Hungary in Autumn

Saturday 16 – Saturday 23 October 2004

Mike Read
Sándor Konyhas


Saturday 16th October

After a very pleasant flight from London, we were met at Budapest airport by Sandor and were soon heading east across the Great Plain. We noted a few birds as we went including a number of common species like Feral Pigeon, Collared Dove and Magpie before leaving the built up areas also Kestrel, Common Buzzard and Hooded Crows in the more open countryside. One recently ploughed field held at least 40 Rooks and further along, a ploughing tractor had attracted numerous Yellow-legged Gulls. At about half way we paused for coffees etc. and added House Sparrow to the list.

During the completion of our journey to Nádudvar, we saw more Common Buzzards, Starlings, a group of 5 or 6 Grey Partridges and among the trees surrounding the hotel were dozens of Pheasants. As the weather worsened to persistent rain, a fine evening meal completed the day.

Sunday 17th October

The day began dull and misty. Rain soon started and continued for most of the day. Before breakfast, a Water Vole swam across the lake beside the hotel and there were 1 or 2 Pheasants around!

We left the hotel at 7.50am and drove out into the Hortobagy National Park. There were numerous birds seen from the bus including Great Grey Shrike and a field containing at least 80 Common Cranes and 4 Roe Deer. Common Buzzards and Hooded Crows were quite frequent and we then watched another Shrike; this one frequently hovered as it searched for food. As we neared route 33, a couple of groups of Great Cormorants flew over and totalled at least 50 individual birds. Here there were many Cranes; a couple of Common Kestrels perched on a pylon and some Curlews were feeding in a field. In the village of Hortobagy there was a Moorhen on the waterway.

A few kilometers further west we visited an area of fish ponds, some of which were being stocked with carp. One drained lake held numerous gulls and a few ducks, mainly Mallards and Teal. Along the edge of the reeds a few Snipe were feeding while further out on the mud, a scattering of Eurasian Curlews and Lapwings gave a good size comparison for a lone Dunlin. A Spotted Redshank called but remained unseen and a Common Kingfisher dashed past and was seen by some of the group. Bearded and Penduline Tits were seen occasionally, but never well, a Red-throated Pipit flew overhead, numerous Water Pipits were around one of the smaller ponds while both Marsh and Hen Harriers hunted in the distance.

At another set of ponds there was one Little Grebe, numerous Great Crested Grebes and a flock of Pochards and a Tufted Duck. As we walked back towards the bus, a Water Rail ran across the track.

After a coffee stop, the poor weather encouraged us to pay a brief visit to the Hungarian Breeds Farm. The Grey Cattle were certainly impressive, as were the Woolly Pigs! A group of Tree Sparrows, a male Marsh Harrier and a couple of Crested Larks were bonus species. We then drove to the nearby village and had an excellent, warming lunch before heading off for more birding.
A line of electricity pylons near Balmazujvaros held a rather distant and bedraggled Saker - and then another, even more distant individual was found. Along the road back towards Nádudvar there were masses of Common Cranes with at least 900 in a single flock. Here, the light suddenly improved and a shaft of brightness illuminated the birds, yet beyond them were the leaden skies we had experienced throughout the day; magic! The improved weather also encouraged a few raptors to appear. These included 5 Common Buzzards and 6 Kestrels all flying around together and around the area were at least 4 Marsh Harriers. We completed the drive back to our hotel (seeing Brown Hare, Black Redstart and many more Common Cranes by 4pm…… just in time for a hefty downpour!
Half an hour later the weather cleared enough for a few people to go for a stroll. Needless to say, Pheasants were everywhere and a flock of Goldfinches and Chaffinches seemed to be gathering close to their reedbed roost. Further on were a couple more Common Buzzards and then a Sparrowhawk flew across some open fields. On the lake were 2 Little Grebes and a Kingfisher called. Other species seen included Chiffchaff, Willow Tit, Brambling, oh yes, and a Blackbird!!

