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Hungary For More - short break 10-14th Sept 2013 (1 Viewer)


Well-known member
Pardon the pathetic title pun, but I have just returned from a very enjoyable short break to Hungary, flying from Manchester to Budapest via Ryan Air, picking up a hire car and driving east an hour to spend three full days in the Bukk Hills and Hortobagy area. That is probably not long enough but with good maps and thorough preperation (i.e. studying every report on here, Cloudbirders, Surfbirds, Birdtours websites) I was able to find key areas. I will attach a few snapshots at the end.

I had originally planned to travel here three weeks earlier but as temperatures were hitting 40 degrees C, I would have been unable to bird, so I changed my Ryan Air booking on line, incurring the standard fees to do so (about £80). Also, I travelled without hold luggage, fitting everything into my mini case taken on board, it was a tight squeeze but this included two pairs of trousers, three shirts, underwear and socks for each day, bag of toiletries, couple of slim bird books, maps, glasses/sunglasses, and of course bino's and travel scope. I sacrificed a tripod as I guessed I could use the car roof as a tripod at Hortobagy, and that I would only need bino's in the forests. It worked out ok and hence I avoided those excruciating add-on fees with Ryan Air. So flights, with no extras, cost about £160 return.

Firstly, in my naivety I had not realised Budapest was only two hours twenty minutes away. Ryan Air use the ultra modern Terminal Two at Budapest Airport. Upon arrival, exit out and there are two adjacent semi-circular lanes, the first used by taxi's and staff buses, the second by other vehicles such as car hire courtesy buses. I had to ring to get my pick up, despite my voucher saying the Thifty van would be there to pick me up! I had actually booked via Argus Car Hire, & they used Thrifty Car Hire, costing me about £95 in total for the four days.

Importantly, you need an E-Vignette costing about a tenner to utilise certain motorways (toll fee in effect), and these can be purchased from petrol stations, but I was really pleased to see that my Thrifty Car Hire rep programmed this in on line, tho naturally it was added to the cost. I had a Nissan Micra that I found was excellent for my needs. As elsewhere in mainland Europe, you drive on the right.

The motorways and main roads are excellent in Hungary, as is the signage to the M3 that you need. Again, advance study helps greatly, the dual carriageway you start on from the airport is Road 4, which quickly leads to the M0 (M25 equivalent- Budapest circular, except it only serves the south side of the city), this quickly takes you to the M31 link onto the M3. Sounds a little complex but all you do is watch the road signs for the city of Nyiregyhaza, which is well past your intended destination, but the only direction you need to follow. Beware though, it is right at the bottom of a list of several towns at one or two signposts and hence easy to miss.

Hungary surprised me, having visited Bulgaria in 2007, a country I ignorantly thought would be similar. In the main, Hungary appears much wealthier and more modern with a good road infrastructure. Only on back roads, do you come across deeply worn out and pitted tracks, where you have to drive with care. Additionally, some minor roads across agricultural land deteriorate quickly to mud or gravel tracks, so do take into consideration the recent and current weather, because a standard car may not be able to cope with some tracks.

I was lucky with the weather, only on my last full evening and 'return home' day did I see any rain, it was otherwise generally bright and sunny and a very respectable and pleasant 24C. The summer just gone had been an extremely hot one, and hence many mud tracks were 'hard-baked' and smooth to drive on, but the danger is that combine these with rain, they can quickly become undriveable and only a jeep would cope.

Petrol stations look exactly like ours back home, a good place to stock up on chocolate and drinks. Here, as at home, you put the petrol in first, then pay at the kiosk inside. Petrol seemed cheaper than back home.

I visited 'Googlemaps' down to street level to familiarise my self with key junctions and roads before I travelled, & that did help a little, though driving was straightforward anyway.

