Inala’s Hungary Tour - Birds and Wildlife 16-28 May 2021
Itinerary: Prepared by Dr Tonia Cochran, Inala Nature Tours 10 January 2020.
Eastern Europe still preserves some of the best natural areas in Europe, due to less intensive farming practices and relatively less industrial development. Spring in Hungary offers the best birding in this region as migrants are arriving back from wintering grounds and are searching for mates and protecting breeding sites. Apart from the above reasons, Hungary is especially attractive for birders as it offers a good variety of habitats within short distances. Our Hungary trip takes you first to the oxbow lakes, flooded meadows, steppes and alkaline lakes of Kiskunság National Park, then we visit the famous UNESCO World Heritage steppes and fishponds of Hortobágy National Park as well as the fabulous woodlands of the Bükk Hills.
Species we are likely to see on this tour include: Eastern Imperial Eagle, Saker Falcon and Red-footed Falcon, Pygmy Cormorant, Ferruginous Duck, Great Bustard, European Roller, European Bee-eater, Black, Syrian and Middle Spotted Woodpecker, Wryneck, Collared Flycatcher, Hawfinch and many more species are expected plus a good variety of other wildlife such as Roe Deer, Red Fox, European Hare, maybe Red Deer and Eurasian Beaver as well as small mammals such as dormice (3 possible species) bats and the possibility of several species of mice, voles and shrews.
- Visit at peak birding and wildlife viewing time in unspoilt natural areas including the famous UNESCO World Heritage Hortobágy National Park.
- Possibility of seeing a large range of birds and mammals that are seldom seen on European tours (such as European Beaver, large numbers of Great Bustard and Eastern Imperial Eagle.
- Visit a facility where ancient wildlife of the Hungarian Steppes such Przewalski’s Horse and Aurochs have been reintroduced.
- Join research and conservation projects on bats and dormice to view these seldom-seen small mammals at close range.
Dr Tonia Cochran, Inala Nature Tours with local guide
Day 1. Sun 16 May 2021. Budapest to Bugyi. Accom: Bugyi.
Day 2. Mon 17 May 2021. Kiskunság National Park. Accom: Bugyi.
Day 3. Tue 18 May 2021. Kiskunság National Park. Accom: Bugyi.
Day 4. Wed 19 May 2021. Kiskunság National Park. Accom: Bugyi.
Day 5. Thu 20 May 2021. Bugyi to Hortobágy National Park. Accom: Hortobágy
Day 6. Fri 21 May 2021. Hortobágy National Park. Accom: Hortobágy
Day 7. Sat 22 May 2021. Hortobágy National Park. Accom: Hortobágy
Day 8. Sun 23 May 2021. Hortobágy National Park. Accom: Hortobágy
Day 9. Mon 24 May 2021. Hortobágy to Bükk Hills. Accom: Bükk Hills
Day 10. Tue 25 May 2021. Bükk National Park. Bükk Hills.
Day 11. Wed 26 May 2021. Bükk National Park. Bükk Hills.
Day 12. Thu 27 May 2021. Bükk National Park. Bükk Hills.
Day 13. Fri 28 May 2021. Bükk Hills to Budapest and depart.
B- breakfast; L- lunch; D-dinner
Day 1. Sunday 16 May 2021. Budapest to Bugyi.
After arriving at Budapest Airport, we head towards our hotel located on the edge of Kiskunság National Park. Time permitting on the way to our hotel, we might stop to look for the magnificent Great Bustard. The area is also home to Saker and Red-footed Falcon, Montague’s Harrier, while European Roller, European Bee-eater, Eurasian Hoopoe, Golden Oriole and Lesser Grey Shrike are fairly common.
Accommodation: Hotel in Bugyi (ensuite room). Meals included: D
Days 2-4 inclusive. Monday 17, Tuesday 18 & Wednesday 19 May 2021 inclusive. Kiskunság National Park.
Kiskunság National Park still preserves some nice steppe areas. The park hosts one of the biggest populations of Great Bustards in Europe and the alkaline lakes and temporary flooded areas of grassland attract herons, egrets, ducks and waders in large numbers. During our time here we explore the Northern part of Kiskunság National Park which boats a range of habitat and very rich birdlife. The fishponds hold a population of several heron species including Great Bittern, Little Bittern, Purple Heron, Eurasian Spoonbill, Garganey, Red-crested Pochard and Ferruginous Duck. White-tailed Eagle is often seen, and Eurasian Marsh Harrier patrols the shores. The reedbeds support a good population of Bearded and Penduline Tits, Bluethroat, Savi’s, Sedge, Great Reed and Common Reed Warbler. We will also search for the rare Moustached Warbler. Black Stork breeds nearby and is often seen feeding in the wetlands.
