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Famous area for Great Bustard and Short-eared Owl and for the diversity of raptors.
The Waasen or Hanság (in Hungarian) is a 460 km2-large fen area south-east of the Seewinkel, the larger part of which lies in Hungary – only around 70 km2 are Austrian territory. Once part of the Lake Neusiedl area and described as an impassable water wilderness, the area’s valuable semi-aquatic habitats were massively impacted through numerous human interventions. As late as the late 18th century, Tadten, Andau, Wallern, and Pamhagen had still been fishing villages! Today, the Austrian part of the Hanság is known – at best – as a temporarily inundated arid habitat with huge agricultural areas. Nevertheless, part of the Hanság is still the most bird species-diverse meadow area in Austria – Montagu's Harrier, Snipe, Eurasian Curlew, Northern Lapwing, Common Redshank, Corn Crake, Spotted Crake, Short-eared Owl, Western Yellow Wagtail, Whinchat, European Stonechat, Grasshopper Warbler, Red-backed Shrike and Corn Bunting all breed here. The formerly occurring Black-tailed Godwit is the only typical meadow-breeding bird missing today from this species array. But the breeding populations of some of these species fluctuate strongly depending on the meadows’ and fallows’ water supply.
Some of the species are exceedingly sensitive to disturbance, so visitors must strictly remain on the paths at all times to not jeopardise breeding success.
Two embanked roads lead south-east to the Einser-Kanal (the main regulation channel), one from Tadten and the other from Andau. The most important observation points can easily be combined on this circuit. Due to the distances and the risk of disturbing certain species, driving is the recommended means of transport here. In the meadow area itself, it is best to get out of one’s car only at the points described here. Starting onto Dammweg at Tadten, after about 3 km of driving through agricultural fields, one reaches the meadows known as the Kommassantenwiesen. There is an observation tower at a slight kink in the road, which offers a good overview of the meadow area. Facing east to the embanked road from Andau, between early April and mid-May one should be able to make out the displaying Great Bustard males resembling “cotton wool balls”. Also keep an eye open for Eurasian Curlew, Northern Lapwing, Common Redshank, and Snipe, which all breed here in varying populations sizes each year. Meanwhile, passerines such as Western Yellow Wagtail, Sedge Warbler, Marsh Warbler, Savi's Warbler (in mature reed stands), Red-backed Shrike and (rarely) Bluethroat can also be seen here. Raptor fans should remember to scan the sky for White-tailed Eagle, Imperial Eagle, Marsh Harrier, and Montagu's Harrier – and with a little luck one might even discover a migrating or temporarily stationary Red-footed Falcon in May.
The long, straight road continues past meadows and cattle pastures to the Einser-Kanal. The northern base of the embankment (not the middle of the channel) marks the border to Hungary. Turning left, the route continues on the rather rough road to Andauer Dammstraße. The bushes beside the road and the forests on the Hungarian side are home to European Turtle Dove, Eurasian Green Woodpecker, Black Woodpecker, Barred Warbler, Common Nightingale, Eurasian River Warbler, and Yellowhammer. The skies should be scanned here regularly, especially for Black Stork and various raptors. During migration, rare raptors like Short-toed Snake Eagle and Booted Eagle occasionally appear here, demanding careful identification and documentation. At the intersection with Andauer Dammstraße, the historic “bridge at Andau” leads across the Einser-Kanal to Hungary (remember to take a passport or ID card!). The Osli-Hany and Király-tó in the Hungarian Hanság can easily be explored by bicycle from here. The bridge itself is a good place to spot Pygmy Cormorant, Great Cormorant, Ferruginous Duck, Common Tern, Common Kingfisher, (on migration), Great Reed Warbler, Sedge Warbler and Common Raven. In spring and early summer, Grasshopper Warbler is heard from the nearby meadow-like fallows. The route returns along Andauer Dammstraße. About half-way, make sure to stop at the spacious observation platform, where the Great Bustard sometimes come quite close to the road (particularly in the early mornings). Eurasian Curlew, Montagu's Harrier, Eurasian Hobby, Western Yellow Wagtail, Whinchat, European Stonechat, and Red-backed Shrike can also be seen west of the road. And in some years Corn Crake can be heard here quite well, calling from the Kommassantenwiesen at late dusk.
The bridge at Andau. The original bridge was used by local farmers to reach their fields, some of which were on the other side of the channel. After the Hungarian revolution had been suppressed and around 70,000 Hungarians had fled to Austria at this point alone, the bridge was blasted by Soviet troops on 21 November 1956. 40 years later, the “New Bridge at Andau” was erected by Hungarian and Austrian soldiers working together, and was ceremonially opened. The 9 km-long road to Andau, known as the “Road to Freedom” is lined by around 90 sculptures by international artists commemorating the events of November 1956.