I had made a hotel booking via www.booking.com to stay my 4 nights at Hotel Nomad in the pretty village of Noszvaj, and upon arrival I paid extra for 4 nights half board. Breakfast started at 8am, the excellent three course evening meal (though I have never been a soup lover) was from 7pm. I always took away a self-made sandwich at breakfast, which was ample for my dinner. A bit naughty, but done subtely so there was no problem. Total cost was 56000 Hungarian Forint. This is the currency you need to use. That equates to about £160 pounds for 4 nights half board. Barbara the host speaks excellent English and they are used to having birders there. The grounds are quite extensive and lovely, with grassed areas as well as outside pool and outside bar area. Village ponds are adjacent. En-suite rooms are adequate for your needs. I would strongly recommend Hotel Nomad as being a perfect and ideal base, being set in the Bukk Hills in the Sikfokut part of Noszvaj village, Sikfokut being the wooded area which itself is good for birding. To get to Noszvaj, take the Mezokovsad turning off the M3, and follow signs for Bogacs. Noszvaj is just a few miles north of Bogacs.

Enough of the formalities, on with the birding. I made a conscious, perhaps naive decision, to bird without a guide. This undoubtedly cost me White-Backed Woodpecker, though they are tough at this time of year anyway, even with a guide. 90% of birders visit in May when nest locations are known. Hungarian Bird Tours, Saker Tours and others can be contacted.

Every morning I birded from first light (about 6am) until breakfast, and over three mornings here I had a few Great Spotted Woodpeckers, 2 Middle Spotted Woodpeckers, a few Nutchatches, Short-toed Treecreeper, a pair of Black Redstarts, Ravens overhead, a pair of Hawfinches, Spotted Flycatcher, Siskins, Blackbirds, Song Thrush etc. In Spring, previous reports highlight River Warbler as being found by the stream that runs by the hotel, within the grounds. All the bushes and trees around the hotel were potentially good, but I found the area at the top of the driveway the most productive in the mornings for woodpeckers, as bare tree tops could be seen from this vantage point.

By the evening, I would return a little jaded, have a quick shower and go down for evening meal washed down with a few pints of lovely ice-cold lager. A five minute walk past the village ponds and Sikfokut Hotel, the start of Sikfokut woods starts, and woodpeckers and Nuthatches abound, but not the 'raries' I wanted. A small pool along the track contained 3 Grey Wagtails, and you can walk onward up to Varkut, a good vantage point over the hills, if you have the time.

En route to Noszvaj after my arrival on 10th, I had stopped at the M3 service station at the 81km marker, to scan the pylons either side, and infact if you come off at the motorway junction at km 76 for the village of Adacs it has been said you can get closer views of possibly Eastern Imperial Eagle or Saker. But neither were present for me, and it is unclear whether these birds are still using this area, though no harm in taking a short break en-route.

Any Saker spots I highlight are already published in other bird reports. Of course they are not breeding anyway now, and they do alternate sites so who knows where they will breed next year. Anyone who tried to climb one of these exposed pylons would be extremely fool-hardy anyway.

I had 3 full days to utilise, and I intended to split them between Bukk Hills and Hortobagy and the 'pusta's' - the great plains.

My first full day, Wednesday 11th September, was spent travelling to the infamous Hortobagy area. This took about an hour and a half from my hotel to reach, though this included stops to bird. Indeed, just south of Noszvaj, I drove slowly past many orchards just south of the village of Szomolya, and watched a pair of Syrian Woodpeckers on dead tree branches. Two Black Storks were soaring nearby.

Before passing over the M3 at Mezokovesd, I took the signposted road to Stentistvan, and after driving through the village, at the southern end I took the pitted road off to the right which hits Negyes village after about 5 miles. This area was reasonably productive, with both Marsh Harrier and Buzzard, as well as Sparrowhawk, all hunting the many passerines around this area, including abundant Tree Sparrow and Starling flocks. Red-backed Shrike and Turtle Dove were also seen most days I passed through here. I stopped by the pylons just before Negyes and noted a distant Saker nest box, one of a number erected by local preservationists to aid this rare and sought-after raptor. Although I checked this area a few times, no Sakers were seen here.

