TRAVELLING NATURALIST TRIP REPORT
Sunday 22 - Sunday 29 May 2005
Janos Vilagosi (Zemplen hills)
Sándor Konyhas (Hortobágy)
Janos (Zemplen and arrival to Hortobágy)
Firstly, I'd like to say that it was a real pleasure leading you on such an enjoyable trip. It was also fun to see so many of you again! I'd also like to highlight 'Zolle's' amazing field skills, Janos's seemingly limitless historical knowledge and Sándor's terrific bird-finding skills and local knowledge on the Hortobágy. A special word of praise too for our drivers, Janos and Istvan who drove carefully and thoughtfully throughout, especially on some fairly rough tracks and in the face of some poor motorway driving by others.
The lunches and the fine food we ate will also remain for a long time in the memory though whether the hot catfish soup or cold cherry soup was better will remain open to debate!
Finally, I'd like to thank you all for your excellent company and tolerance in the face of the occasional onslaught of mosquitos and the need to press on and drive a fraction more than ideally wanted to try and see a couple of the key species. It had been an unusually late and extremely wet spring, as witnessed by the vast areas of 'active' floodplains along the Bodrog and Tisza river, hence a few late migrants and those insects... However, I sincerely hope that you had a thoroughly enjoyable and memorable time despite the odd nibble!
Bird finding and telescope sharing was a notable part of the trip and thanks to all present, most people saw most things, and well. We saw an exceptional range of birds, and many of these very well (which is more important after all), reaching an amazing 172 spp. of birds, including 10 new species for the trip! I hope the memories remain vivid with you all for a long time to come.
And just so that you remember, the top birds based on a simple points system of each person's top five, were:
Red-footed Falcon (44)
White-winged Tern (29)
Montagu's Harrier (22)
Ural Owl (17)
Aquatic Warbler & Wryneck (11 each)
Rose-coloured Starling (9)
Saker & Bluethroat (8 each) and
Lesser Spotted Eagle & Black Woodpecker (6 each).
The runners up in decreasing order were Lesser Spotted & White-backed Woodpeckers and Savi's Warbler (5 each), Barn Swallow (4), Roller & Barred Warbler (3 each), Night & Squacco Herons, Eastern Imperial & White-tailed Eagles, Long-eared Owl, Bearded Tit & Golden Oriole (2 each) and Lesser Grey Shrike & Sedge Warbler (1 each). And to think that so many other fabulous species didn't even get a look in...
I very much look forward to seeing you again soon!
Sunday 22 May
We met by the check-in counter at the airport before our midday flight out. The cool conditions at Heathrow were replaced by warm and sunny conditions at Budapest, and we were grateful for the minibus's air-conditioning on our long journey to the Zemplen Hills.
Driving E we saw dozens of Red-backed Shrikes and plenty of Common Buzzards on the roadside fence and posts, plus a few Marsh Harriers hunting over nearby fields. Other odds and ends were noted, but at 70 kph the views are never the best! One or two Eurasian Kestrels, plenty of Hooded Crows and near some lakes, Grey and distant Purple Herons were also noted, but when we stopped for a quick drinks break, so we had fine views of perched male Northern Wheatear and Red-backed Shrike. Plenty of hungry mosquitos were apparently a prelude of things to come...
We continued on, noting dozens of bats over a river area, including some probable Noctules and plenty of other large blackish individuals quite close to the bus, and reached our hotel in the dark.
Dinner was late at 9:30, but started with an excellent and 'restoring' soup, and a modicum of the local white wine helped us settle in! We retired to bed around 11 pm, with a Tawny Owl (Oops, never heard again!) and Nightingale audible as I write!
Monday 23 May
The early risers went out for a 6 am pre-breakfast wander in the old castle park near the hotel. In fact, as we entered with the sun in our faces, a Black Woodpeckers flew low and slow straight towards us, but veered off just as we realised what it was, sadly not to be seen again!
A series of birds greeted us as we wandered slowly round , including Spotted Flycatchers, a couple of Tree Sparrows and Black Redstarts, singing and displaying Serins, and a few Great Spotted Woodpeckers, though the undoubted star of the show was a fine Hawfinch which searched for seeds out in the open at close range both as we came in, and again as we left!
We left following our local guide Zoltan, paralleling a flock of 7 Rose-coloured Starlings through a town as we went (!), stopping first on a track near Mikóháza. The temperature was already rising in the still and clear conditions, with heat haze already forming, but birds were singing actively as we stepped out. A Yellowhammer and Corn Bunting were relatively familiar, but the couple of singing Barred Warblers, which we duly watched in the False Acacias nearby were an eastern speciality. A female Golden Oriole flew over, and a couple of Common Buzzards kept us busy, but a distant raptor low into the sun was our main quarry. Fortunately, as we watched, so a fine adult Eastern Imperial Eagle circled up and then drifted slowly towards us, passing low and almost directly overhead before circling up again with the sun on our backs as we watched. Magic!
Two separate Lesser Spotted Eagles perched in roadside trees shortly ahead were impressive too, especially when two more Rose-coloured Starlings passed in the opposite direction as we were stopping! A blackish butterfly in the meadow as we scoped the first eagle was the first of a few Woodland Ringlets during the day.
We moved on towards Telkibánya and took a walk into the dense cloak of woodland covering the Zemplen Hills. Beech dominated but Hornbeam was not uncommon. Mosquitos were not in short supply either... While some of us tried and succeeded in getting to grips with singing Collared Flycatchers, we also enjoyed a Hawfinch feeding high in a tree. The main group ahead though were looking hard for our main quarry, Ural Owl, though had been distracted by drumming Black and White-backed Woodpeckers! The latter in fact came in when called and provided good, if brief views for nearly all of us. What a start!
We finally called off the owl hunt here, and started back down, looking at a stunning pair of Tau moths mating by the path. We also wondered what sort of time the members of a tented camp were having in a sodden little meadow we passed through on the edge of the wood, since the ground everywhere was absolutely soaked after the tremendous and excessive spring rains (in start contrast to most of W and C Europe!). I doubt the Scarce Swallowtails there would have been much consolation, but were a lovely sight for us!
Emerging from the forest we bumped into various things between us. A little frog, a Slow-worm, a circling Black Stork and a Short-tailed Blue were the most notable! Time of course was running away from us...
We moved on to another stop, this time for lunch, though it was full of interest, and not just for the magnificent cold cherry soup starter! A stunning Chequered Skipper haunted the muddy edges of some pools, and a remarkably large Wood White was hiding among the Green-veined Whites and female Orange-tips. Another Tau moth added to the invertebrate interest. Birds were not ignored here either, with Honey Buzzard and Sparrowhawk low over the trees and singing Goldcrest and Coal Tit the only ones we recorded.
