Hungary - three day birding trip to western Hungary

Published by Ed O'Hara (edohara AT btinternet.com)

Participants: Ed O'Hara and John O`Hara

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The following is a report of a trip in July 2005 to several locations in Western Hungary on a tour run by HungarianBirdwatching.com, a birding tour company based in Budapest. As my son John [14] was not a birder, the trip would consist of two initial days birding followed by two days sightseeing in Budapest and the final day, birding.

Getting there: 24 July 2005

We flew from Dublin to Budapest with Aer Lingus - a 2 1/2 hour flight.Unfortunately the baggage handlers went on strike as we arrived and so we had to wait three hours before we could claim our luggage.

Dr. Karoly Teleki the tour organiser was waiting for us when we finally cleared passport control. We immediately drove to Tata and reached our destination at 11 pm.

The accommodation for the first two nights was at the Hotel Casablanca in Tata. The room and food were excellent and the staff very friendly and courteous. I would have no hesitation in recommending this hotel to anyone staying in this area.

Tata itself is situated on the edge of the Old Lake, and is one of the 21 areas in Hungary named as a wetland site of international importance under the Ramsar Convention. The lake is drained each winter and this attracts up to 30,000 geese and ducks, remarkable when you consider the lake is 2km square.

25 July: Tata Woods and Gerecse Hills

Weather: Dry and sunny: Temp - 26C.

Dr. Teleki and Antal Bagdi, our guide for the first two days met us after breakfast and we went for a walk in the woods around the hotel for woodpeckers. Within a few minutes we were observing Great Spotted Woodpeckers, Short-toed Treecreepers, Green Woodpeckers, Middle Spotted Woodpeckers, Syrian Woodpeckers and perhaps the most impressive of all the genus, Black Woodpecker. Several other woodland species were also seen Tree Sparrow, Golden Oriole, Nuthatch, Hawfinch Collared Flycatcher, Marsh Tit, Common Buzzard, Sparrowhawk.

In the afternoon we travelled circa 15 Km north to the Gerecse to locate one of my target species for the trip. We climbed a small hill overlooking a village and scanned the woods to the north within a few minutes a White-tailed Eagle flew over, giving a great view of this huge bird.

However within a few moments the bird I had come to see appeared over the woods, in fact three of them, the majestic Imperial Eagle. We watched these birds for over an hour soaring over the forest, a fantastic sight. On our return down the path to the village we found a family party of Red-backed Shrikes and several Black Redstarts at the village edge.

In the evening a walk along the edge of the lake produced a Siskin and several Night Herons leaving the woods to feed. An owl was briefly observed, probably Long-eared Owl but view was too quick to properly identify.

26 July: Tata Ponds, Kecsked and Ferencmajor Ponds

Weather: Dry, sun in morning, cloudy afternoon: Temp: 25C.

In the morning we travelled to Tata Ponds and after a short walk along the track we observed, Savi`s Warbler, Marsh Warbler, Penduline Tit, Bearded Tit, Marsh Harrier, Hobby, Turtle Dove, Great White Egret, Little Egret, Spoonbill, Night Heron, Little Ringed Plover, Spotted Redshank,Wood Sandpiper, Green Sandpiper, Black Tern, Reed Warbler, Great Reed Warbler, Curlew, Sandpiper,Black-winged Stilt, Little Stint, Temminck`s Stint, Black Tern, Serin.

After a successful mornings birding, four lifers we drove south to a glider airfield at Kecsked.

The packed lunch provided by the company was excellent and we set up the equipment to await my next target species, Saker. However as the temperature rose so did several gliders stationed at the airfield and any chance of close views were in doubt, so we decided to try the Ferencemajor pond area.

The afternoon birding at Ferencmajor proved very productive. As we arrived we got brilliant views of a White Tailed Eagle overhead, leaving the car three Black Storks flew over and landed in trees only 200m distant. This was followed by Purple Heron, Little Bittern, Great White Egret, Kingfisher. A bird of prey was observed at a great distance, possible Saker. As we walked along the path we observed Savi`s, Reed , Great Reed and Willow Warblers. In the ponds were Greylag Geese, Great Crested Grebes, Grey Herons, Common Terns and Black Terns.

27 / 28 July: Budapest

Weather: Sunny and very hot: 38C

John and I then spent two days in Budapest, to see the museums and the river Danube. The city was very nice but a heatwave was developing over Hungary and the temperatures rose well above 35C which was hot, even for Hungary. However the street caf├ęs were nice and the ice cream was great.

29 July: Kiskunsag Pusta


Weather: Hot and sunny: 37C.

John and I were relieved to be leaving the city and heading out into the countryside once more to escape the heat, it was a little cooler out of the city. Today we were guided by two new staff members Bence Kokay, our guide and Janos Matolcsy who was driving. Our first stop was an electricity pylon just inside the city limits and there I got my first view of Saker Falcon sitting near a nest box. After a few minutes it flew to the next pylon, the views were terrific. We next tried a site for Little Crake on the Little Danube, without success.