At Negyes village turn right for the next village of Borsodivanka, and then onto Poroszlo. I had my only Roller of the trip along this stretch so always keep your eyes peeled. At Poroszlo you hit the main road 33, where a left turn takes you to Hortobagy, but firstly head in the opposite direction for 5 kms to km 20 post on 33, and check out the pylons here. There is a an ideal farm track you can park up in to scan the pylons on the southern side at least. This site has been highlighted previously as currently being the most productive or reliable Saker site. There are nest boxes on either side of the the road, albeit distantly. The birds seem to remain loyal to the pylons all year, though of course they may be away a short distance hunting at any given time. Marsh Harriers and Buzzards abound, and they too also use the pylons as vantage points so be warned! I found this general area excellent with a lot of raptor activity. I also had probable Eastern Imperial Eagle distantly, but it was too distant to clinch in the heat haze of mid afternoon (fortunately I did not need it as a lifer). Rooks and Hooded Crows and a few Jackdaws were also present in number, as you would expect.

I spent around three hours watching the Saker's here close to Poroszlo, twice on this day and again on my last day when I returned to the area. I was not content with the typical, distant 'perched on-pylon' view so often reported. I love my raptors and Saker's were my main reason for coming to Hungary. The time put in was worth it for me, I not only managed to get closer to view them on the pylons, I also enjoyed a few excellent hunting sorties. Firstly I watched the bulky but smaller pale adult male circle over the adjacent field, then a large juvenile female hunting Starlings, and best of all on my last day when I returned, an adult female (had less prominant body striping than juv) spectacularly pursuing a Kestrel until it dropped its prey, for the Saker to retrieve. This encounter was spectacular, lasting at least a minute, with the Saker dwarfing its smaller cousin, and it showed great agility, twisting and turning as the hard-pressed and panicked Kestrel flew for its life.

I dragged my self away, onto Hortobagy via Poroszlo and Tiszafured, and before visiting Hortobagy's Minsmere equivalent, Halasto Fish Ponds, I wanted to drive the 'recommended' route around its northern end on a loop leaving and then rejoining Road 33, a drive of at least 50 miles, connecting the villages of Egyek, Tiszacsege where you turn right in the village despite no signs at the T-junction, for Balmazujvaros, and then back onto 33. Between Tiszacsege and Balmazujvaros is an area of plains said to be excellent for raptors, especially around km 9 and km 10 points by a bird tower by the road. I spent an hour here but only had 4 Buzzards disappointingly, certainly no eagles or Sakers. It may be better at other times of the year. I also found the rubbish tip at Balmazujvaros to be a pretty disappointing place, with no raptors other than Kestrel hunting, but again it may be better at other times of year. Just before rejoining Route 33 south of Balmazujvaros, I checked the pylons but again no raptors were hanging around. Overall I think this had been a waste of two hours today, and would omit it from any itinary, but its your choice. There is meant to be a good Long-eared Owl roost in the village of Balmazujvaros.

Back on 33 I headed westward, and after just a few kms took the turn southward off 33 for Nadudvar. After just 3-4 kms pylons cross the road, and again there is a couple of good farm tracks to pull off on to. I found my 4th Saker of the trip here, perched high and basking in the sun with its back to me. Hobby and 3 Tawny Pipits were also found here, a pretty productive but brief stop.

The whole Hortobagy area is striking in terms of its pancake-flat appearance, rolling plains or pustas, home to nothing but but cattle farms and horse ranches, and of course many birds. It can become very hot here, ensure you have adequate water at all times.

