Trip Report: Hortobagy, Hungary, April 1-5, 1999

Jerzy Dyczkowski, Warsaw, Poland;

I decided to add some variety to our Easter birding and go to Hortobagy with a friend without special preparations. I wanted to see Great Bustards displaying, and timing was chosen accordingly. Therefore, many migrants (e.g. Red-footed Falcon, Stone Curlew, Great Black-headed Gull) were not yet present. We added Saker and Imperial Eagle to the target list - and got two out of three.

On arrival, we found that we were definitely outside the tourist season. Campings and tourist information were closed (we planned to camp), but the reasonable and friendly guesthouse Hortobagy Fogado was open, and a local bird tour operator was also keen to organise a guide for us (we didn't use it finally). Nobody except birders spoke English, but some people knew German. We birded with a map bought in the reserve shop SE of Hortobagy village and with two bikes borrowed in the village (there is no regular bike rental in Hortobagy!). 1999 was an unusually wet year, and many grasslands were flooded or wet. South of Nagyivan there was single large lake.

I wish to thank very much birders, who responded to my Internet request and shared indispensable information: Leo Boon, Guillaume Bruneau, Marjan Gobec, Lyndon Kearsley, Volker Schmidt, Vincent van der Spek, Tamas Eriko Anna, and especially Zsolt Vegvari.

Places visited:

1.04. Around Hortobagy village, rare animal breeding reserve on the south, south of Mata-puszta

2.04. Visit to Angyalhazi-puszta (strict reserve, SE of Park) with NP worker, Mata-puszta

3.04. Halasto fishponds, Mata-puszta, Darassa-puszta area (NE of Park)

Halasto have several lookout towers, worth climbing for looks over reeds. A hut on the dyke between two ponds of the eastern row gives a view at the two islands: with colonies of Cormorants to the north, and Spoonbills to the south.

Darassa-puszta (and area to the north and also east along road to Balmazujvaros) where small woods and meadows mix is said to be a good spot for raptors (Saker, Imperial Eagle, LL Buzzard). There is a raptor exhibition in a house near Darassa (we did not visit it) where probably further information can be obtained.

4.04. Darassa-puszta area

5.04. Region of Nagyivan (SW of Park), Pincelapos-to and Fenyes-to fishponds

Species List:

  1. Little Grebe - Tachybaptus ruficollis

  2. Black-necked Grebe - Podiceps nigricollis
    2 Halasto, 1 Fenyes-to

  3. Great Crested Grebe - Podiceps cristatus

  4. Cormorant - Phalacrocorax carbo
    many flying, colony Halasto

  5. Pygmy Cormorant - Phalacrocorax pygmaeus
    5+ flying, 6 resting in reeds, Halasto

  6. Bittern - Botaurus stellaris
    heard Halasto, Nagyivan

  7. Great White Egret - Ardea alba
    numerous everywhere on meadows and ponds

  8. Grey Heron - Ardea cinerea

  9. Purple Heron - Ardea purpurea
    singles Halasto and Pincelapos-to

  10. White Stork - Ciconia ciconia

  11. Spoonbill - Platalea leucorodia
    15+ flying around Halasto, some carrying nest material to the colony, 7 feeding Fenyes-to

  12. White-fronted Goose - Anser albifrons
    20 Angyalhazi, flocks ca.200-300 flying twice

    *Lesser White-fronted Goose - Anser erythropus
    On Halasto, Hungarian birders informed us on flock of 35 on the northernmost pond. When we got there, geese were flushed by a White-tailed Eagle ca. 1km away on open water, too far for positive identification.

  13. Greylag Goose - Anser anser
    numerous on ponds and wet meadows

  14. Wigeon - Anas penelope
    several tens on Halasto, Angyalhazi, Fenyes-to, many migrating flocks heard at night

  15. Gadwall - Anas strepera
    up to 10 on Halasto and Fenyes-to

  16. Teal - Anas crecca

  17. Mallard - Anas platyrhynchos

  18. Pintail - Anas acuta
    up to 20 on Halasto and Angyalhazi

  19. Garganey - Anas querquerdula

  20. Shoveler - Anas clypeata
    up to 10 on Halasto and Fenyes-to

  21. Pochard - Aythya ferina

  22. Ferruginous Duck - Aythya nyroca
    2 pairs Halasto, 3 flying and 1 Nagyivan

  23. Tufted Duck - Aythya fuligula

  24. Goldeneye - Bucephala clangula
    2,2 Angyalhazi, several Halasto and Fenyes-to

  25. Smew - Mergus albellus
    flock of 65 on Halasto

  26. White-tailed Eagle - Haliaeetus albicilla
    immatures and adults many times on Halasto, immature soaring Nagyivan

  27. Marsh Harrier - Circus aeruginosus
    commonest raptor, males displaying

  28. Hen Harrier - Circus cyaneus
    single females 3.04 Mata, 4.04. Darassa

  29. Goshawk - Accipiter gentilis
    single on Darassa

  30. Sparrowhawk - Accipiter nisus

  31. Common Buzzard - Buteo buteo

    *Imperial Eagle - Aquila heliaca
    According to NP worker, this species was still mostly on the wintering grounds. An immature Aquila sp. fitting best immature Imperial was poorly seen on 5.04. near road 33, 1km W of turn to Nagyivan.

