The Rhine Delta in Vorarlberg (Austria)

  

By Christoph Moning and Christian Wagner

 

The Rhine Delta is one of the most important birding areas at Lake Constance. Since 1982 it is an "Important Bird Area”. Until 2002 more than 340 species have been recorded here. It is a well known area for rarities (mainly Waders).

 

Requirements:

Attainable with public means of transport: Yes, if combined with a bike. (If You visit all the recommended spots, You will need a full day)

Equipment: binoculars and a scope

Accessibility of the area: easy, but You have to walk some kilometres

 

Interesting species:

Because of the diversity of the species only selected species can be mentioned here. These species are birds that can be observed easier here than in other parts of the Lake Constance area. 

Red-throated Diver

migrant (November/December and April/May) and winter visitor

Bittern

migrant and winter visitor; can be found in the large reed beds; September to March

Little Bittern

rare breeder (approx. 10 pairs) in the reed beds (e.g. in the reed beds at the Fussach Bay); Mai/June to July/end of  September

Black-crowned Night Heron

irregular breeder with a few pairs; annually migrant in fluctuating numbers between April and the end of September

Squacco Heron

not annually; from beginning of May to the mid of June

Little Egret

migrant; mainly between the mid of April to June; irregularly from July to September

Great White Egret

visitor from the end of August to the end of November; several sightings during the winter; since 1987 annually in March and April

Purple Heron

irregular breeder in few years; annual migrant in spring (May/ June)

Whooper Swan

winter visitor between October/November and March/April

Smew

regular winter visitor in fluctuating numbers between mid November and the beginning of March

Red-breasted Merganser and ducks of coastal waters

Greater Scaup, Eider, Velvet Scoter and Red-breasted Merganser are regular winter visitors that can be observed between the Rohrspitz peninsula and the Wetterwinkel (see map below).

Red-crested Pochard

approx. 20 pairs are breeding in the area; common visitor

Red-footed Falcon

Regular but uncommon migrant between May and mid June and between mid August and mid October; see also Birding

Merlin

Migrant from mid September; few overwinter

Quail

Breeding species in fluctuating numbers 

Black-winged Stilt

rare and irregular visitor between May and June

Pied Avocet

rare migrant; mainly April/May

Knot

regular migrant but few individuals; May/June and between August and October

Sanderling

migrant; May and between August and October; some in November

Little Stint

migrant between mid April and mid June and between July and the end of October; some until January

Temminck’s Stint

migrant in small numbers in May and between mid July and mid October

Pectoral Sandpiper

rare migrant

Curlew Sandpiper

migrant in small numbers between the end of March and the beginning of June; more numerous between mid July and the end of October

Black-tailed Godwit

uncommon breeder and migrant between March and mid May and less numerous between mid July and the end of September

Bar-tailed Godwit

migrant in low numbers between mid March and mid May and more numerous between August and mid October

Jack Snipe

regular migrant mainly between the end of September and the end of November and between March and the end of April

Whimbrel

migrant between the beginning of April and mid May and less numerous between mid July and mid September

Curlew

breeder in decreasing numbers; migrant in March/April; 400 to 600 adults are moulting between July and November; some overwinter

Spotted Redshank

migrant between mid March and mid May and between August and November

Redshank

migrant between mid March and the end of May/ beginning of June and between the end of July and the beginning of October

Marsh Sandpiper

rare but regular migrant; in contrast to the lower stretches of the Inn in eastern Bavaria most of the birds occur in April

Greenshank

migrant between the beginning of April and mid May and between mid July and the end of October

Turnstone

regular migrant in May and between August and October

Arctic Skua

annual migrant in low numbers in May and between the end of June and the end of November

Mediterranean Gull 

1 to 5 pairs are breeding since 1989 at the lagoon between the mouth of the New Rhine and the Fussach Bay; migrant between March and June and less numerous between August and November; some overwinter

Little Gull

migrant between mid April and mid June and between the end of July and the beginning of November

Caspian Tern

regular migrant in autumn (maximum in August/September); rare in spring

Sandwich Tern

migrant in low numbers between May and the beginning of October (maximum is at the beginning of August)

Common Tern

regular breeder at the lagoon between the mouth of the New Rhine and the Fussach Bay as well at the Old Rhine; averagely 110 breeding pairs

Least Tern

Visitor between May and September

Black Terns

(mainly Fussach Bay)

Whiskered Tern: irregular between mid April and mid June 

White-winged Black Tern: regularly in May; very few in August/ September

Black Tern:  regularly between mid April and the beginning of June and between the end of July and the end of September

Hoopoe

migrant between the end of March and the beginning of June (most of them in the second half of April)

Short-toed Lark

rare migrant (1 to 4 individuals each year); regular at spring; not annual at autumn

Tawny Pipit

migrant in April/May and less numerous between mid August and the end of September (October)

Red-throated Pipit

migrant between mid April and mid May (maximum) and between mid September and mid October

Water Pipit

common migrant in autumn; regular winter visitor

Whinchat

breeder and migrant between April and mid May and between August and October

Stonechat

breeder and migrant between the beginning March and the beginning of May and between September and October

Northern Wheatear

migrant between the end of March and the end of May (maximum at April/May) and less numerous between mid August and the beginning of November

Savi’s Warbler

approximately 6 pairs are breeding; regular migrant in April and between mid July and the beginning of October

Great Reed Warbler

breeding in the reed beds between the end of April/ May and the end of July/ end of August.

