Hungary - April/May 2019

From 26 April –  5 May 2019, I went on a solo birding trip to Hungary and visited the best birding spots in the eastern part of Hungary.
Although the weather wasn’t great – lots of rain almost every day – the birding was great!
And my last full day in Budapest was amazing; this is one of my favourite European cities! The architecture is beautiful!

Check out my trip report hereunder!

Programm

Fri 26 April: Arrival Budapest (10:45). Drive to Bükk NP. Birding on the way. Overnight stay in  Lillafüred (Bükk NP)

Sat 27 April: Early morning birding at Repáshuta and to the valley. Afternoon drive to Aggtelek NP. Visit to Szadvar Castle. Overnight stay in Jósvafő (Aggtelek NP)

Sun 28 April: Early morning birding in Jósvafő. Drive to Zémplen Hills. Birding on the way. Overnight stay in Erdőbénye (Zémplen Hills)

Mon 29 April: Early morning birding around Zémplen Hills. Visit to Regec Castle and Boldogkovaralja Castle. Hotel Turján Vendégház in Erdőbénye (Zémplen Hills)

Tue 30 April: Drive to Polgar Wetlands and to Hortobágy-Halastó. Overnight stay in Hortobágy

Wed 1 May: Early morning birding in Hortobágy NP, Nagyiván and Hortobágy-Halastó. Afternoon birding in Little Hortobágy. Overnight stay in Hortobágy.

Thu 2 May: Early morning birding in Hortobágy-Halastó. Afternoon tour around the Bird Hospital at Guesthouse Sasfészek - Falusi Szálláshely, Hortobágy. Late afternoon birding in Hortobágy-Halastó. Overnight stay in Hortobágy

Fri 3 May: Early morning birding in Hortobágy-Halastó. Drive to Kiskunsag NP. Afternoon visit to Lake Kolon. Overnight stay in Kiskunsag NP

Sat 4 May: Drive to and birding around Apaj. Drive to Budapest. Overnight stay in Budapest

Sun 5 May: Visiting major attractions in Budapest. AT 17:05 plane to Amsterdam

Birding hotspots

Bükk NP
Mountainous and forested, Bükk is Hungary's largest national park and is situated in the northern mountains, between Szilvásvárad and Lillafüred. This was the only place I found Fire Salamanders; and lots of them!

Aggtelek NP
Aggtelek National Park is the best butterfly area in Central Europe. As an example, it has a very large populations of the endangered Woodland Brown and good numbers of the Poplar Admiral among other rarities.
Among lepidopterists, the village Josvafo is famous for its mud-puddling parties of up to 1000 butterflies. Just along the brook in the middle of the village, many of our guests have been laying on their belly, photographing this intriguing phenomenon (48°29'03.1"N 20°33'05.0"E). April, however, is too early!

Zamplèn Hills
These gentle hills are found in north-eastern Hungary with beech and oak forests, wide valleys and foothills with grasslands, vineyards and orchards. Regec Castle is reached through a small forest with lots of Collared Flycatchers! Boldogkovaralja Castle is almost intact and very beautiful. From here you have a great view over the Zémplen Hills and supposedly on eagles flying over (I didn’t see any).

Polgar Wetlands
Just north of Hortobágy NP.
The Polgar Wetlands which consist of a series of large lakes, small ponds, ditches, reed-beds and scrub. Excellent place to walk through with lots of Savi’s Warbler, Pygmee Cormorants, Black-capped Night-herons, Little Bitterns, Great Reed Warblers, Cuckoo’s, Whiskered Terns etc.

Hortobágy NP
Hortobágy National Park Visitor Centre: 47°34'57.5"N 21°09'04.0"E
One of the best birding hotspots in Europe.
Hortobágy is Hungary's largest protected area, and the largest semi-natural grassland in Europe. It provides habitat for various species including 342 species of birds. The Red-footed Falcon, Stone Curlew and Great Bustard are represented by breeding populations.

Hortobágy-Halastó
Hortobágy-Halastó has a visitor centre and provides great walking in a beautiful fish pond area. The fishpond area is internationally protected and it is one of the most well-known and famous wetland bird habitats. You can even take a little train that runs on a 5-km-long railway between the fishponds on the inner dyke making it possible to easily reach the distant parts of the fishponds. This is the best birding area in the area and that’s why I visited it four times!

Nagyiván
This is a little village 25km south-west of Hortobágy. The surrounding area is supposed to be good for Great Bustards, but I didn’t see any. This is the real Puszta and it is beautiful.

Little Hortobágy
The “Little Hortobágy“ (Borsod Mezőség) covers an area of 115 square miles and is located north west of the Tisza River. It is a protected area managed by the Bükk National Park which lies further to the north. The “Little Hortobágy“ is very similar to the larger Hortobágy area to the south east but it has much less strict visitor regulations and access can be more problematic unless the rough tracks crossing it are dry. The main habitats are alkaline grasslands (puszta) and arable fields with some small areas of woodland. The best area for birding is the rough track between the villages of Tiszabábolna and Szentistvan. This is the only place I found a Saker Falcon. It was sitting high up next to a wooden nest box on a pilon.

Kiskunsag NP
The Kiskunsag is a large flat plain to the south of Budapest between the Danube and Tisza Rivers. Seven separate areas of land have been protected as the Kiskunsag National Park. While most of the plain is now under intensive agriculture there remains good areas of deciduous woodland and excellent reedbeds, marshes and wet grassland as well as surviving area of puszta. From a birding point of view one of the most interesting areas is the group of salt lakes between the villages of Szabadszallas and Fulopszallas in the centre of the region.

Lake Kolon (46°47'13.0"N 19°19'35.8"E) to the south of Izsak  is a large, reed-covered lake of great importance for breeding herons, including Squacco Heron, and Eurasian Spoonbill. It also has small numbers of Great Bustard in the surrounding fields and regular White-tailed Eagle. There is an observation tower overlooking the salt lakes. And there is a bird ringing centre. When I visited in April it all looked quite abandoned and quiet. Best birds here were about ten Ferruginous Ducks.

Accommodations

Hotel Szeleta, Lillafüred (Bükk NP)
48°06'31.0"N 20°38'18.2"E

Tengerszem Hotel és Étterem, Jósvafő (Aggtelek NP)
48°29'04.6"N 20°32'25.0"E

Hotel Turján Vendégház, Erdőbénye (Zémplen Hills)
48°16'07.5"N 21°21'16.7"E

Hotel Sasfészek - Falusi szálláshely, Hortobágy (Hortobágy NP)
47°34'52.8"N 21°09'13.4"E (Near Bird Hospital: a must visit!)

Hotel Kígyósi Csárda & Panzió, (Kiskunsag NP)
46°48'22"N 19°09'29"E

Hotel Christina Residence, Budapest
47°29'54.7"N 19°01'39.2"E