Nine Days Very Special Birding

East Wildlife Bonanza

17-25 May

Description

This small group tour offers a deep insight into the unique and exceptionally rich birdlife of Hungary.
Hungary is a frontier between the deciduous forest zone of Western Europe and the steppes of Eastern Europe. This results in a network of various habitats, several of them still possessing the original biodiversity thanks to the advanced nature conservation.
The tour covers four of Hungary&s ten national parks: the Kiskunság, the Körös-Maros, the Hortobágy and the Bükk National Parks. Thus, participants have the unique opportunity to see all the important breeding specialties of the country in one week only. In addition, May is among the best periods for birding in Hungary, as every migrating species has arrived and all the steppes, lakes, swamps and forests are teeming with birds busy in labouring around their nests and nestlings - sometimes obliviously to us, birdwatchers.

The steppes are home to Sakers, Red-footed Falcons, Long-legged Buzzards, Stone-curlews, Collared Pratincoles, Eurasian Rollers, Bee-eaters and one of the largest populations of Great Bustards in Europe. The wetlands are abundant in Pygmy Cormorants, Ferruginous Ducks, Montagu’s Harriers, White-winged Black Terns, Moustached Warblers, Penduline and Bearded Tits and in a single swamp a much sought-after bird, the Aquatic Warbler is also still present. The forest steppes – the mosaics of the two ecosystems – are the favourite habitats of Nightjars, Hoopes, Golden Orioles and Woodlarks. The lush woodlands of the hills in Northern Hungary are rich in woodpeckers (9 species), including Middle Spotted, White-backed and Black Woodpeckers. Lesser Spotted Eagles, Imperial Eagles and Black Storks soaring above the slopes are part of the regular scenery. The nightshift is also remarkable with species like the Eagle Owl, the Scops Owl and the rare Ural Owl.


Depending on the weather, we could easily tally up to 180 bird species.

Concerning rare but important highlights it is part of our tactics that we visit more than one site for them to be sure that you will not miss a thing.


Group size: 4 to 8 participants

Walking: Easy to moderate


Accommodation: In a double and triple room at very comfortable hotels, located close to the major birding areas to reduce extra travelling.

Itinerary

Day 1 - Arrival

Meeting the English speaking local guides at Budapest airport and transfer to Forster Castle in the village of Bugyi. En route to the accommodation, we stop at one of the largest Bee-eater colony in Hungary, as a warming-up to the following days.

Overnight: Forster Castle in Bugyi


Day 2 – Alkaline Steppes and Lakes of Kiskunság National Park

After breakfast we start exploring the alkaline steppes of Kiskunság National Park looking for Great Bustards, Red-footed Falcons, Stone-curlews, Little Owls, Rollers, Tawny Pipits, Lesser Grey Shrikes, Collared Pratincoles and, with luck, Black-winged Pratincole - a rare breeder for the vast Hungarian steppes. The area is perfect for large birds of prey, so one eye should always be kept on the sky.


Black-winged Pratincole

In the afternoon we reach an observation tower by a large but shallow alkaline lake, which attracts a variety of shorebirds, including Black-winged Stilts or Avocets. Gatherings of Caspian Gulls are also in the agenda. After having a diner we move on to the Fülöpháza Sand Dunes, where we are supposed to see several Nightjars during dusk.

Overnight: Vino Restaurant and Pansion in Izsák


Day 3 – Wetlands and Forest Steppes with Bird Ringing We start the day at the Bird Ringing Centre by Lake Kolon, which is situated only a few kilometres from the accommodation. The early hours are the best so it is well worth waking up earlier than usual. The reedbed is home to thousands of reedbirds, including Moustached, Great Reed and Savi´s Warblers. After holding these lovely birds in our hands, we head back to the sand dunes looking for Woodlarks, Hoopoes, and Golden Orioles and Montagu´s Harriers in a nearby meadow. We finish the day with a short walk in the gallery forest of River Tisza in Tõserdõ, where River Warblers, Green and Black Woodpeckers, Ferruginous Ducks and several Heron species are likely to be found.

Overnight: The hotel of Kiskunság National Park, in the heart of the Toserdo Forest.


Day 4 – Village of Tiszaalpár and The Pusztaszer Landscape Protection Area

Dating back to 1075, Tiszaalpár is one of the oldest villages in Hungary. Despite its long history, it is still surrounded by pristine wetlands teeming with birds. The best observation point is the Church Mound, which looms above the entire floodplain. The swamps of the floodplain host a multitude of herons including Night Heron, Squacco Heron, Little Egret, Purple Heron and - though in smaller numbers - the Spoonbill. The largest colony of Pygmy Cormorants in the Kiskunság is also located here. The area is rich in raptors such as the White-tailed Eagle or the Hobby.

After Tiszaalpár we visit the Pusztaszer Landscape Protection Area which is a mosaic of sandy and alkaline steppes and shallow alkaline lakes. The diversity of habitats results in an exceptionaly rich birdlife, including Saker, Red-footed Falcon, Imperial Eagle, Avocet, Black-winged Stilt, Kentish Plover, Long-eared Owl, Hoopoe, Roller, Red-backed and Lesser Grey Shrikes, Tawny Pipit and Golden Oriole. Some lakes have been transformed into fishponds, thus the original birdlife had to adapt to the new conditions. And they were really successful. Pygmy cormorants and all the species of herons of Hungary are rather common. In May, Ferruginous Ducks and Crested Pochards can be observed while leading their nestlings. Bluethroats, Sedge, Moustached, River and Barred Warblers, Bearded and Penduline Tits as well as Whitethroats sing in the reedbeds and in the surrounding bushes. Mediterranean Gulls breed in great numbers on an island along with hundreds of Black-headed Gulls right in front of the observation hut. Whiskered Terns frequently visit the lakes just like White-tailed Eagles.

Overnight:The hotel of Körös-Maros National Park, Dévaványa
Day 5 – Steppes and Swamps of Eastern Hungary.


After the long but exciting previous days, a more restful day comes. After breakfast we visit the Great Bustard Sanctuary where injured bustards are being cured and the survivors of damaged nests raised. We also take a short walk in the nearby steppes. Birds like Saker, Imperial Eagle, Short-eared Owl and Long-legged Buzzard are among the regular breeders of the area. The highlight of the afternoon is one of the rarest and most endangered songbird in Europe, the Aquatic Warbler. They live in a small and strictly protected area so we will be lead by the ranger of the area, who is an expert of the species. With this, we have fulfilled our quest in the Hungarian Great Plain and we head to the hills of Northern Hungary.

Overnight: Hotel Síkfõkút, Noszvaj


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