I rejoined Road 33 and continued a short distance west past Hortobagy village, and took the sign-posted turn off 33 for Halasto Fish Ponds. I parked by the centre and paid the small entrance fee. As mentioned, this is the main centrepiece of Hortobagy. As you can see from reports or checking Google Maps, this reserve is impossible to cover in a single afternoon or even full day. There is a funicular train that runs at weekends, out to the furtherest pool and hide, but not today! So off I trudged along the path running alongside the 'taunting' rail track. I simply wanted to get a feel for the place. A striking feature of today was a huge Swallow passage, I estimate at least 10,000 birds. They were simply everywhere, with them a few Sand Martins and just 2 Swifts, and a Hobby chasing them. It took about half an hour along the straight track to reach the first tower that overlooked the vast pools. En route I had a few Egrets, a flock of Bee-eaters, and the Swallows! I intended to walk no further out than that tower, that I carefully ascended due to missing or fragile looking wooden steps. From the top you could obviously view 360 degrees, with pools in all directions. Some pools were devoid of much, whilst the next one away from the direction of the centre but to the right, was brimming with bird life. Marsh Harriers were everywhere, indeed I had 6 hunting together over just one reedbed, and Cormorants, Egrets (nearly all Great White) were dotted around. Flocks of Greylag Geese were passing overhead, along with a single Common Crane. 6 Whiskered Terns showed well, another highlight.

I descended carefully and walked the path towards the aforementioned productive-looking pool, this path taking me no further away from the centre, and I could see there was another tower there to climb. Twenty minutes later I was on it, scanning the thousands of birds around. Frustratingly the sun angle was not great late afternoon, and this was the one time I really could have benefited form having a tripod and bigger scope with me. Most of the wildfowl was in eclipse of course, and there were hundreds of Mallards, Teal, and Gadwalls, Shoveler, Pochard, Great Crested and Little Grebe etc, and thousands of waders including Black-Tailed Godwit, Ruff, Redshank, Spotted Redshank, Dunlin, 5 Avocet, as well as 15 'conspicuous' Spoonbills. 3 Snipe were flushed by another Marsh Harrier and then I noticed a huge bulk sat on a sand bank - a juvenile White-Tailed Eagle, that was equally impressive when it eventually flew. Magnificent! I really needed a longer time to study all the waders here.

3 juvenile Night Herons were also seen as I trudged back along a parallel path to the one taken outward, as I made my way back to the centre and car park. Juvenile Red-backed Shrikes, Savi's Warbler, Chiffchaff, Yellow Wagtail and a few Corn Buntings were seen but no 'hoped-for' Barred Warblers in the scrubby pathside vegetation. Back at the car park, Spotted Flycatcher and a male Redstart were seen, the latter with grey face (fading black), a state of plumage wear not often seen in the UK, certainly it threw me at first.

The overall birding spectacular was the highlight here, who knows if some super rarity lingered somewhere - you need many pairs of eyes to help you and hours on end to linger!

After checking out the Poroszlo Sakers again, I returned to the hotel fairly tired and hungry and after a few beers I retired to bed for a well earned nights sleep!

After a quick breakfast on Thursday 12th, I drove the short distance to Bogacs, and then took the signposted sign to Cserepfalu, just a few kms away. Drive through the village of Cserepfalu and to the left of a Co-op store where the road dissects (staying on the main road of the two), and a km out of the village approximately, turn right where Hollosteto is signposted. There is a brand new cafe and toilet block on your right, and the track turns left along a very bumpy track into the Hor-Volgy ("Beautiful Valley"). This is a highly recommended White-backed Woodpecker spot within the Bukk Hills. The track is 'pitted' for most of the 3-4 kms out through the ancient forest, but the first 200 metres are the worst, and without being politically incorrect, you need to make a decision whether your car can negotiate this track..........if you have a low-lying VW Golf with four burly birders and camera equipment, then you are likely to hit problems here. It is too deeply rutted. The track is gravel though so no concern with mud-sliding.

