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Friday, June 12, 2009

Danube Ecology: The Donau-Auen National Park

A section of Europe's best-known river, the Danube, runs from the Slovakian border near Bratislava upstream through eastern Austria for 38 km towards Vienna, and beyond. Along this section, the water level rises and falls seasonally as much as 7 metres. When at its highest levels, the river overflows its banks into a flood plain alongside the Danube where a unique and bio-diverse riparian (= river wetland) woodland ecosystem has evolved.

As with many wild habitats in Europe, development has taken its toll but in 1996 further development of this precious natural resource was arrested by the creation of the Donau-Auen National Park*. The park runs as a ribbon-habitat along the north side of the Danube from Bratislava to the eastern outskirts of Vienna where the area is known as the Lobau and is popular with the Viennese for natural history and outdoor pursuits**. The park boasts some long distance hiking and cycling trails along its length from, which the great diversity of habitat types within the Auen may be explored.

The Donau-Auen National Park stretches along the north bank of the Danube for 38 km between Bratislava and Vienna. Please click on the image to enlarge and see the detail.
Map source here

View of part of the Donau-Auen I took from a Sky Europe flight just after take-off from Bratislava, tracking the Danube west towards Vienna. The dark green band of vegetation running along the near-side of the river is a section of the Donau-Auen National Park that runs for 38 km between Bratislava and Vienna.

Within the park, certain areas maintain the impenetrability of a jungle...

... others resemble more the Everglades of Florida (without the alligators!)

Extensive reed beds are the habitat of Reed and Great Reed Warblers, Nightingale, Cuckoo, Black Kite and a range of wetland birds.

Quiet backwaters are filled from seasonal flooding of the Danube...

...and may become overgrown swamps in summer

Open water is colonised by various species of water lily...

...and shallower swamps are invaded by the ancient horsetail plants that have survived from the Carboniferous era...

Shoals of carp move through the clear water

Be careful where you go! Apparently Zugang für alle Naturisten does not mean something like "Nature Trail", as I imagined. I went through this gate, only to leave rather suddenly and red-faced when a naked couple entered the field of view of my binoculars!

Open heathy areas provide a habitat for birds like Turtle Dove, Yellowhammer, Kestrel and Whitethroat

Other areas abound with the colour of poppies and cornflowers which attract butterflies...

Meadow Brown, feeding on black- thorn flowers

Painted Lady, freshly emerged from pupation

A White Admiral? Other offers are welcome!

A Comma butterfly with it rather uneven wing edges

The setting sun catches the canopy of part of the Donau-Auen National Park

*Etymology: Donau = Danube (German); Au (plural = Auen) is the German name of the habitat.

** To get there from Vienna city centre, take the metro U1 to the Vienna International Centre and then jump on bus 91a and jump off at the Roter Hiasl stop (15 min) - the entrance to the park is close by.


Blogger Jeri said...

Amazing shots of a beautiful place. The photo taken from the air was superb!

10:11 pm  
Blogger Sunshine said...

Maalie... I really admire you with your photography... Everytime, one by one Great Shots... What a great photographer you are..

God bless

10:26 pm  
Blogger Merisi said...

What a wonderful post! I have not been yet in that area of the Lobau.

I cannot even begin to imagine what those folks in the Naturisten Camp would do to a fully dressed fellow with binoculars on their grounds! ;-)

10:57 pm  
Blogger Halfmom said...

Absolutely lovely, Maalie. Our Andrew (my daughter's husband) would be so happy there. If it has anything to do with reeds or marshy land, he's ready to trek about and explore!

11:52 pm  
Blogger simon said...

you went to a nudist camp????? hahahahah! you runcible fellow!!

9:08 am  
Blogger lorenzothellama said...

You mean you really did back off from the nudists? Shame on you. You should have joined them.

I hope you got permission for printing that map!

10:58 am  
Blogger Charles Gramlich said...

Beautiful. Even the word Danube inspires me.

7:57 pm  
Blogger Ted M. Gossard said...

Wonderful pics, and thoughts here, Maalie. Looks like a great time. I love those kind of places. And the butterflies! I have yet to see one outside around here, this year.

12:39 am  
Blogger Halfmom said...

I saw my first firefly last night - how can it almost be the solstice and 1) not warm here, 2) rain all the time, 3) no butterfiles and 4)lack of fireflies? It is quite depressing! Certainly we can't blame this on global warming!

Hope you are looking forward to upcoming excursions.

1:11 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

a special donau. it looks huge. i like the pnoto of the poppies and cornflowers. they just look so pretty together.

take care on your travels.

Love to you.

4:44 pm  
Blogger Jeff Higgott said...

Your 'White Admiral' is a Purple Emperor Apatura iris, and suspect your Blackthorn is Privet.

7:07 pm  
Blogger Maalie said...

Jeff, thanks for that! I did wonder about Purple Emperor on the grounds of behaviour. But I'm sticking with Blackthorn (= sloe), I know that well enough!

Thanks to all for your comments!

8:54 pm  

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