Monday 18th October

We woke to clear skies and a cooling breeze. By 8.00am we were heading out towards Balmazujvaros and were soon seeing lots of Common Cranes. Stonechats, Jays, Great Grey Shrikes and a Black Redstart all added to the journey and beyond the town we arrived at a part of the plain that Sandor suggested we had a look at. A very distant buzzard-type was perched in a group of trees and during the walk to establish its full identity we saw numerous Skylarks, Meadow Pipits, White Wagtails and Curlews, 4 Crested Larks and half a dozen Barn Swallows. Oh, and the Buzzard, it was yet another Common.
We drove back into town and were a little puzzled when we were driven into a cul-de-sac surrounded by housing. Here was a Long-eared Owl roost and we soon found about 20 birds. After studying and photographing some rather distant and hidden individuals, a builder working nearby approached Sandor and showed us many more birds, which were much more easily seen. While we were watching the first group, a Syrian Woodpecker flew past calling.
At some fishponds beyond Hortobagy there were many birds to be seen. Waders were quite numerous on a muddy lake with at least 4 Ringed Plovers, 3 Spotted Redshanks 6 Ruffs, 25 Dunlins and 30 Little Stints. Our first White-tailed Eagle, a juvenile, drifted past on huge wings and there were also Hen and Marsh Harriers present. A Great White Egret flew in and a Great Bittern landed in one of the reed beds. Smaller birds were represented by species like Great Grey Shrike and Penduline Tit.
Later, during our drive to Egyek for lunch we saw 3 more Marsh Harriers, a group of Curlews and Lapwings and 2 White Storks which should have migrated further south by now. As we left the restaurant after another light lunch (!) 2 Sakers and 3 Common Buzzards flew past.
After a brief supermarket and fruit stall stop in Tiszacsege, we took the back road towards Balmazujváros and saw some Roe Deer and glimpsed a Stoat, which ran across the road. Part way along this road we stopped and walked out beside a waterway and here, geese featured well. There were many Greylags present, about 21 Bean Geese flew past and 31 Lesser White-fronted Geese were feeding some distance across the grazing land. If the latter species was not enough, we had good views of a female Merlin that was being mobbed by Hooded Crows. Of course, the Merlin was the best flyer by far. In the distance we could see a couple of juvenile White-tailed Eagles and 3 or 4 Marsh Harriers. Butterflies seen here included Pale Clouded Yellow and Small Heath.
From here we drove back to Nádudvar and picked up a couple of Sparrowhawks, lots of Common Cranes, 2 Black Redstarts and 2 Little Owls as we went.

Tuesday 19th October

As we left for our day out, there were a couple of Crested Larks on the roof of the hotel and a short way down the road we saw 3 or 4 Roe Deer and at least 20 Corn Buntings.
Following the recent rains, our walk at Mihalyhalma proved to be a little muddy. However, it was certainly worthwhile with more Crested Larks being found almost immediately and a little further on we saw the first of perhaps 5 Hen Harriers. After some time, we came to an area where Sandor asked us to proceed with caution and silence. This was rewarded when the first of 13 Great Bustards were seen in the distance. In the end, we were able to approach a little more closely and we all had good, though hazy views of them. Also here we saw Stonechats, more Corn Buntings, Tree Sparrows and a flock of 27 Jays flew over. One or two group members also noted Serin and Siskin.
After a while spent scraping the mud from our boots, we boarded the bus and drove towards Hajduszoboszlo where we paused to overlook another fish pond. Here, a fair range of ducks were found including a few Eurasian Wigeon, a group of Common Pochards and 3 Red-crested Pochards, 3 Ferruginous Ducks and a few Gadwall and Northern Shovelers. Grebes were represented by many Great Crested as well as a lone Little and a Black-necked. Occasional Penduline Tits flew past us and Bearded Tits dived into the reeds they had just skimmed over the tops of. Most unexpected was a Reed Warbler giving some song from the depths of the reed bed. A Marsh Harrier drifted over the back of the pond, Common Buzzards rose on thermals and as we returned to the coach, a Green Woodpecker flew off calling.
At the eastern edge of Hajduszoboszlo we paused to overlook a small airfield and Sandor immediately found us a late Souslik (most should be hibernating by now). Also here we saw a Common Kestrel and a passing Sparrowhawk but the best raptors here were a pair of Sakers. At first they were rather distant but then one began a long glide towards the airfield, stooped down at high speed until it was less than 2 feet above the ground and it then began powering its way towards OUR Souslik. Thankfully the ground squirrel-like mammal saw it coming and dived for cover and this caused the falcon to do a spectacular twist and turn as it aborted the hunt. Wow!
After lunch at Puspokladany, we drove back on to the Hortobagy National Park just north of Nádudvar where we took another walk across this flat, open land. Lots of Common Cranes were nearby and after some minutes of walking, we found our ‘target species’, Dotterel. In all there were 39 present and a lone Golden Plover. A Marsh Harrier and a few Hen Harriers made interesting watching and we ended the day by watching masses of Common Cranes fly past as they headed for their roost under the increasing cloud cover. As we stood on the roadside marvelling at this spectacle, a male Hen Harrier flew over a nearby field and panicked about 200 Corn Buntings. Throughout this, a Little Owl was perched on the roof of a nearby farm building.