We then proceeded to Kiskunsag and had an excellent packed lunch prepared by Janos. We ate under the veranda of a pub with the temperature at 37C in the shade!. A White Stork flew over, as we ate our meal. Our next stop were fish ponds in Kiskunsag NP and near the pools we saw Roller, Bee-eater Corn Bunting, Montague`s Harrier, Red-backed Shrike, Stonechat, Hooded Crow, Buzzard, Pheasant, Wood Pigeon, Turtle Dove, Kestrel, and another target species for me Lesser Shrike.

In the ponds were Yellow legged Gulls, Great White Egrets, Little Egrets, Spoonbill, Purple Heron, Grey Heron, Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Little Bittern, Greylag Goose, Black Tern, and an unexpected target bird Pygmy Cormorant. Two birds were sitting on a branch at the edge of the ponds with a Common Cormorant and the difference in size was clearly seen.

We then drove across the pusta to see if we could see the Great Bustard but without success. As evening approached we had to return to the airport to catch our flight home.

We had a wonderful time in Hungary, the birds seen were excellent especially for July which is probably the worst month to go birding, even without the heatwave we experienced during our stay.

I would like to thank the HungarianBirdwatching.com team for their hospitality during our visit and for their additional help they gave us for our visit to Budapest.

Species Lists

1 Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis
2 Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus
3 Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo
4 Pygmy Cormorant Phalacrocorax pygmeus
5 Little Bittern Ixobrychus minutus
6 Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax
7 Little Egret Egretta garzetta
8 Great White Egret Egretta alba
9 Grey Heron Ardea cinerea
10 Purple Heron Ardea purpurea
11 Black Stork Ciconia nigra
12 White Stork Ciconia ciconia
13 Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia
14 Mute Swan Cygnus olor
15 Greylag Goose Anser anser
16 Mallard Anas platyrchynchos
17 Pochard Aythya ferina
18 White-tailed Eagle Haliaeetus albicilla
19 Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus
20 Montagu's Harrier Circus pygargus
21 Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus
22 Buzzard Buteo buteo
23 Imperial Eagle Aquila heliaca
24 Kestrel Falco tinnunculus
25 Hobby Falco subbuteo
26 Saker Falco cherrug
27 Pheasant Phasianus colchicus
28 Moorhen Gallinula chloropus
29 Coot Fulica atra
30 Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus
31 Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius
32 Lapwing Vanellus vanellus
33 Temminck's Stint Calidris temminckii
34 Curlew Sandpiper Calidris ferruginea
35 Dunlin Calidris alpina
36 Ruff Philomachus pugnax
37 Snipe Gallinago gallinago
38 Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa
39 Spotted Redshank Tringa erythropus
40 Redshank Tringa totanus
41 Greenshank Tringa nebularia
42 Green Sandpiper Tringa ocropus
43 Wood Sandpiper Tringa glareola
44 Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos
45 Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundus
46 Yellow-legged Gull Larus cachinnans
47 Common Tern Sterna hirundo
48 Black Tern Chlidonias niger
49 Rock Dove Columba livia f. domestica
50 Woodpigeon Columba palumbus
51 Collared Dove Streptopelia decaocto
52 Turtle Dove Streptopelia turtur
53 Kingfisher Alcedo atthis
54 Bee-eater Merops apiaster
55 Roller Coracias garrulus
56 Green Woodpecker Picus viridis
57 Black Woodpecker Dryocopus martius
58 Great Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos major
59 Syrian Woodpecker Dendrocopos syriacus
60 Middle Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos medius
61 Skylark Alauda arvensis
62 Sand Martin Riparia riparia
63 Swallow Hirundo rustica
64 House Martin Delichon urbica
65 Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava
66 White Wagtail Motacilla alba
67 Robin Erithacus rubecula
68 Black Redstart Phoenicurus ochruros
69 Stonechat Saxicola torquata
70 Blackbird Turdus merula
71 Song Thrush Turdus philomelos
72 Savi's Warbler Locustella luscinioides
73 Sedge Warbler Acrocephalus schoenobaenus
74 Marsh Warbler Acrocephalus palustris
75 Reed Warbler Acrocephalus scirpaceus
76 Great Reed Warbler Acrocephalus arundinaceus
77 Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla
78 Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita
79 Spotted Flycatcher Muscicapa striata
80 Collared Flycatcher Ficedula albicollis
81 Bearded Tit Panurus biarmicus
82 Long-tailed Tit Aegithalos caudatus
83 Marsh Tit Parus palustris
84 Blue Tit Parus caeruleus
85 Great Tit Parus major
86 Nuthatch Sitta europaea
87 Short-toed Treecreeper Certhia brachydactyla
88 Penduline Tit Remiz pendulinus
89 Golden Oriole Oriolus oriolus
90 Red-backed Shrike Lanius collurio
91 Lesser Grey Shrike Lanius minor
92 Magpie Pica pica
93 Rook Corvus frugilegus
94 Hooded Crow Corvus corone cornix
95 Starling Sturnus vulgaris
96 House Sparrow Passer domesticus
97 Tree Sparrow Passer montanus
98 Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs
99 Serin Serinus serinus
100 Greenfinch Carduelis chloris
101 Goldfinch Carduelis carduelis
102 Hawfinch Coccothraustes coccothraustes
103 Reed Bunting Emberiza schoeniclus
104 Corn Bunting Miliaria calandra