17–24 May 2014
Hungary has excellent traditional food, superb scenery, wonderful habitats and great 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, Syrian and White-backed Woodpeckers and Barred and Eurasian River Warblers.
Day 1 Flight from London to Budapest followed by a drive of around two hours eastwards to the Hortobagy region, where we will spend our first two nights. We will stop en route for Imperial Eagle and for birds that we spot at the roadside, which should include other birds of prey and White Storks on nests.
Day 2 The Hortobagy is a huge area of mixed habitats. Some of its wetlands hold large colonies of Whiskered Terns with some Black and White-winged Terns while others host Eared and Red-necked Grebes, Garganey, Ferruginous Duck, Pygmy Cormorant, Great and Little Egrets, Squacco and Purple Herons, Black-crowned Night-heron, Eurasian Spoonbill, Glossy Ibis (rare) and Little and Great Bitterns. In the reed and scrub around the fishpond margins are Bearded Tit, Eurasian Penduline-tit, Bluethroat, Savi’s Warbler and Great Reed-warbler. We might also see Water Rail and Little or Spotted Crake in the muddy margins. Late passage waders are possible including Pied Avocet, Black-winged Stilt, Little Ringed Plover, Wood, Green and maybe Broad-billed or Marsh Sandpipers, Common and Spotted Redshanks, Temminck’s Stint, Ruff and maybe a rarity or two. Yellow-legged and Caspian Gulls are both here as well. The other main habitat of the area is puszta (grassland) where we will look for Common Crane, Common Quail, Little and Long-eared Owls, Crested Lark, Lesser Grey Shrike, European Roller and Tawny Pipit. Raptors present include White-tailed Eagle, Western Marsh-Harrier, Long-legged Buzzard and Red-footed Falcon.
Day 3 We will head north-east today to the broadleaved forests of the Zemplen Hills for a three-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 taken. More common birds include Red-backed Shrike, European Turtle-dove, Yellowhammer, Corn Bunting, both Short-toed and Common Treecreepers, Eurasian Tree Sparrow, Spotted Flycatcher, Marsh and Willow Tits, the white-headed form of Long-tailed Tit, European Serin and Black Redstart.
Days 4–5 We will have an excellent chance of seeing all nine of Hungary’s woodpeckers in the forests, orchards and wooded pastures of these hills: Syrian, Great Spotted, Lesser Spotted, Middle Spotted, White-backed, Green, Grey-faced and Black Woodpeckers and Eurasian Wryneck. Other woodland birds should include Collared Flycatcher, Hawfinch and Wood Lark and may include Red-breasted Flycatcher. Colour will be supplied courtesy of European Bee-eater, Eurasian Hoopoe and Eurasian Golden Oriole. Raptors may include Imperial, Lesser Spotted Eagle, Short-toed Snake-eagle, Eurasian Hobby, European Honey-buzzard and Northern Goshawk. We will also look over the adjacent floodplain of the Tisza and Bodrog rivers where, in May, usual birds include Black Stork, Black Kite, 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 6 Returning westwards, our final destination today will be the Kiskunsag region, much of which is a national park. We will spend our final two nights here at the heart of this fantastic birding area. This flat plain between the Danube and Tisza rivers is one our local guides know very well indeed and that expertise will be at our disposal. As we travel, passing through the landscapes of eastern Hungary, we will see again many of the birds we have already encountered and visit back-up sites for any species we may have missed so far or wish see again.
Day 7 Habitats here include dry and wet grasslands, sandy dunes, croplands, marshes, gravel-pits and fishponds. Hungary’s national bird, Great Bustard, is in its Hungarian stronghold in this area and today we will start by searching for this magnificent species. Other birds on the agenda will be Red-crested Pochard, Montagu’s Harrier, Saker Falcon, Collared Pratincole, Eurasian Thick-knee, Kentish Plover and Moustached Warbler whilst Syrian Woodpeckers are in most villages and Mediterranean Gulls nest amongst the Black-headed Gulls on gravel-pit islands. Today we should also see Red-footed Falcon, European Roller and Lesser Grey Shrike once again. In the evening there will be an optional excursion to look for European Scops-owl and Eurasian Nightjar.
Day 8 After breakfast, depending upon flight times, we will continue birding in the region before travelling for about an hour to reach Budapest to board our 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.