Wednesday 20th October

With Sarospatak our final destination today, we left our hotel in Nádudvar with more areas of the Hortobagy National Park to explore first. Sandor and our driver, Istvan had already been out searching and we were soon heading out past our crane-watching spot of the previous evening. Now, of course, Common Cranes were flying in the opposite direction and heading out for a day’s feeding. Every Buzzard was checked and double-checked but they were all Commons. Again there were many Corn Buntings in the area and we also saw a Common Kestrel and a couple of Sparrowhawks. A medium-sized raptor on the ground eventually drew our attention but it was distant and against the light. A walk towards it seemed a sensible option but after just a couple of hundred yards, it disappeared….. and nobody saw it go! We walked along the wooded road to the coach and here we saw a couple of Chiffchaffs and Mistle Thrushes, Serin, Bullfinch and Redwing.
We drove out to route 33 and beyond Hortobagy we saw numerous things like Curlews, Lapwings, Great White Egrets, 4 species of raptor and even some passing Pygmy Cormorants. The road towards Nagyivan produced excellent views of a Great Bittern strolling about in the open and in the town itself, a Long-eared Owl had a couple of Collared Doves perched right next to it! On the edge of town we met a local warden who took us for a walk out on to the local plain. Crested Larks and Stonechats were frequent but also here we found late Whinchat and Wheatear and a young Grass Snake that should have been hibernating by now. Further along, 3 Stone Curlews drew our attention, as did a much closer and smaller bird skulking in short vegetation. This turned out to be a Common Quail. As we walked back, 5 Golden Plovers were seen in the distance and then 3 White-tailed Eagles (including a white-tailed adult) and a Saker drifted past looking most impressive. A few butterflies, including a Large Copper, and a Preying Mantis completed this exciting visit.
We had yet another ‘light lunch’ at a fish restaurant beside the River Tisza near Tiszacsege and afterwards birds like Nuthatches, Bullfinches, Long-tailed and Great Tits were seen in the surrounding trees.
A final look over one of the local fish ponds gave us good views of perhaps 15-20 Pygmy Cormorants, 2 Red-crested Pochards and a flight of 14 Pintails while at least 2 Great Bitterns flew over reed beds before disappearing into them.
From here, we began the journey towards Sárospatak with occasional flocks of Cranes almost seeming to bid us ‘farewell and safe journey’. Occasional Common Buzzards dotted our journey into the Zemplén Hills and the gathering gloom of evening and we reached our hotel about 6.00pm.