The next Ural Owl site came complete with nestbox and even more mossies, but despite finally even looking at a downy chick inside using the mirror in the roof, no adults could be found and we were left a touch disappointed. The back end of a Dipper disappearing rapidly downstream at an enforced road stop was little consolation!
Not to be outdone though, Zoltan took us to our final woodland site near Erdöbénya, where after a good walk through incredibly lush vegetation, and including crossing a couple of temporary streams, we were presented with our first treat - a large female Black Woodpecker chick peering out of its nest hole! This was then later bettered with an adult male in the forest and then juvenile male in the same hole on our return! A Wild Boar wallow was a somewhat incongruous place to stop, and all looked grim when it was announced that the owl chick had already fledged. However, Zoltan's sharp ears picked up the sound of a scolding Blackbird in the distance, and within minutes, a superb adult Ural Owl flapped across a somewhat distant slope and pitched high into the canopy. But fortunately, I relocated it and even scoped it, giving views to almost all before it suddenly left... It was again relocated however, giving full frontal views, though it again left before Susie could see it... Zoltan persisted though, and finally relocated it, over half the group scrambling up the thick leaf-litter strewn bank for some simply cracking scope views of this magnificent bird.
This was still not the end though, with Zoltan doing a perfect imitation of Grey-headed Woodpecker, the result of which was a fine female which flew in almost immediately, and though despite remaining rather high in the canopy, was seen perched by nearly everyone. Wow! Even this was not the end though, since we also looked at 3 or 4 superb Clouded Apollos gracing a little glade en route back to the minibus.
Despite feeling hot, sweaty and with muddy boots and ponging of insect repellent (!!) we headed for dinner at a little restaurant near Mád. This was simply excellent, and the four(!) different types of Tokaj wines served certainly helped to put us in excellent spirit and help us catch up on a little shut-eye on the way back to the hotel. A magnificent day.
Tuesday 24 May
The day dawned bright, clear and warm again, and stayed that way until into the afternoon when thunderclouds appeared and a few storms rolled past, but fortunately not over us.
The first stop was by a railway station to overlook some flooded riverside meadows and also adjacent scrub near gardens. No less than six Black and seven White Storks fed quietly in the flooded fields near the still swollen River Bodrog, while later a Great Egret joined them. Attention was fixed on the sky for raptors, though apart from a couple of Marsh Harriers, 'only' a superb Lesser Spotted Eagle appeared and floated past just before we left. However, we more than filled our time looking at Corn Buntings, the omnipresent Red-backed Shrikes, and a few Tree Sparrows, despite a couple of Grass Snakes and plenty of Edible/Pool Frogs in a small pool. We all quickly moved to where Zoltan was beckoning though when a superb Wryneck flew up and sat on a telegraph pole tensioning wire for over 10 minutes in full view! A cracking bird.
Corncrakes are difficult birds to see at the best of times, so when we reached a couple of wet meadows where none were even singing, we knew it would be even more tricky! A couple of Golden Orioles in flight, singing Hoopoe and River Warbler, plus no less than 11 Honey Buzzards in flight over the hills behind kept us occupied however!
The next site was rather more promising, being more open, with meadows on both sides of the road, and proved more successful. A Corncrake began rasping close by almost immediately, so we moved quietly towards it, only to note several singing Barred Warblers in the nearby scrub too. The wait, with Zoltan almost up to his knees in water at times using playback to incite a response, was quite tense, especially since the bird was so close. Suddenly, another on the other side of the road also started rasping and the two counter-sang, though remained steadfastly hidden in the tall dense sedge and grass. At times they seemed so close that I expected to hear them drawing breath! Pauses were necessary as we watched, first for a fine passing Short-toed Eagle, then later for a flock of 6 Rosy Starlings going past! We finally had to give up, despite the birds still singing quite close, but even without seeing them it was a terrific experience. A couple of aerial chases by flashy Golden Orioles were also exciting, their black and gold plumage flashing in the sun.
Time was pushing on, so we headed towards another site beside the River Bodrog near Tokaj (pronounced "tok-eye"). The rank marsh with bushes was ideal for a number of species, and not only did we finally get the chance to watch a couple of pairs of Marsh Warblers, but also a superb River Warbler, pouring forth its peculiar pulsating insect-like song, eventually climbed up out of the vegetation and into full view where we had fine views. A Hobby cut through the skies overhead, unsuccessfully trying to take a passing Chaffinch as it did so in a spectacular dive, while a fine male Reed Bunting emitted its mundane song from en elder. Other things of interest included Migrant Hawker, Blue-tailed and a blue damselfly species, a stunning female Southern Festoon feeding around a large stand of flowering birthwort, passing Night Herons, Black Storks and yet more Barred Warblers. Which were really barred this time!
Thick storm clouds started to bubble up and the really humid conditions called for a pre-lunch break, so we stopped for drinks and icecreams in Tokaj town. More Black Storks were over the impressive river, with a dapper male Black Redstart by the path and high-flying Bee-eaters over the town.
Lunch was taken in one of the typical bed & breakfast places and afterwards we headed to the local fishponds. As we entered, 5 Ferruginous Ducks flew over, their white wing stripes flashing boldly, while a Common Cuckoo on a wire on one side then a Great Reed Warbler on a fence post on the other made it tricky to know where to look! We parked on the far side near the riverine woodland, with 'booping' Fire-bellied Toads and a cuckooing Cuckoos making a fine bass accompaniment to the numerous 'grunching and grinding' Great Reed Warblers! Grey, Purple and Black-crowned Night Herons passed over almost continuously in small number, with a total of 14 Whiskered Terns following suit. Insects included Norfolk Hawker, Black-tailed Skimmer and White-legged Damselfly, but interest remained mostly on the birds with another singing Marsh Warbler rightly attracting interest.
Time flies when you're having fun, and though we'd avoided the lightening, thunder and rain which had moved past S, we still had a last main stop to make. Turning off a track, we headed to the Tokaj quarry, where over a hundred Bee-eaters were present over the adjacent slopes, a stunning Large Copper butterfly shone brilliantly in the grass and after just a few seconds' look, Zoltan put a scope onto a superb adult Eagle Owl, resting quietly near the top of the cliff under a bush. We walked a little closer to get better views of this remarkable and beautiful bird.
A passing Syrian Woodpecker refused to show better, and the stiff breeze meant we had no luck looking for it in nearby orchards, but after bidding farewell to Zoltan, we tried again in the Sárospatak graveyard. Again the stiff breeze prevented us hearing anything except for a brief snatch of Icterine Warbler song, though there was no sign of the bird. A rather quiet end to an otherwise excellent day.
Wednesday 25 May
The day dawned bright but breezy and cool. A few stalwarts headed off for an hour before breakfast in quest of the Syrian Woodpecker and anything else we could find. Heading into the graveyard again there was nobody else at the beginning, nor any sign of the woodpecker, but in the process of tracking down an ever more loudly singing Nightingale, we had a Syrian Woodpecker fly in and land in the trees in front, though it was only briefly present with just one or two getting a good look. It disappeared without trace, but at least not so the Nightingale which gave us fantastic scope views as it poured forth its song from an exposed branch above us.