The flooded meadows are a great place for waders and ducks. Northern Lapwing, Common Redshank, Black-tailed Godwit and Eurasian Curlew are nesting here and there might still be migrating waders around, including Ruffs in breeding plumage, stints, sandpipers and plovers.
In the nearby agricultural fields, we will look for the Collared Pratincoles that form a small colony here. The area is one of the last strongholds of Grey Partridge in Hungary and we should see several pairs or families. In the gravel pits, Stone Curlew, Mediterranean Gull and Little Ringed Plover are nesting. In the grasslands we can spot some of the magnificent Great Bustards at their traditional displaying grounds. More common birds of the area include Common Cuckoo, Turtle Dove, Eurasian Skylark, European Stonechat, Western Yellow Wagtail, Red-backed Shrike, Tree Sparrow and Corn Bunting. Little Owl, Eastern Imperial Eagle, Montague’s Harrier, Red-footed Falcon and Saker Falcon are also possible here.
Accommodation: Hotel in Bugyi (ensuite room). Meals included: B, L, D.
Day 5. Thursday 20 May 2021. Bugyi to Hortobágy National Park.
After a final morning birding around Bugyi, we will leave our hotel and head towards our next base in Hortobágy National Park. On the way we stop at a fantastic wetland in Tiszaalpár. This oxbow lake is a nesting site of Pygmy Cormorant, Squacco, Purple and Night Heron, Spoonbill and Ferruginous Duck. In good years Whiskered, White-winged and Black Terns are all possible here. Eastern Olivaceous Warbler is a relatively recent breeder, while Black Stork and White-tailed Eagle nest in the gallery forest of River Tisza. Late afternoon we reach our hotel situated on the edge of Hortobágy National Park, where we spend the next 4 nights.
Accommodation: Lodge in Hortobágy (en suite rooms). Meals included: B, L, D.
Days 6-8. Friday 21, Saturday 22 & Sunday 23 May 2021. Hortobágy National Park.
The world-famous Hortobágy is part of the Great Plain or “Puszta”, which is the westernmost piece of Asian Steppe in the heart of Europe. The first national park in Hungary harbours diverse habitats: seasonal salt marshes with salt-tolerant species, aquatic sedge and rush communities, huge grasslands and remnants of steppe oak forests. Hortobágy is a birders’ Mecca with its amazing variety of rare bird species, but butterflies, dragonflies also abound. We explore the biggest and most famous fishpond system, Hortobágy Fishponds. A narrow-gauge train will take us amongst the lakes to reach hides from where we can see thousands of water birds feeding on the lakes. These ponds are home to many birds including Great Crested and Little Grebe, Pygmy Cormorant, Garganey, Ferruginous Duck, Common Pochard, Great and Little Bittern, Squacco and Night Heron, Eurasian Spoonbill, White-tailed Eagle, Eurasian Marsh Harrier, Bluethroat, Savi’s and Moustached Warbler, Penduline and Bearded Tit, as well as many colourful dragonflies including some special species. Small flocks of non-breeding Common Cranes are spending the summer at the ponds and we may see them feeding on the steppes or resting at the lakes.
The dry steppes of Hortobágy provide an ideal habitat for many birds including Great Bustard, Montague’s Harrier, European Roller, European Bee-eater and Lesser Grey Shrike. Red-footed Falcons nest in large colonies and we may find Long-eared Owls nesting in the artificial nest boxes.
One day we will visit the Hortobágy Wild Animal Park that exhibits the ancient wildlife of the Hungarian Steppes. From there we will take a safari vehicle run by the park to see Przewalski’s Horses and Aurochs roaming the steppes. These animals once inhabited the Eurasian steppes, before becoming extinct in the wild. The horses were reintroduced from captive stock, but the wild cattle could only be reconstructed by crossbreeding ancient domesticated cattle types such as Heck cattle and Hungarian Grey cattle.
One afternoon we take a boat ride on Lake Tisza for a change of habitat and to enjoy a wilderness that was created on the floodplains of the river Tisza. The lake is home to large colonies of herons and egrets, Great Cormorants, several pairs of White-tailed Eagle, Greylag Goose, ducks and Whiskered Terns and also has many interesting dragonflies and water plants. European Grass Snake and Dice Snake are also possible and if we are lucky, we might even see Eurasian Beaver.
Accommodation: Lodge in Hortobágy (en suite rooms). Meals included: B, L, D.
Day 9. Monday 24 May 2021.
