Day 1: Wed 10 Jun Arrival and Transfer
After relaxing in our complimentary VIP Airport Lounge, we fly from London Gatwick to Vienna. We meet up with local guide Gerard, and head to the south-west through the region of Niederosterreich (Lower Austria) and into the foothills of the Alps. A leisurely drive of around one hour, we pass through quaint villages and by rushing rivers, to our base for the first two nights in a pleasant small town with a hinterland of Alpine scenery. Birds on the way may well include Red-backed Shrike, Dipper, Grey Wagtail, Black Redstart, Fieldfare and Black Stork. We stay here in the first of our 'gasthaus' style accommodations, family run places with good standards, which we prefer to larger hotels throughout the birding part of this holiday.
Day 2: Thu 11 Jun Mountain and Forest Birding
Our first full day will be spent looking for montane and forest birds. We visit several birding spots in the foothills off the beaten track, where we will probably be the only birders in sight among superb scenery in mature mixed forest very different from that in the UK. Many sites here will be exclusive to our holiday, because they are known personally to our Guide and his local contacts. Species such as Western Bonelli's and Wood Warblers, Crested, Willow, Marsh and Coal Tits, Common Treecreeper, Firecrest, Goldcrest, Tree Pipit, Collared and Red-breasted Flycatchers, Common Rosefinch, Hawfinch, Cuckoo, Nutcracker and Stock Dove will be in our sights. Austria is home to ten species of woodpecker, and in this area Middle Spotted, Lesser Spotted, Grey-headed, Black, White-backed and Three-toed are all found. Whilst it is unlikely we will find all Europe's woodpeckers during our holiday, you have a reasonable chance of the difficult species, including Three-toed and White-backed. Although sometimes difficult to pin down, Hazel Grouse and Eagle Owl are also here, and we have chances of both. There are also Red Squirrels, which are not always red, some being decidedly black in colour!
Days 3 and 4: Fri 12 Jun and Sat 13 Jun Steiermark
Today we move a short way southwestwards into the higher mountains of Steiermark (Styria), where above pleasant grassy and flowery pastures and meadows, spruce forest, including some old-growth, dominates. Dwarf pine and then impressive rocky crags and peaks take over at the highest levels, and the views can be impressive. Birds we seek in this truly scenic Alpine landscape include Golden Eagle, Alpine Accentor, Alpine Chough, Common Redpoll, Ring Ouzel and Water Pipit. Mammals we might encounter include Alpine Marmot, families of which will be out of their winter burrows at this time, and Alpine Chamois. Weather permitting (remember we will be in the mountains) we will take a chair-lift or ski-lift to get us up to the top of one of the higher peaks. We spend two nights here high in the Alps, again in a comfortable 'gasthaus'.
Days 5 and 6: Sun 14 Jun & Mon 15 Jun The Lowlands of Burgenland
After four nights in the Alps, we head eastwards and down to the lowlands of Burgenland. Great Bustard is an important target for us here. At this time of year we expect birds to form flocks, and our chances are excellent; we hope to obtain very good views of this key European species with hardly any walking.
The Austro-Hungarian border region of the Hanság hosts a cross-frontier National Park, and as we bird this region we'll see some remnants of barbed-wire topped fences (the so-called Iron Curtain) in former “no man's land”. The fact that the region lay on the east-west frontier meant that it remained relatively under-populated and was thus good for wildlife. After the political changes of 1989 many of the key areas were protected under the National Park.
Lake Neusiedl is Europe's largest and westernmost steppe lake, situated on the Austro-Hungarian border. The lake covers about 320 km2, more than half of which is reedbed. This is one of the warmest and driest parts of Austria, with hot, dry summers and cold winters with little snow. Smaller, shallow, saline lakes dot the adjacent Seewinkel area, and the whole National Park hosts a rich diversity of species. More than 150 birds breed, and another 150 use the area around the lake during migration.
Birding here may produce White and Black Storks, Eastern Imperial Eagle, Black Kite, Marsh and Montagu’s Harrier, Short-eared Owl, the blue-headed race of Yellow Wagtail, Whinchat, and a range of warblers including River, Marsh, Barred and Icterine. Saline-lakes, salt-marshes, and traditionally managed pastures and meadows host shorebirds such as Kentish Plover, Black-tailed Godwit, Common Redshank, Eurasian Spoonbill, Avocet and Black-winged Stilt. Ducks include Red-crested Pochard and Garganey, and there are Whiskered Tern, and both Yellow-legged and Mediterranean Gulls. Huge reed-beds are a haven for nesting Bittern, Little Bittern, Squacco, Purple and Night Herons, egrets, grebes, Moustached, Savi’s and Great Reed Warblers, Bluethroat (white-spotted race), and both Bearded and Penduline Tits. We will also watch out for Pygmy Cormorant, which are now spreading into Austria from more easterly locations.
There are also Crested Lark, Serin, Hoopoe, Golden Oriole, Bee-eater and Syrian Woodpecker, the latter often in villages and orchards. Our third 'gasthaus' is in the Neusiedlersee-Seewinkel region.
Day 7: Tue 16 Jun Departure
After breakfast we head to Vienna Airport, where we catch our return flight to London Gatwick.
WHILE IN VIENNA ….
... why not continue your adventure with a personalised city break? You can decide how long to stay, choose your hotel from our wide selection, and fly home under the protection of our ATOL Licence 6113.
THINGS TO DO
Walk in the footsteps of the Habsburgs, visit the splendid baroque Schönbrunn and Belvedere Palaces, and stroll along the magnificent Ring Boulevard to take a look at the Imperial Palace. Get a sense of the glory of the old empire by visiting St. Stephen’s Cathedral, the Spanish Riding School, or the Giant Ferris Wheel at the Prater.
Use your ‘Vienna Card’ to travel on the trams, subway and buses, enjoy the extensive shopping opportunities, and visit one of the famous Viennese coffee houses, which offer a wide variety of coffees, pastries, and pies and cakes. Look out especially for Bundt cake and Sachertorte!
Vienna is famous as the ‘City of Music’, and its concert halls and stages offer a wide choice, with music festivals seemingly running continuously. In the city of Mozart and Strauss, there is always a choice of concerts, opera and ballet.