Thursday 21st October

As we left our town hotel, there was a Nuthatch in the tree across the road and a Black Redstart was singing from somewhere nearby. Overcast leaden skies threatened rain as we drove to meet our local guide, Zoltan. A couple of Ravens and a Great White Egret were seen and then we stopped for a walk in the woods near Erdo›bénye. Goldcrest and Great Spotted Woodpeckers were the only finds before heavy rain set in and we decided to return to the bus. We drove to a new area and found a few Fieldfares and Mistle Thrushes. A Great Grey Shrike perched on the top of a bush, a Fox wandered up a sloping field and 8 Golden Plovers flew past. Near Boldogko›váralja, a quarry held an Eagle Owl but it seemed to object to being watched, even from a distance, and it soon flew off over the skyline.
After a refreshing and warming coffee within view of Bodoko Castle we went for a drive around in the hope of finding Imperial Eagle although the continuing rain helped to frustrate this search. However, in the small town of Vilmány we found 3 Syrian Woodpeckers (and some potential super-models of the future!) and a little further on, a flock of 6-800 finches were a mixture of Bramblings, Linnets and Goldfinches. A Merlin was perched on a treetop some way off and a Common Buzzard had landed in a field.
Our picnic lunch stop in Hejce proved most entertaining with a Marsh Tit being seen frequently, a Middle Spotted Woodpecker being present for much of our stay there while a Grey Headed Woodpecker flew past and was seen by the few who were lucky enough to be looking in the right direction at the right time!
The weather remained pretty poor and so we began the journey back towards Sarospatak and checked frequent Common Buzzards on the way. Close to town we visited another quarry and here we eventually found that we had been looking at yet another (superbly camouflaged) Eagle Owl for a while before we realised it was there! Other species noted here were Fieldfares and Lesser-Spotted Woodpecker. One lucky member of the group also noted a Ring Ouzel. As we left the quarry area, our local guide indicated an electricity pylon where less than a month earlier he had found a dead Eagle Owl. To his, and our dismay, when he checked among the bushes beneath the pylon, he found a recently electrocuted female Eagle Owl. Hopefully something would be done to insulate the wires here and prevent the problem in the future.
Our evening meal was taken a little earlier than usual and we had to be driven about 30km from Sárospatak. Here we were treated to another sumptuous meal and four different types of locally produced white wine – not that anyone was counting, or complaining of course!

Friday 22nd October

We woke to a much finer day; still, overcast – but dry at least! After breakfast, we took a short drive into the Zemplén Hills north of Sárospatak then walked through some lovely woodlands where mist/low clouds added enormously to the peaceful atmosphere. From the coach we saw a Nuthatch and a Red Squirrel then just inside the woodland a Willow Tit was heard and seen. Further along we walked among impressively tall deciduous woodland. A party of birds included Marsh, Blue, Great and Long-tailed Tits and a Lesser-Spotted Woodpecker. A little further on, other woodpeckers were seen including Middle and Great Spotteds and also a Green. After an unsuccessful search for Ural Owl we began the walk back to the bus and glimpsed a White-backed Woodpecker but unfortunately most of the group failed to see this bird. Further along 3 young Wild Boars walked out on to the track in front of 3 people who were perhaps 200 yards behind the main group. These animals were obviously young of the year and seemed devoid of parental guidance hence their daylight appearance.
Once back at the bus we began the drive towards Sátoraljaújhely but the superb autumn colours prompted a photo stop. While we were taking our pictures, Zoltan walked on down the road some distance and when we caught him up; he had located a Black Woodpecker. We all got off the bus again and in a few minutes, we all had good views of this bird flying around. As we lingered in the area a tapping sound drew our attention to another bird and this turned out to be a White-backed Woodpecker and everyone managed to see this one!
At the village of Szephalom, just a mile or so from the Slovak border, we saw a large raptor sat on the top of a tree. This turned out to be a superb adult Imperial Eagle. We watched this bird for some time before turning our attentions to the local Tree Sparrows and Bramblings – and then to lunch in Satoraljanjhely.
After yet another ‘light’ 3-course lunch we headed for a new area to the west of Sarospatak with a quick stop in the town for some photos across the river to the castle. Here a small group of Hawfinches flew over.
A few miles along route 37 we turned into a gravel road and drove some way along before a loud shout from the rear of the bus indicated and owl had been seen. This turned out to be a Ural Owl (Martin’s second good find of the day) and after some cautious work by our guides, everyone had excellent views of the fabulous bird. In the same area, we heard Black and Grey-headed Woodpeckers and saw a couple of Sparrowhawks before we walked towards the main road to meet up with the coach. Just before embarking and setting off for our hotel, we were able to sample a few of the local grapes. Let’s hope we did not eat so many that there is a wine shortage on next year’s tours!