This track initially goes through orchard and scrub, and after about a km beautiful ancient forest for a few km's. At the first T-junction, I turned round on each visit here. There must be huge swathes of good forest where the 40-50 pairs of WB Woodpecker can be found within the Bukk Hills. This is where you need a guide! And even then a May visit is probably necessary. If you think you can edge along slowly, looking for ideal woodland with dead or dying tree vegetation, think again, there are literally thousands of such tree corpses along this 3-4km stretch, all ideal-looking for that rare Woody! Great Spotted Woodpeckers were the most common pecker with 3 seen, and the highlight was a 'stonking' male Black Woodpecker that shrieked characteristically, looking incredibly pre-historic with its profile and piercing yellow eyes. Great views were enjoyed. I was to revisit this location two more times, with an afternoon visit and a 6am dawn visit being equally unproductive. This first visit, commencing at 9am was the best, with the 'warming ' sun peeping through the tree foilage and bringing birds to life. A brief Red-Breasted Flycatcher was glimpsed, as well as Short-toed Treecreeper, Sparrowhawk on a fresh dove-kill, Nuthatches, Robin, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Marsh Tit too. And Red Squirrel. It was indeed a beautiful location, and those rare woodies must be there somewhere, but I could not locate one despite a total of five hours here over the three forthcoming days! I may have had a Lesser Spotted Eagle perched halfway up a tree in the ancient forest, a dark plummage bird that quickly flew off into the forest, but as there are only about 50 pairs in the country as opposed to thousands of Buzzards, by the law of averages it was more likely to have been the latter. Frustrating though!

After a couple of hours I returned to the hotel having enjoyed a very good morning, despite my failure to find White-backed Woodpecker behind any fallen tree log. I think my exertions took a bit out of me as I had an hours snooze out the hotel, before heading back at to the same location 'Hor-Volgy' (just twenty minutes from hotel), but that afternoon - as already alluded to - 'Hor-Volgy' was dead as a door nail that afternoon! No calls, no singing, no drumming.

Friday 13th September was my final full day, and I felt quite relaxed as I had already visited both key areas - Bukk Hills and Hortobagy. There are further wooded areas slightly better for raptors further east at Zemplen Hills, but I reckoned I would still have the same issues finding rare woodpeckers there, so what was the point of spending two hours driving each way when Bukk Hills / Hor-Volgy was on my doorstep. I have already stated that I spent a total of five hours at "Hor-Volgy" - well two of those were between 6am-8am this morning, once again accessing it from just north of Cserepfalu. Many successful reports highlight the need to visit at this time, but I found it dank, cold and birdless along the valley floor over the two hours. The sun had not risen sufficiently to shine down into the floor of the valley. Some reports here highlight the need to climb upwards, others report White-Backed Woodpecker's being seen along the stream that runs for the 4kms beside the track.

I returned to the hotel for breakfast, and then set off, and just south of the village of Stentistvan I again took the only tarmac track off to the right, for Negyes (there are no signposts). Red-backed Shrike, Marsh Harrier, Buzzard and Tree Sparrow flocks were again present, and looking into the sun a raptor was perched by the Saker box, but I think it was a Kestrel.

I again visited the Saker's for a third time at Poroszlo, and again Marsh Harrier's and Buzzard's were hunting nearby. Infact one cream-crown harrier perched on a pylon, something I have never seen before. The Saker's were again present.

Onward towards Hortobagy I travelled, aiming to explore areas yet unvisited. Along route 33, at a bar/cafe called "Kaparo Csarda", I turned right signposted for Nagyivan. The Red-Footed Falcon roost is across the road from the above-named cafe, as is Ohat Fishponds (though you need a permit to open barrier's there). Marsh Harrier's showed well hunting as I travelled along the Nagyivan road, and 5.2km's from the junction / turning, I turned left alongside obvious white farm fencing, along a wide, mud-baked track. This track, which might be tough if wet, led out for a few km's and birding here was superb - Red-Footed Falcons hunted the fields close to the track, repeatedly hovering like Kestrel's then diving like Merlin's. A few hundred early returning Crane's were in the fields, along with at least a dozen Great White Egrets. 6 Black Storks flew overhead, though no White Storks were seen at all during my visit. A few Yellow Wagtails and White Wagtails ran along the track ahead of the car, and several Whinchats and Corn Buntings were beside the track perched in bushes. Swallows 'zipped' overhead, but passage was far less noticeable than when I was in the Hortobagy area two days previously. Eventually you come to a T-junction, where you should turn right and then left where you come to a Tower Hide that overlooks prime pusta where Great Bustards can apparently be found. Not for me. But the overall area is superb, a pleasant surprise.

