The town of Rust on Lake Neusiedl at the border of Hungary and Austria hosts very special summer guests every year: storks. From spring to summer, around 15 pairs delight locals and tourists alike with their stork cackling.
While spring sprouts from the earth elsewhere, in Burgenland it comes flying in with wide wings. The town of Rust on the western shore of Lake Neusiedl, near the Hungarian border, is a favourite destination for the storks returning from Africa. They move into their summer quarters at the end of March to the beginning of April.
The town of Rust hosts very special summer guests.
Every year, around fifteen pairs of storks settle in Rust and raise their offspring. Then sixty or even more storks populate the town and become an attraction for locals and tourists alike.
The main street and the town hall square are their preferred residential areas. This is because the old Renaissance and Baroque houses of the picturesque historic old town – which has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2001 – still have voluminous brick chimneys that are perfect for a large stork nest.
The fact that the storks are particularly fond of Rust and are almost always the first to be sighted there in spring is also due to the helpers of the local stork association, who spare no effort to make their summer guests’ stay as pleasant as possible. Shortly before the season starts, they climb onto the roof of the storks and spruce up the “guest rooms”.
The Stork Association provides for a pleasant stay and physical well-being.
A 53-metre high crane is used to clean out the nests where the storks of the previous year have piled up kilos of soil, twigs and rubbish – from plastic bags to pants. Some nests have grown from the original 40 to 100 kilograms when the stork family moved out.
Cleaning the house is important because it prevents diseases that can be dangerous for the young birds.
For the physical well-being of the stork families, the Rust Stork Association also grazes 12 hectares of meadows as feeding grounds for the animals, whose diet includes insects, larvae and earthworms, snails, mice and frogs.
The parents produce four to six kilograms of food a day for themselves and their offspring, which means that a stork family needs about 20,000 square metres of wet meadows to survive.
Lake Neusiedl is a unique natural paradise
“In our meadow something walks, wades through the marshes, wears a white skirt and red stockings …” In spring and summer, the spectacle from the old children’s song can be marvelled at every day around Rust. To the delight of holidaymakers who enjoy sharing Lake Neusiedl, Austria’s largest lake, with the elegant birds.
Not only because of the storks is the lake a unique natural paradise: Its extensive reed belt is also a habitat for other rare bird species such as the Great White Egret or the Goosander, which, with a little luck, can be spotted in the Seewinkel National Park.
But the stars in Rust are and remain the storks, whose family life can be followed all day long – the webcam pictures here on this page are live!
The stork parents lovingly care for their young
Once the young have hatched after a good 30 days of breeding, they are lovingly cared for by both parents. While one parent searches for food, the other looks after the offspring. The instinct to never leave the young alone goes so far that the storks in the eyrie would starve to death if the breadwinner did not return.
In Rust, of course, they are also prepared for such catastrophes: In 1987, after a stork was no longer able to feed itself following a flying accident, it was nursed back to health by the people. This action resulted in a care station for flightless storks, where many a young stork has been raised by hand.
The storks’ winter quarters are 10,000 kilometres away
With so much luxury, it is of course hard to say goodbye at the end of August. One or the other stork forgoes the exertions of the 10,000-kilometre journey to Africa altogether and instead makes itself comfortable in Rust for the winter. The reunion with their fellow storks is only a question of time, because the next spring is sure to come.