Saturday 23 October

We left our hotel at 8.25 and began the journey towards Budapest. Before we reached the motorway beyond Miskolc, the journey was rather slow due to the traffic but it did enable us to see 4 Roe Deer and a few Common Buzzards. After joining the motorway, we saw a few more of the latter species before pausing at one of the service stations for a short break. Here we saw a Black Redstart on the surrounding fence and in the distance there were about 20 Great White Egrets in a single field.

As we continued our journey we saw at least a dozen more Common Buzzards, a couple of Sparrowhawks, 3 Kestrels and 3 Imperial Eagles. One of this latter species was in flight while the other 2 were perched on trees in a small wood. A flock of about 60 Lapwings and a few Crested Larks made up the rest of the journey’s interesting sightings and at about 1pm we arrived at the airport.

After expressing our thanks to Sandor and Istvan, we headed into the terminal building and were soon savouring the delights of the airport departure lounge.


Little Grebe:
Seen in ones and twos on 4 days from 17th on various fish ponds.
Great Crested Grebe: Seen on the same 4 days as the previous species but in larger numbers.
Black-necked Grebe: Just a single sighting on 190th near Hajduszoboszlo.
Great Cormorant: Common on 17th, 18th and 19th.
Pygmy Cormorant: About 15-20 individuals seen on and near fish ponds close to Hortobagy.
Grey Heron: Seen in small numbers on 17th and 18th in the Hortobagyi National Park and then there were single birds on 20th and 21st.
Great White Egret: The most common of the heron species with sightings on 7 of the 8 days including at least 32 on 18th and 20 near the motorway on 23rd.
Great Bittern: 1 seen flying over a fish pond to the west of Hortobagy and then 3 seen on 20th with one in the open near Nagyivan.
White Stork: 2 seen on 18th to the west of Kocsujfalu were late-staying summer visitors.
Mute Swan: 2 juveniles seen on 17th at one of the fish ponds.
Taiga Bean Goose: At least 21 on 18th near Tiszacsege and 37 on 10th near Nádudvar.
Greater White-fronted Goose: 30 near Tiszacsege on 18th.
Lesser White-fronted Goose: 31 near Tiszacsege on 18th.
Greylag Goose: Seen on 4 successive days from 17th with the most being at least 200 during our afternoon walk on 18th near Tiszacsege.
Eurasian Wigeon: A few were on the fish pond near Hajduszoboszlo on 19th.
Gadwall: A few were on the fish pond near Hajduszoboszlo on 19th.
Common Teal: A good number seen on 17th on the fish ponds to the west of Hortobagy.
Mallard: Good numbers seen in various parts of the Hortobagyi National Park on 4 days from 17th then a few seen during the journey to Budapest on 23rd.
Northern Pintail: 14 flew over us on 20th at the fish ponds to the west of Hortobagy.
Northern Shoveler: A few were on the fish pond near Hajduszoboszlo on 19th.
Red-crested Pochard: At least 3 were on the fish pond near Hajduszoboszlo on 19th.
Common Pochard: At least 60 were seen on 17th on ponds to the west of Hortobagy and 7 more were near Hajduszoboszlo on 19th.
Ferruginous Duck: At least 3 on a fish pond near Hajduszoboszlo on 19th.
Tufted Duck: A couple were with the Common Pochards on 17th and there were a few on the fish pond near Hajduszoboszlo on 19th.
White-tailed Eagle: At least 4 seen on 18th (near Hortobagy and Tiszacsege) plus 3 together on 20th near Nagyivan. This latter group included our only white-tailed adult.
Hen Harrier: Frequently seen on our 4 full days in the Hortobagyi National Park (17th – 20th).
Marsh Harrier: Frequently seen on our 4 full days in the Hortobagyi National Park (17th – 20th).
Eurasian Sparrowhawk: Noted every day from 17th in small numbers.
Common Buzzard: Common. Seen every day.
Eastern Imperial Eagle: Our first (and not for the want of trying!) was near the Slovak border north of Satoraljanjhely on 22nd then during the journey to Budapest on 23rd we saw 3 more.
Saker: 2 on 17th near Balmazujvaros, 2 on 18th near Egyek, 2 on 19th over the airfield at Hajduszoboszlo (the best views) and 1 on 20th at Nagyivan.
Common Kestrel: Seen every day except 21st and 22nd. Fairly common.
Merlin: One female well seen on 18th near Tiszacsege, 1 near Nádudvar on 19th and one near Vilmany on 21st.
Grey Partridge: 5 seen as we approached Nádudvar on 16th.
Common Pheasant: Seen every day.
Common Quail: 1 well seen close to Nagyivan on 20th.
