The wetland area of the Absetzbecken Hohenau – Ringelsdorf (total area 55 ha) is an artificial creation, important chiefly for waterfowl and waders. This area is maintained and protected as a substitute for natural wetlands (natural backwaters of lowland rivers, muddy habitats), which hardly exist any longer in Central Europe. The water from the nearby river March and the water pumping system of the sugar factory make it possible to keep certain areas wet and free from vegetation. The vogel.schau.plätze have been maintained and protected since 1998 by the AURING society.
In this area for bird protection, over 230 bird species have so far been recorded. To retain the attraction of this area for both birds and ecotourists, some intensive habitat management is required. Interesting birdwatching points may be found at the watchtower by the Kühlteich, at the hide on the Anlandebecken, and also at the ringing station:
The 38 hectares of the Absetzbecken Hohenau-Ringelsdorf was part of the sugar factory. The Anlandebecken received the mud that was washed from the sugarbeet, and what is now the Kühlteich was a „holding pool“ where the effluent water was clarified. Ornithological research showed that these areas were of great importance for passage birds, and laid the foundations for the preservation of the wetlands, which are now open to visit. The mosaic of shallow water, wet and dry mud and dense vegetation is carefully maintained. The Anlandebecken helps replace some of the habitats that existed prior to the regulation of the river March. During the migration season, this is one of the most important resting and feeding areas for waders in the whole of Austria.
The 17 hectare Kühlteich is the most significant winter resting place for northern waterbirds in the whole March-Thaya area. It also happens to be an important component of the sugar factory’s work. The factory’s use of the Kühlteich coincides with the requirements of bird conservation. Each year in early summer, Black-headed Gulls settle in the reed islands. This is the only breeding colony of these birds in Lower Austria.
In winter the pool is the most important waterbird resting place in eastern Lower Austria. Up to 5,000 ducks may be found here, and it is also the roost site for up to 10,000 geese. The 17 ha pool cools the waste water emitted by the sugar factory. The watchtower gives good views of bird activity over the whole of the Kühlteich. Other species that may be found here in season include Black-necked Grebe, Garganey and Shoveler, as well as terns. During the breeding season , the Kühlteich is of great importance for waterfowl and waders, as well as for reedbed passerines. The observation tower at the Kühlteich makes it possible to watch the birdlife of the Kühlteich. Numerous species of birds are found here throughout the year.
The Hohenau Sugar Factory was closed down. The Kühlteich has been drained and will be transformed into a fish pond.
Finding the vogel.schau.plätze
If your visit begins in Hohenau, then start at the watchtower beside the road to the border-crossing (cars can be parked by the tower, or it is just 15 minutes walk from the railway station). If you are coming from Ringelsdorf, then follow the March-Panorama cycle-route or take the turning from the B49, just beyond the isolated Tollhouses, to reach the ringing station.
Don’t forget to bring a pair of binoculars and, if possible, a field guide with you. To get more out of your observations, it is possible to use the AURING telescope and field guides, for the price of a small donation.
With the train:
Direct trains are regular from Wien-Nord (Praterstern), towards Bernhardsthal.
March-Panorama- and Kamp-Thaya-March-Cycle routes
From Vienna, take the B8 to Angern, then North along the B49 to Hohenau.
The ringing station
The ringing station Ringelsdorf is one point in a worldwide network of bird-ringing stations. Since 1994, around 20.500 birds from over 90 different species have been ringed. Over 75 have already been recaught at other stations along their migration route, from the neighbouring Czech Republic to the middle of Italy, to as far as 6,000 km away in Kenya.
In the ten years of ringing over 90 foreign recaptures have been made. The foreign retrap map shows graphically the origins and destinations of birds migrating through the March-Thaya-Auen: a clearly-marked corridor from north-east Europe to the central or eastern Mediterranean area. Only a few species, particularly birds which winter in the Mediterranean, such as Common Snipe, Song Thrush and Reed Bunting use a migration route to south-western Europe.
The bird calendar in the ringing season
Charakteristics: Post-breeding moult, adult long-distance migrants begin to leave
Commonest species: Tree Sparrow, Marsh Warbler, Sedge Warbler
Ausgust – September
Charakteristics: Long-distance migrants
Commonest species: Marsh Warbler, Sedge Warbler
September – Oktober
Charakteristics: Short-distance migrants
Commonest species: Chiffchaff, Dunnock
Charakteristics: Short-distance migrants and overwintering birds
Commonest species: Reed Bunting, Blue Tit, Dunnock
Once a bird has a ring, its numerical code is internationally identifiable, and if it is recaptured, a short biography is available. We have already created more than 3,000 of such short biographies of birds ringed here. These histories tell us how long the birds stay, whether they return after winter, where they have bred or alternatively where they were hatched. The birds are weighed and measured, age and sex are established, along with whether the birds are replacing worn feathers (moulting) and if they have fat reserves for migration. Fat is the fuel for migration – high energy content and little weight.
The main focus of the research is the songbird ringing in the impenetrable, nutrient-rich ruderal vegetation of the Anlandebecken. One specialist project involves the ringing of waders. Other ringing activities include ringing Black Storks, rails and owls.
Visiting the ringing station
The ringing station is occupied from Friday to Monday, from July through to October. At this time, it is possible to experience ringing in the flesh. Use also the wide variety of events offered at the vogel.schau.plätze!
Please get in touch in advance.
