The Mountains are calling and I must go

Right after returning from Croatia I had to unpack my backpack, pack it again and head to next ornithology field course. This time we stayed tree days in Rax, which is a traditional mountaineering and mountain walking area between provinces of Lower Austria and Styria. It’s also called the Wiener Hausberge (Vienna’s local mountains). In addition to many mountain peaks also the deep Höllental (Hell Valley) is located to same area and is separating Rax from Schneeberg.

Our hut Ottohaus and the scenery to nearby valley

In the first day we took a cable car to rise first up to 1500 m and walked to Ottohaus hut, which was going to be our base camp during these three days. Even though temperature in lowlands was nice and warm, once rising on the top, degrees dropped quite a lot and also wind was really strong, making the air more colder. Also vegetation changed totally and start to resemble more habitats that exist in Lapland, with small pine trees and flowers covering the rocky ground. Bare but beautiful. There was still even patches of snow!

Unfortunatelly I don’t have great pictures of birds, but here’s some nice flowers instead!

Next day we started the actual work with line counting of birds. Our target was to count densities of ring ouzels (Turdus torquatus) and dunnocks (Prunella modularis). Of course at the same time we tried to count also every other bird species that we saw. First morning dawned really cold (around 2°C) and there was also a high promise of rain and even snow. Nevertheless, we headed to field and spend time there from 8:00 to 16:00. During the survey we also saw many chamois (Rupicapra rupicapra) climbing mountains and even some baby ones! In the evening weather got even worse. Wind was building up and rain continued, so we had a cosy night in hut by playing card and tasting Zirbenlikör, which is made of  pine cones and have this really nice and soft taste of pine.

Luckily the weather turned sunny in the last day, so we got a really nice opportunity to enjoy mountains in all their glory. Ein wirkliches Kaiserwetter! This day our goal was to climb up to almost 1900 meters and try to spot some rock ptarmigan (Lagopus mutus) in there. Unfortunately we didn’t see any of them, but views were really majestic. From the top of the mountain it was possible to see all the way to Neusiedlersee and even to Hungary’s side! While climbing we also crossed the border of Bundesland, so technically we walked to Styria, haha!

Views from the highest peak we reached
Crossing snow fields

After a really nice hike we headed back to Ottohaus to pack and get ready for a return journey. This time we wanted to hike down from the mountain. Combining a backpack full of stuff with really steep mountain trail, going down was anything but easy! Walking required a lot of concentration and muscle control. Once we were back to our cars, you could easy feel the exercise in your legs!

Again an other amazing field course that fulfilled my expectations and gave me a great opportunity to see Austrian nature and new bird species. Even more, now I can happily say that I concurred two mountains and I can cross hiking in Alps over from my budget list! I’m really going to miss mountains…

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