Hungary in Spring
Woodpeckers and Owls in the hills, followed by the spectacle of the Hortobagy Park
Leaders: Gerard Gorman + local guide
This high-quality birding spectacular takes us to two very different areas of Hungary. The first part of the holiday is based in the Zemplen Hills, where our key targets include rare woodpeckers (we expect all five pied species and perhaps Black Woodpecker at the nest), Ural Owl, Lesser Spotted Eagle, Barred and River Warbler amongst many other key birds. The second part of the holiday is based in the heart of the Hortobagy Park,where the lowland grasslands and wetlands teem with birds. Highlights also include fabulous Great Bustard. Almost anything is possible in this internationally important area. We stay in comfortable en-suite hotels and dine on local specialities as regular Heatherlea clients will expect!
Day 1 Sat
Arrive Budapest. Our first base in this two-centre tour is a small wine-producing village on the southern slopes of the Zemplen Hills. Birds on route will probably include Marsh Harrier, White Stork, Bee-eater, Red-backed and Lesser Grey Shrike, Crested Lark and Corn Bunting. We may also stop at a good site for Eastern Imperial Eagle.
Days 2 and 3 Sun & Mon
We enjoy two days exploring the varied and scenic habitats of the area. Raptors here include Eastern Imperial, Lesser Spotted and Short-toed Eagle and the superb Saker Falcon will also be high on our agenda. We will take a picnic lunch in an areas where these birds and also Black Stork regularly soar. There are plenty of more common birds too, such as Serin, Red-backed Shrike and Hawfinch. The deciduous forests of the Zemplen are home to Ural Owl and 8 species of woodpecker including Grey-headed, Middle Spotted and White-backed. Other birds include Common and Short-toed Treecreeper and Red-breasted and Collared Flycatcher. We will also visit stone quarries to look for Eagle Owl if birds are around. Other birds here include Black Redstart and Bee-eater which nest in small colonies. Wryneck and Syrian Woodpecker usually inhabit gardens, orchards and other "secondary" habitats rather than the forest proper and we will visit such places where Golden Oriole, Common Nightingale and Barred Warbler also occur. Pastures and wet-meadows along the River Bodrog are home to Corncrake, and Great White Egret and bushy areas have River and Marsh Warbler. On one evening those who wish can visit an old wine cellar for which the area is famous.
Day 4 Tues
Today we leave the hills and cross the River Tisza for the Great Plain, where our final destination will be the famous Hortobagy National Park (HNP). On the way we will begin to see more lowland birds such as Lesser Grey Shrike, Red-footed Falcon and Roller. We spend four nights in Tiszafured, an excellent base on the western edge of the Hortobagy. Night in Tiszafured.
Day 5 – Day 7 Wed – Fri
We have three full days to bird this fantastic area, by bus and on foot. Red-footed Falcon nest in loose colonies and are particularly photogenic. Numerous fish-pond systems in the HNP teem with birds: expect Pygmy Cormorant, Black-necked Grebe, Great White and Little Egret, Squacco, Night and Purple Heron, Common and Little Bittern, Spoonbill, Yellow-legged Gull, Spotted Redshank, Bluethroat (white-spotted race), Penduline and Bearded Tit, Moustached, Marsh, Savi's and Great Reed Warbler and hordes of Whiskered, Black and White-winged Tern. In most years Great Black-headed Gull can be found too. The grasslands of eastern Hungary, called the puszta, are perhaps most famed for their Great Bustard and we will spend a morning in search of these magnificent birds. Other puszta birds include Tawny Pipit, Crested Lark, Corn Bunting, the blue-headed race of Yellow Wagtail, Little Owl, Stone Curlew, Black-tailed Godwit and Lesser Grey Shrike. Raptors include Long-legged Buzzard and Saker. The Hortobágy also has extensive marshes and smaller brackish lakes with Garganey, Ferruginous Duck, Black and White-winged Tern and sometimes Collared Pratincole. Water Rail and Little Crake will almost certainly call and may show. One morning we’ll visit a strictly protected area to see Aquatic Warbler. We should also encounter Common Crane and passage waders such as Ruff in breeding plumage and Green and Wood Sandpiper. Indeed almost anything is possible in this internationally important area. On our travels we will also no doubt come across the special livestock of the Hortobágy such as the mangalica (a grotesque woolly pig) and huge Hungarian grey cattle. Each evening we will dine on local specialities. Nights in Tiszafured.
Day 8 Sat
After breakfast we will drive to Budapest. If time allows (depending upon flight departure time) then we will take a short sight-seeing tour of the capital by bus and on foot.
Return scheduled flight from London - Budapest, airport taxes, ground transportation, en suite accommodation with all meals, picnic lunches and incidental tips. Leader Gerard Gorman and local guide.