Author Topic: The Sun before the Storm - A Day in Perchtoldsdorf, In Photos  (Read 277 times)

Jubal

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The Sun before the Storm - A Day in Perchtoldsdorf, In Photos


So, just before lockdown and the storm of Covid-19 closing in on us stopped me being able to, I went to Perchtoldsdorfer Heide, a grassland area just southwest of Vienna with some nice woods around it. As such, here are some of the flowers and wildlife I found there!


These are Adonises, yellow pheasants'-eye - they were very common in the grassland areas, and are a striking, really very large flower. It's somewhat related to buttercups, but feels like it's a couple of pokemon evolutions upward from being one. It contains cardiostimulant compounds and forms a crucial part of Bekhterev's mixture, a sedative often used to calm the central nervous system and treat severe panic disorders or neurological movement problems.


This, though, was the real treat of the trip. Perchtoldsdorfer Heide is one of the few places in Austria that still have sousliks, the European ground squirrel species (closely related to something like a prairie dog in the US). They're very smol and do a lot of standing up to look for predators - the burrows are in a small fenced off area to avoid intrusions. They're not difficult to see there at the right time of day - they're too large to do what e.g. a mouse would and rely on cover, instead relying on high visibility to be able to spot predator approaches, so they prefer areas of medium to short grass where they can get good visibility. I think this population are probably also a bit over-used to humans - as you can see from the next picture I was able to get fairly close to them at some points.


European sousliks are found across the Czech Republic, the Hungarian plain, and in Bulgaria and Romania; attempts are being made to reintroduce them into Poland, and there used to be populations in Germany as well. There are several more species found further northeast and into Asia. They're similarly sized to a rat or red squirrel, and make whistling noises when predators are spotted (interestingly, not something I heard, perhaps indicating that they don't treat humans in that category; Perchtoldsdorfer Heide does however have a healthy population of kestrels, which I've no doubt would take at least young sousliks very happily).


This is a liverleaf, or Hepatica, a very pretty woodland flower. Its English name comes from the fact that its leaves have three lobes, like a liver. It was sometimes used to treat liver problems as a result - and apparently does have some diuretic effect.


Violets, with Vienna distantly in the background. In Vienna these are sometimes eaten sugared as a delicacy. They are known to have been favoured by Empress Sisi, the famous late Habsburg Empress who has been reinvented in Austrian popular culture as the centre of almost cult-like obsession around her supposedly fairytale princess lifestyle. The truth is rather different, and Sisi was by all accounts a melancholic woman who was deeply unhappy with the rigidity and expectations of court life, maintained her famed beauty regimen to the point of obsession, and ultimately devoted herself to travelling after never recovering from the probable murder-suicide of her only son. I've never particularly seen the culinary attraction of violets, but the flowers are nice nonetheless.


Violets - also available in colours other than violet!


These are pasque flowers, Pulsatilla, another big grassland flower like the Adonis. They are so named because they flower around Easter time - ultimately rooted to pasakh, Hebrew for passover. People used to say that pasque flowers grew from the blood of dead vikings or other ancient warriors. This myth almost certainly arose because, as flowers of dry grasslands, old burial mounds often made perfect habitat for them and are places where they would have been commonly found.


I'm not really sure why someone made this weird snail-shell spiral, but I hope they're enjoying life with whatever tiny Austrian hill spirit they managed to summon as a result.


A long-tailed tit, common across Europe, through a wide band of Russia, and into Japan. The ones I grew up with had more pink and a doubled dark stripe on the head - this however is the "snowball" colour variant seen across Northern and Eastern Europe and into Asia. We get both sorts here in Vienna, and this bird was part of a mixed flock.


Another of the snowballs, looking suitably cute. Long-tailed tits, as I know from my father being an ornithologist, are abbreviated to LOTI in many databases. As a result I've always known them as lotties, and I feel the name somewhat fits :)


This was pretty - apparently a penny-cress, related to the edible cress that we often grow.


One of the less usual birds of the trip, and one I had to look up when a flock of them arrived. This is a brambling, a small finch closely related to the chaffinch. This is a female.