We leave the Hortobágy area and drive towards the Bükk National Park to spend the following days in that strikingly different and scenic area. On the way we cross river Tisza on a ferry and then drive through grasslands and agricultural areas, which are favourite hunting grounds of many raptors including Eastern Imperial Eagle, Montagu’s Harrier, Red-footed and Saker Falcon.
Our family run B&B is located at the foot of the Bükk Hills in a picturesque village. It provides great food and tasty regional wine such as the famous ‘Bull’s Blood’. Morning walks in the areas often produce up to 6 species of woodpeckers (Syrian, Middle Spotted, Great Spotted, Green, Black Woodpecker and Wryneck). Sometimes even Grey-headed Woodpecker breed nearby.
Accommodation: B&B in Bükk Hills (en suite rooms). Meals included: B, L, D.
Days 10-12 inclusive. Tuesday 25, Wednesday 26 & Thursday 27 May 2021. Bükk National Park
Most of the Bükk Hills area is characterized by vast beech woodlands and open limestone meadows with different karst formations produced by erosion. It is a perfect area for birding, where raptors soar above the valleys and dense deciduous forests provide home for woodland species such as owls, woodpeckers and songbirds. We explore the attractive Hór Valley in the Bükk Hills. An old quarry at the entrance of the valley is home to Rock Bunting and many butterflies. Driving further into the valley under the lush canopy of hornbeam and beech trees along a creek we look for European Robin, Eurasian Wren, Song Thrush, Hawfinch, Common Chiffchaff, Wood Warbler, Marsh Tit, Eurasian Treecreeper, Eurasian Nuthatch, Collared Flycatcher and other more common woodland birds.
Woodpeckers are well represented in these woodlands with Great and Middle Spotted being the most common. Black and White-backed Woodpecker can be elusive in May, but we will search the best places to find them. We also visit a beautiful pasture woodland with century old oak trees, where Hungarian Grey Cattle graze and Bee-eaters hunt above the trees. European Honey Buzzard, Northern Goshawk, and Short-toed Eagle are often seen soaring here. Barred Warblers lurk in dense shrubs and Golden Orioles call from the treetops. This is also a breeding area for Short-toed Treecreeper, Wood Lark and Red-backed Shrike and butterflies also abound. Lesser Spotted Eagle also regularly nests nearby, and we will spend some time at its favourite hunting grounds to find it.
There is a nest-box research project site for dormice nearby and we will visit it to hopefully see all three species found in Hungary (namely Edible, Forest and Hazel Dormouse) with a researcher
One evening we will meet with a bat researcher who is an official ranger of the Bükk National Park. He will talk us through the key features of the bat species we see and explain their ecology, conservation issues, etc. We may also participate in a bat mist-netting program as part of an ongoing research project and identify species using a bat detector. Up to 15 species of bats are possible at this place alone. We can also visit one of the church attics that have been restored with the help of our Hungarian friends and which host huge colonies of roosting bats.
One evening we can also take part in a wine tasting programme for those who are interested. The historical wine region of Eger is famous for its red wine, the so-called Bull’s Blood. We can visit an old wine cellar carved into the volcanic tuff and taste delicious locally produced red and white wines. The site on its own is spectacular, but the meals prepared in a traditional oven in the cellar, accompanied with the wines and the expert guidance by the owner of the vinery will enhance our experience.
Accommodation: B&B in Bükk Hills as for night 9. Meals included: B, L, D
Day 13. Friday 28 May 2021. Bükk to Budapest and depart.
After a final morning of birding, we will leave the Bükk Hills and travel to Budapest, birding en route.
Accommodation: none. Meals included: B.
This tour adjoins the 9 day Eastonia Tour (28th May - 6th June) which you may wish to consider adding on to your adventure.
Tour Price: USD$6,200 per person twin share. Single supplement: USD$ 400
Group size: 6 -12 people + tour leader Tonia Cochran + local guide.
Price includes: 13 nights’ accommodation in en suite guesthouses and hotels and hotels at Bugyi, Hortobágy and Bükk, specialist guide and transport, return transfers from/to Budapest, all meals, entrance fees and activities as mentioned in the itinerary
Price does not include: International and domestic airfares, alcoholic beverages, snacks, internet, gratuities, laundry or other items of a personal nature or activities not mentioned in the itinerary.
Please note: The itinerary: Whilst we aim to follow the itinerary as planned, please note that the itinerary provided should only be used as a guideline. Depending on individual trip circumstances, weather, and local information, the exact itinerary may not be strictly adhered to. The guides reserve the right to make changes to the itinerary as they see fit.
Mobility: This tour is suitable for a range of activity levels and there are options for joining some walks and for more relaxed touring nearer the vehicle if you prefer.