A view of the Traisen from above. Numerous water birds, including many swans, make their way along the renaturalized river.

Summer safari on the Traisen

30 July 2018

Now, focus your binoculars! Among the foliage - can you see it? A sea eagle has made itself at home. With its brown plumage, yellow beak and piercing eyes, it's a real beauty. The ornithologists report that he and his partner have been hunting here in the Life+ Traisen area for months. A real success for the renaturation project completed in 2016. But it is not the only newcomer we will discover on our safari.

Silver willows reclaim the Traisen

On the way through the 9.4-kilometre-long, newly created river basin, we let our gaze wander. "When the Altenwörth power plant was built in the 1970s, the Traisen estuary was straightened. Our aim was to turn it back into a diverse floodplain landscape," explains our guide, VERBUND project manager Roland Schmalfuß. And indeed: on our way through the corridor, which is up to 300 meters wide, we can identify knee-high willow regrowth. "In ten to fifteen years, there will be a forest there," predicts Schmalfuß. The black woodpecker watching us curiously will also be pleased.

Loamy slopes attract sand martins

Exactly 72 bird species were documented in the project area before construction began. And the number is growing - because word of the protective living conditions seems to have spread among the fluttering creatures. Since winter 2017, a colony of sand martins has settled here. We can easily observe their breeding burrows on the steep slopes. With a body length of 12 centimetres, the sand martin is the smallest European swallow species and is on the endangered species list. In the LIFE+ Traisen area, it benefits from the loamy embankments created by the construction workers. "In total, around 3 million cubic meters of material were moved," Schmalfuß explains the dimensions. There were also some less pleasant discoveries. "We had reckoned with individual aerial bombs," says the project manager. "But as ground battles also took place along the Traisen during the Second World War, we came across vast quantities of shells and other war relics." However, a team of experts was able to painstakingly remove all the ordnance.

A white-tailed eagle was spotted on the Traisen. The picture shows it sitting in a tree.

Monitoring for bats and other wildlife

There is no sign of the warlike past today. On the contrary, we discover cozy spots for bats on some of the trees. Wooden boxes serve as roosts for the twelve native bat species - at least until the forest has grown back. The success of the roosts is documented annually. "We have various monitoring programs running - for fish, birds, amphibians and bats, for example," explains Schmalfuß. "The first results report will be published in early 2019." And this is not only eagerly awaited by the project managers. The 30 million euro project attracts interested parties from Germany and abroad - excursions are always taking place here. For example, an environmental delegation from the European Union has already announced its visit this summer.

However, our own safari is coming to an end. We return via the newly built cycle bridge, which leads the Danube cycle path into the Traisen region and offers cyclists a unique panoramic route. From white-tailed eagles to sand martins and the offspring of silver willows, we saw a lot. We are excited to see what other guests the Traisen will attract in the future.