Breakfast was welcome, and after loading up our cases we started the journey towards the Hortobágy. A few odds and ends were noted en route, though we didn't stop until reaching the extreme N edge of the area, somewhere near Tiszacsege, in an area of huge arable fields separated by long shelter belts of trees. A couple of Great Reed Warblers chuntered from a reed-flanked drainage channel and Skylarks, many of them singing, were almost constantly visible. A flock of 16 Common Cranes circled up and rapidly past in the moderate E wind. Smart 'Blue-headed' Wagtails were also abundant all along the old road we walked, while Common Buzzards were constantly present above the skyline trees and kept us checking them constantly, though we never did come across any different ones as hoped. Great White Egrets and 3 single Spoonbills also passed over in flight and Brown Hare and Roe Deer ran across the fields.
We reached a cross-hedge and paused just in its lee, allowing views over more huge fields ahead where a very pale male Marsh Harrier quartered, but nothing else was of note apart from two passing Whiskered Terns. After noting a fine Large Skipper, our return was punctuated by stops for a male Stonechat, with a Quail calling behind, again for several Common Buzzards.
Our next stop was for an exceptional lunch at a fish restaurant, with the Catfish soup simply exquisite and Zander and chips a novelty! A Black Woodpecker which had flown across in front as we arrived not surprisingly didn't hang around until we finished, but our search also turned up a few White Storks and ten feeding Spoonbills in a nearby pool.
Our next stop by some old buildings was again to look over another huge open area, this time within the salt-steppe grassland of the Hortobágy National Park. However, a roadside stop in the bus shortly beforehand revealed the first of several Hoopoes, and distantly a small group of Cranes on the ground and flying Greylag Geese and Eurasian Curlews. A Hoopoe flushed from bales just beside us at the buildings, a pair of Northern Wheatears eyed us carefully from nearby and a male Barn Swallow went into the bus and got itself trapped. We had a good look at its stunning plumage before releasing it unharmed. More buzzards were again commons, but two very distant terns found speeding across the steppe by Tom were White-winged, but were very, very distant...
We went to our final site on the steppe, adjacent to a couple of pools and beside a scruffy little False Acacia orchard. What a site! A few stunning White-winged Terns flitted constantly over a marshy area where Redshank, Avocet and Black-winged Stilts (inc. chicks) were all present. However, our attention very rapidly changed to a stunning Lesser Grey Shrike on the arm of an old well cantilever, the male of a pair which then delighted us on and off for the whole time we were there. Janos then beckoned us slightly further on, where I noticed a fine young male Red-footed Falcon sat quietly watching us, only to then repeat the procedure when he pointed out a Long-eared Owl nest containing two chicks! Not only were these these a treat, but two others which had already left the nest were also found, along with one of the adults roosting uncomfortably in the wind, in adjacent trees. Another angle gave us a fine pair of Red-foots frequenting a nestbox. Just amazing!
The wet area also required re-checking, with a calling Black-tailed Godwit attracting attention and a Greenshank in flight noted by Neil. A raptor at extreme range was a circling White-tailed Eagle, though sadly all but invisible! We just soaked it all up, with the abundant Silver-studded Blues and a few Common Blues now active in the grass under the warm sun largely being ignored. The tall spikes of Sticky Catchfly were less easy to miss though!
We eventually dragged ourselves away, reaching our hotel at about 5:45 and bade our farewells to both Janos, err, and Janos :-) who had given us such an excellent introduction to the birds and history of NE Hungary. The dawn would bring us Istvan and Sándor, and the Hortobágy 'proper'...
Thursday 26 May
Sean and Phil were out before breakfast, noting a few odds and bobs including a fine Hawfinch and a huge pool full of toadpoles.
The Hortobágy covers a vast area (alomst 600,000 acres!), being the largest area of steppe grassland in Europe. We seemingly covered quite a bit of it before turning off towards a few of the enormous number of fishponds which lie scattered across the N part. Singing Reed, Sedge and Great Reed Warblers greeted us, but the lure of open water was too much and we started by scanning over the first of various pools. Ferruginous Ducks were ten to a penny, and Spoonbills, Night, Grey and Purple Herons and Pygmy Cormorants all passed over in flight in numbers and as they continued to do in the area all day! A couple of these dinky little cormorants fed quietly under the far reeds, but were surprisingly elusive.
A walk took us past singing Savi's Warbler and Bluethroat but neither showed, so we continued along a track between the reeds, watching a superb Great Reed Warbler singing at point blank range. Bearded Reedlings pinged intermittently throughout, especially when we went up in two groups onto a small tower hide overlooking a huge heron, egret and cormorant colony, though the abundant growth and reed height prevented us seeing the birds on nests.We content ourselves with continuous flight views of all the species, plus a fine comparison of perched Great and Pygmy Cormorants, and also our first buff-bodied Squacco Herons.
We went the short distance round to the 'other' side, ostensibly to look again for Bluethroat, but a quick scan of the open water revealed a series of new species, including some smart breeding-plumaged Black-necked Grebes, a few Tufted Duck and a couple of male Garganey, the first for most of us. A yellow-spotted European Pond Terrapin provided a bit of diversity, as did a number of Norfolk Hawkers patrolling the path we walked between the reeds. Birds again ruled the roost though when no less than 4 stunning Bluethroats came out in full view along the path, in the adjacent reeds and on the ends of cut reed bundles. A simply stunning sight.
Mangalitza pigs were high on Wendy's itinerary from the start, and before lunch we took a quick wander round the Hortobágy Zoo in order to see some local races of domestic animals, including the Hungarian cattle with their astonishingly long horns, and the pigs of course, with their remarkable curly-haired coats. A few other things were seen here too, including a 'booping' Fire-bellied Toad in a sadly all-too-deep pond!
Lunch was taken in a local restaurant, the soup alone being almost overwhelming, and the accompanying music not helping...!
A dropping breeze meant rising temperatures, but the first of some new fishponds produced 12 gorgeous Little Gulls loafing, plus 5 Gadwall. Interesting! The adjacent one had Common and Whiskered Terns hunting over it, and the last no less than 90 Eurasian Curlew, 2 Black-tailed Godwit, c. 15 Yellow-legged Gulls, and the greatest surprise, a Common Shelduck! Simon came to the fore again with the raptors, finding a passing immature White-tailed Eagle which gave great views and was much enjoyed by all.