Common Crane: Fabulous quantities seen on the 4 days (from 17th) in the Hortobagyi National Park area with a fabulous spectacle of about 15000 seen as they flew towards their roost on 19th.
Water Rail: Single birds seen briefly on 17th and 18th.
Common Moorhen: Single birds seen on 17th and 20th.
Eurasian Coot: Seen in good numbers on various fish ponds on 17th, 19th & 20th.
Great Bustard 13 seen near Mihalyhalma on 19th.
European Stone Curlew: 3 seen close to Nagyivan on 20th.
Northern Lapwing: Seen in fair numbers in various parts of the Hortobagyi National Park from 17th to 20th, then a flock of at least 60 seen during the journey to Budapest on 23rd.
Dotterel: 39 seen close to Nádudvar on 19th.
Golden Plover: A single individual was with the Dotterels on 19th, 5 were close to Nagyivan on 20th and then there were at least 4 near Abanjalpar on 21st.
Greater Ringed Plover: 4 on fish ponds near Hortobagy on 18th.
Eurasian Curlew: Seen in fair numbers (10+/day) in various parts of the Hortobagyi National Park on 17th, 18th and 20th.
Spotted Redshank: 1 heard on 17th then 3 seen on 18th at dry fish ponds near Hortobagy.
Common Greenshank: 1 on 17th near Hortobagy and another on 19th near Hajduszoboszlo.
Common Snipe: Seen on 4 successive days from 17th at various fish ponds.
Little Stint: 30 on a dry fish pond near Hortobagy on 18th.
Dunlin: 1 on 17th and about 25 on 18th on dry fish ponds near Hortobagy.
Ruff: At least 6 on a dry fish pond near Hortobagy on 18th.
Common Gull: Seen on 17th and 18th in small numbers.
Yellow-legged Gull: Commonly seen on the first 5 days of the tour.
Caspian Gull: Seen in small numbers on 4 days from 17th
Black-headed Gull: Seen in fair numbers on 4 days from 17th and also during the journey to Budapest on 23rd.
Rock Dove/Feral Pigeon: Seen every day.
Stock Dove: Seen in small numbers on 19th and 20th in the Hortobagyi National Park.
Wood Pigeon: Seen on 18th, 19th, 21st and 23rd in varying numbers.
Eurasian Collared Dove: Seen every day.
Eurasian Eagle Owl: 2 seen in widely separated areas of the Zemplén Hills on 21st. At the second site (close to Sárospatak) we unfortunately also found a freshly dead individual which had been electrocuted by overhead cables.
Ural Owl: Just a single bird well found, and then well seen by everyone, a little to the west of Sárospatak on 22nd.
Little Owl: 2 on 18th and 3 on 19th in the Hortobagy/Sarospatak areas then 1 seen during a dry spell in the afternoon on 21st.
Long-eared Owl: At least 40 seen at a day roost in Balmazujvaros on 18th then a single bird was seen beside a couple of Collared Doves in Nagyivan on 20th. Perhaps this latter bird was feeling lonely and left out!
Common Kingfisher: 3 seen at various fish ponds on 17th and 1 near Hajduszoboszlo on 19th.
Lesser Spotted Woodpecker: 2 on 21st and at least 3 on 22nd in the Zemplén Hills woodlands.
Middle Spotted Woodpecker: At least 2 seen on 21st (including excellent views at our lunch spot in Hejce) and then also well seen on 22nd.
White-backed Woodpecker: One glimpsed during our first walk on 22nd then another one, which proved most co-operative, was well seen by everyone later that morning. This second bird demonstrated very well the species need for rotting timber.
Syrian Woodpecker: 1 glimpsed as it flew past the Long-eared Owl roost in Balmazujvaros on 18th and then on 21st we saw 3 together in Vilmany and on that same day we saw at least 2 more.
Great Spotted Woodpecker: Seen on 6 days in small numbers.
Black Woodpecker: One seen and another was heard in the Zemplén Hills on 22nd.
Green Woodpecker: 1 heard then seen close to Hajduszoboszlo on 19th and another heard in the Zemplén Hills on 22nd.
Crested Lark: Seen in small numbers every day from 17th, except 22nd.
Eurasian Sky Lark: Noted on 3 consecutive days from 18th in various parts of the Hortobagyi National Park.
Barn Swallow: Single birds were seen on 16th and 17th then the following day there were at least 15 near Balmazujvaros and we also saw a few on the 19th.
White Wagtail: Noted in small numbers on 4 days.
Meadow Pipit: The first were at least 3 on 17th to the east of Hortobagy then we encountered the species on the next 3 days within the Hortobagyi National Park.
Water Pipit: At least 15 at the fish ponds visited on 17th to the west of Hortobagy.
Red-throated Pipit: Two seen on 17th at the same location as the previous species.
