The National Park in Austria
The Neusiedler See - Seewinkel National Park covers a total surface of 9700ha of which 50% are Nature Reserve Zone. Here, nature remains untouched as there are no visitors allowed. The area that is accessible for public – the Conservation Zones – is divided into five parts.
The Conservation Zones:
South of Weiden/See lies an extensive meadowland of which an area of 650ha belong to the National Park. The B10 bike path follows the embankment between Weiden and Podersdorf. On the lakeward side, there are saline meadows and reed beds. Landward, where the village of Zitzmannsdorf was before it was destroyed by the Turks in 1529, you can find semi-dry grassland and seasonally flooded meadows. In dry areas, botanical treasures grow, like the Astragalus exscapus, Feather Grass, Pygmy Iris or Austrian Sage. On humid spots you can find Blue Iris, Fen orchid or Aster Canus. The small, seasonal pools contain nutrients which attract, among others, Black-tailed Godwits, Common Redshanks, Western Curlews and Lapwings. In some parts of the meadowlands there lives a rare moth:Chondrosoma fiduciarium.
It is one of the habitat management measures to mow parts of the meadows starting in mid-June. Water retention in old drainage channels creates habitats for amphibians.
This part of the park covers about 3,000 hectares and includes a number of saline lakes, meadowland, lake shore and the reed belt with some embankments. The pastureland on the lake shore south of Podersdorf serves as a nesting area for hundreds of Greylag geese and Black-winged Stilts.
There are dozens of wading birds passing, easy to observe at the saline lakes “Stinkersee” and in the wet meadows. At dried out saline lakeshores you can find large areas covered with soda “snow” and typical salt-plants. At the “Unterer Stinkersee” (saline lake) you can often find Common Terns. Avocets and Kentish Plovers nest at the “Zicklacke”. The South Russian Tarantula inhabits shore areas with little vegetation. The nesting areas on the shores of “Zicklacke” and “Kirchsee” are pastured in order to keep the areas open.
Przewalskis and warm-blood horses are used for pasturing in the lakeshore area. Mowing and reed harvesting are part of the maintenance activities carried out as part of the habitat management. Hunting of aquatic fauna is no longer allowed around the lakes “Stinkersee”, “Zicklacke” and “Kirchsee”.
This area borders on the National Park Nature Reserve Zone of the same name and thus serves as an effective buffer zone between the Nature Reserve Zone and the Non-National Park area. The wetland area of the Neusiedler See south of Illmitz and Apetlon consists of periodically flooded meadows, variously structured reed beds and small stands of trees.
Birds living in the reed beds, like Great White Egrets, Spoonbills, different species of ducks and geese as well as reed-dwelling songbirds can be found here frequently. Larger mammals, like roe deer, red deer and wild boar that live in the reed beds too, generally stay under cover during daytime.
When farmers gave up their herds and as a consequence, vegetation was no longer kept short, many areas of meadows and pasture land were overgrown with grass and bushes.
Precious habitats for flora and fauna could be reclaimed by the National Park: annual mowing preserves wet meadows, small-scale grazing with White Donkeys helps to maintain ecosystems on the sandy embankment. Hungarian Grey Cattle helps to prevent landward reed growing.
Reed is harvested in designated areas in winter. Since 1993, hunting is not allowed in the Conservation Zone.
This Conservation Zone consists, in addition to some small saline lakes and meadows in the south, of the saline lakes and Hutweide (pasture land) northeast of Apetlon. Particularly interesting from an ornithological point of view is the Lange Lacke and the neighbouring Wörthenlacken. Also, the Neubruchlacke and the Fuchslochlacke provide resting areas for many migratory birds. There, Lapwings and Redshanks nest on the Hutweide, while Marsh Harriers and Coots nest in the reed bed. Hamsters, European Ground Squirrels and Steppe Polecats are native to this area as well as rare plants like the Sea Wormwood and the Camphor-fume.
From mid-October on thousands of geese gather at the Lange Lacke to roost. Mainly Greylag Geese nest in this area. White-fronted Geese and Bean Geese from nesting areas in Northern Europe rest here before migrating to wintering grounds.
Traditional pasturing keeps the vegetation low and provides nesting areas for ground-nesting birds. This measure is much more selective than the annual mowing. The National Park uses about 80ha for organic farming: in this area, primarily geese find a quiet place to feed. The harvest is used as winter feed for the National Park’s herds.
This quite small area with only 142ha near Tadten and Andau is surrounded by more than 200ha of fallow land. This basin is a former part of the Neusiedler See and was drained in the past by several channels. In the 18th century it resembled a swamp. From about 1870 on large-scale peat cutting was carried out. The last saline lakes of the Hanság disappeared after the construction of the Main Regulation Channel.
In 1973, the Burgenland government designated the nesting area of the Great Bustard as a fully protected integral reserve. This area is populated by a significant number of Great Bustards, Quails, Curlews, Short-eared Owls, Stonechats and Red-backed Shrikes. Here you can also find rare plants like the Bog Orchid and the Purple Moorgrass. In winter, you can observe Rough-legged Buzzards, Northern Harriers, Merlins and White-tailed Eagles.
Habitat Management is focused entirely on the preservation of the Great Bustard population. Mowing takes place in late-summer in order to preserve the typical meadowland vegetation.
Water retention with drainage channels preserves the wet meadows and a herd of Galloway-cattle grazes in the area.