In Association with:


Trip Reports Available:

Costa Rica
Ecuador (South)
Ecuador (Galapagos)
Finland / Norway
India (Bharatpur)
India (Goa)
India (Himalayas)
Kenya (1)
Kenya (2)
Lesvos (Greece)
Papua New Guinea
Pyrenees (Spain)
Spain (Extremadura)
South Africa
Sri Lanka
Texas (USA)

HUNGARY 13th -20th May 2000


Saturday 13th May

Everyone met on time at Heathrow airport and after checking in and a short coffee break, it wasn't long before we were on our way to Hungary. After a three-hour smooth flight we were soon landing at Budapest airport. We were the last ones there to collect our baggage, but it didn't take long to get through Customs, where we were then met by our local guide Janos, we then boarded our coach and set off towards Southern Hungary. The weather was unseasonably hot and it would take a little bit of adjusting to. We stopped en-route at a place called Apaj, part of the Kiskunsag National Park. When we got out of the coach we found it was decidedly warm, this was eased slightly by a nice cool breeze. From the side of the parked coach we saw several Blue-headed Wagtails, and then in the distance a Great Bustard, although it soon disappeared behind some bushes amongst the heat haze. We then walked along a rough track, Marsh Harriers were common, and there were plenty more Blue-headed Wagtails and several Whinchats. A little further along and looking over some open grassland we spotted two Collared Pratincoles. These birds flew around for us and also perched on the bare ground. There were also Lapwing, Curlew and a female Red-footed Falcon there. In the reeds beside us and along the edge of a drainage ditch, there was at least one Great Reed Warbler which was first heard and then eventually showed well, just after this I spotted a distant but nevertheless, magnificent White-tailed Eagle. It was soon joined by a second bird and everyone managed to get fairly reasonable views of them. We then walked back towards the coach where a Grasshopper Warbler was seen singing right out in the open. Continuing on we then drove just a kilometre or two down the road where we veered off and drove down a track beside a canal. Once the coach stopped we were soon out and our telescopes trained at a couple of magnificent Great Bustards stood proud in the middle of a grassy field. A male Montagu's Harrier showed well to us before we moved on a little further to another area where we again got out and then watched up to eighteen Great Bustards strolling around and even displaying. On a small bush a Lesser Grey Shrike was spotted while a Roller flew over, and a male Red-footed Falcon was seen to fly around. Janos then found us a tawny Pipit and in between views of displaying and then flying Great Bustards we also saw Corn Buntings and Tree Sparrows. Happy with our views of these excellent birds we made our way back past an illusive Golden Oriole and a very brief Penduline Tit. It was getting late so we headed off towards our hotel. The inevitable stops were made en-route, and we saw lots of Marsh Harriers, several Rollers, sat on telegraph wires, Lesser Grey Shrikes, and a group of White-winged Terns. There were plenty of other more common species spotted from the coach windows before we eventually arrived in the evening just in time to check in and have our meal.


DAY 2 Sunday 14th May
After breakfast we headed towards Szeged. On route we stopped briefly to look at both White Storks on their nests and also several European Bee-eaters on telegraph wires. We then drove to the local fishponds and took a walk along a disused railway that dissected the many pools. Red-backed Shrikes and Tree Sparrows were soon spotted and then our first Penduline Tit which was building a nest. Out on a semi-dry pond were Avocet, Grey and Night Herons, Little Egrets and two Little Ringed Plovers. Common Cuckoos seemed to be everywhere and regularly flew past, while Nightingales were in good song. On the next reed-fringed pool we watched a very confiding Little Bittern as well as five Ferruginous Duck, a Common Teal and a Black Tern. Great Reed-Warblers were singing everywhere while Night, and Purple Herons constantly flew over. A little further along the track most of us eventually saw a Nightingale singing from a Willow tree. The next pool had Great-crested Grebe and a few Ferruginous Ducks, while the adjoining pool was full of waders. There were lots of Dunlin and Ruff plus a good number of Curlew Sandpiper, Little Stints, Spotted Redshanks, Ringed Plovers and Grey Plover. As we slowly walked back, another Penduline Tit showed itself well, and shortly after most of us managed to see a Syrian Woodpecker on a tree trunk. We then returned to the coach having seen more Red-backed Shrikes, Marsh Harriers and a Great Spotted Woodpecker. It was now lunch time so we drove a couple of minutes up the road to a restaurant where we had a huge bowl of fish soup, pasta and an ice cream. The fish we ate was actually freshwater Carp. After our meal we moved on to a small pool that held breeding Avocets, with chicks and several Black-winged Stilts. There was also Garganey and some Whiskered Terns. On again to the next pool where we found a Teal, White Wagtails, Little Ringed Plover and lots of breeding Black-winged Stilts. There was also two Lesser Grey Shrikes behind the pool. From here, we then moved on again. A huge area of shallow wetland proved to be home to hundreds of Whiskered Terns as well as nesting White-winged Black Terns and a few Black. There were too many Night Herons to count and some fed right out in the open. Spoonbills and Great White Egrets flew right over while Garganey and one Shoveler were seen. At another superb area, we walked to a tower hide that overlooked this huge marshland. From the hide we thrilled at the sight of hundreds of terns, waders and herons. There were nesting colonies of Common and Whiskered Terns, as well as lots of Black-necked Grebes. Amongst the ducks we found Ferruginous, Gadwall, Shoveler and Teal, while amongst the waders were lost of Spotted Redshanks, Black-tailed Godwits, and Ruff including many males in full breeding plumage of either White, Black or Chestnut. We eventually had to leave this wonderful spot to return back to our hotel for the evening meal.