Northern Shrike: Seen on 6 successive days from 17th with at least 6 sightings in the Hortobagyi National Park on that day but smaller numbers after that.
Winter Wren: Heard on 17th and then seen on the next 5 days.
Common Blackbird: Seen every day except 16th.
Ring Ouzel: A single bird was identified by one group member on 21st close to Sarospatak.
Fieldfare: At least 10 on 21st and a few more than that on 22nd all in the Zemplén Hills.
Redwing: 3 seen close to Mihalyhalma on 20th
Song Thrush: Single birds seen on 18th and 21st.
Mistle Thrush: 3 on 20th not far from Balmazujvaros then seen on both full days in the Zemplén Hills.
European Robin: Single birds seen or heard on 5 days.
Black Redstart: Seen in small numbers on 6 successive days from 17th with perhaps the best views being of a male to the north of Nádudvar on 18th.
Wheatear: A single sighting near Nagyivan on 20th.
Stonechat: Seen on 4 days from 17th in the Hortobagyi National Park and then on 23rd during the journey to Budapest.
Whinchat: A single bird was seen near Nagyivan on 10th.
Bearded Tit: A few were seen at one of the fish ponds to the west of Hortobagy on 17th then at a similar location near Hajduszoboszlo on 19th we saw at least 10. Finally, the species was heard, but not seen, on 20th.
Common Chiffchaff: 2-5 individuals seen on 4 successive days from 17th in the Hortobagyi National Park.
Reed Warbler: A single bird was ‘muttering’ its song at a fish pond close to Hajduszoboszlo on 19th…. we never did see it!
Goldcrest: Just heard or seen on 10th, 21st and 22nd with the best sighting reserved for the latter date.
Long-tailed Tit: Seen in groups on 20th, 21st and 22nd.
Penduline Tit: Noted in small numbers in the Hortobagyi National Park on 4 consecutive days from 17th with the best being at least 8 on 19th near Hajduszoboszlo.
Marsh Tit: Noted on 21st and 22nd (3 or 4) in the Zemplén Hills.
Willow Tit: A single bird was close to our Hotel on 17th and another was identified in the Zemplén Hills on 22nd.
Coal Tit: Single birds seen on 21st and 22nd, the first at our lunch stop close to Tiszacsege and the other not far from Sarospatak.
Great Tit: Seen on 6 successive days from 17th.
Blue Tit: Seen on 6 successive days from 17th.
Eurasian Nuthatch: Seen on 4 successive days from 19th including in the centre of Sárospatak on 21st.
Eurasian Treecreeper: Just 2 sightings: 1 at our hotel in Nádudvar on 20th just before we left and 1 on 22nd during our woodland walk to the north of Sarospatak.
Eurasian Jay: Seen every day from 18th with the most being on 19th including a single flock of 27 birds near Mihalyhalma.
Black-billed Magpie: Noted every day.
Eurasian Jackdaw: Just 6 seen near Balmazujvaros on 18th.
Rook: Seen every day.
Hooded Crow: Seen every day except 22nd.
Common Raven At least 5 seen in the Zemplén Hills on 21st and a single bird heard in the same region the following day.
Common Starling: Seen every day.
Corn Bunting: Seen in small numbers on 17th and 18th and then perhaps 400, possibly in a pre roost gathering, near Mihalyhalma on 19th and perhaps 150 there the following morning.
Yellowhammer: Just a few seen on each of 5 days (17th, 18th, 20th, 21st and 22nd).
Reed Bunting: As expected, seen on the 4 days (from 17th) in the Hortobagyi National Park close to various fish pond reed beds.
Common Chaffinch: Seen every day from 17th.
Brambling: Small numbers seen on 17th, 19th, 20th and 22nd but on 21st there must have been at least 250 in a mixed finch flock close to Vilmany.
European Serin: 2 at the fish ponds on 18th, 3-5 at Mihalyhalma on 19th and a single bird seen near this latter place the following day.
European Greenfinch: Seen in small numbers on 3 days from 17th and also on 22nd.
Eurasian Siskin: About 20 seen to the east of Tiszacsege on 18th then seen in small numbers on 21st and 22nd.
European Goldfinch: Seen in good numbers every day from 17th with the largest quantity being about 350 near Vilmany on 21st.
Common Linnet: Seen in fair numbers on 4 days from 18th with the most being 150-250 near Vilmany on 21st.
Eurasian Bullfinch: Seen near Mihalyhalma and near Tiszacsege on 20th then heard on 21st and seen again on 22nd in the Zemplén Hills.
Hawfinch: The first one was seen at the quarry close to Sarospatak on 21st, then there were a couple seen in the town the following day when we stopped to photograph the river and castle.
House Sparrow: Seen every day in good numbers.
Tree Sparrow: Seen every day except 16th and 23rd.