Our final stop seemed to be a fruitless one at first. It was hot, breezy and very sunny. Driving into an agricultural area we stopped to scan the seemingly innumerable pylons. Nothing, so we took a rough track which wound its way between fields and muddy areas and stopped in the shade of a huge poplar shelter belt. Scanning around revealed almost nothing for some time until Phil suddenly found a falcon, which flew in and landed on a pylon. A stunning Saker! It performed beautifully, moving around between a few of the pylons, and showing us its shape, structure and colour, especially hugely long yellow toes, though it always remained at a respectable distance. A simply superb end to the afternoon, and we were back in good time at the hotel, with time to relax before dinner. And they got Tom's food right at last!
Friday 27 May
The early risers saw a nice series of species before breakfast, including a pair of Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers, the male of which fed a chick at a nest, a couple of speckly juvenile Hawfinches, also being fed by their male parent, a male Great Spotted Woodpecker looking after a recently fledged chick, plus a couple of Nuthatches and their progeny! Hmm, males looking after their offspring - should I have been at home??!! Other highlights included calling Wryneck and Green Woodpecker and a Black Woodpecker briefly in flight.
Another fishpond was our first port of call, and this one, since it had been recently drained was quite active with birds, including lots of Little and plenty of Caspian Gulls, a few Curlew, Black-tailed Godwit, a small flock of Dunlin and a couple of Little Stints. The light was rather 'milky' and completely against us though, so we started walking along one side to try to gain better views. A fine singing Savi's Warbler stopped us for a considerable time though, its buzzing song delivered with beak wide open from within a willow bush. Sándor went further to try and find us a better viewpoint, noting Sanderling and Curlew Sandpipers in the process, which we duly saw, and also at least three more singing Savi's and a number of Cuckoos en route. The walk was long and hot, but the final views were excellent, including of three Grey Plovers, a very distant Little Ringed Plover, over 80 Little Gulls and a small flock of young and sub-adult Caspian Gulls too.
The shade in the bus was welcome since it was seriously hot outside, though after knocking back plenty of water we were soon at our next stop, almost on the side of the main road. A copse full of Rooks looked relatively unappealing, but after walking down one side were rapidly became aware that it was alive with Red-footed Falcons, too! In fact, they sometimes looked like swallows hawking high over the wood, though I doubt the local dragonfly population thought they were quite so pleasing! We watched them at length, both in flight and also coming in to land at the nest sites, which varied from standard boxes to flower pots - but all worked! As we rounded a corner, so a Roller flew off, only to land briefly then disappear again before most of the group could see it... However, we waited, and we finally noted at least 2 pairs perched and flying around, forming a fine sight with the amazing antics of the Red-foots, which included three males trying to steal prey from the talons of a passing Eurasian Kestreland forcing it to pitch into the grass, and another group of males coming down to dust-bathe!
It was hard to pull ourselves away, but we finally managed it, going for lunch at a super little restaurant with one of the largest Barn Swallow colonies I've ever seen. One in fact tried to join us for lunch, but was finally shooed out by the waitresses!
A walk out onto open steppe beside a nearby village alomst seemed a bit daft in the heat, but a pair of Stone-curlews in the open were fine reward given the onslaught of mosquitos which were beginning to get more active now the peak heat of the day was just over. Another site not far away produced a lovely little colony of Black Terns, more than compensating for the group of 6 only some of us had briefly seen earlier at the fishponds. A Bluethroat, calling Little Bittern and a few Heath Fritillaries feeding on Salvia flowers were excellent bonuses. A Great Bittern flew across a field close to the vehicle just after we left, Simon also seeing 3 others during day from the moving bus!
We finished with a trip out on tracks into open steppe. As we stepped out, so several Quail were heard singing. Sándor crept quietly towards one, which was singing very close beside the path, which suddenly flushed and flew off round us. Remarkably, we later noted another two and then another single in flight as well! Our target bird, Great Bustard did not disappoint either, with 3 huge plains masters flying off as we crowned a little ridge, leaving one wading through the tall grass in the distance. More mosquitos were braved here, and to good effect, since the short wait lead to the appearance of a superb pair of Montagu's Harriers in front when put up by a passing tractor, the male of which then floated gracefully off across the steppe. Those in the middle of the strung-out party on the way back marvelled at a fine European Tarantula, thanks to Phil's excellent spotting, while those back-markers added Whinchat to their lists. Another fine end to a great day.
Saturday 28 May
A few pre-breakfast stalwarts saw some fine species, including the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker pair, with the bonus that a Wryneck flew in and entered the hole with the chicks, then staying there for several minutes! A Middle Spotted Woodpecker was also a good sighting and Marsh Tit was added to the list.
It was already very warm as we left. We headed out west again, Istvan thankfully slowing at one point so that a passing Great Bittern en route did not become a casualty of our bus! This time we turned off onto tracks by the Great Fishponds, with a Kingfisher speeding past in the opposite direction carrying a fish, seen by most, and a perched singing Savi's Warbler buzzed in full view in the reeds on the opposite side. We finally stepped out beside a quite spacious open-topped tower hide, from where we got excellent views across the nearest pool, which was full of birds. Apart from good numbers of ducks, Pygmy Cormorants and Great Egrets, new birds included 3 superb Red-necked and two pairs of Little Grebes, a pair of Eurasian Wigeon and two male Common Teal! Whiskered Terns and Grey and Purple Herons were passing continuously as they headed to and from their respective colonies, and a number of Bearded Tits 'pinged' from patch to patch in the reeds in front.
We finally pulled ourselves away and started walking on along the track, only to have two calling Penduline Tits fly up from the reedbeds and across in front, albeit very rapidly. We continued past a few bushes where a singing Lesser Whitethroat refused to show and a Spotted Flycatcher kept to the shade under a merciless sun. We mostly took a drinks break in the bus, though several of the group watched a couple of singing Bluethroats in the reeds behind a superb Sedge Warbler in full flow.
Another short walk lead us to a large covered hide, with a view across the open water towards an island covered in ground-nesting Great Cormorant nests (though we noted how almost none of them showed the white heads and thighs so typical of the sinensis subspecies; perhaps they had already lost these display plumes?), plus a pair of Caspian Gulls with two fluffy chicks, a couple of fine Mediterranean Gulls among the numerous Black-headed and a male Pintail resting beside a couple of Greylags. 'Above' them, though in the distance was the bulk of a White-tailed Eagle perched on a well cantilever pole. A couple of stunning summer-plumaged Squacco Herons, one with fabulous long flowing head plumes, fed along the edge of the immense reedbeds where a large Whiskered Tern colony had formed, while Simon yet again came up trumps, this time with a flying Great Bittern which almost passed the entire length of the lake behind it over the reeds before finally dropping in. A feeding Spoonbill finally gave us good views of one not in flight!
We paused again to rehydrate on returning to the bus, some of the group again watching the Bluethroats while others marvelled at the aerial skills of a number of Downy Emeralds and a huge Emperor Dragonfly which were hawking over the open water nearby, hundreds of Norfolk Hawkers being present simply everywhere!