As time was pushing on, I decided to check out "Little Hortobagy", known as Borsodi-Mezoseg. To be honest I stumbled across it, only having time to discover the rolling plains and marshes on the western fringes. Studying the map, I realised there was a minor track running from the pretty village of Tiszababolna through to Stentistvan. There are only two turn offs in the former named village, and one of them is a dead end. So it is easy to find the area, following "Fo-Way", which is a residential lane at first, and then it leads out past a factory before opening out to magnificent rolling plains. Carry straight on rather than angling across the dirt track to the right, this is because a short while after you can turn right beside a superb marsh that offers great views. It was now 6pm and birds were looking to roost. Several Pygmy Cormorants showed superbly well, and Curlews, Black-Tailed Godwits and Lapwings fed in the fields nearby. The waders took to flight and another 'superb' Saker raked through the birds but failed to connect, before landing astride a small tree just one hundred yards away from me. I enjoyed very good scope views of this adult female which possessed less obvious teardrop breast markings rather than the darker, more continuous streaking of juveniles. The diagnostic head pattern was studied in detail, and my Saker-tally increased to five !

I climbed one of the towers here to scan the wide-open pusta and also the marshes, and found a juvenile Purple Heron amongst several Grey's, at least 100 Greylag's, and 3 Wood Pigeon's - the only ones of the trip. All this is within 2-3 km's of the village of Tiszababolna, and it is accessable even if the track is wet.

Back on the main track, past the marsh, a horse ranch is set to the right, and then I passed slowly alongside freshly-ploughed fields containing a few hundred Starlings, 5 Blue-Headed Wagtail's, and a Short-Toed Lark (once considered a rarity here).

I then 'bombed' along the mud-baked track sometimes in fifth gear, under more pylon Saker boxes, in the direction of Stentistvan, using the 'raised' Bukk Hills as my main navigational aid, and eventually, after thirty scary minutes fearing I had got lost altogether, I came to Stentistvan, and from there it was a short distance on proper roads back to the hotel for tea and beer.

On Saturday 14th September I again checked out the hotel grounds for a final time, said my goodbye's to Barbara and promising to return (which I certainly hope to do). As I progressed back to Budapest Airport on M3, the weather really took a turn for the worse, and any last minute birding was 'scuppered' by continuous driving rain, though a Crested Lark was by the airport.

So in summary, I had a great time without using a guide, saw 103 species, a respectable total, but clearly I suffered by not using a guide to find White-backed or Grey-Headed Woodpecker's, though you need to use them in May anyway. Passerine-wise, many warbler's had already migrated, and I was disappointed not to connect with Eastern Imperial or Lesser Spotted Eagle. Again, these are not easy birds without specific information. I was thrilled with my Saker sightings, and I enjoyed the countryside birding immensely.

The language barrier is a true barrier, though some people do increasingly speak English, but not so in the rural areas. I found Hungary to be an accessable and easy country to bird, no wild, snarling dogs to worry about though many houses did have them.

I would strongly recommend Hotel Nomad, it is excellently located for Bukk Hills, and Hortobagy can also easily be visited, though there are hotels nearer to the latter "if" you want to concentrate efforts on Hortobagy only.

Hungary has a great motorway system, and is a short hop via a number of airlines. A big thumb's up from me for an easy, relatively cheap birding break!

