02 Dec 04
Flew from Dulles Washington DC to Vienna Austria to Budapest, Hungary Took the red-eye flight. Fog delayed the flight in Vienna. We arrived at the Budapest airport & took a mini-van to the Hotel Erszbet a few blocks from downtown Budapest. The large indoor market was within walking distance from the hotel. It was too late to go birding so we went shopping & got something to eat at the market. On the way back to hotel we stopped at another restaurant for dessert & hot tea.
03 Dec 04
We got early, had breakfast, our guide Dr. Karoly Teleki who we had arranged to guide us just a few days before. I made this arrangements on the internet in the states the tour group on the net is www.hungarianbirdwatching.com Karoly picked us up & we met our guide (Norman Riezing)
Lake Tata lies north of M1 70 km (45 miles) west of Budapest. The Lake is a Nature Conservation area. This was our destination.We drove to Lake Oreg (Old Tata) in a quaint baroque town. At the lake were wintering Greater White -Fronted Geese, Greylag & Bean Geese. Along with a huge number of Mallards & a few Pintail Ducks, European Wigeon & Teal. After we checked the pond, we birded the woods near the lake. There was a small mixed flock of Tits both Great, Blue Tits along with Short- toed Treecreepers & Goldcrest. There were a nice variety of woodpeckers, Greater, Middle & Lesser- Spotted Woodpeckers. To our surprise there was Green Woodpecker mixed in larger by comparsion to the others.
As we walked we heard a Pheasant calling but did not see it. Bullfinches & Hawfinches were very numerous & easy to see. We got the scope on both of these species.Mistle thrush & Blackbirds were heard & seen.
We left about lunch, Norbert told us of a park that had both the red & gray phase of the Tawny Owl. Castle Park was on the other side of the lake. The owls did not disappoint us. Norbert found one & I found the other He put the scope on the owls.
We ate our lunch at yet another part of Lake Tata This housed an old rundown but lovely museum. Here we were looking for the Syrian Woodpecker & we were not disappointed we saw at least three. Even had it in the scope. Birding was very good in this part of the park . We saw flocks of migrating Redwings, Mistle Thrushes, Blackbirds & more Greater & Middle -Spotted Woodpeckers. Lots of the same birds that we saw on the other side where the geese & mallards were but we saw one Robin & several Waxwings, which Norbert got quite excited about as he says not seen every year.
From Lake Tata area we drove through town to a stone mine of Tatabanya called keselo-hegyi kokbanya to see the Wallcreeper a rare species in Hungary. The huge mine is partly cultivated, but as luck would have it as soon as we arrived we spotted the Wallcreeper & got the scope on it We observed it for a few minutes, then it flew away.
We were walking & listening for birds & getting ready to go back to the car. Karoly spotted four Alpine Accentors, another rare species for Hungary Norbert whipped out his cell phone in the middle of the mine & called the Rare Bird Alert which was pretty funny considering where we were. Guess those cell phones are of some use after all.
For this time of year we were very lucky we had a total of 55 species for the day. Norbert is excellent guide. He knows the songs & calls and excellent at identifying the birds. We started back the days are short & it was getting colder. It was about 4:00. Dropped Norbert off at his car. Started back to Budapest beautiful city after dark The Danube River was glowing with the lights reflecting on the water. The city is full of fun places to visit Architecture is out of this world. Kalory made plans next day for us to go to Kiskunsag National Park.
04 Dec 04
Ate breakfast at the hotel Janos Matolesy our driver met us at there & for our new adventure to Kiskunsag National Park Kiskunsag is a flat region that lies between Danube & the Tisza It is south of Budapest.
These are the Hungarian plains called the "Puszta" This region is a group of salt-lakes at the heart of the region to the west of Kecskemet we began our birdwatching here. There was frost on the plains. Temps varied from 0-6C all day We had a sunny but very cold day with some cold wind but not bad considering what it could have been for December
This is a very flat region of Hungary We were looking for ducks, geese, waders, raptors & buntings. We found all of these species & more. Bence Kokay was our guide for the day. We met him a few miles out of Budapest Apajpugzta, our first stop we had Mute Swans flying over head Curlews calling We saw Great White Egret, & Reed Buntings.
We climbed a tower & saw Blue, Great, Penduline & Bearded Tits. Flocks of Greater White Geese were flying over Rooks & Hooded Crows were moving about over head.
The plains were coming alive & we saw the sun trying to give the earth some heat. Our target bird today Great Bustard. We were not to be disappointed. Bence spotted them. We got out of the car put the scope on them They were eating in the plains there were 45 Bustards just having their brunch on grass there in the plains While we had the scope on this group another group of flying Bustards from the West glided past us. Janos really enjoyed the view as they gracefully dropped to the ground to join the already huge group in the field which by now was 50 something Janos our driver & a birder pulled out a "handmade cherry liqueur praline" to celebrate the view & huge number of bustards we saw.
While the scope was up & we were looking at the bustards, a Merlin went zooming by to add to our already mounting list for the day. As we walked to the car we saw & heard Creasted Larks & Pipits. From here we headed to the Boddi-szez Lake where we climbed the tower & scanned. While we were scanning Bence looked up to see White-Fronted Geese & among them was a Red-Breasted Goose. You could tell by the shape & it was smaller than the White Fronted Geese it was flying with. They usually travel with the White Fronted Geese.
We had a great day. Nice variety of birds. Plains are very impressive. Janos is a very knowledgeable guide & driver, pointing out things of interest to us along the way He is also very interested in mushrooms as I am also another trip.
I would recommend this tour group - very knowledgeable guides & very friendly. Hungary is a beautiful country. People are very friendly. Food great. Birds wonderful.