Hungary, like much of central Europe has cold winters and warm summers as the climate is profoundly effected by the continental landmass. Although it was always among the most developed and affluent of the old soviet block it is still relatively under developed and agricultural practices have not yet been so intense as to ruin the land’s potential for wildlife. The birds which were once familiar all over European farmland still thrive including Turtle Doves and Tree Sparrows, Corn Buntings and Red-backed Shrikes, White Storks and Hoopoes. A supporting cast of Golden Orioles, Bee-eaters and Serins are a particular delight to birders from the UK.
Birds are the main attraction but some areas of old farmland are a mass of wildflowers in spring and there are other animals for the dedicated wildlife watcher including at least twenty species of bat. Other mammals, apart from those widespread in Europe that are still present in Hungary include European Souslik, Wild Boar, Muskrat, Beaver, European Hamster, Pygmy & Water Shrews, plus fifteen mouse species including Harvest, Striped Field & Yellow-necked Mice. There are still wild cat, lynx, brown bear, wolves and jackal but they are much scarcer and very elusive in the main.
For a one-day trip the Kiskunsag area is the best. This is similar to Hortobagy, but smaller, there is puszta, fish-ponds, alcaline lakes, marshes, ect. It is close enough for an outing from Budapest, but you can find an interesting variety of birds including some of the ‘specials’ such as Great Bustard, Red-footed Falcon, Golden Oriol, European Bee-eater and Roller as well as a variety of herons, egrets, wildfowl, passerines, etc.
The most interesting areas, from the birders point of view, include the Puszta and the wooded Bukk Hills. The former is the remnant of the great grassy steppes formerly used to run cattle – notably Hungarian Grey Cattle. These grassy areas are still home to the highest densities of Red-footed Falcons and Eastern Imperial Eagle in Europe and high populations of Great Bustard and Aquatic Warblers. The most well known area being Hortobagy, although it is not the only area of Puszta left, and is also renowned for its Autumn accumulation of Common Cranes by the thousand.
The Bukk Hills and surrounding copses, villages, farmlands are home to Wryneck and all but one of the species of European Woodpecker. The woodlands are alive in spring with Hawfinches and Collared Flycatchers and, if you are lucky you may spot a day-flying Ural Owl. Ponds, lakes, marshes and fishponds abound and are home to the three marsh terns, many wildfowl, and sought after passerines such as Bluethroats and Savi’s Warbler, as well as other goodies such as Pygmy Cormorant, Night Heron and the like.
Also for a one-day trip the Buda hills, Börzsöny hills and their localeoffer some good birding. Woodpeckers [sometimes White-backed], passerines, including Hawfinches, raptors, ect. For the Cranes (in 2009 there were more than 100.000 birds) autumn, and mainly the month of October is the best.
What is more Hungary remains a relatively cheap destination with low cost accommodation and restaurants and a pleasant landscape of neat villages and attractive farms, good wine and bird friendly people with no tradition of hunting of small birds. The woodpeckers alone are sufficient reason to take a trip.
Text Source: Fatbirder
Map Source: Googlemaps™