Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Clayheads on Tour - Hungary 2012 (1 April)

Hotel Villa Völgy – We had a late start today as Roy was picking us up at 08-15hrs. I went for a walk up the lane, seeing ♂ ♀ Black Redstart in the hotel, plus Hawfinches, Greenfinches, Goldfinches, Jay, Chiffchaff, 3♂ Blackcap, two Great Spotted Woodpecker, another ♀ Black Redstart, two Syrian Woodpeckers, a Marsh Tit, three Lapwings over and a Green Woodpecker. As we waited for Roy after breakfast, two Fieldfare flew over.

Nice car!

The Hotel and above - the Church - check the sky

Classy buildings in the local town Eger

Síkfőrút Project Wood – Our first stop of the day was a GREY-HEADED WOODPECKER site, our priority bird for the day. There was no sign or sound of any, but we saw a Continental Blue Tit (brighter, and quite bright blue in colour), Marsh Tit, four Yellowhammers, two Chiffchaffs, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, Hawfinches and we had a singing Short-toed Treecreeper, but we couldn’t find it. We also stopped at another wood just down the road, again a GREY-HEADED WOODPECKER site, but this wood was even quieter.

Noszvaj – Our next stop was another wood, this time a LSW site. Here, finally, we had good views of a ♀ Lesser Spotted Woodpecker. We had Hawfinches flying over again. In the distance, a Black Woodpecker was calling, and a distant Raven was also calling.

Digibinned Lesser Spotted Woodpecker

Tard Protected Forest – This was our last attempt at GREY-HEADED WOODPECKER. Roy whistled as soon as we got out of the car, and a Grey-headed Woodpecker responded back. Eventually, after much tape playing, a Grey-headed Woodpecker flew across the road. We did have another view of it as it flew back across. A Black Woodpecker was also calling, and we had excellent views of the ♀ Black Woodpecker as it fed on the ground. To finish off an excellent site visit, a ♂ Middle Spotted Woodpecker also showed well. To add to these, we had a Great Spotted Woodpecker and a Green Woodpecker. We now headed to the Hortobágy.

Heves Plain nr Egerlövő – We called in at the SAKER nest site again, but there was again no sign. A short distance down the road we stopped again to watch ♂♀ Eastern Imperial Eagle displaying over a small wood.

Eastern Imperial Eagle

Hortobágy – We finally arrived in the Hortobágy area. Roy took us to an area of fish ponds, a site for BLUETHROAT but there was clearly no sign of any birds. We made our way through the reeds to a small viewing platform and witnessed some amazing birding. There was a nesting colony of 15+ Great White Egrets with birds in the air over the reeds constantly. A White-tailed Eagle flew high over, and we also had a Wood Sandpiper fly over. There were many Bearded Tits in the area. Two Ferruginous Ducks were on another pool, and then a flock of four Spoonbills flew over, soon followed by another flock of twelve over. Roy spotted the first of two Pygmy Cormorants fly over, although I expected better views, but it was still early in the year for them, and there weren’t that many birds in yet. From the viewing platform we had excellent views of Bearded Tits as they fed just below us. Our main target bird here was MOUSTACHED WARBLER, but I only managed brief views of a bird, and then saw it flying across the reeds again.
Proof that I've birded in the Hortobágy! 

Roy and GAS walking to the platform

Record shot of the GWE colony

We didn’t visit any other sites in the Hortobágy, and started to head back north. We had only driven a short distance when six Black Storks flew over the road. As we watched them, two Common Crane also flew over.
Six Black Storks flew over the car

Lake Tisza – We called in at the same site as we had visited on Friday. There were 50+ Teal and eight Great White Egrets. On the far side of the lake, we counted nine White-tailed Eagles sat on stumps on the lake edge. A Green Sandpiper flew over, and Roy picked out two Caspian Gulls.

Six White-tailed Eagles just about visible on the stumps

Heves Plain nr Egerlövő – We made one final stop at the SAKER nest site, but it was probably still too windy for it. This was our third visit, and unfortunately our only target bird we dipped on. I saw the Eastern Imperial Eagle again, plus a Booted Eagle flew over.

Mezőkövesd Petrol Station – A brief stop at the petrol station saw our final birding in Hungary. There was a Crested Lark and a Black Redstart.

On the motorway back to Budapest, Roy made one final stop at another SAKER nesting site. Alas, it was just not to be.

And so our four day mini break to hungary was sadly over. It was a superb trip, only one target bird missed, but to see parts of Hungary well off the tourist trail made the trip so better. Many thanks to Roy for all his efforts. His website is http://www.hungarianbirdtours.com/ and I can heartily recommend him.