Thursday, 5 April 2012

Clayheads on Tour - Hungary 2012 (30 March)

Day 2 - Hotel Villa Völgy - We were meeting Roy at 06-00hrs this morning for our pre-breakfast session. My alarm woke me up at 05-30hrs. The dawn chorus was in full swing, but only consisted of Blackbirds and Song Thrushes. Around the hotel as we waited for Roy, we saw Greenfinches, several Hawfinches and a male Black Redstart.

Felsőtárkány – Our first stop was an area of oak woodland to the north west of Eger. We had Jay and Nuthatch as we got out of the car, and then I spotted our first tick of the tour, a female Middle Spotted Woodpecker. We watched it feeding at quite close range, giving us excellent views. The first of many Hawfinches flew over, with several of them singing. There were Blue Tits (dull birds, similar to British birds – part of the wintering population), and Great Tit present. Alarm calls rang out and a male Goshawk flew out of a tree just behind us. We had a Great Spotted Woodpecker drumming and a Common Treecreeper was singing (known as “Hill” Treecreeper in Hungary). We kept hearing a distant Grey-headed Woodpecker calling, and in our search for this bird, we found five Hawfinches displaying in a tree. A male Black Redstart was singing in a youth camp on the edge of the wood, and on the way back to the car, we had good views of a male Middle Spotted Woodpecker.

Middle Spotted Woodpecker - Original artwork by Phil Jones

Bükk National Park Education Centre - We drove the short distance to the local park. Almost immediately, Roy located a Syrian Woodpecker. It showed well before being chased off by a Great Spotted Woodpecker. In a brief walk around, we heard a drumming Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, several White Wagtails, a Goldcrest, Great Tit, Chaffinch and House Sparrow. As we drove back to the hotel, we saw one of the only pair of nesting White Storks in Eger. Two ticks before breakfast wasn't too bad going.
GSW and Syrian Woodpecker - Artwork by Phil Jones

After breakfast, we headed to Roy’s local village. We drove down a rutted dirt track and stopped by some trees. Soon a female Black Woodpecker flew in from behind us and landed in the trees. We watched as it perched on the side of the tree and started to excavate a hole out. We had a Tree Sparrow, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, a Yellowhammer sang briefly, plus Jay and Buzzard. We drove a little bit further down the track to a LSW site. We had good views of a pair of Green Woodpeckers, Hawfinches flew over, a pair of Marsh Tits and a Raven also present.

Mezőkövesd Small Pools – Fully refreshed following a stop at Tesco, we drove down a track to view to reed fringed pools. Two Marsh Harriers were displaying in the area. On the right hand pool, there were two Great Crested Grebes, several Coots, a female Red-crested Pochard, a Pochard and eight Ferruginous Ducks. The other pool was quiet with just Great Crested Grebes and Coots on it. We took a walk down a path that took us further into the site, flushing two Garganey. There were Hooded Crows in the area and a Kingfisher was heard. Then a male Penduline Tit showed very well in a bush just in front of us, singing away. A Reed Warbler was singing and there was a pair of Mute Swans. On the roadside pool, five Garganey were seen.
Ferruginous Ducks

Poroszló - Driving through the town, we saw two White Storks sat on a nesting platform. Roy pulled up by a disused building. We walked down the side to view two conifers. There were two Long-eared Owls roosting here, one showing well. We stopped for our lunch, eating our sandwiches in a petrol station. It was still extremely windy, and in the distance we could see showers.

The Long-eared Owl

Lake Tisza – Roy told us that the lake was a good spot, but unfortunately, we stood on a bank and in the wind it was impossible to keep the scope still. Most of the birds were distant as well. There were 5+ Cormorants, a pair of s/pl Red-necked Grebes in a flock of 5+ Great Crested Grebes and three Great White Egrets. We drove further down the lane, seeing sixteen Pintails, four Gadwall flew over, eight Shoveler and 10+ Ruff. Ten Yellow-legged Gulls were our first large gulls of the trip. Roy decided from here to change the itinerary. We were originally heading to the Hortobágy to see MOUSTACHED WARBLER, but clearly it was going to be impossible to see in this wind. We headed for an EASTERN IMPERIAL EAGLE nesting site instead.

Lake Tisza

We soon found the EASTERN IMPERIAL EAGLE nest, but there was no sign of any eagles nearby, although Roy had seen activity here at the nest recently. We stood by the car scanning away until I spotted a large bird of prey circling in the distance. As it came closer, Roy confirmed it was the Eastern Imperial Eagle. It circled over the area before drifting off.

 The Eastern Imperial Eagle nest is visible in this picture