burgenland-austria-703Burgenland is Austria’s Avian St Pancras Station. There aren’t many people in the region, but it’s teeming with wall-to-wall birdlife!
We visited Lake Neusiedl, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There are river inlets running through the reed beds, and the others set out to explore it in canoes, (some more successfully than others!) but I wanted to be alone to experience the landscape and its feathered inhabitants.
Our amazing guide Arno Cimadom knows every tweet and twitter, and exactly where it’s coming from! Before he paddled off, he pointed out a Great Reed Warbler.
The little bird makes a loud noise while gently swaying to and fro, perched on a reed stalk.
As I walked quietly along the riverbank, the birds seemed to be passing on a warning to each other. When I reached the end of the reeds, their noise suddenly stopped.
I sat beside the river and my ears gradually became adjusted to the different sounds all around me. There are over 100 species of bird in the area, most of them migratory.
Arno said that it’s an absolute joy to hear them early in the morning.
burgenland-austria-730I have never heard so many birds in my life! The air was full of the different melodies, welcomes and warnings.
Suddenly I tuned in to the sound of a cuckoo. Then I spotted her, flying around from tree to tree, cuckooing all the time. And – oh, joy, – she perched in the tree next to me and stared down at me!
It’s the first time that I’ve ever seen a cuckoo. I was so excited that I even dreamed about cuckoos that night!
To add to my excitement, a heron flew overhead, its long skinny legs stuck out behind it.
Another bird started calling loudly opposite me in the reeds. I have no idea what it was, but it sounded a bit ducky, if you know what I mean. It stayed in one place, so it could have been nesting.
Something large plopped loudly in the water and made me jump, but I didn’t see what it was.
Then the amateur canoists returned, so that was the end of the silence!
In the morning we visited Rust, beside the lake.
All the houses are painted in different colours, and the small town is immaculate. And no wonder, with a fine of 8,800 Euros for dropping litter!
burgenland-austria-773I don’t think that even the famous (infamous?) Banksy would dare to paint graffiti on the walls there!
On a lot of the roofs is an iron construction that looks like a giant paella pan on a trivet. They are topped with huge nests.
What are these weird-looking objects? They’re storks’ nests.
A large stork soared overhead and landed gracefully on its nest. Its next-door neighbour popped up and then stared down at us, making a loud clacking noise, like two bits of wood banged together.
The town encourages the storks to visit the town. They’re migrant birds. They go away from September-April. Around 34 birds regularly return every year to nest above the rooftops.
In the town, there’s a Stork Society, and a stork hospital.
Down by the lake, ducks relaxed on the grass, completely at ease with the people sat beside them. They weren’t nervous at all.
Geese and their little fluffy goslings wandered around on both sides of the fence.
I sneaked right up close, but they ignored me. They didn’t hiss or run towards me to protect their babies, and the goslings didn’t hurry away to be shielded by their mothers. I was invisible as far as they were concerned.
Why are our geese so grumpy and aggressive, I wondered?
Lake Neusiedl is the largest steppe lake in Central Europe.
burgenland-austria-749I looked up Steppe in my dictionary. It says it’s A level grassy unforested plain, esp in SE Europe and Siberia.
The lake is 300 sq km, and around 1.70m deep.
It’s dried up five times through the centuries, but always eventually re-filled.
We had a trip in a catamaran across it, passing rather luxurious fishing/boating huts on the shore.
No Jerry-built sheds for the Austrians. They do it in style! The constructions were home-from-homes.
Black-headed gulls followed the boat. They didn’t dive and catch anything as we churned up the water, but they didn’t give up, valiantly flapping their wings to keep up.
I thought I could almost hear them puffing and gasping! Is it worth all the effort, I thought to myself, when they have a huge lake to fish in! But maybe the catfish, etc are too big or wily for them.
We reached the other side of the lake at Mole West, stepping ashore like celebrities.
While we lunched outside, but under cover, I fed a couple of Mallard ducks, a male and a female.
In between mouthfuls of bread, they chatted away to each other. She would speak, then he would reply, just like a married couple!
Each side of the front door into the restaurant were two ornamental tubs with a sculpture stuck in them.
burgenland-austria-883On the left, by the umbrella stand (the Austrians have umbrella stands everywhere we went) a duck was nesting, sitting on her eggs in the middle of a very busy restaurant/boating area!
Children and other people constantly went over to stare at her and she’d mutter a warning. But apart from that, she didn’t seem bothered at all
Why nest in one of the busiest parts of the region when there’s a huge lake just a few yards away? Do ducks have broken water and go into labour like women do? Did she get caught short while eating morsels of bread and hop into the nearest suitable place to nest on her eggs?
It’s a mystery to me, but I’m sure that she’ll be safe there, and completely unharmed.
I’d love to see her ducklings when they hatch out!

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Useful Information:
For further information please visit: www.burgenland.info; for information about the Haydnfestival please visit: www.haydnfestival.at