We left noting a number of perched Black-crowned Night Herons and another Squacco en route. Little was noted on the drive to lunch in Arokto, and despite a rather distant flying Black Woodpecker as we arrived, a short walk to try and relocate it was blisteringly hot and completely unproductive, the great drifts of willow down being a tremendous sight though. The fish restaurant meal was good again.
It was into the steppe again for the afternoon, this time in a'new' huge open area circled by shelter belts. Our hoped-for quarry yet again eluded us, but did see a number of Common Buzzards, four Hobbys and a female Montagu's Harrier, though a close pair of Whinchats probably stole the show under a brutal sun, and a lucky few noted the tiny pink flowers of Gypsophila studding the turf.
Time was running away, so we followed suit, to our final destination for the day. Driving back towards Nagyiván we took a series of rough tracks out into the middle of nowhere. Stopping somewhere uncertain (!) we stepped out to find an area of short open sedgebed with a minimal water covering. Walking along one side Sándor quickly heard an Aquatic Warbler singing, and we walked out in single file to get close enough to watch it singing, fortunately on a taller than average stem s that we could see it through the flowering grass heads. The streaky breast-sides and pale crown stripe were beautifully clear, and the bird chattered away for some time before going up in a display flight. Another then started singing behind us, so we also watched it for a while, both being seen in display flight in the end before suddenly disappearing into the shin-high vegetation. A briefly singing Grasshopper Warbler was our last new species, but failed to appear, and the mosquitos again got us back into the bus in good time!
Sunday 29th May
The early risers again came up trumps just a short distance from the hotel, since although the Lesser Spots had fledged and were not present, a Green Woodpecker was briefly seen by Neil and a superb Black Woodpecker put on a noisy show. Two Hawfinches again put in a well appreciated appearance.
We packed the vehicles a little later than normal and headed off to the NW. The traffic was heavier than normal and given lots of roadworks we seemed to take ages to reach our first destination. This was the last try for Long-legged Buzzard which had eluded us 4 times so far. Mind you, with just 2 pairs and a few individuals in the country, perhaps not so surprising! After noting a circling Lesser Spotted Eagle en route, we stopped not far from Bagota in a typical grassy area with ample views all round and lines of poplars and False Acacias forming the horizon. A now familiar sight! A series of Common Buzzards were found and observed and Simon picked out a very distant flock of Cranes, but just as he did so, so Sándor called out that he had located a Long-legged Buzzard! We watched this lovely bird circle up over some poplars and were close enough, despite the heat haze, to appreciate the whitish-based orangy tail, orangey body, dark carpal patches and pale primary bases both above and below. Its mate then joined it and we watched as both were mobbed by the local Eurasian Kestrels, before they disappeared again. A Little Owl perched on a telegraph pole distracted us periodically, disappearing into a barn roof for a while before reappearing in full view again. The first 'proper' one of the trip.
We seemed to be going in circles, droving for some time round towards the town of Balmazújváros, and during 15 minutes had a last look at a few of the marshland birds on offer. OK, so the Crested Larks at point blank range were from the surrounding steppe, but 3 very close White-winged Terns were simply stunning, while at least 60 more flickered over the marshes well beyond. A few Redshank appeared from time to time from among the vegetation and a distant Black-tailed Godwit was our last. It was time to go.
Lunch was en route towards Budapest, though with rather slow service, some party members began to get a little anxious... Istvan 'Schumaker' however, with Sándor checking the road ahead for 'obstacles' made an excellent team and we made it to the airport in good time, though not before in typical style, Simon managed to see a lone Collared Pratincole hawking over a flooded field off to one side! After farewells to Istvan and Sándor and a good number of our group who were staying on for varying lengths of time in the capital, the rest of us worked our way slowly through check-in alongside the British ladies fencing squad and a group of rugby players. Unfortunately Phil was given a standby ticket without being notified and it was only by chance he noticed some time later! Fortunately a little careful wording at the Malev information desk seemed to work and within seconds had a seat number, though his luggage didn't make it through...
After a good flight we said our final goodbyes at Heathrow, me getting the Malev agent to take Sean's suitcase down to catch the Dublin flight, since it was supposed to have gone through automatically, and Phil having to leave 'empty handed' though we a claims form... I hope those who stayed in Budapest had better luck on thir respective returns home!
This is the combined list for the whole group. Given the complexity, I've had to reduce sites to codes, with the dates given in the main report, except for sites where birds were seen on more than one day: h = heard; hh = several - lots heard; en route (e.r.); Sárospatak (Sá); Mikóháza (M); Telkibánya (Te); Rudabányácska (R); Erdöbénye (E); Szegi (Sz); Tokaj (To); Tokaj fishponds (ToF); Tokaj quarry (ToQ); Tiszacsege (Ti); Arokto (A); Balmazújváros (Bs); Debrecen (D); Ohat fishponds (OF1); Hortobágy (H); Hortobágy fishponds (HF); Hortobágy Great Fishponds (HGF); Ohat fishponds (OF2); Nagyiván (N); Bagota (Ba). Common names per Wells' "World Bird Checklist". * denotes a new species for the tour.
1. Little Grebe: Just 4 HGF on 28th.
2. Red-necked Grebe: 3 in full breeding plumage HGF on 28th.
3. Great Crested Grebe: Seen on 4 days: 2 e.r. on 23rd, 3 OF1 and 5 HF on 26th & 3+ OF2 on 27th and 20+ HGF on 28th.
4. Black-necked [Eared] Grebe: 3 OF1 on 26th and 5 HGF on 28th.
5. Great Cormorant: Noted on 6 days, mostly in Hortobágy area; max. 50+ on 26th and 100+ HGF on 28th.
6. Pygmy Cormorant: Seen on 3 days in HF areas: 50+ various sites in 26th, c.20 OF2 on 27th and 100+ HGF+ on 28th.
7. Grey Heron: Noted daily; max. 50 - 100+ in Hortobágy area on 26th - 28th.
8. Purple Heron: Seen on 5 days: 2 e.r. on 22nd, 15+ TF and area on 24th and in Hortobágy fishponds areas on 26th - 28th, max. 50+ on 28th.
9. Great White Egret: Impressively common! Seen on 5 days, mainly in Hortobágy area, inc. 100+ daily from 26th - 28th.
10. *Little Egret: Recorded on 4 days: 1 TF on 24th, 2 e.r. on 25th, 6+ OF1+ on 26th and a few HGF on 28th.
11. Squacco Heron: Small numbers in Hortobágy: c.10 on 26th, 1 OF2 on 27th, and c. 10 HGF and 3 N 28th.
12. Black-crowned Night Heron: Noted daily from 24th - 28th, max. 100+ 24th - 28th.
13. Little Bittern: Just one seen, a male in flight OF1 on 26th, and singles heard N on 27th and HGF on 28th.
14. [Great] Bittern: 2 + 1 seen in flight from the bus by Simon, plus one flying near N on 27th and singles e.r. and at HGF on 28th.