  32. Kestrel - Falco tinnunculus

  33. SAKER - Falco cherrug
    3.04. one speeding by on N. Mata, 3-4.04. two watched in Darassa region, probably pair before breeding. According to local birders this species is increasing, and now ca.40 pairs are breeding in Debrecen region. Sakers often perch on tall pylons of the high-voltage line crossing the Nagyhegyes - Nadudvar road (E of park).

  34. Pheasant - Phasianus colchicus

  35. Water Rail - Rallus aquaticus
    heard at ponds and ditches on meadowland

  36. Coot - Fulica atra

  37. Crane - Grus grus
    250 Angyalhazi, 4-5.04. many flocks of several tens soaring and calling constantly (Mata, Darassa, Nagyivan areas)

  38. GREAT BUSTARD - Otis tarda
    7, including displaying male in the strict reserve on Angyalhazi on 1.04. 5.04, flock of 14, some in half display (around 11.a.m.) and two flocks of 8 flying from behind us and passing us NE of Nagyivan village. Location: On the 33 road W of Hortobagy village, turn left (south) near Kaparo Csarda (inn) towards Nagyivan. Dirt roads lead left (east): ca.1km before and just within Nagyivan village. There was no sign prohibiting entry. Walking on these roads you may see Bustards, often on agricultural fields. NOTE. We watched Bustards on Angyalhazi from ca. 2-3km distance, and approaching any closer (according to National Park workers) would disturb them. We kindly ask others to respect this!

  39. Avocet - Recurvirostra avocetta
    8 Fenyes-to

  40. Lapwing - Vanellus vanellus

  41. Dunlin - Calidris alpina
    5 Fenyes-to with 3 unidentified small Calidris sp.

  42. Ruff - Philomachus pugnax
    flocks of 100's Mata, Nagyivan, Fenyes-to, Angyalhazi and migrating elsewhere

  43. Snipe - Gallinago gallinago

  44. Black-tailed Godwit - Limosa limosa
    groups and migrating flocks of 100's e.g. over Mata

  45. Whimbrel - Numenius phaeopus

  46. Curlew - Numenius arquata

  47. Spotted Redshank - Tringa erythropus

  48. Green Sandpiper - Tringa ochropus

  49. Wood Sandpiper - Tringa glareola

  50. Yellow-legged Gull - Larus cachinnans

  51. Common Gull - Larus canus

  52. Black-headed Gull - Larus ridibundus

  53. Woodpigeon - Columba palumbus

  54. Collared Dove - Streptopelia decaocto

  55. Little Owl - Athene noctua
    Seen 2.04. near building with stable on SE Mata, ca.3km N of Hortobagy

  56. Long-eared Owl - Asio otus
    Calling 2-3.04. ca. 1km N of Hortobagy

  57. Hoopoe - Upupa epops
    4.04. on Darassa

  58. Green Woodpecker - Picus viridis
    Heard 1.04. in N Hortobagy

  59. Syrian Woodpecker - Piciodes syriacus
    Male 1.04. in village, riverside poplars near railway bridge

  60. Crested Lark - Galerida cristata
    very common

  61. Skylark - Alauda arvensis

  62. Barn Swallow - Hirundo rustica

  63. Yellow Wagtail - Motacilla f.flava

  64. White Wagtail - Motacilla alba

  65. Wren - Troglodytes troglodytes

  66. Robin - Erithacus rubecula

  67. Bluethroat - Luscinia svecica cyanecula
    males 5.04. ditch near Nagyivan, and singing on Fenyes-to

  68. Black Redstart - Phoenicurus ochruros

  69. Stonechat - Saxicola torquata
    common, many males show white rump

  70. Wheatear - Oenanthe oenanthe

  71. Blackbird - Turdus merula

  72. Fieldfare - Turdus pilaris

  73. Song Thrush - Turdus philomelos

  74. Moustached Warbler - Acrocephalus melanopogon
    many singing and one seen 3.04. Halasto

  75. Chiffchaff - Phylloscopus collybita

  76. Bearded Tit - Panurus biarmicus
    very numerous 3.04. Halasto and 5.04. Fenyes-to and Pincelapos-to

  77. Blue Tit - Parus caeruleus

  78. Great Tit - Parus major

  79. Magpie - Pica pica

  80. Jackdaw - Corvus monedula

  81. Rook - Corvus frugilegus

  82. Hooded Crow - Corvus corone cornix

  83. Starling - Sturnus vulgaris

  84. House Sparrow - Passer domesticus

  85. Tree Sparrow - Passer montanus

  86. Chaffinch - Fringilla coelebs

  87. Greenfinch - Carduelis chloris

  88. Goldfinch - Carduelis carduelis

  89. Yellowhammer - Emberiza citrinella

  90. Reed Bunting - Emberiza schoeniclus

  91. Corn Bunting - Miliara calandra
    very common

(a few common species might have slipped out of memory)

Some other animals:

Return to trip reports.

This page served with permission of the author by Urs Geiser;; April 21, 1999