Destinations Magazine

Birding, Twitching And The Black Stork Count

By Linda
Birding, Twitching And The Black Stork Count

photo : Lisa Yarost

If you have ever wondered what you might do that’s bit different when on holiday, you might consider a visit to Austria in the spring or autumn and joining in the birding, twitching and black stork count.


Many people watch the wildlife in their garden and are familiar with the term ‘birdwatching’. Birding on the other hand, is a little more than just listening to and keeping an eye out for  the first swallow of spring or return of the robin in autumn. It’s the serious pursuit of bird study as a hobby or sport.

Whereas Ornithologists are interested in the scientific stuff relating to birds, ‘birders’ revel in the beauty and rarity of our feathered friends. They roam far and wide with fervour to spot a foreign visitor to their shores. They travel to ‘twitch’ (look for a previously located rare bird)!

They have their own language too. If they miss out on seeing a rare bird, they’ve ‘dipped out’ and if other’s see it, the beleaguered birder feels ‘gripped off’.

Flight and our Feathered Friends

Prior to the 18th century, man’s interest in birds was primarily as a source of food. Around the 19th century, the protection of birds became an issue – probably because in the years between there had been a tendency on the part of the Aristocracy (or at least those well off enough to travel) to capture them for entertainment; stuff them as decorations; and generally decimate the avian population.

The 20th century (around the 1980′s) saw the introduction of ‘migratory man’ and birding became an international hobby. Affordable airfares made it possible for the masses to move about the world enjoying the rich variety of bird sights and sounds available.

Conservation and Protection

Renowned societies were established for the conservation of birds, like the ‘Plumage League’ (1889) in Manchester, UK  - so named because of their protests against the use of feathers in the fancy hats of women (and some men!). This one time little league went on to become the largest wildlife conservation society in Europe – The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.

A little later (1922), the Americans waded into the war with the hatching of the International Council for Bird Preservation. After floundering a little during and after the war years, the Council relaunched in 1983 and was renamed in 1993 as BirdLife International. It’s now the world’s largest conservation organisation with 117 national bird protection societies under its wing.

Apart from the quarterly magazine ‘World Birdwatch’ published by BirdLife International, they also have a really interesting blog about birds and avian affairs.

The Black Stork Count

Unlike other posts on this site (see The Castle of the Counts Of Clapboard or War and Wonders in One Place) which refer to the noble position of a Count in Austria, the black stork count is the annual tally of the number of these rare birds amid the mountains. It also includes the count of endangered species, like the black kite and capercaillie in addition to the other native alpine birds – many of which have decreased in population size in recent years.

The black stork is a wading bird with a very shy and wary nature. It thrives in marshy areas along rivers and inland waterways. It prefers wooded areas and inhabits hills and mountainous regions with plenty of freshwater provision. Just like the habitat around Chalet Lowonahill, in fact!

Other indigenous breeds include:

  • the Wryneck
  • Hooopoe
  • and globally threatened Golden Eagle - of which there are 11 pairs located in Burgenland and Lower Austria, with 16 eaglets between them!
Salzburg Conference On 12th and 13th October 2012, Salzburg will host a special conference dedicated to bird migration and windpower at Haus der Natur. Studies conducted in spring of the decline of the bird population undertaken by BirdLife Austria (a branch of the BirdLife International tree) have shown that between 1998 and 2010 the trend is for a loss of around 30% of the natural bred birds in the country. Windpower, deforestation and the destruction of the natural habitats of birds for the benefit of man have been cited as possible causes for this decline. If you’re interested in attending the conference; fancy seeing the mass migration of  ‘black counts’; or want to be part of the spring avian audit, don’t hesitate to contact me to see if the chalet is available.

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