Sunday, February 26, 2012

Quoth the Raven: Gesundheit!



Sure, we love our culture, hence the unsubtle title of this post. But a number of people travel to Austria to look at the local wildlife, and we thought we’d look at what there is to see.

There are a lot of places that cater to wildlife holidays, from isolated apartments and huts in the mountains to hotels that act as a base for nature lovers to explore. Here is a quick rundown of what you’ll hopefully see in Austria.

Mammals

Mammals are abundant in Austria, and some unusual varieties exist in the relatively isolated alpine regions. Wildlife holidays often take you to the mountains to see these animals.

Deer

The abundance of deer in Austria occasionally leads to a large 500-pound animal plowing through the windscreen, so be careful on those rural roads. In the mountainous areas, fallow and roe deer run, whereas in the lowlands, red deer are more common. You’ll often find you return from your wildlife trip to be greeted with a plate of venison, such is the love of hunting and managing wildlife in Austria.

Chamois

The alpine chamois is what you’d get if you mixed up badger and goat DNA and bred the result. This goat-like creature is a source of chamois leather, and it is apparently very tasty. If you want to get close to the animal, they usually look for danger below them and ignore anything above them.

Alpine Ibex

The alpine ibex is a goat with comedy horns. Big curly horns. They’re normally found halfway up mountains or climbing up dams. We’re not even kidding about the dams. What looks like a photoshopped image of goats on the side of a dam is actually real.
Birds

In the valleys, particularly around the lakes, are numerous bird species. Seewinkel and the Great Hungarian Plain are great areas for a wildlife holiday.

Wryneck

This unusual member of the woodpecker family looks like an oversized sparrow or thrush with a Mohawk. It’s not exactly a proper woodpecker because of its tail feathers, but it pecks at wood to get at ants and it lays its eggs in a hole in a tree, so to us it’s close enough. Like an owl, it can turn its head nearly 180 degrees, which looks weird but cool.

Black Redstart

This species is best described as a flycatcher with a red . . . behind. Absolutely lovely as they dash around catching the local annoying insects, their aerobatic displays are a joy to behold.

White Storks

If your hotel owner curses as he or she lights a fire and the chimney is blocked, it might be because a white stork has nested in the chimney. As you’re travelling along, look up, and you might see the giant nests that they like to make.
Anyway, these are just a few of the species that you will see out and about in Austria. Keep your eyes open, have a good pair of binoculars, and ask your local hotel for advice on the best spots to go for your wildlife holiday.

Oh, and if you’re hoping to see a black eagle, which is on the Austrian coat of arms, you’ll need to head to Central Asia!