I was travelling East this summer (2021) and came through Austria, where I spent some hours at three different locations: two at Lake Neusiedl, one in Vienna.

The steepe-like landscape in the Neusiedl Lake area

1.8.: It rains at Lake Neusiedl, when I arrive in the afternoon. Eventually it clears up and I go on a 9 km walk around „Lange Lache“. My hope is to see Souslik and – mayyybe – Steppe Polecats. There are lots of Roe Deer (Capreolus capreolus) and European Hare (Lepus europaeus) around.

Roe Deer: a male chasing a female
Roe Deer buck: horning a willow
European Hare: nicely posing so that the pelage colour pattern becomes visible

It‘s mating season for the deer, so there is lot‘s of chasing and I even see a couple mating. For the evening I retreat to a watch tower close to a proposed Souslik colony. But not one of these ground squirrels appears, and therefore there is not much hope for polecats. Bigger predators also don‘t show up. And that‘s rather odd, given the abundance of hares and Roe Deer. During a 180°-turn from the watch tower I count 39 animals combined. Avian highlights include Hoopoe and European Quail. On the other hand only one small rodent is seen (too far away to ID it). At night I get a Nathusius‘ Pipistrelle (Pipistrellus nathusii), that flies low over the steppe vegetation.

Lake Neusiedl: great sky
Nathusius‘ Pipistrelle

2.8.: I get up at 4 am. It’s windy, but it stays dry. The morning starts with a cooperative Eastern Hedgehog (Erinaceus roumanicus), who poses perfectly and let‘s me see his white breast spot. There are again many hares and deer. Many „mice“, that my thermal imager detects, turn out to be skylarks. I wait again at the Souslik colony: nothing. At least I get some nice Roe Deer photos. Avian highlights are five Curlews, two Spoonbills and a Montagu’s Harrier.

Eastern Hedgehog: seen through my thermal imager …
… and through my camera: showing the species-specific white breast spot

13.8.: On my homeward journey I again camp at Lake Neusiedl. This time near the town of St. Andrä. The campground there is famous for its Sousliks (Spermophilus citellus) and Pied Avocets in the lake, which are indeed easy to see. At night a Stone Marten (Martes foina), jumping on my car, wakes me up. I get out and see that others make the same acquaintance with him.

Obviously the people in St. Andrä know that Sousliks are good as an attractor. – Cherish your mammals!
Souslik near the lakeside
Hard to believe: The European Souslik is one of only two ground squirrel species within the European Union (not counting marmots). The other species is the Spotted Souslik, which occurs for example in the small reserve of Suśle Wzgórza, SE Poland.
Souslik: not really shy, but also not easy to approach
Pied Avocets at sunset – amongst others
While a man rests in an armchair at midnight, a Stone Marten inspects his car.

14.8. I get up early and spend an hour at Vienna‘s Zentralfriedhof (Vienna Central Cemetery), which is not at all „central“ and easy to reach from Highway A4. I arrive at 7 am, when the cemetery opens and ask a gatekeeper, where to go to see Black-bellied Hamsters (Cricetus cricetus). He replies: „No idea, I guess everywhere.“ I pass the gate and right behind the gatekeepers office two hamsters have a fight with eachother. Great show! I then find out, they are easy to detect on the short cut lawn, but it needs a bit of patience to get close for good photos. Besides the two combatants I see one more individual on the same lawn.

Great hamster habitat: Vienna Central Cemetery
hamster fight
Black-bellied Hamster: certainly one of the most fascinating rodents in Europe

I walk a route through the cementery and observe Eurasian Red Squirrels (Sciurus vulgaris) and a Roe Deer, but do not find more hamsters. After 9 am the ones at the entrance are also gone.

Eurasian Red Squirrel: with eponymous pelage colour
Eurasian Red Squirrel: with not so eponymous pelage colour

I have breakfast nearby and supervise the area: no more hamsters. It is a hot day and I assume they want to avoid the heat. Well, I guess, it was a good decision to come early.