Monday, March 31, 2008

Eastern Imperial Eagle

I mentioned that my friends and I saw several Eastern Imperial Eagles Aquila heliaca at the weekend in eastern Hungary. We visited some regular territories and from a safe distance could see that nests were occupied. If you ever come to Hungary to go birding this is one of the birds you will no doubt want to see (those of you who have already been here will know what I mean). I should mention that the Bird of Prey Group of the Hungarian Ornithological & Nature Conservation Society (MME) have done some great work in protecting and studying this magnificent eagle. This superb photo is by Janos Bagyura of the MME and shows a couple of well-grown chicks in a nest on the Great Plain.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

24 hours in the hills

Just spent 24 hours in the hills... I always check out a few woodpecker and owl territories in April before my busy season begins. I was joined by 3 birding buddies and we put some long hours in! The rewards were 2 Ural Owls, 1 Eagle Owl, and several of the woodies. Outside the hills we had 5 Eastern Imperial Eagles at 4 different sites and several Sakers... looks like it is going to be a good birding year.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Grey-headed, Grey-faced

I went up into the Buda Hills for an hour of so this afternnon, to show my mate Bence a couple of Grey-headed (aka Grey-faced) Woodpecker territories. Our spring bird guiding season will soon be upon us and we need to check things out before our guests arrive! Still a bit of snow up there, and a cold wind, just 15-20 minutes up from the Danube. But we soon located a Grey-headed and later a calling and drumming Black Woodpecker. A lot of excavating has been going on, too... All in all, not bad for a casual look around!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Easter Sunday birds

I spent an hour or so with one of my sons in the hills above the city. There is an open area of limestone where he practised some archery. As he did so a Yellowhammer began to sing, then a Woodlark, then another, and then a distant third. All with that fluty "deelui, deelui, deelui"... And then, not to be out-done, a Black Woodpecker called from a pinewood across the valley before flying more or less our way. Finally a Great Spotted Woodpecker plonked onto a tree by the car as we left.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Pallid Harrier

Went to the north of the Kiskunsag today with 3 friends from Finland. After a lot of searching we found our main target bird, Great Bustard, 19 of them in total, all big males, one or two beginning to display... a lifer for Antero. Sometimes it happens, birds take time, but we got them. Yet in many ways the bird of the day was a juvenile Pallid Harrier, on the ground, a tricky bird to age and ID, but then it flew, came closer and was easier.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Birds on the River Danube

I got a couple of hours in on the Danube north of Budapest. Lots of movement in some spots, other places quiet. There were many Common Cormorants, some in splendid breeding plumage with snowy white heads. Mallards, of course, as ever, and also a few dozen Tufted Duck, a couple of nice drake Red-crested Pochards and Goldeneye, two Goosander, a drake Smew and some Velvet Scoters. Not a bad collection of wildfowl, but most of these are winter birds here and they won't be around much longer. Most will head north. On the shore Short-toed Treecreepers and Black Redstarts were both singing and a Syrian Woodpecker argued with a Great Spotted Woodpecker...

Monday, March 17, 2008

Not only frogs... all sorts active now

It still cannot quite decide what it wants to do... the weather I mean. But wildlife usually knows, and almost everything is getting ready to court, display, breed. Of course most of the butterflies are still absent, their time comes later, especially in June and July, but the amphibians are stirring, the odd reptile has shown its face and the resident birds are in full swing. Flocks of shorebirds are here moving through and soon the first of those that spend their winters further south will be here... another month and the wetlands and woodlands will be buzzing.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

The sun is out... the frogs are croaking

That is all it needed, spring to really arrive, the temperature to rise a touch and the sun to shine, and here they are! The frogs (and the other amphibians, the toads and newts) are on the move. Here in this photo is a very common one, and a noisy one, too, Edible Frog Rana kl esculenta. Now this is an interesting case... It isn't a true species, it is a hybridogenetic form, hence the "kl" for "klepto" in its scientific name. It is a creature which results from inter-breeding between two true species, Marsh Frog Rana ridibunda and Pool Frog Rana lessonae. And though it is called "Edible" it is not unique in being edible either...

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Photos from South Africa

It's a bit miserable and overcast here in Hungary, so here are two photos from sunny South Africa in February (taken by our lovely friend Gill Marven... she even found the woodpecker's nest-hole) to warm us up... a female Bennett's Woodpecker at Satara, Kruger NP, and a Leopard just outside Kruger.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Wonderful South Moravia...

I have just finished a 5 day birding trip around South Moravia, in the Czech Republic, with 4 nice folks from the UK. We visited the lakes, floodplains and woodlands of the Palava area and saw a good mix of winter and spring birds... 7 woodpecker species including Black, Grey-headed, Middle Spotted, Lesser Spotted and Syrian, lots of Hawfinches, Short-toed Treecreeper, 6 Long-eared Owls, a Eagle Owl, a 3rd year Eastern Imperial Eagle, around 6 White-tailed Eagles, several Red Kites, male and female Smew, Garganey, Red-crested Pochards, 1000s of Bean and White-fronted Geese and 4 Red-breasted Geese on the last morning. South Moravia really is an under-birded area (at least by non-Czechs). "Mad March" Brown Hares were everywhere and Roe Deer abundant, too. Though we did not see Beaver we saw fresh signs of their activity. I have been visiting South Moravia for almost 20 years now and am yet to be disappointed by the habitats and species found there.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Wine and woodies

Just spent 24 hours in the Bukk hills... it was not really a birding trip, rather just to show a sister and brother-in-law around, a family trip that included visits to two wine-cellars, one "rustic", one top-notch. But two short walks still produced a male Black Woodpecker dismantling a log, a fly-by Green Woodpecker and superb views of Great Spotted and Middle Spotted Woodpeckers. Oh, and I nearly forget, an adult Eastern Imperial Eagle perched on a pylon...

Monday, March 3, 2008

My other blogs

I would just like to remind you that I am busy adding entries to my other blogs thesedays: WOODPECKERS OF EUROPE:
Keep checking them... there is a tricky quiz woodpecker photo on the first and lots of new stuff on birds and destinations on the latter...

Sunday, March 2, 2008


A wicked storm hit Hungary yesterday. At about 2pm our windows were rattled by hail-stones and a strong wind blew everything not tied down right round the garden. In towns across the country cars and buildings were damaged. What's going on ? It was March the 1st! The first day of spring some say. I think the frogs and butterflies that emerged last week in the warm weather got a shock, and all those passage waders that are pouring onto the wetlands of the Great Plain probably wished they had stayed in Africa or the Middle East a bit longer...