Ur­ban bird­ing

As well as giv­ing its name to a hit song of the early 1980s, the city of Vi­enna also hits the right notes with vis­it­ing bird­watch­ers

Bird Watching (UK) - - Contents - WORDS: DAVID LINDO

The city of Vi­enna in Aus­tria has much to of­fer the vis­it­ing bird­watcher

VI­ENNA IS PROB­A­BLY more fa­mous for the Ul­travox tune, the Vi­en­nese Waltz and those lovely Vi­en­nese whirl bis­cuits than for ur­ban bird­ing. But do not be fooled. A glance at a map will show you that it is not only a city filled with woods and other green spa­ces, but also a city lit­er­ally sur­rounded by forests. All that wood­land is fre­quented by an of­ten un­seen army of wood­peck­ers, tits, thrushes and rap­tors that, dur­ing the sum­mer months, are joined by fly­catch­ers and war­blers. Prac­ti­cally every green space within the city has an el­e­ment of wood­land that can be pop­u­lated by Great, Blue and Marsh Tits, plen­ti­ful Nuthatches and up­wards of seven wood­pecker species. This is de­spite Vi­enna be­ing Aus­tria’s cap­i­tal city, with a met­ro­pol­i­tan pop­u­la­tion of 2.6 mil­lion peo­ple. Far from be­ing a city just filled with tourists, it re­ally does seem to have a thriv­ing bird pop­u­la­tion, too. The Danube runs through the city and is a very im­por­tant area for na­ture, in par­tic­u­lar, the stretch right in the mid­dle of the city where the river is split in two by a wooded is­land. It is there that Field­fares nest, while Beaver and Ot­ter roam. The point where the is­land di­vides the river has be­come a rar­ity hotspot, es­pe­cially dur­ing the au­tumn and win­ter. All the diver species have oc­curred, as well as Po­ma­rine Skua, Kit­ti­wake and even a re­cent Sabine’s Gull. These sight­ings were re­mark­able given that Vi­enna is more than 1,000km away from the north­ern seas where those birds would nor­mally be found. Walk­ing around the Vi­en­nese parks you will no­tice a lot of crows. The city is the hy­bridiza­tion zone of the Hooded Crow, whose main dis­tri­bu­tion is more east­erly, and Car­rion Crow to the west. This means that most of the crows that you will see will be hy­brids be­tween the two. Most look like Hood­ies, although through­out the course of a day, you could eas­ily see 50 shades of grey: from not quite black to not quite full-blown Hooded Crow. There are sev­eral spots to make a bee­line for if you want to spend some time bird­ing. Au­garten is a large wooded park that, dur­ing the sum­mer, holds the clas­sic birds to be seen else­where in the city, in­clud­ing Black­cap, Great, Blue and Marsh Tits, Nuthatch, Short-toed Treecreeper and the pos­si­bil­ity of Great, Mid­dle Spot­ted, Grey­headed and Black Wood­peck­ers. There are two im­pos­ing tow­ers in the park that used to be anti-plane mis­sile launch pads from World War II. Nowa­days, they are derelict and re­cently have been pa­tro­n­ised by pass­ing Pere­grines that use them as look­outs for pi­geons. De­spite the many church spires and high-rise build­ings there are no breed­ing Pere­grines in the city. The main rea­son is that they were driven out due to poi­son­ing and hunt­ing in the past. De­spite there be­ing no reg­u­lar Pere­grines to be seen, you may have a bet­ter chance of see­ing their cousins the Saker Fal­con on the out­skirts of the city, where a few pairs breed. These fal­cons, along with Eastern Im­pe­rial and White-tailed Ea­gles, are some­times seen within the city lim­its, drawn in by the green­ery and avail­abil­ity of food. Pratar Park, ly­ing ad­ja­cent to the Danube, is an at­trac­tive long and nar­row wooded park con­tain­ing a long, slim wood-fringed lake. The park even­tu­ally joins into a much big­ger area that is one of the largest wooded ar­eas found in the city. The usual Vi­enna wood­land sus­pects can

be dis­cov­ered here, plus the city’s only es­tab­lished colony of Mandarins, that ap­par­ently never leave the cap­i­tal. Aus­trian bird­ers believe their coun­try has the least num­ber of es­tab­lished alien species com­pared with other west­ern Euro­pean coun­tries. They proudly state that they have no Ruddy Shel­duck, Egyp­tian Geese, para­keets or, God for­bid, Grey Squir­rels. As in­ti­mated ear­lier, al­most any park in Vi­enna can re­sult in good bird­ing. One such site to sin­gle out is Weiner­berg Te­ich in the south of the city. It is a flooded ex­trac­tion pit that has been recog­nised as an im­por­tant wildlife area by the city au­thor­i­ties, de­spite the large num­ber of recre­ational users. Dur­ing the sum­mer, Great Reed War­blers sing from the reed-fringed edges and a cou­ple of pairs of Great Crested Grebe raise their young. If you are re­ally lucky you might spy the breed­ing pair of Lit­tle Bit­tern, that se­crete them­selves in the reeds. The sur­round­ing bushes are the sum­mer home to Lesser Whitethroat, Nightin­gale and also Ic­ter­ine War­bler. Per­haps one of the best places to visit is Lobau at the south-eastern edge of the city and part of the Donau-auen Na­tional Park. Dubbed Vi­enna’s Jun­gle, the park lies along­side the Danube and can eas­ily be reached by pub­lic trans­port. It is a flood­plain that has large ar­eas of reedbed with some wet wood­land. Watch out for Pen­du­line Tit and Bearded Tit and, in the wet scrub, se­cre­tive River War­blers sing. Mean­while, in the wet wood­lands Col­lared Fly­catcher, Golden Ori­ole, Cuckoo, Black Kite, Hobby and Honey Buz­zard all breed.

ê WOODED AR­EAS Through­out the Vi­enna area, there are parks and wood­land sites, filled with birds! DAVID SAYS Look beyond what the tourists see and you will find birds Marsh Tit Great Reed War­bler

Mid­dle Spot­ted Wood­pecker

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