Birding and Bird Photography Blog by Leander Khil

Kategorie: Austria/Österreich

Austrias rarest and other amphibians

So far, Ultimate Frisbee kept me busy this summer and will continue to do so until early October. I just returned from the World Ultimate Club Championships in Lecco, Italy, where I competed with my team fwd>> Vienna. To prevent a huge posting gap to emerge and to ensure some variety, I post some photos of amphibians taken this early summer in Austria. Included are some images of Austria’s rarest amphibian, the Natterjack Toad (Bufo calamita), taken in July in one of the only two Austrian populations – in Waldviertel, Lower Austria.

11th Austrian Birdrace

24 hours | 77 km by bike | 151 species

After six years of birdrace abstinence, I formed a team to race in the Seewinkel region at the 11th edition of this birdwatching event. For 24 hours, team Kampfläufer (very well supported by St. Martins Therme & Lodge – thanks!), consisting of Marion Schindlauer, Martin Suanjak, Andi Tiefenbach and me, raced through Seewinkel to Hansàg by bicycle, from 17th to 18th May 2014.

Although we experienced heavy wind and rain for most of the time and had our physical and mental downs, things went off very well.

We recorded 151 species within the race, which marks a new record for the Austrian Birdrace. Including the bus transfer at the end of the race – where a Common Raven was added to the list – we even had 152 species within 24 hours.

Regarding the seemingly unfavorable conditions (which could also have been the crucial advantage), no really unexpected species on the list and the (allegedly) suboptimal date, we were surprised by the result ourselves! On the list are e.g. 10 species of ducks, 9 raptors, 4 rails, 21 waders, 7 gulls, 5 terns, 3 Locustella warblers, 5 Acrocephalus warblers, 5 Sylvia warblers and 3 flycatchers. But: A maximum number of species doesn’t necessarily mean the triumph at the Austrian Birdrace. The winner will be determined in a rather complicated calculation I’m not able to explain in English. Unfortunately, it’s also not explained in the rules. So we have to remain patient until the result is accounced.

Highlights named by the team members were Short-eared Owl and Osprey, my personal one being a flock of 20+ Garden Warblers resting in a treetop in the nonstop rain.

More about the Austrian Birdrace, organized by Christoph Roland here.

Team Kampfläufer @ 11th Austrian Birdrace 2014

Spring in Seewinkel

Except for the training with my frisbee team Forward Vienna, I’ve been scarcely leaving Seewinkel in the past weeks. I’m currently working on causes of lapwing nest loss and predation around Lange Lacke, the largest of the famous saline lakes in the region. The season has been also a good one for rarities in the national park, with crackers such as Calandra Lark, Brent Goose, Cattle Egret and Pallas’s Gull. For observations, check ornitho.at. I’m very busy with the lapwings, so photography remains a side-lining at the moment. Below are some images from the past weeks. I’m posting a little more often on www.stmartins.at.

A Calandra Lark in Seewinkel

While working on Lapwings in Seewinkel national park, I found a Calandra Lark (Melanocorypha calandra) on a gravel road, right beside a small Lapwing colony near Neufeldlacke.

The bird was singing gently from the ground, sometimes chasing away the Skylarks (Alauda arvensis) frequently flying by or entering its territory. Every few minutes it took off, ascending to around 20 m height from where it sang shortly as well. Then it landed on a nearby broken up field to feed for a few minutes, just to return to the singing post again. The bird repeated this procedure several times, when it suddenly took off around 8.40 a.m. and disappearedy to the south-west.
I turned my attention to the Lapwings again. After about half an hour, I heard a song from the sky above me – undoubtedly of a lark but unkown to me. Looking out of the car window, I saw the Calandra Lark again, just dropping in the pasture to my right where I watched it for another few minutes.

This is the 16th record of Calandra Lark for Austria if accepted by the AFK and the first one to be seen in March. Of the previous 15 records, 14 are from April to June and only one bird was discovered in the end of September. Following two records in 1966, it is the third record of the species from the Seewinkel region.

Yellow-billed Diver in Vienna

Gelbschnabeltaucher / Yellow-billed Diver

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I hardly find the time to post here. But waiting for an airplane, this is an occasion.
Just twitched a second-year Yellow-billed Diver (Gavia adamsii) found by L. Timaeus at river Danube in Vienna. This already is the third record of this vagrant since 2009.
The bird is amazingly confident, diving surprising distances!

Seven records have been accepted from Austria by the AFK so far, another one (1 ind. at Attersee/Upper Austria, 28.-29.12.2012) still has to be reviewed.

That’s it, a quick sign of life before I leave for Iran.

