Monday, June 8, 2015

Eastern European Trip Day 6: Seebad and Illmitz

     Our final full day in Austria had arrived.  The plan for the day was to travel to some hills a bit north of Illmitz to look for birds of prey and then a return to the reed beds around the Nuesiedler See.
But there was one bird that I had not seen yet, but really wanted to, a Green Woodpecker.  So I was up early and went for a walk to a spot where one was seen from the bus earlier in the week.  There were plenty of birds out in the fields on either side of the road.  A pair of Pheasants were off to the northern side of the road and the male was calling away while a Marsh Harrier was soaring behind them.

Common Pheasant and Marsh-Harrier
Pheasant and Marsh Harrier - Illmitz Austria
     Behind me was a large flock of Carrion Crows making a ruckus and out of the corner of my eye I saw a bird fly into one of the trees which were along the road, where the Green Woodpecker was seen earlier.  It took me a few moments to find it, and it was a woodpecker, just not the one I was looking for, it was a Syrian Woodpecker instead.  As I mentioned in a previous post this is the western most range for them in Europe.

Syrian Woodpecker
Syrian Woodpecker - Illmitz, Austria
      There were other birds about, some Greenfinches and House Sparrows, but no Green Woodpeckers.  I would dip on them again, my 4th country without seeing one.  I made my way back to the hotel and the hopped on board the motorcoach to the morning's destination. We were travelling north to Nickelsdorf where we would be looking for eagles and other BOP soaring overhead.  It was another very sunny and warm day and we would be walking to a place with no real shade to find.  Shortly after the bus stopped someone spotted a pair of Hawfinches, and I got my first photo of one.

Hawfinch - Nicklesdorf, Austria
     We would see some Common Buzzards, White- and Black Storks, more Marsh Harriers and Imperial Eagles, but they were so high that photos weren't possible.  But along the walk to the overlook location, I picked up another lifer, Tawny Pipit!
    At lunch time we went back to the hotel and later in the afternoon back East to the reedbeds around the lake.  This time we would walk all of the way to the swimming area and get our first look at the lake, we had been looking at the reeds most of the time.  It was a very busy place with some snack bars and even a beer garden. As we were walking around the marina there the group got to see the second Bittern of the trip, and I got to miss my second Bittern of the trip.  I did get to hear some though.
     We did get great looks at a group of Pygmy Cormorants sitting on a snag drying off.

Pygmy Cormorants
Pygmy Cormorants - Illmitz, Austria
   These were one of the birds that I most wanted to see before the trip.  We had seen some from further away during the week prior, but these let us get close enough to see some white spots which are part of their breeding plumage.
Pygmy Cormorant
Pygmy Cormorants - Illmitz, Austria
     Back along the reedbeds we were able to see some Avocets and Black-Winged Stilts.

Black-Winged Stilt
Black-Winged Stilt - Illmitz, Austria
Again there were Pochards and Greylag Geese everywhere, and some more Great-Crested Grebes.

Great-Crested Grebe
Great-Crested Grebe - Illmitz, Austria
And overhead we saw more Marsh Harriers, Night Herons and a few Purple Herons flying by.

Purple Heron
Purple Heron - Illmitz, Austria
We were back in the same place where a Moustached Warbler was heard and briefly seen earlier in the week.  Our guide heard it singing and it was shortly seen a few meters into the reeds. This is a fairly uncommon and secretive warbler, but this one was willing to sing for us on 2 different days.

Moustached Warbler
Moustached Warbler - Illmitz, Austria 

Moustached Warbler
Moustached Warbler - Illmitz, Austria
It shortly dropped out of sight again and we moved on back to the bus.  We stopped along the way to see how the Penduline Tit nest was coming along.  There was loads of progress in just a few days.

Penduline Tit nest
Penduline Tit nest - Illmitz, Austria
And that was the end of our final scheduled birding during out trip and the end of another hot and sunny day in Austria.
The next morning was a Monday and the day that we were to return home to Ireland.  But a few of us woke up early enough to take a walk and visit a Syrian Woodpecker nest that was a popular destination at lunchtime and in the evenings.  The nest was in a tree at a small park in the middle of a nearby neighborhood. It was easy to see the adults taking turns feeding the youngsters by waiting just a few minutes and staying a bit out of sight.

Syrian Woodpecker
Syrian Woodpecker (female) - Illmitz, Austria
The woodpeckers weren't the only birds around either.  A Serin was singing away and quickly found at the top of a nearby tree.

Serin - Illmitz, Austria
Black Redstarts were also flying in and out of the nearby gardens. 

Black Redstart
Black Restart - Illmitz, Austria
And soon it was dad's turn to make a delivery.

Syrian Woodpecker
Syrian Woodpecker (male) - Illmitz, Austria
Leaving the woodpeckers and the small park we walked through some more alleys until we once again came to the edge of the reedbeds surrounding the Nuesiedle See.  There we saw a male Black Redstart.

Black Redstart
Black Redstart - Illmitz, Austria
And a bit further away a Kestrel sitting on a post.

Eurasian Kestrel
Kestrel - Illmitz, Austria
     Finally a Goldfinch was singing us a farewell song from a nearby branch.
European Goldfinch
European Goldfinch - Illmitz, Austria
     What a great trip. It was quite the experience.  I managed to see 127 species with 34 of them being lifers.  I saw so many great birds and met some really nice people along for the trip.  I'd like to thank the guides, Niall Hatch and Stephen from Birdwatch Ireland and our local guide Leander Khil, for an amazing week. 

Thanks for making it this far,


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