Working at the ringing station
Throughout the end of June until the end of October we need helpers with an interest in birds who can work at the station for a minimum of four days (Friday to Monday). The jobs involved include ringing birds, bird counting, general site management and the daily station work. Those interested in registering should write to the society or email the coordinator, Thomas Zuna-Kratky, at email@example.com.
Birds of the vogel.schau.plätze
The vogel.schau.plätze Hohenau-Ringelsdorf offer an attractive resting and feeding place all year round, and in the summer, a good place to breed as well. The variety of wet, moist and nutrient-rich habitats, the bird-orientated management and the favourable location within the bird-rich March-Thaya-Auen all contribute to the fact that over 230 species of bird have been recorded here!
The vogel.schau.plätze are of most importance for wildfowl (ducks and geese), herons and storks, and for waders. Less conspicuous, but also in large numbers, songbirds (passerines) typical of wetland areas pass through, e.g. the native warblers, Bluethroat and Reed Bunting.
Breeding birds of the Absetzbecken Hohenau-Ringelsdorf
The Absetzbecken are an important breeding site for a whole array of rare and „at risk“ bird species. To document the importance of this area, and to be able to recognise temporal changes of these species, we began a thorough annual census in 1992 of the number of pairs and territories of all the breeding bird species found here. Between 1992 and 2002, 54 species of birds have been recorded as breeding in the area of the Absetzbecken Hohenau-Ringelsdorf. Remarkably, half of the total number of these species are on the „Red List of Threatened Breeding Birds of Austria“. The vogel.schau.plätze has therefore a major responsibilty towards the breeding birds of Austria. Particularly important populations found here are those of Black-necked Grebe, Redshank, Black-headed Gull and Common Tern (at present the largest colonies of each in Lower Austria). The first breeding records for Lower Austria of one pair each of Avocet (1999) and Black-winged Stilt (2001) were from here as well.
Waders – Nomads between the Arctic and Africa
Being very nomadic, waders move between widely separated regions. A strict life-cycle is followed: in the short Arctic summer they breed, where they have almost no competition. The migration of some species covers 3,000 to 4,000 km in nonstop-flight, which exhausts their energy reserves. Therefore the destruction of the stop-off points along their migration pathway can have dramatic consequences.
Along their migration routes, many wader species follow only, or mainly, the coasts. There they stay in the tidal zones: in the areas of the river estuaries and the brackish marshes behind the coasts. Other species, such as Little Ringed Plover, Ruff, Common Snipe, Wood Sandpiper or Green Sandpiper almost solely use inland wetlands as resting places. In historical times there were more of these in Central Europe due to the flooding action of large rivers and of treeless wet landscapes (e. g. moors); pasture and pastoral land offer other opportunities. Today, after over one hundred years of wetland drainage and river regulation, there are hardly any areas left that satisfy the requirements of migrating waders. Besides the Seewinkel lakes around Lake Neusiedl, the Absetzbecken Hohenau-Ringelsdorf are one of the most important resting places for waders in Austria. The study of the complex phenomenon of wader migration is also a part of the work of the ringing station. Through our work with wader-ringing we have already gained some interesting results.
Winter birds at the vogel.schau.plätze
In winter, the dry Anlandebecken are of less importance for songbirds, with the exceptions of Tree Sparrow and Goldfinch, which visit in large groups, and hardy overwinterers like Water and Meadow Pipits, Dunnock and Reed Bunting.
With the creation of the new water-clearing pool for the sugar factory in 1995, and the beginning of the bird-orientated management of the Absetzbecken, the Kühlteich developed into one of the most important overwintering site for waterbirds in Austria. The most numerous bird species in winter, by far is the Mallard. With the improved water quality of the Kühlteich, and the long ice-free period, the Absetzbecken has become an important roost site for overwintering geese (predominantly Bean Geese, but also Greylag and White-fronted Geese and occasionally rarer species such as Lesser White-fronted Goose, Shelduck and Bar-headed Goose) and the only regular one in Lower Austria. Apart from the masses of Mallards and geese, there are good numbers of other winter visitors, of which Grey Heron and Great Egret, Wigeon, Common Teal, Pochard and Coot are found in particularly important numbers. Another impressive species at the pools are hunting White-tailed Eagles, which may winter in groups of more than 10 birds at a time!
The AURING Society
AURING is a non-profit making society, active in the upper March-Thaya-Auen – at the centre of which is the ‚vogel.schau.plätze‘ Hohenau-Ringelsdorf. Our aim is to maintain, care for, and study the vogel.schau.plätze, which is habitat for more than 230 bird species, for naturalists and ornithologists both near and far.
The society was formed in 1996 by Rudi Machacek, Martin Rössler and Thomas Zuna-Kratky. The following focuses are the basis of the society’s work:
- Research – ornithological research work, maintaining the ringing station.
- Nature protection – Management of the vogel.schau.plätzen, taking care of the bordering floodplain forests, creating a positive attitude towards our immediate environment.
- Public work – Organisation of excursions, school projects and talks, publishing relevant documentation of our research work.
- Regional development- Supporting nature-tourism, effective presentation of the national importance of the area.
Schools at the vogel.schau.plätze
One main topic of our work is the cooperation with schools. Since 1999 we could invite many classes with more thousands of pupils of the age of five to 18 years at the vogel.schau.plätze. Our special trained eco-teachers could conduct exciting and even adventureous days with the children.
Please get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org
A- 2273 Hohenau
Tel.: (0043) 0664 – 941 88 81