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Birdwatching in Spring Tour Itinerary

Day 1

We will be collected by our local guide from Budapest airport and transferred by a minibus to the Kiskunság National Park.  The journey will last over an hour, but it depends on how often we make stops.  We will drive through a typical grassland habitat, where songbirds abound and various raptors might come to our view too. 

Kiskunság National Park stretches across the Great Hungarian Plain and encompasses the most important nature areas between the Danube and Tisza rivers. It was created in 1975 and declared a biosphere reserve by UNESCO.  The unique landscape of the park is a combination of saline plains, sandy lowlands, salt lakes, marshes, forest steppes (mainly oak and juniper) and steppe, all regarded as habitats of international significance.   Besides the natural treasures, ethnographic and cultural traditions, with lonely farms, extensive animal husbandry, arable lands, vineyards and orchards all contribute to a unique image of the area.

Days 2-4

Kiskunság National Park, with such a mosaic of different habitats, requires at least three days to be fully appreciated.  The steppe, known in Hungary as puszta, is, no doubt, the most precious habitat here.  It still holds a healthy population of one of the most impressive European species, the Great Bustard, making the park one of the most important sites in Europe for them.  We will undertake an early morning pursuit in search of these birds. This area is also home to Stone Curlew, Tawny Pipit, Lesser Grey Shrike and Northern Wheatear. The steppe is inhabited by Suslik (a ground squirrel-like rodent), a prime food for a number of raptors, including Imperial Eagle, Red-footed Falcon and Saker Falcon.  Collared and Black-winged Pratincoles are also likely birds to be seen here.

Trails and rural, sandy dirt-roads meander through flat terrain dotted with small forests and lakes.  The air is filled with trills and songs of nesting Goldfinches, Greenfinches, Chiffchaffs, Garden Warbler, Black Redstarts, Stonechats, Blackcaps, Mistle Thrushes, Nightingales and Willow Warblers. The flute of the Golden Oriole, bubbling sounds of Bee-eaters or raucous calls of Rollers will accompany us throughout the day.  Tawny Pipit, Red-backed and Lesser Grey Shrikes, Hoopoe, Tree Pipit, Corn Bunting, Whinchat and Crested Lark all occur in good numbers.  Little Owl can be found at farm houses.

The extensive sand dunes covered with different Stipa grass in the centre of the national park are ideal for Wood Larks.  

Small patches of woodland and parkland provide nesting habitat for Wryneck and Great Spotted, Green and Syrian Woodpeckers.  Long-legged Buzzard and Saker Falcon also breed here.

Wetland habitats are particularly impressive and teeming with an array of waterbirds.  At the floodplains of River Tisza and its several oxbow lakes we will look for the Avocet, Redshank, Black Winged Stilt, Black-tailed Godwit, Curlew, Kentish Plover, Common Snipe, Kingfisher and Pygmy Cormorant. Great White Egret, Spoonbill, Purple, Squacco and Night Herons, Bittern and Little Egret are all breeding here and often seen foraging in the shallow waters.  Beside the numerous Marsh Harriers we should also see Montague's Harrier, whereas White-tailed Eagle will become visible causing alarm amongst the flocks of Shovelers, Garganeys and Red-crested Pochards. Red-necked and Black-necked Grebes abound here and Ferruginous Duck is a speciality. Black and Whiskered Terns can be observed flitting above the water surface in search for food, and White-winged Black Terns are also possible during the wetter seasons. Reedbeds are teeming with Penduline and Bearded Tits, and Savi's, Moustached, Sedge, Reed and Great Reed Warblers. For some of us, though, an unforgettable thrill could be a view of a stunning Bluethroat.  

Alongside the rivers in the riparian forests, we should find Lesser, Middle Spotted and Black Woodpeckers.   

Butterflies also abound and, depending on how advanced is the spring is, we could encounter the Southern Festoon, Common Glider, Cardinal, Swallowtail, Scarce Swallowtail, Queen of Spain, Short-tailed, Eastern Short-tailed and Common Blues amongst many others.

Day 5

Today, we travel to Bükk National Park in the north eastern part of the country.  In the morning though, we will visit a wetland and a breeding site of Pygmy Cormorant, Glossy Ibis and some herons. If we are lucky, we might get a glimpse of Spotted and Little Crakes which inhabit the reedbeds here and Black Stork and White-tailed Eagle breed in the nearby riverine forest.  Corncrake abound in the wet meadow and River Warbler would be a nice addition here too.

En route, we will stop at the western edge of the Hortobágy National Park, the largest protected area in Hungary and the first national park in the country. 

If time allows, we will also spend part of the day exploring the Bükk National Park.  Beautiful valleys filled with vineyards, forested slopes, tiny villages and castles all create a picturesque and tranquil landscape.

Our accommodation for the next two nights is a family run lodge in a picturesque little village surrounded by the hills of the beautiful Bükk valley.

Day 6

We will spend a full day exploring the Bükk Mountains.  The caves, canyons, striking cliffs and steep sided, wooded valleys provide not only spectacular scenery but are home to rare flora and fauna.  Birding is very rewarding in the Bükk Mountains, where dense deciduous woodlands are home to Black, Lesser Spotted, Middle Spotted, Great Spotted, White-backed and Grey-headed Woodpeckers.  Red-breasted and Collared Flycatchers can be seen here singing from dense beech woods, whereas Woodlark and Hawfinch will be found on the drier hillsides.  Closer to small settlements, we might encounter Green and Syrian Woodpeckers, and Wryneck usually breeds in the surrounding garden of our lodge.  A walk to a floodplain meadow will produce signing River, Marsh and Barred Warblers. 

We will also devote some time to birdwatching along the open valleys looking for birds of prey.  Our list should include Lesser Spotted, Short-toed and Imperial Eagles as well as Saker Falcon, Hobby, Goshawk and Honey-Buzzard.  There are a few old quarries in this region and we will hope to find here Eagle and Ural Owls, European Bee-eater and Rock Bunting.  With a bit of luck, we should also be able encounter an array of interesting animals, including Beech Marten and Fire Salamander.  In late May, butterflies flit through the forest glades and possible species include the Lesser Purple Emperor, Large Copper, Clouded Apollo, Clouded Yellow, Scarce and Common Swallowtails, Knapweed Fritillary and Small Heath. 

The Eger wine region is the biggest producer of wine in Hungary.  Wine here has been made for over 1000 years.  Some wines can be found in the cellars that are over 300 years old and still improving in bouquet!  The wine cellars of this region are fascinating because most of them are carved from solid volcanic rock and hewn from cliff faces as a mass of subterranean tunnels and large caverns, extending over 35km.  We will visit one of the more famous wine estates here, where we will have a guided tour around the estate, and have a delicious dinner while tasting different wines. 

Day 7

After an early breakfast we will drive to Budapest to catch our return flight to Britain.

Tour Report 2011, 2013

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Little Egret at Hortobagy

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Hortobagy national park

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Hungary birding