Hungary

20th October 1996 - 27th October 1996 

20th October.

A flight from London to Budapest, then after picking up a hire car, a drive east to the Hortobagy National Park, staying in the village of Hortobagy where I met up with producer Dan Freeman and cameraman Tony Allen who had been here for several days. I was here the record sounds for the Green Umbrella series 'Living Europe', this for their grasslands programme, principally Common Cranes which migrate through in their thousands at this time of year, staying only to feed on fallen grain from the surrounding fields before continuing south. New species for me will be in bold.

During the drive there were 100's of Rooks, lots of Collared Doves, 2 Marsh Harriers, a Rough-legged Buzzard, a Kestrel and a Great White Egret.

21st October.

A first look around the hotel grounds where there were lots of Goldfinches and Great Tits, also a Black Redstart, a Middle Spotted Woodpecker, Nuthatches and Tree Sparrows.

Later, a drive to Debrecen, to the university, where Tony had a set containing a Steppe Tarantula. I saw a couple of them later in the trip, on ploughed fields, where they stood out, I'm sure there were more in the grassland.

In the town the most notable birds were Rooks.

Steppe Tarantula. 

22nd October.

Around the hotel a couple of singing Crested Larks, which were common around the farm buildings, then my first day visiting the pusyta, steppe or grasslands, where during the day I saw a very late White Stork, 3 Rough-legged Buzzards, 2 Hooded Crows, 20+ Corn Buntings, 100's of Rooks, Meadow Pipits, Skylarks, 3 Brown Hares, a Kestrel a Merlin and a Saker. On the grassland there were several shallow lakes where there were Curlew, Wigeon, Mallard, Teal, Lapwing and c30 Greylag Geese.

In the evening the Common Cranes which had been feeding in the harvested maize fields in the surrounding farming area began to fly in, firstly to a pre-roost, then to the roost out on the puszta, a spectacle of 8,000+ birds in various sized flocks flying overhead.

Crane flock pre-roost - Nigel Tucker
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Pre-roost flock and large flock flyover.

Crane roost - Nigel Tucker
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Crane roost calls from 8,000+ birds as they arrive. 

The puszta. 

23rd October.

A windy day on the Angyalhazi Puszta, mainly in grassland areas, but also visiting some woodland and shallow lakes, seeing 2 Black Redstarts, Crested Larks, a Yellow-legged Gull, 12 Buzzards, 2 Black Woodpeckers, 100's of Rooks, Starlings, Meadow Pipits, Skylarks, 4 Marsh Harriers, Corn Buntings, Tree Sparrows, 2 Rough-legged Buzzards, a Snipe,  1500+ ducks, 700+ Lapwing, 2 Brown Hares, a Roe Deer and an Eastern Hedgehog.

In the evening I returned, with the others, to the same area as yesterday to see the 10,000+ Cranes fly to roost, also a time when Corn Buntings came to roost near one of the farms.

Corn Bunting song - Nigel Tucker
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Cranes in flight - Nigel Tucker
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Song with Crane pre-roost flock in background, calls at end.

Groups of adults and juveniles calling as they fly over, larger flock flies over, pre-roost in background.

Eastern Hedgehog.

24th October.

Still windy, so today I started at the fish pond called Pinoe-laeas, seeing 50+ Curlew, 2 Great White Egrets, 300+ Spotted Redshank, a Yellow-legged Gull, a Common Gull, 100+ Mallard, a flock of c60 Tree Sparrows, 100's of Lapwing, a Ruff, a Black-tailed Godwit, 2 Dunlin, a Marsh Harrier, 60+ Grey Plovers, 400+ Black-headed Gulls, 34 Cranes, a Kingfisher, a Wren, Reed Buntings, Hooded Crows, a Buzzard and a Grey Heron.

Then I went to the woodland at Ohati erdo seeing a Lesser Grey Shrike with a Buzzard and 4 Cranes flying over, there were another 2 Lesser Grey Shrikes near the village of Ohat-Pusztakocs.

Next I went to the fish pond called Csecsi-halasto, where there were 3 singing Cirl Buntings, Goldfinches, 100's of Black-headed Gulls, 114 Grey Herons, 12 Great White Egrets, 2 Red-necked Grebes, 23 Curlew, 35+ Yellow-legged Gulls, 100's of Coot, c50 Great Crested Grebes, 2 Pochard, 2 Common Gulls, a Lesser Black-backed Gull, a Great Grey Shrike, a flock of c80 Chaffinches and Greenfinches containing at least one Brambling and a Hawfinch, Tree Sparrows and a Yellowhammer.

Later, I went to Angyalhazi Puszta where 15,000+ Cranes came into roost, also seeing 14 Lesser White-fronted Geese, c60 Greylag Geese, c30 Fieldfare, a Buzzard and a Little Owl.

Common Crane calls - Nigel Tucker
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Singles, groups and flock calls in flight.

Common Crane flocks - Nigel Tucker
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Calls from large flock flying over.

Common Cranes. 

25th October.

A less windy day, I returned to the fish pond called Csecsi-halasto seeing a male and female Red-breasted Merganser, a Red-throated Diver, 6 Red-throated Grebes, c30 Great Crested Grebes, c150 Coot, Bearded Tits, 2 Marsh Harriers, Great White Egrets, Grey Herons, a Goldeneye, Lapwing, a Great Grey Shrike, Curlew and Black-tailed Godwits.

Later I returned to Angyalhazi Puszta for the Crane roost, there were at least 2 large Crane roosts in the area and birds moved between them, we were told that there were around 40,000 birds coming into the roosts, tonight in this area an estimated 20,000 came in.

Also seen were 2 Buzzards, a Marsh Harrier, a Goshawk, a Sparrowhawk, Corn Buntings, Meadow Pipits, Crested Larks, Tree Sparrows and 2 Barn Owls.

Common Cranes. 

26th October.

A warm and sunny day, I started at the fish pond called Kun George-to which was being drained, there were lots of gulls including a Great Black-backed Gull, also a Great White Egret, a Grey Heron and a Spotted Redshank.

Then I returned to Csecsi-halasto fish pond where on approach there was a finch flock of 60+ birds, comprising of Goldfinches, Chaffinches, Greenfinches, Siskins, Bramblings and 8 Hawfinches. Also seen was a Grey-headed Woodpecker, a Buzzard, 2 Sparrowhawks, lots of gulls, Grey Herons, Great White Egrets, 4 Bearded Tits, Reed Buntings, Curlew, Black-tailed Godwits, c35 Cormorants, 10+ Tree Sparrows and a Kingfisher.

Next I went to woodlands at Vajdalaposi erdo seeing lots of finches including 6 Bramblings, also a Middle Spotted Woodpecker and I watched a female Black Woodpecker excavating a hole.

Later, back to Angyalhazi Puszta where 15,000+ Cranes came into roost, also seen were 5 Buzzards, a female Hen Harrier, a Merlin, c40 Corn Buntings, Tree Sparrows and a Fox.

Common Cranes. 

27th October.

Our last full day in the Hortobagy and it was a very foggy morning, later in the afternoon we returned to Angyalhazi Puszta seeing Fieldfares, 2 female Hen Harriers, c8,000 Cranes coming into the roost, 5 Buzzards, Corn Buntings, Reed Buntings, Meadow Pipits, Tree Sparrows, Bearded Tits, 3 Marsh Harriers, 2 Rough-legged Buzzards, a Saker, a Peregrine, a Merlin, c30 Bean Geese, a Spotted Redshank, c400 Lapwing and 1,000+ duck.

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