15. Black Stork: Seen on 4 days: 1 e.r. on 22nd, 4 at various sites on 23rd, 20+ at various sites on 24th and 1 e.r. on 25th.
16. White Stork: Quite common and widespread and seen daily; more in Hortobágy.
17. Eurasian Spoonbill: Only seen in the Hortobágy area, especially near fishponds, but common there.
18. Mute Swan: Just 4 HF on 26th and 7 HGF on 28th.
19. Greylag Goose: After 2 e.r. on 25th, daily in good number in the Hortobágy area 26th - 28th.
20. *Common Shelduck: One HF on 26th was a surprise.
21. Eurasian Wigeon: A pair HGF on 28th.
22. Gadwall: 8 HF on 26th and lots HGF on 28th.
23. Mallard: Seen daily in generally small number except in fishponds on 27th and 28th.
24. Northern Pintail: A pair HGF on 28th.
25. *Common Teal: 2 males HGF on 28th.
26. Garganey: One male Sz on 24th, 2 males OF1 on 26th, 3 OF2 and 2 N on 27th and c.5 HGF on 28th.
27. [Northern] Shoveler: A male OF2 on 27th and plenty HGF on 28th.
28. *Red-crested Pochard: A male HGF on 28th.
29. Common Pochard: c. 15 TF on 24th and daily in good numbers in fishponds in Hortobágy from 26th - 28th.
30. Ferruginous Duck: Very good numbers: c. 10 TF on 24th and daily in good numbers in fishponds in Hortobágy from 26th - 28th.
31. Tufted Duck: 5 OF1 on 26th and 1 male HGF on 28th.
32. [European] Honey Buzzard: 3 various sites on 23rd, 15+ in the Zemplen Hills on 24 th and 2 in different sites on 27 th.
33. White-tailed Eagle: 1 very distant bird Bs on 25 th, 1 imm. HF on 26th and 1 imm HGF on 28th.
34. Short-toed Eagle: One wonderfully close at E on 23rd.
35. Montagu's Harrier: A pair N on 27th, and a female e.r. on 28th.
36. [Eurasian] Marsh Harrier: Common and widespread, but 30+ daily in Hortobágy fishponds areas from 26th - 29th.
37. Eurasian Sparrowhawk: A pair at R on 23rd.
38. Common Buzzard: Widespread and seen daily in variable number, max. 30+ on 22nd; one or two showed characters of ssp. vulpinus.
39. Long-legged Buzzard: A pair in the Ba area on 29th.
40. Lesser Spotted Eagle: 5 in the Zemplen Hills on 22nd, singles Sz on 24th, N on on 27th and near Ba on on 28th.
41. [Eastern] Imperial Eagle: A superb adult and later distant pair M on 22nd.
42. Saker: A superb female on 26th.
43. Common Kestrel: Not uncommon, but local: 5 e.r. on 21st, then daily in Hortobágy from 25th, max. 8-10 on 28th.
44. Red-footed Falcon: 4+ Bs on 25th, 50 - 60 N on 27th and a male N on 28th.
45. Eurasian Hobby: Singles T and TF on 24 th, 3 various sites on 25th, 1 HF on 26th, 1 D on 27th, 4 on 28th and 1 near Ba on 29th.
46. Common Quail: 1h E on 23 rd, 1h Ba area on 24th, 4 seen and several others h N area on 27th, 2h N area on 28th.
47. Common Pheasant: Common and widespread, seen daily except on 26th.
48. Common Crane: Non-breeding birds not uncommon in the Hortobágy: 31 on 25th, 12 OF1 on 26th, c. 14 OF2 on 27th, a total of 11 HGF on 28th and c. 30 very distantly Ba area on 29th.
49. Corncrake: 2-3 calling extremely close E on 24th.
50. Moorhen: 2h OF1 on 25th, 1 briefly N on 26th and 1 HGF on 28th.
51. Common Coot: Noted in small number on 5 days: 2+ pr plus chicks e.r. on 23rd, then daily Hortobágy 25th - 28th.
52. Great Bustard: 4 males N on 27th.
53. Black-winged Stilt: Just 8 Bs on 25th.
54. Pied Avocet: 3 Bs on 25th, 1 e.r. on 26th and 2 OF2 on 27th.
55. European Stone-curlew: A pair N on 27th.
56. *Collared Pratincole: One seen briefly e.r. from the bus by Simon on 29th.
57. [Northern] Lapwing: Small numbers daily and widely.
58. Grey Plover: 3 OF2 on 27th.
59. Little Ringed Plover: 1 OF2 on 27th and 1 e.r. on 29th.
60. Black-tailed Godwit: Small numbers in Hortobágy: 1 Bs on 25th, 2 HF on 26th, c.20 OF2 on 27th and 4 HGF on 28th.
61. Eurasian Curlew: Surprising numbers of non-breeders in Hortobágy: 4 e.r. on 25th, 90 HF on 26th, c.30 OF2 on 27th and 1 N on 28th.
62. Common Redshank: 3+ at different parts of Bs on 23rd and 29th.
63. Common Greenshank: Just 1 briefly seen by Neil Bs on 23rd.
64. Common Snipe: 1 drumming Sz and 1 TF on 24th.
65. Sanderling: One distantly OF2 on 24th.
66. Little Stint: 13 in total OF2 on 24th.
67. Dunlin: 15 - 20 in total OF2 on 24th.
68. Curlew Sandpiper: 5 rather distantly OF2 on 24th.
69. Yellow-legged Gull: Apparently present in number at the Hortobágy fishponds areas, but not well seen / appreciated since most were immatures!
70. Caspian Gull: c. 15 OF2 on 27th and lots, including breeding birds HGF on 28th. Recent research shows this to be quite distanct from Yellow-legged Gull, though usually still considered the same in most field guides.
71. Mediterranean Gull: 2 adults HGF on 28th.
72. Black-headed Gull: Seen commonly around fishponds, plus 1 e.r. on 22nd.
73. Little Gull: 61+ HF on 26th and 87 OF2 on 27th.
74. Whiskered Tern: After 14 at TF on 24th, small numbers Hortobágy fishponds excapt for large colony HGF on 28th.
75. *White-winged (Black) Tern: After 2 very distantly e.r., 7 stunning birds Bs on 25th, and 3 more very close and 60 distantly over another marsh again at Bs on 29th.
76. Black Tern: The least common marsh tern: 2 Bs on on 25th, 6 OF1 and 25+ N on 27th and 15+ n on 28th.
77. Common Tern: 1 OF1 and 2 HF on 26th and 2+ HGF on 28th.
78. Rock Dove/Feral Pigeon: Noted daily, all were Feral Pigeons of some type.
79. Stock Dove: Two h in the Zemplen Hills on 23rd.
80. [Common] Wood Pigeon: Common, widespread and seen daily.
