Trip Report: Neusiedl Lake (Austria and Hungary), May 29 - June 5, 1999

Dirk Raes, Belgium;

Just back from guiding a birding-tour for Ro-Travel ( and the ornithological society De Wielewaal (Belgium) to the Neusiedler-see / Seewinkel (Austria), hereby the trip-report.

A great 142 score has been obtained. On request you can receive the details of this list made by Walter van Spaendonk. A special 'thank you' to Peter Hirsch, who convinced my to come to Neusiedler and later pointed the best places out.

We left Belgium on sa. 29.05.99 in a state a "chicken-alert".

Our first night we stayed overnight at Gunzenhausen, near Nurnberg: the Altmühlsee was our birding-target. The hotel Park-Hotel Altmühltal (a four stars one) was nicely situated. The best place is just near the bar: from there you can see the White Stork's (C.ciconia) nest and the statue 'Venus von Altmühl' (a nice lady-statue in the hall of the hotel).

After the very good evening buffet the group left for a walk direction Altmühlsee. Just behind the hotel you can find very nice prairies managed for the benefit of the storks. Ecological friendly mowing, high grass, humid and above all nice birding spots for birds like Nightingale (L. megarhynchos). Closer to the Altmühlsee Great Reed Wrabler (A. arundinaceus), Marsh Warbler (A. palustris) and Bluethroat (L. svecica) were present. Most important for the area were the observations of the (breeding) birds like Redshank (T. totanus), Curlew (N. arquata) and Black-tailed Godwit (L. limosa).

After a great night in a very luxury room and a model breakfast-buffet we visited the nature-reserve of the Altmühlsee. Birds like Gadwall (A. strepera), Black Kite (M. migrans) , Great Read Warbler and -the best- several Penduline Tit (R. pendulinus) were common.

A first summary of the first two days gave us about 61 species including the along-the-motorway Red Kite (M. milvus) and the on-the-motorway-parking Crested Lark (G. cristata).

On Sunday-evening 30.05 a technical bus-problem occurred near Vienna. Not so bad, we continued with a broken suspension (it was only half-an-hour to the hotel) until Austrian Gendarmerie came along side. Fahrverbot!!! Forbidden to continue driving. So a spare bus from the Vienna-airport had o be leased and hop -after about 30 min., there we continued, followed by our empty bus.

Just after nine in the evening we arrived at our hotel Hotel Nationalpark in Illmitz (tel.+ , fax.:+ This four-star hotel is very well situated for birding-trips. Just behind the hotel you have a nice path for your morning/evening excursions. The Feldsee is within walking distance.

Birds like Nightingale, Penduline Tit, Golden Oriole (O. oriolus), Spotted Flycatcher (M. striata), Stonechat (S. torquata), Barred Warbler (S. nisoria), Icterine Warbler (H. icterina), Great Reed Warbler, Marsh Warbler (A. palustris), Grasshopper Warbler (L. naevia), Red-backed Shrike (L. collurio), Syrian Woodpecker (D. syriacus), Wryneck (J. torquilla), Hoopoe (U. epops), Snipe (G. gallinago), Green Sandpiper (T. ochropus), Curlew, Redshank, Water Rail (R. aquaticus), Marsh Harrier (C. aeruginosus), Gadwall, Garganey (A. querquedula), Greylag Goose (A. anser), Spoonbill (P. leucorodia), White Stork, Great White Heron (E. alba) and Bittern (B. stellaris) have been seen just within 30min. walking distance from the hotel. Of the last species even 3 together in flight while one bird was still 'booming'!!

This hotel is the place to be.

When you stay over there greet the owners Fam. Salzl from me. The sure remember the guide from the 'Belgian bus with the technical problems'.

The next day 31.05 we took it - with the bus 'in die werkstatte' - relaxed. A very hot day, first some swimming in the pool while male Golden Oriole were flying up-and-down, a great buffet-breakfast, and leaving only at 09.00 to discover the surroundings on a walk towards Sandeck. A confirmation of the above mentioned birds but with a Purple Heron (A. purpurea) and with as 'closer' a Great White Egret, not color-ringed, on the pile of hay with his beak wide open: it was now (2pm) already over 30°C. Definitively time to go for another swim and surely several cold beers. The Golden Orioles were still there: they liked the cool garden-trees. After dinner a visit to the Zicksee (south of Illmitz) -with the repaired bus- was paid.

The first Red-crested Pochard (N. rufina - later turned out to be >100), Little Ringed Plover (C. dubius), Kentish Plover (C. alexandrinus) and 3 Curlew Sandpiper (C. ferruginea) were spotted in the evening light. Avocet (R. avosetta) and Black-winged Stilt (H. himantopus) were along the shore present.

Also some Shelduck (T. tadorna) were seen on this very nice little lake.

