Ever since I decided to wrap up my UK life and head to Austria I’ve been excited about the prospect of seeing new wildlife. With the Danube and the alps close by I figured I’d see something new, but for the first 3 weeks I’ve mainly seen blackbirds, sparrows (both house and tree) crows (carrion and hooded) ,wagtails and a grass snake. We had all of those in Newark On Trent.
I was feeling cheated by the lack of Austrian fauna until last Tuesday. In the early hours we spotted a weasel prowling the pavements of Nijmegen in the way a fox would in the UK, and was rather adorable. So while Austria had failed the Netherlands had provided.
On Friday we headed out to Carnuntum, an old roman settlement on the Slovakian border about an hour outside of Vienna. Whilst wandering around the ruins of amphitheatre I spotted a small mammal. The size and colour of a baby bunny but without the long ears, it kept darting into burrows the moment we got close, so we sat and waited. Soon enough out they came, these little mammals were chasing each other, squeaking like rats, standing on their rear legs like meerkat’s and just generally being superbly cute. A quick google search revealed these little bundles of adorable to be European Ground Squirrels. Hurray! Finally a non UK animal that I’d never seen before, Austria was coming through for me. Sadly these little critters are in decline and are listed as Vulnerable, as so many species seem to be these days.
We headed back to the station to catch the train home, and as I looked up a huge stork flew across my view. I’d never seen a wild stork, but they are huge and its a wonder they can fly at that size! But it was rather a graceful flight, in a gigantic clumsy kind of way.
So Austria redeemed itself in one day by providing two gems and to top it off I now keep spying a bird of prey from our balcony.