Birding and Bird Photography Blog by Leander Khil

Tag: Austria

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.

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 (Löffler, Platalea leucorodia) does only breed in the southern part of Lake Neusiedl, within the national park Neusiedler See – Seewinkel. 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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Come on. Snow?

In Austria, the winter of 2012/13 has been the one with the least sunshine of all time. After some sunny days during the last two weeks, people were starting to hope again for spring to arrive. There’s no reason to hope. Today, according to ORF, we experienced  one of the coldest spring days in eastern Austria – ever. With new snow, even in the dry, easternmost parts of the country.

I’m currently putting together a review of my winter observations in the top birdwatching-area Neusiedler See – Seewinkel.
For now, you’ll find just some of today’s images of birds in the snow – including some obviously disappointed long-distance migrants which now face a serious problem.

Great Northern Diver

Today I joined the twitch of a Great Northern Diver (Gavia immer) at Neue Donau, Vienna. The bird was reported as an adult yesterday and was still present at noon. It showed very well at 70-100m most of the time, though it sometimes seemed a little restless between the 15+ birders watching from both riversides.
Although sources on ageing of the species (extending beyond the differentiation of juveniles and adults) are limited and captions of photos on the net often seem contradictory, I think that the bird in question could be a subadult, in 3rd or 4th calendar-year. The eye seems too dark for a full adult, which should show a brighter reddish-brown color.
Since 1980, there have been 36 records of Great Northern Diver from Austria (birdlife-afk.at) of which one was at the same location in November 1998 (Ranner, A. 2002: Nachweise seltener und bemerkenswerter Vogelarten in Österreich 1996- 1998. 3. Bericht der Avifaunistischen Kommission von BirdLife Österreich. Egretta 45: 1- 37.)

Ruhiger Winter

Wohl dank der warmen Temperaturen und dem Fehlen von Schnee im Flachland ist es zu verdanken, dass sich der laufende Winter ornithologisch recht unspektakulär gestaltet. Ein paar Aufnahmen sind dennoch dazugekommen.
Interessante Beobachtungen in Graz umfassten den zum zweiten mal überwinternden Wanderfalken, der seit 4.10. nahezu täglich vor meiner Wohnung jagt und zwei Wasseramseln.
An den vielen Wasserflächen im Leibnitzer Feld war der bisherige Winter gerade zu unspektakulär. Keine Seetaucher, keine Meeresenten, keine Zwergscharben und erst mit dem Kälteeinbruch Ende Dezember/Anfang Jänner die ersten nennenswerten Ententrupps entlang der Mur. Am Stausee Gralla hält sich aber seit Mitte Dezember eine diesjährige, wohl wilde Blässgans unter den fütterbaren Haus- und Stockenten auf. Die extreme Zutraulichkeit ließ es zuerst zwar schwer fallen, an die wilde Herkunft des Tiers zu glauben. Die in den ersten Tagen aber nur zögerlichen und unbeholfenen Versuche, das Brot zu fressen, auf das sich das andere Geflügel stürzt, sowie der tadellose Zustand des Gefieders, Flugfähigkeit und das Fehlen eines Rings sprechen aber für einen Wildvogel.

Ebenso in Gralla verweilte einige Tage lang eine fast adulte, beringte Mittelmeermöwe. Mir war das Tier nur fliegend auf kurze Distanz vergönnt, S. Zinko und A. Tiefenbach konnten durch Ablesen des Rings aber bestätigen, dass es sich dabei um den ersten beringten Jungvogel (geschlüpft 2008) des Grazer Brutpaars handelt! Das ist die erste Beobachtung von einem der Jungvögel seit dem Verlassen des Brutplatzes. Der Vogel verschwand gegen Ende Dezember, wer weiß, vielleicht ist er schon die 30km nach Norden geflogen um Teil der Grazer “Kolonie” zu werden. Seine Eltern, die einzigen, in der Steiermark brütenden Möwen, mussten heuer ihren Brutplatz innerhalb der Grazer Innenstadt verlegen, da das ursprünglich genutzte Hausdach durch eine Renovierung “unbewohnbar” wurde.
Am neu gewählten Brutplatz wurde das Nest leider bald zerstört und es kam zu keiner Brut – die Zukunft der Grazer Möwen ist also ungewiss, ich bin gespannt auf die kommende Brutsaison.
Auch diesen Winter treibt sich im Leibnitzer Feld wieder eine Hand voll Moorenten-Verwandter herum. Bis jetzt konnte ich aber erst eine reine Moorente sehen (Tillmitsch 15.12. 1 W), während die Hybriden mit Tafelenten heuer noch auffälliger geworden sind. Das Männchen in Gralla überwintert bereits zum dritten Mal. An den Schottergruben der Schwarzl-Teiche konnte ich am 5.1. mit S. Zinko und M. Weißensteiner sogar drei (2 M, 1 W) solcher Hybriden feststellen.
Weitere Einzelbeobachtungen: 1 ad. Seeadler am 19.12. an der Grenzmur, 1 M Kolbenente am 5.1. an den Schwarzl-Teichen.

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