On Tuesday 01.06. my friends Lajos Varga (Hungarian Ringing Office) and Atilla Pellinger (Fertö Nemzeti Park) came to take the breakfast and they took us for us visit of the Hungarian side of Neusiedler. A quick visit of the Esterhazy-castle garden brought us a young Green Woodpecker (P. viridis). Also a quick visit to the center of the National Park in Sarród: nice to see the structure of the building with the idea of a feather of Great White Egret.

And then up to area around the Eisenkanal or also called Mexicopuszta. A paradise for birders! Sure, now that it was not so hot anymore and that birds were present. Again some 100 Red-crested Pochard, a few White-eyed Pochard (Ferruginous Duck, A. nyroca) and several Little Egret (E. garzetta), one 2nd or 3rd year White-tailed Eagle (H. albicilla) catching a Greylag Goose. Great was a passing-by Mediterranean Gull (L. melanocephalus) and on the dikes several Pontic Gulls (L. c. cachinnans) and some Black Tern (C. niger). Several Common Buzzard (B. buteo), Marsh Harrier, a Black Kite were seen while several Great Reed Warblers were singing in the reedbeds. Another great day which we finished with a walk along the dike towards Illmitz-strand. Confirmation of some seen species and a colour-ringed Mute Swan (C. olor) which preferred the Austrian nationality above his Hungarian (were he was ringed) one.

Wednesday 02.06 was a cultural day: visiting Vienna. As you don't need your binos to eat Sacher-Torte or drink some wine in Café Central, no bird-report that day.

Thursday 03.06 again heavy: up to the WWF-reserve of Marchegg. From about 10am till 4pm. birding time. We would have liked to do the 7km.-tour in the morning, but due to certain 'exotic' new birds we did only the 1.2km.-tour before lunch. Marchegg: one great colony of breeding White Storks in trees. They live just like in the flats in Vienna, some even up to 5 high. A quick visit brought us Black Stork (C. nigra), Common Buzard, Honey Buzzard (P. apivorus) and Black Kite. A better look into the forest brought us things like Nuthatch (S. europaea) and several male Collared Flycatchers (F. albicollis). The last ones were good for over 15min. great birding!!

During lunch under the trees some Hooded Crow (C.c.cornix), Serin (S. serinus) and Fieldfare (T.pilaris) were very active. During the afternoon a walk along the castle towards the river March was made. On the 'Denkmal für Zoll' a typical birding way was tested: wait, see and listen during >1 hour. The result, apart from the already seen species, Kingfisher (A. atthis), River Warbler (L. fluviatilis), Quail (C. coturnix) and Corncrake (C. crex) - although the last one on the Slowakian side.

On the way home, just a stop at the little woods before Illmitz for the Night Heron (N. nycticorax). After discovering two birds, the Nightingale was just peanuts ;-)

After that all, back to the hotel swimming-pool and cold beer. During the evening we did a nice 'wine-probe' with some good 'Eiswein': no details about our observations during the return.

On Friday 04.06 a walk around the Lange Lacke was made. A change of weather, more wind, brought us no other special birds: just confirm from what we had seen already (this was already quite an impressive list). Just one newcomer: Black-necked Grebe (P. nigricollis).

During the afternoon a visit to Waasen-Hansag was programmed. A male and female Montagu's Harrier (C. pygargus) and a parading male and a not-interested female Great Bustard (O. tarda) were a great 'closing-day'. As it was slightly raining, no swimming-pool and therefore a nice glass of Burgenland wine.

Saturday 05 June started just great: beautiful weather, the Barred Warbler and the Syrian Woodpecker stole the show. A short drive towards a place called Hölle (nearby the Oberer Stinkersee) and a walk along the edge of the Neusiedler-see sufficed to confirm almost all our observations. Most interesting were several Barred Warblers and several Great Reed Warblers, about 5 to 6 continuously-in-the-air Marsh Harriers, several couple Red-backed Shrike, regular some Redshank, a few Garganey, the eternal Greylag Goose with great pulli, sometimes a Spoonbill and a White Stork, of course the Great White Heron and the Bittern.

A group of at least six Bearded Reedling (P. biarmicus) and several Common Gulls (L. canus) added something extra to the day-list. At noon lunch was taken in front of the Bea-eater (M. apiaster) colony. A Kestrel (F. tinnunculus) and two Little Owls (A. noctua) were also present around the breeding holes.

The afternoon was a little horror: again some problems with the bus which resulted in a 5-hour stay along the motorway. Only by 9.45pm. we reached our hotel in "Barockstad Shärding". The next day we drove -without any problems- back to our 'Chickendale-country'.

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This page served with permission of the author by Urs Geiser;; June 29, 1999; updated May 27, 2001