Monday, October 29, 2007


Back to normal... well, sort of. I mean, some decent weather has returned, no wind, no rain, and I am back in the woods trying to find and show visiting birders the birds they need. The target today was White-backed Woodpecker. It often is. It seems to be THE woody most birders need. It took time... pecking here, signs there, a few calls, and Black, Grey-headed, Lesser and Great Spotted Woodpeckers all seen in the meantime. But finally, just before dusk, we got one... quite a slog up a hillside, but we got it (him).

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Wallcreepers and Red-breasted Geese

Yes, winter is setting in, here in Hungary. No snow or ice yet, but there is a chill in the air. A sure sign of winter arriving is that the first Wallcreeper and Red-breasted Goose have been reported. I set off today on another trip and, besides the usual suspects, I hope to see at least one of these special and sought after species. I have changed from summer to winter tyres in anticipation.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Wildlife book due in February

My next book, Central & Eastern Europe: a Wildlife Guide, is set to be published in mid-February 2008. Those nice folks at the publisher Bradt - - are working hard to meet a date of February 15th... watch this space and then buy the book!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Tough trip... weather wise

Well, that was a tough trip, the worst weather-wise here in Hungary this year. We started with strong winds and finished with drizzle, with stronger rain in-between. Yet we muddled through, toughing it out, using my 4x4 to the full and getting most of the key birds... 1000s of Common Cranes, 30 Great Bustards, Pygmy Cormorants, Rough-legged Buzzards, several White-tailed Eagles, Long-eared Owls by day, a superb Common Bittern and at the 11th hour, on the way to dropping off my guests at the airport, an Eastern Imperial Eagle. A couple of days at home, then off again...

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Windy weather

It had to happen... we have hit a spell of bad weather... strong winds, now rain. It has been hard finding the birds. But two Syrian Woodpeckers did oblige, very well, a new species for the folks I am guiding here in Hungary. Despite the bad weather, we will see lots of Cranes though. It will be hard to miss them...

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Over 100,000 Common Cranes

Just back from the Hortobagy... there are an incredible 100,000 plus Common Cranes in the east of Hungary right now. This is a record number. A synchronised count was done last Thursday and the figures are quite accurate. Most are roosting on fish-ponds in the Hortobagy area. Four birder friends (2 from Malta, 1 from England, 1 from N Ireland) and I watched 25,000 plus going to one roost. If all that was not enough, we also saw 14 different raptors on our tour... Saker, Peregrine, Merlin, Kestrel, Hen and Marsh Harriers, Rough-legged, Long-legged and Common Buzzards, Eastern Imperial, Greater Spotted and White-tailed Eagles, Sparrowhawk and Goshawk... and all the 8 woodpecker species that were possible! It is cold now, frost in the morning, but still lots to see on the bird front in Hungary.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

October in the woods

It is not easy in the woods in autumn... most songbirds have left and those that remain are not singing. But the woodpeckers are resident and today we found 6 species: Lesser Spotted, Great Spotted, Middle Spotted, White-backed, Grey-headed and Syrian in a village.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Otter and otter

Just finished a tour in Eastern Hungary... 9 folks from the UK flew home today. Off again tomorrow with another group... busy days indeed. The highlight of the week was judged to be the 10,000 plus Common Cranes we watched going to their night-time roost. Other highlights included 2 Otters, one a very large male, bounding down a track by the fish-ponds. Just after that we saw 30 plus Lesser White-fronted Geese and a White Pelican, the latter a vagrant to Hungary. All in all, a very birdy trip, with glorious weather.

Thursday, October 11, 2007


Just finished our 2nd day in the Hortobagy NP... we set off today with the "targets" of Stone Curlew, Great Bustard, Dotterel and getting photos of Common Cranes on the ground. Glad to say. we got the lot. 5 Stone Curlews, 17 and later 26 bustards, 61 Dotterels and as many cranes feeding in fields as we wanted. Other birds included Red-throated Pipits moving through, the first Rough-legged Buzzard of the autumn... very warm for October and so butterflies about, too.

Monday, October 8, 2007

all woodies seen

So, second day of birding with my UK group and we did indeed get the Syrian Woodpecker. So that is 8 out of 8 possible woodpeckers seen on this trip. We saw a male and then a female Syrian in orchards to the south of the Bukk hills. But later 2 Sakers and 3 Eastern Imperial Eagles stole the show. Tomorrow, on to the plains....

Sunday, October 7, 2007

woodies today

It was a day of woodpeckers today in the forests of the Bukk Hills... 7 of 8 possible species seen. Black, Green, Grey-headed, Great Spotted, Middle Spotted and Lesser Spotted before breakfast! White-backed added later. Tommorrow we should add Syrian Woodpecker.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Autumn colours

Autumn (the Fall as my American friends prefer to say) is now here. There is a chill in the air in the morning and the leaves are now a range of colours... browns, yellows, reds and golds... The days are getting shorter and shorter. Today I set off with a group from the UK, to the east, to the forests of the Bukk Hills and the grasslands and wetlands of the Hortobagy. I will try to find time to up-date this blog during the trip and keep you posted on the birds and other wildlife we find.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Dotterels etc

Just got back from 2 days in the Bukk and Hortobagy areas with 3 nice Welsh folks... was hard work with the woodpeckers but in the end we got Lesser, Middle, Great, Syrian, Green and Black... the open country stuff proved easier.... 2 Sakers, 2 adult Eastern Imperial Eagles, 3 White-tailed Eagles, dozens of Pygmy Cormorants, LOTS of Common Cranes, 8 Great Bustards, 20 Stone Curlews and 50 Dotterels at close range... October really is fine birding month here in Hungary!!!

Monday, October 1, 2007

Sociable Plover

I took a couple of American birders around the Kiskunsag today: several Great Grey Shrikes, Great Bustards in 3 spots, lots of finches, a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, a White-tailed Eagle and lots of shorebirds on the drained fish-ponds. But the bird of the day, at least for me, was Sociable Plover (Sociable Lapwing) that I found hanging around with the 100s of Northern Lapwings. It is always nice to find rare birds...