Little Bittern




Tower Hide


DAY 3 Monday 15th May


After breakfast we headed north stopping at some pools and rice paddies. Very few waders were present and Wood Sandpipers, Common Sandpipers, Dunlin, Ruff and Avocet were amongst the few that we saw, although two Cranes seen from the coach were a bonus. A Syrian Woodpecker was seen briefly by a few and then we drove on to the Great Bustard Reserve. It was already very hot and any bustards out there were already sat down in the long grass and difficult to find. We did see part of the reintroduction scheme and also two orphaned Great Bustards who came up to us and displayed from within their pen. We had our lunch and then continued on until we reached the Kaba sugar factory, we stopped beside the road to view four Red-footed Falcons hunting over a field. Leaving here we drove on a little further and had telescope views of several Red-footed Falcons as they displayed and perched beside their nests in a small wood. This allowed us excellent views of both male and female, there was also a pair of Golden Orioles with the male showing exceptionally well. Beside the Kaba Sugar Factory we had a look at several small pools. As we approached the first, a Little Gull flew off, after which we found Greenshank, Wood Sandpiper, Little Ringed Plover several Black-tailed Godwits in summer plumage, and both Common and Black Terns. A superb male Bluethroat was then seen singing from the top of some reeds allowing all of us fantastic views. We then continued on and drove to the Hortobagy. We took a track out to a disused aircraft radar base. From here Andrew spotted a Great Bittern beside the road and we all saw it as it then took off and flew away. From the top of the old radar station we had superb views over a huge part of the reserve. Whiskered Terns were everywhere, and so were Great White Egrets, Purple Herons and Marsh Harriers. In the pools and reeds we found Great Reed and Sedge Warblers and several Savi's were heard singing. In the distance Greylag Geese and Black—necked Grebes could be seen, while closer to us Andrew then again found another Great Bittern walking around in the reeds. We all watched this and another bird beside it very well. Just as we were about to leave, two Cranes then flew over and circled above us before flying off. Continuing on we had good views of a pair of Lesser Grey Shrikes sat on a telegraph wire and then a little further along we stopped beside some large electric pylons and here we saw a magnificent Saker Falcon sat surveying it's territory. Nearby on another pylon, on a nesting platform, we saw the head of a fluffy white chick which showed, albeit occasionally. We then drove to the hotel after which half of the group took a short trip outside the town and in the peace and quiet of the early evening we watched a Tawny Pipit and then two very confiding Little Owls which sat on haystacks and a nearby telegraph pole. A male Red-footed Falcon flew low overhead while we listened to the constant song of singing Corn Buntings. We then returned to the hotel to join the others for our evening meal.



