself headed off to Vienna on August 23rd of this year, in order to have some holiday time, ring some migrant birds, investigate the eastern parts of Lower Austria and catch up with some friends of mine. Not all were accomplished with equal ease; the latter in particular. What the hell, though, that's life - three out of four ain't bad in any case.

So. Tedious bits first. We flew with BA from Heathrow T5 (it's far better than it's made out to be) to Vienna Schwechat, from where we travelled in to the zoo to meet Regina and Karl, the friends with whom we stayed. We footled around and did a little sightseeing within the zoo, including a rather fortuitous meeting with my old boss who gave us a special tour of the 'new' penguin house, where we were preened by Rockhoppers - to the envy of the contingent of young Austrians peering through the windows at us. Tough titty!! Amazing to see how much has changed in the years since I worked at the zoo...

We headed on to Bad Deutsch Altenburg to our accomodation and prepared ourselves for a spot of 'naturalisting'. Not to be confused with naturisting, obviously.

24th August: Braunsberg. We cycled our way steadily up from Bad Deutsch Altenburg to the local hill, the Braunsberg.

The Braunsberg as seen on Google Earth. Hainburg an der Donau is the nearest town.

By bicycle it's a steady haul up the hill to the carpark for migrant soaring birds, which unfortunately resulted in our seeing feck all, apart from a Marsh Harrier (Circus aeruginosus). Compensation came in the form of a Tawny Pipit (Anthus campestris) flushed from grass at the top of the hill, and a fantastic selection of butterflies nectaring on thistles and scabious spp away from the rather strong westerly wind. We managed to note Dryad (Minois dryas), Chalkhill Blue (Lysandra coridon), Weaver's (Clossiana dia), Silver-washed (Argynnis paphia) and Queen-of-Spain Fritillaries (Issoria lathonia), Common, Pale and Berger's Clouded Yellows (Colias crocea, hyale and alfacariensis) and Great Banded Grayling (Aulocera circe) as the most interesting species for us Brits (OK, half-Germans too...!).

Chalkhill Blue Lysandra coridon

Silver-washed Fritillary Argynnis paphia

We then pedalled on down through Hainburg, passing a German who was obviously so much in love with his new Ferrari that he needed to photograph it against the backdrop of the Braunsberg, to Bad Deutsch Altenburg and then along the Danube to Petronell Carnutum, to spend time we generally dodging mozzies and loafing in unaccustomed sunshine.

The time of day and the temperature mitigated against much variety of wildlife, but we did have a nice show from a juvvy Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis) and picked up a variety of odonates: Blue Featherlegs (Platycnemis pennipes), Common Bluetail (Ischnura elegans), Banded Demoiselle (Calopteryx splendens), Lesser Emperor (Anax parthenope) and both Ruddy and Common Darters (Sympetrum sanguineum and striolatum).

Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis - a strongly cropped image, I'm afraid. The rather grubby orange breast and brownish feet help age it as a juvenile.

More later...

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