Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Birds of Hungary

I was reminded today that my book The Birds of Hungary was published in 1996. How time has flown. I remembered this because I recieved a royalty statement in the post... yes, folks are still buying the book. I wrote the book in 1995 and Christopher Helm (A&C Black, London) brought it out a year later. Now I suggest that all you birders coming out here to Hungary this year go and buy it. The usual bird book dealers in the UK sell it (Wildsounds, NHBS, Subbuteo, etc) and it can also be purchased via Amazon and other internet stores. By the way, it is a status handbook, not a site guide. Plugging myself ? Plugging my own book ? Well, someone has to !

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Central & Eastern European Wildlife... the book

My new book ? Well, those nice editors and designers at Bradt say that it will be published this July. There will be 160 pages and 160 colour photos, as well as 15 maps. I have looked at the 2nd proofs and things are looking good. I have tried to cover as many of the key animals of the 15 countries included... Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Kaliningrad, Poland, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovenia, Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro, and Bosnia & Herzegovina. I will be in the UK in August (at the British Birdwatching Fair at Rutland Water) to sign copies!

Monday, April 28, 2008

Photos from Croatia

A selection from my recent trips to Croatia. 1. Cuckoo Pint. 2. Mine-field. 3. Hermann's Tortoise. 4. Glass Lizard.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Highlights from Croatia

I am now back from 2 weeks in Croatia. Highlights included: BIRDS: Pygmy Cormorants (which seem to be increasing there), Rock Partridges, Alpine Choughs (at low elevations), a Griffon Vulture (rare thesedays in Croatia), a superb singing Ortolan Bunting and displaying Eastern Orphean Warblers. REPTILES: Glass Lizards, Dalmatian Algyroides and Hermann's Tortoise. AMPHIBIANS: Agile Frogs and Agile Frogs. BUTTERFLIES: Dalmatian Ringlets (an endemic species) and lots of Southern Festoons. SIGHTS: the old towns of Skradin, Zadar and Trogir. The waterfalls along the River Krka. Views across the Adriatic from the peaks of the Velebit Mountains. DOWNSIDE: The Bura, a strong, cold wind that blasts the Adriatic coast from time to time and which blew on some days. Scops Owls right outside our hotels, keeping us awake at night with their calls!

Monday, April 21, 2008


Spent the last two days in the Krka Nat Park in Dalmatia, Croatia. All sorts of good things found: birds, butterflies, reptiles, amphibians, plants... Highlights were Dalmatian Ringlet (an endemic butterfly), colonies of Spanish Sparrows, Subalpine Warblers everywhere, close Pygmy Cormorants, a Little Crake, several Dalmatian Wall Lizards (another endemic), Lady's Orchids and Ilyrian Iris (an endemic flower). In addition the waterfalls are superb, as the Krka River is full after heavy recent rains. The photo here is of one of them, at Roski Slap (taken today). Scops Owls call every night and are not always popular!

Saturday, April 19, 2008


The Dalmatian coast of Croatia really is stunning. Everytime I come here I am reminded of that. Clear blue sea, dotted with islets and islands and peninsulas topped by quaint old towns. On the bird front we had great views of two Short-toed Eagles, Purple Heron, Tawny Pipit and Black-eared Wheatear yesterday. The day before at Krka (the falls there are in this photo) we found Rock Nuthatch, Blue Rock Thrush, Grey-headed Woodpecker, Cetti's Warbler, and I had a brief view of a male Levant Sparrowhawk. Later, on the coast near Split, we found a few Mediterranean Gulls amongst the many Yellow-legged Gulls and a Golden Eagle near Omis. Butterflies included Clouded Yellow, Brimstone, Orange Tip and Common and Scarce Swallowtails.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Croatia... birds

A few days into my first Croatia tour for this year. We are doing well! The Rock Partridges gave us the run around for a while, we just got flight views, of several pairs, then finally today one walked across the road in front of us and all got good views!!! Other birds seen in the rocky landscapes have included Blue Rock Thrushes, Black-eared Wheatears, Crag Martins, Alpine Swifts, Cirl Buntings and a flock of Alpine Choughs just a few 100 feet about sea level. On the sea we spotted several Black-throated Divers and a raft of Velver Scoters. Freshwater wetlands have produced Pygmy Cormorants, Garganey, Ruff, Wood Sandpipers, Black-winged Stilts, Black Terns and Common Bittern. Tomorrow it is into the Krka Nat Park.

Friday, April 11, 2008

2nd proofs

I have just checked the 2nd proofs of the text of my next book, CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPEAN WILDLIFE (Bradt). I am very pleased with how it is going, it is looking good indeed. The book is packed with superb colour photos of wildlife and wild places from region, most by local photographers, many of them my friends. Thus the book has a real local flavour to it. That is what I wanted and Bradt have done me proud. Looks like the big launch will be at the British Birdwatching Fair in August. I will be there to sign your copy!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Lekking bustards

Another day in the Kiskunsag... this time with a fine chap from sunny England. All sorts of good birds again, and this time a Saker, too. But the highlight just has to be the Great Bustards. I have seen this species MANY times but today's views of 7 huge males lekking (displaying) were excellent. Strutting their stuff, even fighting, in good light... we could even seen their fine feather moustaches...

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Fine day in the Kiskunsag

I took 2 friends from County Kerry, Ireland, around the north of the Kiskunsag yesterday. An hour from their hotel by the Danube in Budapest and we were looking at a flock of 18 Great Bustards. Gill was the first to spot them and Ian took his time to study them at 5-x mag in my scope. A lifer for both. We later watched a lek with some hug males showing off and also saw several in flight. There were also White Storks on nests, tons of Marsh Harriers displaying, masses of Great White Egrets, wildfowl like Ferruginous Duck and Garganey, waders, including parties of colourful Ruff and loads of Corn Bunting and other birds which I learned are now scarce in Ireland. We even had time to fit in a real country Magyar gulyas (goulash). On the non-bird front we saw a Souslik and the mounds created by the blind, subterranean Mole-Rat (see photo).

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Middle Spotted Woodpecker drumming

Just finished a 4 day birding trip around eastern Hungary. All sorts of goodies seen... several Sakers and Eastern Imperial Eagles, a White-tailed Eagle, a late Rough-legged Buzzard, Great Bustards, all kinds of wetland birds, 8 species of woodpecker, a superb Ural Owl... But for me the highlight of the week was when I saw a Middle Spotted Woodpecker drumming on a poplar tree in a village in the Bukk Hills. This is a rare event, that is, Middle Spotted Woodpecker drumming. So rare in fact that some say they do not drum at all... well, I have seen it before, just a handful of times... and I can confirm, again, that this species does drum!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

2 birds of prey

Now that is the kind of success I like... yesterday I collected two birders from the UK from Bp airport and headed east. They had particuarly requested to see Saker and Eastern Imperial Eagle, two birds of prey they had never seen before. Around an hour east from the airport we made our first stop, at a site where the eagle often obliges. And soon, there it was, an adult Eastern Imperial Eagle, soaring, showing it large white shoulder patches, a little distant but 'tickable'. And then a large falcon shot by, a large powerful bird... Saker. I scoped around and spotted a second Saker perched on a pylon. So, success, the two requested raptors sorted. So, as the lady said 'what do we do now ?'. Well, the answer is, we will go and find more, and try to get even better views of these two former targets and see what else we turn up.