81. European Turtle Dove: Common, widespread and seen daily in small moderate number.
82. Eurasian Collared Dove: Noted commonly, widely and daily.
83. Common [Eurasian] Cuckoo: Common adn wisdespread: seen adn or heard daily in moserate number.
84. Eagle Owl: One ad roosting TQ on 24th.
85. Ural Owl: A chick and an adult at two sites in the Zemplen Hills on 23rd.
86. Little Owl: One briefly e.r. on 22nd and 1 Ba on 29th.
87. Long-eared Owl: An adult adn 4 juveniles Bs on 25th.
88. Common Swift: Seen each full day over towns, especially D.
89. Common Kingfisher: 1 TF on 24th and 1 HGF on 28th.
90. European Bee-eater: H Sz and 2 M on 23rd, 100+ TQ on 24th, 2 e.r. on 25th, 2 Hortobágy West Gate on 27th and 5+ e.r. on 28th.
91. European Roller: 9+ various sites on 27th.
92. [Eurasian] Hoopoe: H E on 24th, 4 various sites on 25th, 1 seen adn 1+h N on 27th and 2 N on 28th.
93. [Eurasian] Wryneck: Singles Sz, E and e.r. on 24th, h D on 27th and seen there on 28th.
94. Lesser Spotted Woodpecker: Pair + chick D on 27th and 28th.
95. Middle Spotted Woodpecker: Two Zemplen hills on 23rd and 1 D on 28th.
96. White-backed Woodpecker: One female Zemplen hills on 23rd.
97. Syrian Woodpecker: 1 TQ on 24th and 1 Sá on 25th.
98. Great Spotted Woodpecker: 2+ Sz and 3+ various sites on 23rd, 1 Sá on 25th, 2+ D on 27th and 1 D and 1 HGF on 28th.
99. Black Woodpecker: 1 ad. Sá and a male and a pair of chicks E on 23rd, 1 A on 25th and 28th, and one D on 27th and 29th.
100. Green Woodpecker: Heard D on 27th and one seen at least by Neil there on 29th.
101. Grey-headed Woodpecker: A female brilliantly whistled in by Zoltan at E on 23rd.
102. Crested Lark: 3+ e.r. on 22nd, then 1s and 2s daily at various site sin the Hortobágy from 25th - 28th.
103. [Eurasian] Sky Lark: Common and widespread ; noted on all full days.
104. European Sand Martin: Quite common and noted on 5 days, with an especially large roadside colony noted e.r. late on 28th.
105. Barn Swallow: Very common and noted daily in generally large number.
106. Common House Martin: Also noted daily, with good numbers in larger towns.
107. Yellow Wagtail: Notably common and widespread; all birds were of the Blue-headed C European race ssp. flava.
108. White Wagtail: Noted daily and widely in small number.
109. Tawny Pipit: 1 seen very briefly from the bus at N on 27th.
110. Red-backed Shrike: Excellent numbers, many apparently still on migration. Max.80+ e.r. on 22nd and 50+ on 24th and 25th.
111. Lesser Grey Shrike: Many fewer than R-b. Shrike, but 2 e.r. and a pair Bs on 24th, 1 Hortobágy Farm and 4 N on 26th, 4+ various sites on 27th and 2+ various sites on 28th.
112. White-throated Dipper: The back end of one disappearing downstream on 23rd and 1 seen seen from the bus by Malcolm e.r. on 25th.
113. [Winter] Wren: Just 1 h Te on 23rd.
114. Common [Eurasian] Blackbird: Widespread in small numbers, and noted daily.
115. Song Thrush: As Blackbird but a little scarcer.
116. Mistle Thrush: Just 1 in the forest at Te on 23rd.
117. European Robin: Plenty singing Zemplen Hills on 23rd, h Te on 24th and h D on 27th.
118. Common Nightingale: Ones and twos heard each full day, singles seen Sá on 25th, and at D and Hortobágy on 26th.
119. Bluethroat: 5+ seen adn 1+ more h OF1 and 1 seen and 1h HF on 26th, 1-2 N on 27th and 2 males HGF on 28th.
120. Black Redstart: Common, widespread and seen daily, with many in Zemplen Hills, but one or two daily in Hortobágy too.
121. Common Redstart: Just 1 seen by Tom by the D hotel on 27th.
122. Whinchat: Just 1 male N on 27th and a pair in the Hortobágy on 28th.
123. Common Stonechat: Common, widespread and seen daily at various sites, though locally absent.
124. Northern Wheatear: Noted on 4 days: 1 e.r. on 22nd, 3 e.r. on 25th, c.10 in various sites on 27th and 10+ N area on 28th.
125. Bearded Tit [Reedling]: Common in the hortobágy fishponds area from 26th - 28th.
126. Grasshopper Warbler: Just one h singing briefly N on 28th.
127. [Eurasian] River Warbler: One h singing e.r. on 23rd and 6+ heard and 1 seen To on 24th.
128. Savi's Warbler: Two h singing OF1 and 1h HF on 26th, 4 OF2 on 27th and 2+ seen and lots heard HGF on 28th.
129. Aquatic Warbler: 2-3 N on 28th.
130. Sedge Warbler: Common in Hortobágy fishponds and daily at various sites from 26th - 28th.
131. [European] Marsh Warbler: 4+ seen To and 1 TF on 24th, 1h OF1 on 26th and also heard OF2 on 27th.
132. [Eurasian] Reed Warbler: Surprisingly local, but common around Hortobágy fishponds where common 26th - 28th.
133. Great Reed Warbler: Widespread in well-reeded areas near rivers and fishponds and seen daily in small number from 24th - 28th.
134. Icterine Warbler: 2h singing To and one singing Sá graveyard on 24th.
135. Common Chiffchaff: Small numbers (heard only) noted at various sites on 23rd and D on 27th and 28th.
136. Wood Warbler: 4-5 h singing at various sites 23rd.
137. Blackcap: Noted singing in small numbers on all full days, and singles seen Sá, A, D and Hortobágy.
138. Common Whitethroat: 2 singing males Sz on 24th.
139. Lesser Whitethroat: Heard M on 23rd and 1 HGF on 28th.
140. Barred Warbler: 3 M on 23rd and plenty various sites on 24th.
141. *Goldcrest: Just 1 singing R on 23rd.
142. Spotted Flyctcher: Quite common and widespread in woodland areas. Common in Zemplen Hills, 1 D from 26th and 2 HGF on 28th.
143. Collared Flycatcher: 6+ in various sites in the Zemplen Hills on 23rd.
144. Long-tailed Tit: Just 3 seen and various others heard in the Zemplen Hills on 23rd.
145. [Eurasian] Penduline Tit: Just 2 in flight HFP on 28th.