In no particular order, my birdlist :-

Saker Falcon x 5
White-Tailed eagle x 1
Red-Footed Falcon x 30
Hobby x 2
Marsh Harrier x 60
Buzzard x 30
Kestrel x 15
Sparrowhawk x 3
Pygmy Cormorant x 12
Common Crane x 200
Black Stork x 8
Syrian Woodpecker x 2
Black Woodpecker x 1
Middle-Spotted Woodpecker x 2
Great Spotted Woodpecker x 12
Roller x 1
Hawfinch x 2
Bee-eater x 50
Red-Backed Shrike x 20
Redstart x 1
Black Redstart x 4
Corn Bunting x 15
Spotted Flycatcher x 2
Red-Breasted Flycatcher x 1
Nuthatch x 5
Short-Toed Treecreeper x 2
Savi's Warbler x 1
Lesser Whitethroat x 1
Chiffchaff x 3
Yellow Wagtail x 4
Blue-Headed Wagtail x 5
Grey Wagtail x 3
Tawny Pipit x 3
Meadow Pipit x 2
Wheatear x 3
Whinchat x 15
Stonechat x 12
Marsh Tit x 2
Great Tit x 5
Blue Tit x 2
Robin x 1
Wren x 1
Song Thrush x 2
Blackbird x 12
Starling x 1000
Tree Sparrow x 500
House Sparrow x 200
Linnet x 20
Chaffinch x 10
Goldfinch x 8
Bearded Tit x 1
Siskin x 8
Short-Toed Lark x 1
Crested Lark x 1
Blackcap x 3
Swift x 2
Sand Martin x 10
Swallow x 10,000
Collared Dove x 100
Turtle Dove x 4
Wood Pigeon x 3
Feral Pigeon x 500
Magpie x 20
Jackdaw x 30
Rook x 300
Hooded Crow x 20
Jay x 10
Whiskered Tern x 6
Black Tern x 1
Yellow-legged Gull x 15
Caspian Gull x 10
Common Gull x 15
Black-Headed Gull x 500
Spoonbill x 15
Little Egret x 2
Great White Egret x 50
Purple Heron x 1
Grey Heron x 15
Night Heron x 3
Black-Tailed Godwit x 100
Redshank x 10
Spotted Redshank x 1
Avocet x 5
Dunlin x 50
Ruff x 30
Snipe x 3
Curlew x 10
Lapwing x 50
Mute Swan x 2
Great Crested Grebe x 5
Little Grebe x 1
Coot x 1
Moorhen x 1
Mallard x 500
Gadwall x 20
Shoveler x 1
Pochard x 2
Greylag Goose x 400
Shelduck x 4
Teal x 500
Cormorant x 100
Common Pheasant x 3
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Well-known member
Photos, very few birds but setting the scene........... Hotel Nomad and grounds/ surrounds...........


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Well-known member
Hor-Volgy (Beautiful Valley), just north of Cserepfalu, ten minutes from hotel.......great (apparently) for White-Backed Woodpecker..........

1) The view of the valley as you leave the village of Cserepfalu.
2) Turn here for Hollosteto, then the track turns left and through the valley for miles, though I drove about 3-4 kms and turned round. Take great care, as track is deeply pitted at times (especially first 200 metres).
3) Classic image of The Hor-Volgy, the track runs alongside a stream, all good WB Woodpecker habitat.


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Poroszlo Saker site..............reliable!!

1 and 2) These simply show the farm track you can park up at around km20 marker on Road 33, 5 kms west of Poroszlo. Still a reliable Saker site. 33 is a fast main road, care needs to be taken when turning off onto it.
3) Along the back roads, expect to come across scenes like this.
4) Adult male Saker on pylon.


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Well-known member
Hortobagy.............Halasto Fish Ponds landscape images.............

1) Looking back towards the visitor centre (if you can call it that!), shows the adjacent funicular railway that only runs at weekends but takes you to the furtherest pool around 10 kms away (maybe more).
2) The first Tower along the track that provides views all around.
3) The steps to the same tower, look a bit iffy to me!
4) A view from a second tower.
5) The path back towards the centre involves "walking the plank"!


