The Black grouse (Tetrao tetrix) is a member of the grouse family and is one of the most striking Austrian birds. It can be recognised by the distinctive red wattle or combs above its eyes. When courting, the males puff themselves up, hiss, coo and gurgle to attract the attention of the females. Grouse are slightly bigger than the domestic hen and their favoured habitats are heather moorlands and alpine meadows. Here they find both open spaces for their courtship displays and sheltered spots to incubate their eggs.
The Italian Crested Newt (Triturus carnifex) enjoys living with others but prefers its own kind and other amphibians. Cohabiting with fish does the rare newt no good at all, as the fish eat its spawn and the new larvae. The Italian crested newt spends three months of the year during the spawning season in shallow ponds. The rest of the time, it lives on land, hiding under roots or rocks. It feeds on worms, insects and spiders.
The "Seelaube" (alburnus mento) is an outwardly unimpressive fish that is not very often cooked as it has so many bones. Yet despite this, it can only be found in a small number of lakes in Austria and has been placed on the red list of endangered species. It lives in Lake Toplitz and Lake Grundl where it can be seen every year in spring. Thousands of alburnos mento swim in the stream leading to Lake Toplitz where they go to lay their eggs.
In the Ausseer region, there are more than 300 types of butterfly living on moors and moorland edges. The marsh fritillary (Euphydryas aurinia) is the rarest. The caterpillars of the marsh fritillary specialise in feeding on devil’s-bit scabious leaves and so it can only survive where this plant grows - on moorland.
The Rosalia longicorn (Rosalia alpina) is living proof of the importance of deadwood in the forest. A fussy inhabitant of the forest, its preferred habitat is decaying beech tree trunks in sunny locations. Having found a suitable place, it lays its eggs under the bark. The larvae that hatch stay there for up to two years. If you see one, you are fortunate indeed, as this magnificent blue insect can only be seen during the two-week mating season.
The stone crayfish (Austropotamobius torrentium) lives in streams with high water quality and little velocity. They are now rare, having been decimated by crayfish plague carried by the invasive North American signal crayfish. Despite their similarity, it is easy to tell the two species of crayfish apart: The stone crayfish are reddish-brown all over, whereas the signal crayfish has white turquoise blotches on its claws.
The white-backed woodpecker (Dendrocopos leucotos) is known for the characteristic loud drumming noise it makes when pounding its beak into trees. It prefers to live in mature forests with plenty of deadwood that is home to tree-dwelling insects and larvae - the white-backed woodpecker’s favourite food. The white-backed woodpecker builds its nest in standing, dead trees which it also uses as a percussion instrument: Such trees are ideal for drumming which is how the bird marks its territory and warns others of danger.
In late spring and summer the mating calls of the yellow-bellied toad (Bombina variegata) can be heard. Dull, but melodic “Uh…uh…uh“ sounds coming from the ponds. The male and female look the same with a grey-brown top side. Their underside is a spectacular yellow and it is this that gives the animals their name. When under attack, they adopt a defensive posture known as the unken reflex, in which they arch their backs to expose their yellow belly. From June onwards, the yellow-bellied toads gather in large numbers in small, shallow ponds as these warm up very quickly.