DAY 4 Tuesday 16th May

Those of us on a pre-breakfast walk visited a nearby wetland area. From a tower hide we spotted Spoonbill, Greylag Geese, heard a Hoopoe singing and then watched four Cranes fly in. As we left, a Little Owl was spotted on top of the roof of a barn alongside several Northern Wheatears. A quick look at another area produced very little although Andrew did get brief views of one of the resident Long-legged Buzzards. After breakfast we set of for the Hortobagy fishponds. A short stop by some grassland produced a Stone Curlew and another stop beside the road overlooking a pool produced two Glossy Ibis, several Ruff and Purple, Night and Squacco Herons. We then parked up near a pool and walked to a tower hide. The walk along produced Bearded Tit, several Savi's Warblers, and some showy Bluethroats, as well as a few Pygmy Cormorants flying over. Once we had reached the tower hide that overlooked a huge expanse of marsh, we saw Marsh harriers, Whiskered Terns and an immature White-tailed Eagle. We eventually decided to return to the van seeing more Bluethroats and Bearded Tits again. Time for lunch we then drove to a nearby restaurant that overlooking the Hortobagy river, and after a delicious meal we continued on to some nearby pools where we found a Little Gull and a few Caspian Gulls. We then tried another pool where there were plenty of Greylag Geese, Ruff, Dunlin, Little Stint, and Garganey. We also saw two very close Rollers, a Tawny Pipit, two Lesser Grey Shrikes and a couple of Red-footed Falcons. On a nearby open area of Steppe we met up with the warden and then from a mound in the middle of the grassland we could see ten Great Bustards strutting around. Two Montagu's Harriers were found and one gave exceptionally close views as it hunted low in front of us. We also noted a hundred or more Common Cranes and a Black Stork. Along another track we walked past several patches of wetland, here we found lots of Squacco Herons and a Snipe was seen and heard drumming. Bitterns could be heard booming and Sedge Warbler were seen everywhere. After a long wait and a lot of patience we then got superb close views of the bird we had been searching for a singing male Aquatic Warbler. This bird was greatly admired as it sat right on top of a reed in front of us. Content with this we then headed back. We dropped half the group off at the hotel before driving ten minutes down the road to a small private wood, here we were soon enjoying excellent views of a Long-eared Owl sticking it's head up from it's nest. After this we then drove back to the hotel.

Aquatic Warbler

Wednesday 17th May


A short walk from the hotel to the local park before breakfast produced a pair of nesting Syrian Woodpeckers and a Lesser Whitethroat, as well as Serin and Spotted Flycatcher. After breakfast we headed straight over to where the pair of breeding Saker Falcons were sat, today on different pylons. After a while both birds took off and went hunting together. We were able to witness both birds in hot pursuit of a pigeon and incredibly lucky for the pigeon it actually got away! We then drove off and tried an area of reeds at the Hortobagy fishponds. Some of us made the walk to the tower hide and from there we saw all the now familiar wetland birds. On our return back to the coach a Penduline Tit could be heard calling and it's nest was spotted hanging from a river-side tree. We then continued on to a site for breeding Long-legged Buzzard. On the approach road we stopped to look at a Hoopoe and were then distracted by an adult Lesser Spotted Eagle being mobbed by a Buzzard, and also a Saker mobbing a Marsh Harrier. A little further along very brief views were had of two Long-legged Buzzards in the heat haze. We then returned to our hotel, collected our luggage and moved on north. A stop was made at Debrecen Wood where we found Short-toed Treecreeper and our first Chiffchaff of the tour. We spent an hour in the wood and were rewarded with views of a singing Collared Flycatcher, several Middle-spotted Woodpeckers and two huge Black Woodpeckers, as well as Great Spotted and a Wryneck. At our lunch stop we were joined by a noisy and showy Lesser-spotted Woodpecker calling above our heads. After lunch we headed north to Tokaj in the Zemplin Hills. After our arrival at our hotel, we took it easy before the evening meal after which we went out. We stopped in a grassy valley and where immediately greeted by the calls of rasping Corncrakes. Janos then played a tape to one bird as we watched it then flew across a dirt track towards him and after a few minutes it flew back again. We then walked on a bit further to a small wood where it didn't take long before we watching a super little Scops Owl perched in a tree above us. Leaving this area the sound of many Corncrakes calling all around we then tried briefly for Night Jars before heading back to the hotel.