Lesser Grey Shrike – another (nearly) Austrian breeding record

I didn’t post too much during this extremely hot and sunny summer, as I’ve been busy with: enjoying the time. Most of all working ornithologically, photographically and frisbee-related (which peaked in the win of the national championship with my team fwd>> against my former home team Catchup Graz in the finals; just to bring in some of the much-neglected frisbee-news).

Who wants to spend his time in front of the screen when there’s the most pleasant of central European seasons out there? I probably didn’t really reduce screen-time but spent it in front of other screens.. you can follow some blog posts here (from the wildlife tours I guide at Nationalpark Neusiedler See – Seewinkel; in German and written for a wider audience ). Currently I’m also finishing a spring review of bird observations in Seewinkel, which will contain photos from the last months and thus should be closing or shrinking the gap of photo posts.

Although there would have been tons of sightings and photo series to show here, I take a most recent and delightful one as the occasion to reappear in the blogosphere.

A quick blast from the past: Lesser Grey Shrike (Lanius minor) used to be a regular breeding species in eastern Austria up to the second half of the 20th century. After a rapid decline and the extinction of the species across its range in Austria, from 1981 only a tiny population remained in the Seewinkel/Burgenland (Dvorak et al. 1993). Besides this, breeding of single pairs was still recorded in Steiermark in the early 1990s (Samwald & Samwald 1993, Sackl & Samwald 1997). The last pair of the remaining population in Seewinkel disappeared in 2002.
In the 20 years of 1991-2011, the Austrian Avifaunistic Committee has accepted 29 records, all from May and June (Steiermark: 10, Burgenland: 7, Niederösterreich: 5, Oberösterreich: 3, Vorarlberg: 3, Kärnten: 1) – excluding the few breeding records and observations from Seewinkel up to 2007 (birdlife-afk.at; Laber & Ranner 1997; Ranner et al. 1995; Ranner 2002; 2003; Ranner & Khil 2009; Ranner & Khil 2011).

In 2012, besides two records from May, the species bred in Austria again, for the first time after its 10-year temporary extincition in 2002. A pair reared six juveniles at Graurinderkoppel in Seewinkel, an 800 hectare enclosure grazed by about 400 Hungarian Grey Cattle (birdlife-afk.at).

The awaited return of the breeding pair or its offspring to Graurinderkoppel did not happen in 2013. Despite six single observations of Lesser Grey Shrikes in the Seewinkel area in May and June 2012, also in the 2012 territory, no breeding pair could be located.

When no one would have expected it anymore, the good news came out on August 8. A pair of Lesser Grey Shrikes had bred in the border area to Hungary (with the nest apparently being not in Austria by a few metres). I visited the family with its four fledged chicks and took some images.

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European Ground Squirrel – an endangered species of Austria

A couple of images of European Ground Squirrels (Ziesel, Spermophilus citellus), one of Austria’s most endangered vertebrate species, from the Seewinkel. The youngsters already left the burrows!

Eurasian Spoonbill in the Seewinkel

Spring 2013 keeps me extremely busy with guiding wildlife and photo excursions in the Seewinkel for St. Martins Therme & Lodge, the Austrian breeding bird census (check out the beautiful new birdwatching portal ornitho.at!), my photo exhibtion in Leutschach, various excursions, lectures and many more things.
I added a lot of cool pictures to my archive during the last months but for now, I only want to show you what I shot yesterday morning, right before work.
In Austria, the Eurasian Spoonbill (L̦ffler, Platalea leucorodia) does only breed in the southern part of Lake Neusiedl, within the national park Neusiedler See РSeewinkel. The population is increasing and now at around 90 breeding pairs.
In the photos, you see a breeding plumaged adult of this extremely charismatic species hunting for tadpoles in the shallow water of Lake Darscho.

(Wander)falken in Graz

Der zumindest namentlich weithin bekannte und, mit Ausnahme der Antarktis, nahezu weltweit verbreitete Wanderfalke lebt in Österreich vorwiegend in felsigen Mittelgebirgsregionen. Besonders im Winter erscheint die Art aber auch im Hügel- und Flachland. Das Grazer Stadtgebiet besuchen einzelne Individuen immer wieder und vor allem in der kalten Jahreszeit, zumindest 1-2 Vögel verbringen mittlerweile aber auch Teile der Sommermonate in der Stadt (siehe ältere Beiträge).
Der Wanderfalke ist auf die Flugjagd auf Vögel spezialisiert, besonders in Städten bilden Tauben einen Großteil seiner Nahrung.

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Observations from the Seewinkel (Winter 2012/13)

I put together a compilation of bird observations and photos from the Seewinkel region in the winter of 2012/13 (in german) for my employer. You can download it here.

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