10–17 May 2013
17–24 May 2014
Hungary has excellent accommodation, traditional food, superb scenery and wonderful birds. This tour is timed to see all of the key bird species found in the country including Pygmy Cormorant, Saker Falcon, Imperial Eagle, Ural Owl, Great Bustard and Aquatic Warbler.
Day 1 Flight from London to Budapest followed by a drive north-eastwards for two hours to the Bukk Hills. En route we will see some of the common birds of Hungary including White Stork, Red-backed Shrike, European Turtle-dove, Crested Lark, Corn Bunting and Western Marsh-Harrier, and make a stop for Imperial Eagle. We will spend the first two nights at the edge of the Bukk's forests in a small family-run hotel where eight species of woodpecker are possible in and around the garden! Other birds here are Short-toed and Common Treecreepers, Eurasian Tree Sparrow, Spotted Flycatcher, Marsh Tit, the white-headed form of Long-tailed Tit, European Serin, Hawfinch and Black Redstart.
Day 2 Today we will explore the orchards, vineyards, woods and limestone hills of the Bukk on easy walks. We will have a very good chance of seeing its special birds, which include Collared and Red-breasted Flycatchers, Rock Bunting, Wood Lark and Black, Grey-faced, Middle Spotted and White-backed Woodpeckers. Colour will be supplied courtesy of European Bee-eaters, Eurasian Hoopoes and Eurasian Golden Orioles. Raptors should include Imperial and Lesser Spotted Eagles, Short-toed Eagle, Eurasian Hobby, European Honey-buzzard and Northern Goshawk. In the evening there will be a chance of European Scops-owl and Eurasian Nightjar nearby.
Day 3 We will head further east to the broadleaved forests of the Zemplen Hills for a two-night stay and visit areas for two very special and sought-after birds: Eurasian Eagle-owl and Ural Owl. If it is a good owl breeding year we should be able to find the owls by day; if not, then optional evening excursions will be made. We will also check sites for Rufous-tailed Rock-thrush, though this is now a rare bird in Hungary.
Day 4 Today we will try to see all nine of Hungary's woodpeckers: Syrian, Great Spotted, Lesser Spotted, Middle Spotted, White-backed, Green, Grey-faced and Black Woodpeckers and Eurasian Wryneck. We will also explore the floodplain of the Tisza and Bodrog rivers where, in May, usual birds include Black Stork, Black Kite, Common Quail, Corn Crake, Common Nightingale and Western Yellow (Blue-headed) Wagtail. Also, we will hope to hear in song, and to see, Icterine, Barred, Eurasian River and Marsh Warblers and Common Grasshopper-warbler.
Day 5 We will drive south to the superb Hortobagy region, stopping en route on the Great Hungarian Plain, where we will look for European Roller, Lesser Grey Shrike and Montagu's Harrier. Fishponds en route will be teeming with birds including Great and Little Egrets, Squacco and Purple Herons, Black-crowned Night-heron, Eurasian Spoonbill, Little and Great Bitterns and Ferruginous Duck. In the reed and scrub around the fishpond margins are Bearded Tit, Eurasian Penduline-tit, Bluethroat, Moustached and Savi's Warblers and Great Reed-warbler. We will stay in another well-located hotel for three nights.
Days 6–7 The Hortobagy is a huge area of mixed habitats. Some of its ponds hold large colonies of Whiskered Terns with some Black and White-winged Terns. Others host Eared and Red-necked Grebes, Garganey, Ferruginous Duck, Pygmy Cormorant and Glossy Ibis. We might see Water Rail and Little or Spotted Crake in the muddy margins. Many waders are possible including Pied Avocet, Black-winged Stilt, Little Ringed Plover, Wood, Green, Broad-billed and Marsh Sandpipers, Common and Spotted Redshanks, Ruff, Temminck's Stint and maybe a rarity or two. Yellow-legged and Caspian Gulls might be on the ponds as well. The other main habitat of the area is puszta (grassland) where we will look for the magnificent Great Bustard, Common Crane, Collared Pratincole, Eurasian Thick-knee, Little and Long-eared Owls, Lesser Grey Shrike and Tawny Pipit. Raptors include Long-legged Buzzard and Saker and Red-footed Falcons. We will look for Aquatic Warbler in protected areas in the company of a warden.
Day 8 After breakfast we will return to Budapest, birding en route, for our afternoon flight home.
General Information There are no special health requirements. Visas are not required. The pace of the tour is medium with only a moderate level of fitness required for walking.
Group Size Minimum number for tour to go ahead: 8; maximum group size: 10 with 1 leader, 16 with 2 leaders.