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Well-known member
More from Halasto Fish Ponds, Hortobagy.......

1 and 2) Landscape shots.
3) WT Eagle on scrape (juvenile).
4) Great White Egret beneath Tower Hide.
5) One of new watch-towers along the back roads towards Balmazujvaros. There are also more along the main 33 road.


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Well-known member
Final set, first three photos show outer areas of Hortobagy, taking turn off Road 33 towards Nagyivan. The last two show "Little Hortobagy" pools and marshes.

1) Shows the mud track with wide open pusta great for Crane's, RF Falcons, and apparently Great Bustards.
2) This is where the above track starts on the road to Nagyivan, turning left and following the track all the way to a T junction, then turning right. Starts off along side this white farm fence. A good marker. Take care if wet though, could be undriveable.
3) Marsh Harrier in the above area.
4) Little Hortobagy, the marsh with Pygmy Cormorants right by the track, a few kms outside Tiszababolna.
5) Same area, good wader pool.


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New member
I hope you had a nice trip, Nick? Did´n read if the result was what you expected.

Just two corrections, we don´t want that anyone will be MIA :)

Mezokovsad = Mezőkövesd
Stentistvan = Szentistván (Szent + István = St. Stephen)



Well-known member
Thanks for your comments, and your very welcome.

Always try to give as much information as possible. Doesn't always make particularly riveting reading I accept.


New member
Thank you Roman, sorry if my misspellings appear disrespectful.
It was a great trip. Hope to return!
I wouldn´t call it disrespectful, not at all! I´m just a tiny bit familar with that language because my federal state isn´t very long a part of Austria and I thought it would help to mention the propper names ;)


Botanical Birder
Thanks for a very informative report.
I stayed at Farm Lator in the Bukk Hills a few years ago and well remember the muddy roads. When walking on the road in the Little Hortobagy I can only describe it as like walking in inches of molten rubber. We did find some good birds there including Saker Falcon and large flock of Spoonbills, which made the effort worthwhile.
The week of birding and butterfly watching was a great experience which is reflected by the fact I'm planning a return in June 2014 and adding a couple of nights in Budapest this time.



Well-known member
Thanks for a very informative report.
I stayed at Farm Lator in the Bukk Hills a few years ago and well remember the muddy roads. When walking on the road in the Little Hortobagy I can only describe it as like walking in inches of molten rubber. We did find some good birds there including Saker Falcon and large flock of Spoonbills, which made the effort worthwhile.
The week of birding and butterfly watching was a great experience which is reflected by the fact I'm planning a return in June 2014 and adding a couple of nights in Budapest this time.


Hi Brian

I think I may stay at Farm Lator if I return next spring. as I think they have Grey-Headed Woodpecker often within their hotel grounds. They may also be able to advise where to see WB Woody. Farm Lator is not too far from where I stayed, probably more birders there too.


Botanical Birder
Hi Brian

I think I may stay at Farm Lator if I return next spring. as I think they have Grey-Headed Woodpecker often within their hotel grounds. They may also be able to advise where to see WB Woody. Farm Lator is not too far from where I stayed, probably more birders there too.

I don't think you would be disappointed Nick,if you get the chance to stay at Farm Lator. We didn't come across many birders there, as most most of the folk we came across seemed more interested in butterflies and other insects. We did get taken to a Ural Owl nesting site however, so I'm hoping for good things again next year. Your images brought back some good memories.



Well-known member
I did'nt come across any birders at all during my 4 days, but most visit in May. I am glad my 'paultry' attempts at photography brought back some decent memories for you - thank you Brian.


Well-known member
Roy Adams from Hungarian Bird Tours says there are now 200 pairs (increasing) of WB Woody in the Bukk Hills, & March is the time to find them!

So tempted to return then.
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