146. Marsh Tit: Singles seen D on 27th and 28th.
147. Coal Tit: Just 1 singing R on 23rd.
148. Great Tit: Notably scarce: only noted on 23rd and in D from 26th - 29th.
149. Blue Tit: Also notably scarce: only noted on 23rd and in D on 26th and 28th.
150. Eurasian Nuthatch: Also scarce: only noted on 23rd and in D from 26th - 29th.
151. Eurasian Treecreeper: Two+ Te on 23rd.
152. Short-toed Treecreeper: 1 D on 28th.
153. Eurasian Jay: 1 M and others h on 23rd.
154. Black-billed Magpie: Common and widespread and seen daily.
155. Eurasian [Western] Jackdaw: Quite common and seen daily in the Hortobágy area, absent elsewhere.
156. Rook: Abundant in Hortobágy lowlands.
157. Hooded Crow: Common and widespread, and noted daily.
158. Common Raven: 1 e.r. near E on 23rd.
159. [Eurasian] Golden Oriole: Frequent and widespread in deciduous woodland, and seen and or heard daily at various sites.
160. Rose-coloured Starling: 7 from the bus Sátoraljaújhely and 2 near M on 23rd, 6 E on 24th and one possible (Malcolm) past hotel in D on 25th.
161. Common [European] Starling: Common, widespread and seen daily.
162. Corn Bunting: Noted daily, quite commonly and widely, especially in Hortobágy lowlands.
163. Yellowhammer: Several on 23rd, 1 seen and another heard near Ba on 25th and 2 e.r. on 28th.
164. [Eurasian] Reed Bunting: Widespread in lowland reedbeds, seen daily from 24th - 28th.
165. Common Chaffinch: Quite common: seen each full day except on 27th.
166. European Serin: Common in lowlands and seen daily from 23rd.
167. European Greenfinch: Widespread in small numbers and recorded daily.
168. European Goldfinch: Noted widely and daily in small moderate number.
169. [Common] Linnet: Seen on 5 days in small number, max. 6 N and 10+ HGF on 28th.
170. Hawfinch: Quite common but almost exclusively seen early mornings! 1-4 daily at Sá and D.
171. House Sparrow: Noted commonly and widely every day.
172. Eurasian Tree Sparrow: Also common and widespread and seen daily except on 22nd.
Mole: One live one D (Tom) on 27th and one dead in a Buzzards talons N on 28th.
Red Fox: One N on 27th and a vixen + cub running across runway at Heathrow on 29th.
Beech Marten: A medium-sized dark mammal with long bushy tail at D (Sean) on 26th was presumably this species.
Red Deer: Singles e.r. on 22nd and in deep woodland at E on 23rd.
Roe Deer: Common and widespread, seen daily except on 26th.
Red Squirrel: 2 in the Te area on 23rd.
European Souslik: Just one rn across road e.r. to airport on 29th (Phil).
Brown Hare: Common and widespread and seen daily except on 23rd and 24th.
AMPHIBIANS & REPTILES
Fire-bellied Toad (Bombina bombina) - plenty TF on 23rd, one seen and plenty h Hortobágy Farm on 26th and 3 N on on 27th.
Yellow-bellied Toad (Bombina variegata) 1 small one at R (Tom) on 23rd and others heard in hills same day.
Dalmatian Frog (Rana dalmatina) 2 in different woodland sites on 23rd.
Edible / Pool / Marsh Frog (Rana esculenta / lessonae / ridibunda) - heard occasionally in wetland habitats, but only ones for certain were some huge Marsh Frogs at HF on 26th.
Green Lizard (Lacerta viridis) A male noted by Tom at TQ on 23rd.
Viviparous Lizard (Lacerta vivipara) One noted by Tom TF on 24th.
Slow-worm (Anguis fragilis) one Te on 23rd.
European pond Terrapin (Emys orbicularis) One at OF1 on 26th.
Grass Snake (Natrix natrix) 3 Sz on 24th, 1 OF1 on on 26th, 1 N on 27th and one dead A on 28th.
BUTTERFLIES & MOTHS
Scarce Swallowtail 3 at various sites in Zemplen Hills on 23rd.
Southern Festoon A female egg-laying To on 24th.
*Clouded Apollo 6+ in various site sin the Zemplen Hills on 23rd.
Large White - 1 on 25th and several e.r. on 27th.
Green-veined White 1+ R on 23rd.
Eastern Bath White Plenty at N and a few HGF on 28th.
Orange-tip several at various sites on 23rd and 1 on 24th.
Wood White 2+ in different places on 23rd.
Large Copper A stunning insect! Singles TQ on 24th, OF2 on 27th and HGF on 28th.
*Short-tailed Blue One at Te on 23rd.
*Holly Blue One E on 23rd.
Silver-studded Blue Common on 25th, 100s N on 27th and a few in various splaces on 28th.
Common Blue - 2 TQ on 24th, sereral on 25th and a few on 27th.
*Red Admiral Singles To on 24th and A on 28th.
Comma 1 E on 23rd.
*Knapweed Fritillary Several in the N area on 27th.
*Heath Fritillary - Several in the N area on 27th.
*Woodland Ringlet - Three+ in the Zemplen Hills on 23rd.
Small Heath Several daily from 25th - 28th.
Chestnut Heath Just one at Te on 23rd.
Speckled Wood A few in the Zemplen Hills on 23rd.
Large Skipper Three singles on 25th - 27th.
*Chequered Skipper - Two R on 23rd.
*Tau Emperor Two flying male and a female, then mated to one of these male on 23rd.
OTHER INSECTS & INVERTEBRATES
Dragonflies: Black-tailed Skimmers were common an quite widespread, a Four-spotted Chaser was seen on 23rd, Migrant Hawkers were at To and TF on 24th, Norfolk Hawker was abundant at a number of lowland wetlands, especially all the fishponds, a superb Emperor Dragonfly was at HGF on 28th, Lesser Emperor Dragonfly a male and a pair- were at the OF1 on 26th, a Downy Emerald was noted on 23rd, but at least 6 were at HGF on 28th, a club-tailed dragonfly sp. was in the Zemplen Hills on 23rd, a White-legged Damselfly was caught at the TF on 24th, and Blue-tailed Damselflies were at a number of wetland sites.
Field Crickets were heard commonly at a number of sites, several Hornets were seen on 24th, single Violet Carpenter Bees were seen on 5 days at various sites, the red-and-black froghopper Cercopis vulnerata was seen on 24th and 25th, cuckoo-spit from froghoppers was noted on 24th, Rose Chafers were seen on 23rd, 24th and 28th, Pollen Beetles were seen on 24th, 7-spot Ladybird was counted on 25th, a Churchyard Beetle was seen at TQ on 23rd, a paper wasp Polistes sp. was seen on 25th, a Snake-fly was at the Hortobágy farm on 26th and mosquitos were, well, rather abundant .!
In addition, a superb Tarantula Lycosa sp. was near N on 27th.
John Muddeman, May 2005