This meanwhile is a chiffchaff, a small warbler - unlike the finches with their heavy seed-cracking beaks, warblers are insectivores, and this one will have been poking through the leaf canopy of the tree looking for invertebrates to eat.


Far more distinctively coloured than the female brambling, here's the male, with a striking and noticeable black head. The brambling breeds up in Scandinavia and Russia, so this group may well have been passing through on their way further north to where they'll eventually settle down for the summer.


This small fly-catching bird is a black redstart - so named for the red under its tail which appears as a visible flash of colour when the bird takes off.


Here we have more pasque flowers - on the nodding one you can see that the outside of the petals are somewhat furry, which is a fairly characteristic feature (though so far as I know there aren't many big low-growing purple flowers one could easily confuse them with). Pasque flowers are highly toxic and can slow human heart rate: they've been used in traditional medicine in a number of places to make things like sedatives and abortifacients.


As I was walking back to leave, I heard a very small peeping sound from a nearby blackthorn (or similar, my plant ID isn't fantastic), and thought "gosh that's a small noise". So I peered into the bush for a while, craning my neck as other confused walkers headed past me along the path, until I saw a shape moving right at the back of the bush, and thought "gosh, that's a tiny bird". I'd just been seeing a blue-tit, which is about at the small end of the bird range for Europe and may be familiar to readers - well, this was noticeably and obviously smaller. So a certain amount of cat and mouse ensued as I hopped around the outside of the little tree trying to get a photo of the tiny fast-moving object, and this was my best result. It's my absolute pleasure to thus introduce you to the goldcrest, the smallest European bird species (along with its orange-crested close relative, the firecrest).

An old myth recorded by Pliny and Aristotle makes the goldcrest the King of the Birds: there was a competition for the title with the winner being the one who could fly the highest, and the eagle did so - but the goldcrest, as the smallest bird, had hitched a lift in the eagle's tail feathers, and was able to fly just a tiny bit higher when the eagle finally tired. This myth is also told about the wren, but given the golden crest of the goldcrest it seems a more likely originator for the story.


A grape hyacinth, notable for being neither a grape nor a hyacinth, though they are quite pretty.


This is a shrubby milkwort - "wort" in a plant name frequently implies that traditionally the plant had some sort of medicinal or veterinary function, and in this case the belief (which as far as I'm aware is unfounded) was that feeding milkwort to cows got them to produce more milk. Their scientific name, Polygala (=Greek for "many milk") also refers to this.


All those little glowy bits on the ground? That's the evening sun shining through pasque flower hairs, which gives you an idea of just how many of these things there were. The Adonis and the pasque flowers are not particularly common in either case, but they were both very dominant and common species here. Long may they remain so!


Final bonus souslik!

Many grateful acknoweldgements go to my parents for helping with the biological ID for this piece, especially to my Ma for the plant ID which I'd be utterly lost with on my own. Hope you enjoyed the read!
« Last Edit: April 24, 2020, 01:54:38 PM by Jubal »
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Carad├Člis

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Re: The Sun before the Storm - A Day in Perchtoldsdorf, In Photos
« Reply #1 on: March 29, 2020, 10:53:56 PM »
Aww!!! So many fluffs!! And so many flowers!!! So much outsiiiiiiide!!! Aaaaaaaahhhh!!! <3

I miss flowers... And outside...  :'( Thanks for bringing some to my room... :)
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Re: The Sun before the Storm - A Day in Perchtoldsdorf, In Photos
« Reply #2 on: March 30, 2020, 03:23:31 PM »
This makes me miss the countryside! How do you know it wasn't he Austrian hill spirit making a shell circle to summon you?
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Give me my green name back!!! I am always Logothetes

Jubal

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Re: The Sun before the Storm - A Day in Perchtoldsdorf, In Photos
« Reply #3 on: March 31, 2020, 11:41:47 PM »
I'm glad you guys liked it :) And yes, I miss green space verrrry badly too. Madness continues to set in.

This makes me miss the countryside! How do you know it wasn't he Austrian hill spirit making a shell circle to summon you?
...that is quite a good point, to be fair. Though in that case I'm sad it didn't say hi.
The duke, the wanderer, the philosopher, the mariner, the warrior, the strategist, the storyteller, the wizard, the wayfarer...