Red Fox: 1 on 17th on the Hortobagyi and then 5 sightings in widely spaced locations, on 21st in the Zemplén Hills.
Stoat: Just a single sighting on 18th near Tiszacsege.
Wild Boar: 3 young-of-the-year seen during our woodland walk on 22nd near Sarospatak.
Roe Deer: Seen on 6 days; the first 5 days had us seeing small numbers in the early hours of the day and then on 23rd we saw 4 just after leaving Sarospatak.
Red Squirrel: A single sighting close to Sarospatak on 22nd
European Souslik: A single individual was briefly seen at the airfield close to Hajduszoboszlo on 19th, though one of the local Sakers seemed intent on having it for lunch!
Steppe Mouse: One, thought to be of this species, was seen on 21st.
Vole species: One on 19th and at least 5 on 21st but sadly we could not identify the exact species.
Northern Water Vole: 1 seen swimming across the hotel pond at Nádudvar on 17th.
Brown Hare: 2 on 17th, 2 on 18th and 1 on 20th in the Hortobagyi National Park.

Species identified were:
Fire-bellied Toad
Common Tree Frog
Moor Frog
Dalmatia Frog
Great Crested Newt

Grass Snake was the only species actually identified; though we did see a number of unidentified lizards.

Large White
Small White
Clouded Yellow
Pale Clouded Yellow
Lesser Clouded Yellow
Red Admiral
Small Heath
Common Blue
Small Copper
Large Copper

Humming Bird Hawk Moth Seen on 3 days
Common Darter dragonfly
Seen on 3 days
Aeshna species Seen on 20th
Praying Mantis Seen on 20th

A fine tour! 128 species of birds with some of them seen in excellent numbers, especially the Common Cranes (thousands of birds daily in the Hortobagy National Park area), Great Bustards (13 individuals), Long-eared Owls (a roost of at least 40…. plus one other!) and what’s more we found all of the 8 expected species of woodpecker.

The weather was a little unkind on a couple of days but fine and even warm on some of the Hortobagy days. The autumn colours were superb, the scenery was excellent and so was the abundant food! And then there was the Zwack plus other ‘delightful’ Hungarian spirits which, of course, we just had to sample.

It only remains for me to thank our driver Istvan, our guides Sandor and Zoltan for taking us to such lovely places and birds and of course all of you for being so patient with me and my painful back. I sincerely hope we meet up again on another tour when I can be leading from the front and not yards behind you as you walk.

Mike Read

© The Travelling Naturalist 2004