HUNGARY IN THE SPRING
"We would like to thank you once again for a very enjoyable trip. All eight woodpeckers and Ural Owl on day one..wow!"...... Mr and Mrs D. October 2012
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Spring in Hungary is a bird fest. Good numbers of resident Saker Falcons, Eastern Imperial and White-tailed Eagles, woodpeckers and owls are to be found, augmented by a flood of passage waders and summer visitors. Warblers, shrikes and chats arrive in their thousands making the fishpond/reedbed complexes come alive with song and colour. Great Bustards display, Corncrakes rasp and Barred Warblers song-flight.
Our autumn tour to Hungary has been one of our most popular, and so a spring visit has been on the cards for a while. Budapest is a short flight from a choice of airports around the UK, the infrastructure is excellent, we have good accommodation in fine locations and a network of local birders to help us.
Rather than drive all around the country we have selected, with our friends at Sakertour, the richest areas. We will concentrate on those, with the aim of getting to grips, and spending time, with many good birds. Our two main areas will be the foothills, woodlands, vineyards and pastures of the north-eastern uplands, and the choice hotspots of rural, eastern Hortobagy. We have timed this trip to give us a week when bird diversity is at its peak. Our typical daily routine will include a little birding in the good habitat which surrounds both our lodges, then a morningís birding at a specific site, a break for a lunch in one of the excellent wayside inns, or a picnic, followed by the afternoon in a different area.
Throughout, we will have the guiding skills of a Sakertour naturalist guide, and privileged access to some restricted sites. We will also benefit from information from various wardens.
HORTOBAGY NATIONAL PARK
From Budapest we will drive east for about three hours to our lodge at Nadudvar, in the heart of the national park, for a stay of four nights. This World Heritage Site is famous for its culture and wildlife.
The Hortobagy still preserves part of the once continuous Eurasian steppe. It is a vast area with other habitats too. The huge marshes and fishpond systems are home to ducks, herons and waders. Some wetlands have Pygmy Cormorants, Ferruginous Ducks, Garganeys, and Night and Squacco Herons, in turn attracting huge White-tailed Eagles. Colonies of Whiskered Terns are joined by White-winged and Black Terns. The variety of lakes means that Great Crested, Little, Black-necked and Red-necked Grebes can all find somewhere suitable. Flocks of migrant waders, many in breeding colours, are drawn to any freshly drained fishponds. One wetland in the northern part now holds Common Cranes throughout the year.
Reedbeds attract egrets, Spoonbills, Glossy Ibis, Purple Herons as well as Bitterns and Little Bitterns. One year we saw eight Bitterns competing for territories in one small area. Great Reed and Saviís Warblers breed in good numbers; Moustached Warblers are often in patches of short or flattened reeds. Reedbed edges and damp undergrowth are where we will find Marsh Warblers, Penduline and Bearded Tits plus numerous singing Bluethroats. We will make a special effort to find a Little Crake, a species which also favours wetland margins.
The beautiful Red-footed Falcon breeds colonially in the Robinia copses inside the park. We shall watch the colourful, noisy spectacle of these agile falcons catching insects. Lesser Grey Shrikes are common in lightly wooded steppe, whilst Red-backed Shrikes seem at home in any scrub or farmland.
Due to the high populations of Susliks (a small ground squirrel), the open grasslands are favourite hunting grounds for raptors, including the impressive Eastern Imperial Eagle, and Common and Long-legged Buzzards. There is also an excellent chance of Saker, one of Europeís most sought-after raptors. Montaguís Harriers, Stone Curlews and Tawny Pipits prefer a subtly different part of the open grassland, and can be watched alongside Rollers and Bee-eaters. With special permission we will watch the strictly protected Great Bustards without disturbing them; they are often displaying at this time.
Long-eared Owls are a real treat at one of the sites. If the spring is dry we have a chance of seeing passage Dotterels. Our local contacts will know if they are around. They will also keep us informed of any special birds that turn up, or are showing especially well.
A visit to the Debrecen Great Wood will be on our itinerary as it is home to breeding Goshawks, woodpeckers, Short-toed Treecreepers, Marsh Tits, Hawfinches and a suite of woodland warblers and flycatchers.
THE CARPATHIAN FOOTHILLS
We will then take a pleasant drive northwards towards the Zemplen Hills. On the way we will look for Short-toed Larks. We will spend three nights at the Solyomvar Hotel, near the village of Komloska, close to the forests. Woodpeckers thrive in this picturesque region and we will look for all of them with our secret weapon, Zoltan Petrovics, an expert local researcher who knows their territories. Black, White-backed, Great Spotted, Middle Spotted, Lesser Spotted and Grey-headed Woodpeckers feed in different forest niches whilst Wrynecks and Green and Syrian Woodpeckers all favour edge habitats such as orchards and rural villages. It is here that we should also find the striking white-headed form of Long-tailed Tit.
The Zemplen Forest Reserve is one of the most easterly points in Hungary and one of the most charming too. Distinctive churches rise above the landscape that has changed little over the generations. Farming and land management practices are very traditional, adding to the tranquil feel of the area. The hills hold good populations of Ural and Eagle Owls and Zoltan will also help us see those birds in daylight. At this time Collared Flycatchers are starting to nest, but we will need a little luck to locate the scarce Red-breasted Flycatcher.
Golden Orioles, Hawfinches and Nightingales are common here. The quiet valleys have a patchwork of habitats which make good hunting sites for Eastern Imperial, Lesser Spotted and Short-toed Eagles. Woodlands are home to Goshawks and Honey Buzzards, whilst flood plains and meadows attract healthy numbers of Bee-eaters, Corncrakes and River Warblers. Hillsides and old quarries are home to Serins, Linnets, Black Redstarts, Wheatears and the unusual-looking Barred Warbler.
The area is famous for its Tokaj wines, and we include a wine tasting evening.
Eventually we will have to drag ourselves away from the Carpathian foothills and drive back to Budapest for our flights home. Before leaving Hungary we may have time for a little sightseeing in the elegant capital, which is actually two cities, Buda and Pest, one on either bank of the Danube. We are also happy to help organize a city break extension. Please contact us for details.
Breakfast will be taken about 7.30am most mornings. Optional, short pre-breakfast walks will be possible in the vicinity of the hotels. Basic fitness is all that is required. There will be a certain amount of uphill walking on one or two days but this will be at a sensible pace.
ACCOMMODATION AND FOOD
Full board accommodation is provided with four nights at the excellent Trofea Lodge in the Hortobagy and three nights at the Solyomvar Hotel, near the Zemplen Forest Reserve. Both are good quality traditional hotels. All rooms have en suite bathrooms. Food is excellent. Some days we will take picnics, but on others we will lunch at traditional inns.
PRICE INCLUDES Ö..
All birdwatching excursions with expert leader and local guide, full-board accommodation (starting with dinner on 9th, ending with lunch on 16th), soft drinks, local transport by mini-bus, international flights and airport taxes.
WHAT IS NOT INCLUDED
Travel insurance. Personal items, alcoholic drinks, laundry.
Return flight from Manchester to Budapest using the scheduled services of Jet2. Outbound flight departs mid-afternoon, return flight arrives back mid-evening. It may also be possible to fly from London Heathrow and various regional airports. Please telephone for details.
Saker has a stronghold in Hungary.
Ural Owls can be found with the help of our local guides.
This juvenile Eastern Imperial Eagle gave great views for our group.
White-winged Black Tern
Lesser Spotted Eagle
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