This is a summary of a birding trip to Hungary made by me and my son Robert in August 1997.
After the fall of the iron curtain, visiting Hungary is as simple as in other European countries: only a passport and no visa is needed. As this was our first time in the country, we visited the most popular birding area, the Hortobagy National Park (HNP), with only two longer day-trips to sites further away.
Travel was by car which seems a must since the distances between the various sites in the HNP are quite large. We easily found private accommodation in Hortobagy village from where we started our daily excursions. The weather was sunny and warm all the time with only two thundery afternoons. Mosquitos were a problem occasionally and it is advisable to have some insect-repellent. To enter sites within HNP, a permit is required which can be obtained for HUF 2000.- (equal to about 20.- DM) at the information building situated near the west entrance of the park at route 33 (near the Patkos Csarda).
During the preparations for the tour I used the following sources:
The trip to Aggtelek was for raptors, possible woodpeckers and Rock Bunting; the trip to the Sarkad area was of a purely exploratory nature.
In the following I will give some detailed information on the more interesting species seen and finally a full species list.
Ca. 10 on the Kaba ponds on 12.8.
Only on the Halasto fish-ponds. Singles occasionally seen flying around, but best viewed after a long walk along the middle track from the south end. Ca. 10 there on 13.8.
At Ohat 1 ad.+ 1 juv. on 14.8. and 1 ad. on 19.8. In the evening of 21.8., 30+ flew in to a roost directly at the road just north of Nagyivan.
1-2 at Halasto on 13.8., 4 at Ohat on 14.8., singles there on 16. and 19.8., 10+ at Fenyes on 17.8. and 1 at Balmazujvaros on 20.8.
Seen in small numbers at Karcag, Halasto, Ohat, Jusztus marsh, Fenyes and Balmazujvaros. Highest number 8 at Ohat on 21.8.
Usually ones or twos at Halasto, Ohat and Fenyes. Highest count 13 in wet meadows east of Halasto on 15.8.
Small numbers (1-4) at Halasto, south of Szasztelek, Ohat, Fenyes and Jusztus. Both ad. and juv.
Singles were seen between 12. and 19.8. at Karcag, south of Szasztelek and at Ohat. Migration onset was witnessed in the morning of 18.8., when 15 birds rose from the puszta east of Hortobagy village and another flock of 8 was roosting on the other side of road 33 in the evening.
8 were seen in wet meadows east of Halasto on 13.8.
1 was at Karcag on 12.8., ca. 5 at Ohat on 14.8. and 10 (in flight) at Jusztus on 15.8.
3 were seen flying at Ohat on 16.8. and 12 were at Fenyes on 17.8.
One was seen on 15.8. from the small parking area (from here on called raptor parking area) situated west of the museum at the northern road between Balmazujvaros and Tiszacsege.
An ad. was seen flying over Ohat on 21.8.
1 was flying east of Halasto on 15.8. and 2 over the Jusztus marsh on 21.8.
On our day-trip to the Aggtelek Hills, we looked for raptors at the wooded hillside from road 27 a few km before the Slovakian border (described in the Gosney guide). We had no luck with Imperial, but saw an ad. Lesser Spotted Eagle here on 14.8.
Truly a bird worth coming to Hungary for! On 15.8. we saw one in some distance over the Darassa Puszta. Since the views were not very satisfying, we tried again and had much better and prolonged views on 20.8. It was a subad., probably in its 4th calendar year. The best was yet to come, however. On our way back home on 22.8., we saw 1 ad./subad. and 1 juv. sitting on top of a low tree only about 100m from road 33 (near Dormand) giving excellent views! We could hear the begging calls of the juvenile all the time. Another subad. was soaring nearby. Obviously a pair with a recently fledged young!
Common and almost everywhere over ponds, marshes and puszta. Highest count 20+ near Karcag on 12.8.
Seen in numbers from 1 to 5 northeast of Nagyivan, Darassa, near Sarkad, northeast of Nadudvar and Angyalhaza between 13. and 20.8.
2 were seen in the Darassa Puszta on 12.8. and 1 again on 20.8. According to Hungarian sources, the species has bred here in 1997. Another bird was seen northeast of Nadudvar on 18.8.
These handsome birds were a constant delight. Good numbers were encountered almost everywhere in the area, with the largest numbers just west of Hortobagy village, where they gathered on the wires in the evening. We estimated 80 birds there on 12.8. These numbers were going down, however, towards the end of our stay.
1-2 seen on 3 dates between 12. and 20.8. from the raptor parking area described above. Singles seen elsewhere at Kaba, at road 33 east of Hortobagy village and south of Szasztelek.
This was the only lifer for me (Robert got 12), and we were very lucky with birds seen 6 times. On our arrival day (11.8.), we saw the first Saker, an ad., from road 33 west of Poroszlo. This was followed by a juv. on the same day sitting on a bale of straw on a meadow north of route 33 1 km east of the Halasto turn-off. The next one was seen soaring over the Darassa Puszta in some distance on 12.8. and, what was probably the same bird, one north of the road from the raptor parking area on 20.8. Another bird was seen circling south of route 33 east of Hortobagy village on 18.8.(seen from a small "hill" behind a house where horse-coaches start). And the last bird flew right over road 33 west of the turn-off to Nagyivan on our way back home on 22.8.
4 flew near Nagyhort on 16.8
13 birds were on a harvested field northeast of Nagyivan on 13.8.
5 were on the ponds near Balmzujvaros on 20.8.
These birds favour a place right at the edge of Nagyivan: 4 on 13.8. and 10 on 21.8.
5+ were seen just before nightfall in the Angyalhaza Puszta on 20.8.
1 juv. at Ohat from 16.-21.8.
3 at Ohat 19./21.8. and 1 at Balmazujvaros ponds 20.8.
Regularly encountered at Halasto, Ohat and Fenyes. Highest count 80+ at Ohat on 21.8. Good opportunities to study young in juv. plumage.
1 in the Angyalhaza Puszta 20.8.
7+ (ad.,juv.) south of Egyek 16.8., heard from the raptor parking area on 20.8.
Encountered in small numbers (up to 5) mainly at road 33 between Patkos Csarda and Jusztus marsh (11. and 15.8.). Elsewhere 2+ at road 33 west of Poroszlo on 11.8. and 1 near Sarkad 17.8.
Only two sightings: 2 northeast of Hortobagy village on 11.8. and 1 near Sarkad on 17.8.
A short search for woodpeckers at the Szadvar hill north of Szogliget (see Gosney, page 14, no.4) yielded only a Middle Spotted and a Great Spotted.
1 on a Goose farm near Nagyhort on 16.8.
Quite widespread around villages and farms, for example Hortobagy village, south of Szasztelek and Egyek
A few northeast of Hortobagy village on 11.8., 1 near Karcag on 12.8., 2+ northeast of Nadudvar on 18.8. and 4 in the Angyalhaza Puszta on 20.8.
Quite often heard, but not seen at Halasto and Ohat.
1-2 seen at Halasto, Angyalhaza, Ohat and Jusztus
Widespread and rather common, especially at the beginning of our stay. Easily found sitting on wires directly at road 33.
Our trip to the Aggtelek Hills on 14.8. was rewarded by the sighting of 2 males. We didn't have to look on the Szadvar hill (Gosney page 14), but we saw them right at the road leading to the hill in a small quarry at the roadside (ca. 1 km before the road ends at a sort of camp).
Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions.
Return to trip reports.