Bearded Tit

resident; maximum between the end of October and the end of November

Snow Bunting

annually a few migrants and winter visitors between November and March (maximum at the second half of November)

Corn Bunting

few pairs are breeding

Ortolan Bunting

migrant between mid April and the beginning / mid May (maximum) and less numerous between the end of August and the beginning of October

Cirl Bunting

a little bit further south of the Rhine Delta in the sunny vineyards at the western slopes of the Rhine Valley around the villages Berneck (west of Lustenau) and Balgach 10 pairs of this bunting are breeding

Aside this species there are a lot of more common or not annual visitors!

Source: Die Vögel des Bodenseegebietes (1999; Heine, Jacoby, Leuzinger, Stark), Ornithologische Jahreshefte für Baden-Württemberg 14/15

 

Habitats:

The area is situated between the Old Rhine in the west and the canalised channel of the Dornbirner Aach in the east. It comprises the alluvial forest at the old Rhine, meadows, reed beds, mudflats and shallow water. Furthermore intensively used areas and dams are part of the reserve. At the Rhine Delta two migration routes are meeting each other: the northern rim of the alps and the Rhine valley that is used by many migrants for the crossing of the alps. This is why so many rarities are recorded in the Delta.

 

How to get there:

By rail and by bike: The next railway station is Höchst. From there You will need a bike. Further Information: bahnlink

By car:

Sanddelta: From Bregenz in the direction to Fussach; before You reach Fussach You have to take the first turnoff  to the right after You have crossed the New Rhine (be careful: do not leave the road after You have crossed the Bregenzer Aach. Make sure that You have crossed two rivers before You turn off). Now You drive for 1.6 km parallel to the dam in the direction to the lake until you reach a gate. Here You have to park on the parking site (P3).

Rohrspitz: The small road that leads to the Rohrspitz starts in Hoechst, which is situated between Bregenz and the border to Switzerland. There is a inconspicuous sign from each side of the road. The small road to the Rohrspitz leads to a restaurant and a campsite. The best will be if You park at the restaurant (P2).

Rheinspitz: If You come from Hoechst You have to go through Graißau. Directly in front of the bridge over the Old Rhine there leads a road to the right. This is the last turnoff to the right before You cross the river (if You have to show Your passports in Switzerland you have gone too far). You follow this road to a parking site (P1).

 

Birding:

the directions described below are marked red in the map

Sanddelta 

The Sanddelta is a must for every visit to Lake Constance. From the Parking site (P3) You have to go straight on (the best will be if You walk on the dam). After a short while You will find on Your right hand side (at the New Rhine) interesting mudflats (if the water is low enough). At the right time of the Year You will find waders here. A little bit further on You will find a lagoon on your left hand side. Here some Mediterranean Gulls and Common Terns are breeding. You can circle this lagoon anticlockwise on Your way back. Since some years You have to walk to the end of the dam along the Rhine to get to the best mudflats (Waders, Gulls and rarities). The total length (bi-directional) of the walk is 6.5 km.

Rohrspitz 

During the winter months You will find Swans on the water directly in front of the restaurant. In addition there is a sandy mudflat on which Waders can be found at the right time of the year. From the parking site (P2) at the restaurant You have to walk on the dam to the east (to the right) in order to walk along the southern waterside of the Fussach Bay. Here You should look for Terns and ducks and in the reed beds for reed dwelling birds like Little Bittern, Great Reed and Savi’s Warbler. On the way back you could make a trip through the meadows south of the dam. Here you may find Whinchat, Stonechat, Black-tailed Godwit, Curlews and during the migration months interesting species like Ortolan Bunting or Hoopoe. The walk to the Rohrspitz (marked by a dotted line on the map) is worth to go for if You want to see reed dwelling species. This walk can be flooded if the water level is very high.

When You are back to the restaurant, you can also walk to the west (to the left). After one kilometre You will come across a transmission line and a pump station. This is said to be an excellent place to see Red-footed Falcons in May. Otherwise the walk is good for songbirds.

Rheinholz and Rheinspitz 

This alluvial forest is interesting mainly in spring when Oriole, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker and other alluvial forest species are most active. The bi-directional walk from the parking lot (P1) is 4.5 km long. The reed beds at the Wetterwinkel are similar to that ones at the Fussach Bay. During the moulting time and during the winter months the water surface is full of Waterfowl (for details click here: interesting species)


  

Lake Constance  map of Germany


E-Mail: christoph.moning@stud.weihenstephan.de