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Monday, 17 July 2017

Austrian Alpine Adventure, Winterbourne Downs and Portland
Bald ibis by Mark Barrett

Austrian Alpine Adventure, Winterbourne Downs and Portland

Two years ago, Pauline and I visited Kitzbühel in the Austrian Tirol, befriending members of the local bird group who kindly showed us some of the local bird life. This May, Werner and Astrid Hengl kindly invited us to stay as their guests for a week and, together with the local bird club leader Traudi Ritter, they took us to some fantastic places to see special birds that we would not have seen otherwise.

On our first day, just outside Kitzbühel, we saw Black Woodpecker and a Nutcracker. The following day I was surprised to see a Bald Ibis. Traudi said that this bird was being reintroduced into southern Germany and Austria having become extinct in the 17th Century. The small population winters in northern Italy and we were fortunate to see a bird returning to its breeding grounds.

Pauline and I went on a walk around the beautiful Schwarzee lake with Werner and Astrid. In the lovely surrounding woodland, we saw Serin, Willow Tit, Pied Flycatcher and Crested Tit. Pauline as usual found the birds before I did and managed to spot Firecrest and a superb Red-backed Shrike. The Austrian name for this bird is Neuntöter (nine dead) - referring to its habit of impaling prey on thorn bushes.

Next we did a walk in the beautiful Alpine meadows above Kitzbühel. In the evening, I gave a talk to the local bird group about our local Winterbourne Downs Reserve and on the seabirds of Portland. The talk was well received, particularly when I mispronounced the German for Arctic Skua, inadvertently calling it a black and red builder!

Werner and Astrid took us to the Matrier Tauernhaus in the high Alps where Bearded Vulture has been reintroduced. The name generally used by Brits - Lammergeier - has negative connotations in the Alps as it gives the false impression that this bird exclusively predates young lambs, thereby justifying its persecution. Therefore, it is best to refer to it as the Bearded Vulture or Bartgeier. Within ten minutes of leaving the car, Pauline (who else) spotted a Bearded Vulture flying along the mountainside. Young Bearded Vultures can wander great distances and a local told us that one flew up to Scandinavia the previous year. In these high peaks, we also saw Golden Eagle and Crag Martin, and Water Pipits on their breeding grounds.

On our final day, Werner, Astrid and Traudi took us to the top of the Kitzbüheler Horn, the nearest mountain. At the very top we saw Alpine Chough, Ring Ouzel and an Alpine Marmot and enjoyed panoramic views over the Alps - a great way to end our holiday. Traudi found us Icterine Warbler, Cuckoo and Lesser Whitethroat as we made our way to the airport! We had a wonderful holiday and you can find the Kitzbühel bird group by clicking the link. The site is in German but there are great images!

Thanks to Werner, Astrid and Traudi for a wonderful holiday.

Mark Barrett