DAY 6 Thursday 18th May

A few of the group that were up early saw Kingfishers on the nearby river and then straight after breakfast we all drove two miles away to a nearby quarry where we watched an adult Eagle Owl and it's three large chicks sat on it's nest. Also here we watched in the small bushes several displaying Barred Warblers. After leaving the quarry we then made our way north over into the Zemplin Hills. A quick roadside stop had us watching three very close Lesser-spotted Eagles that had just taken off. We then continued on further until Andrew spotted a distant eagle. We got out and had brief views and then moved closer until eventually we were able to scope two magnificent Imperial Eagles circling around the wooded hillside in front of us. We enjoyed superb views of these birds as well as a Honey Buzzard drifting over, three Common Buzzards and a Black Stork. On bushes in front of us both red-backed Shrike and Barred Warblers were giving their display flights. We then left and drove to the other side of the Hills where we found another Lesser-spotted Eagle and two more Black Storks before making a stop at a small village where an Icterine Warbler was watched singing from a nearby tree. Everyone having seen this bird, we then proceed as far as we could be vehicle up into deciduous woodland. We then had to walk the track into the wood. After only fifteen minutes we caught our first glimpse of a superb Ural Owl flying through the trees to settle on a branch where we all saw it through our telescopes. Most of us then walked deeper into the wood where it didn't take long to find the owl sat looking at us from its perch. Fantastic views were had of this bird, as it stared straight back at us. Delighted with this we all left and made our way back to the minibus. We then headed off for our lunch. Later we decided to head to a different forest. Here we soon found a Wryneck and then walking further on we took a track into the wood and sat down. With our binoculars and telescopes focused on a nest hole in a tree. After a half hour wait a first visit was made by a female White-backed Woodpecker. Shortly after the male made several visits allowing all of us to see these birds through the telescope. As we returned back we also saw a Tree Creeper and Nuthatch and even added a Robin to our list. Very satisfied at seeing two very difficult species we then got in our vehicles and headed back. A quick stop was made just before we got to our hotel to an area of rough grass and stinging nettles. Here we watched several Marsh Warblers and two River Warblers singing from the tops.

Eagle Owl


Wooded hillside


Ural Owl

DAY 7 Friday 19th May


Several of us got up very early so that we could enjoy some birds in the excellent light before any heat haze appeared. We first visited a scrubby area where Marsh Warblers were already up and singing. We could hear River Warblers, but they were out of sight so we decided to try another spot. Here we heard several warblers and a Quail, we saw Long-tailed Tits and Purple, Night Herons and Great White Egrets flew over. A little further along the road we stopped again and here we had superb views of a River Warbler singing from a close bush while a Bee-eater sat on a tree behind. We then continued back and called in on the quarry where we looked at the adult Eagle Owl and its chicks. Barred Warblers were singing and we had wonderful views of these beautiful little birds. After our breakfast we all headed into the Zemplin Hills where we made our way to a working quarry. We soon found a fine male Rock Thrush sat on top of a pile of rocks and having seen that it was soon replaced by the female. As we waited for the male to return we watched Wheatear and Black Redstart while in the distance two Short-toed Snake Eagles were seen flying around and hovering. As we were leaving only a few of us managed to get views of eight Rose-coloured Starlings as they flew quickly over and down into the valley. We searched all the cherry trees we could find but never saw these rare birds again. It was now lunchtime and as we sat outside the restaurant a Syrian Woodpecker showed briefly, while Marsh Harriers and lots of Great White Egrets were seen to fly past. After lunch we headed back into the wooded hills. We searched several territories of Grey-headed Woodpecker but all the birds were silent and not seen. We then walked into another wood where after a short stroll we sat ourselves down and waited while looking towards a large hole in a tree. After our first sighting of a male Black Woodpecker arriving with food for it's chicks, it then took a whole hour before he returned with food again. Jeff and Anne sat down near some puddles and managed to get good views of several Hawfinches before it was time for all of us to leave. As we boarded the minibus a Goshawk was spotted circling over some distant hills. We then drove on to the site where we had seen Corncrake and the Scops Owl before. Here we enjoyed excellent views of a Wryneck singing from an old dead tree, while in the skies above us an Imperial Eagle was watched well as it was constantly mobbed by a Common Buzzard. From here we then headed back to our hotel. After our evening meal we all headed off for some local wine tasting which was very good too!

River Warbler

DAY 8 Saturday 20th May


After an early breakfast we then boarded the coach and headed back for Budapest where we stopped to look at Hero's Square and a castle before moving on to the airport. After a short flight we arrived back at Heathrow where a super tour concluded.

Thank you to everyone who participated in this tour.
Steve Bird 

For a complete Birdlist, Follow this link for the 96K Adobe Acrobat PDF document.




birdseekers photos