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WINGS Birding Tours – Itinerary

Hungary: A Photographic Tour

Wednesday 30 May to Saturday 9 June 2018
with Stuart Elsom and a local leader

Price: $3,250

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Colonies of Red-footed Falcons will be keeping our cameras busy. Photo: Stuart Elsom Photo:

Hungary has much to offer the visiting photographer. It lies within the huge Carpathian Basin, surrounded by the Carpathian Mountains and possessed of habitats ranging from wet meadows, alkaline marshes, and steppes to extensive oak, beech, and evergreen woodlands, limestone slopes, and volcanic hills.

We’ll begin in the Kiskunsag, where magnificent Great Bustards still roam across the steppe and much sought-after raptors such as Saker, Long-legged Buzzard, and White-tailed Eagle hold sway in the huge wide-open skies. Mid-tour we move from these photogenic grasslands to the stunning foothills of the Carpathian Mountains and the Bükk National Park along the border with Slovakia. This quiet landscape of low hills, forested slopes, beautiful valleys, and meandering rivers is dotted with smallholdings, villages, and fine castles that combine to create memorable images of peace and tranquility. Here we can find some very special birds, including the massive Eastern Imperial Eagle, Ural and possibly even Eagle Owl, up to nine species of woodpecker, and a host of passerines including Collared Flycatcher and Hawfinch. Low-intensity agricultural methods—even horses working the fields—are still in use here, and we will be ideally positioned to capture memorable images created by flower-filled meadows, marvelous scenery, and fascinating local culture. 

During each day Stuart will offer group or one on one instruction on all aspects of wildlife photography, and on many evenings there will be optional sessions on photographic techniques or image critique workshops. Perhaps we should add that Stuart’s photographic tours do not try to get shots of a long list of species but rather concentrate on obtaining stunning images of the wildlife we encounter. We may spend long periods with just a few subjects and we’ll take advantage of blinds and feeding stations where available.  

Day 1: WINGS participants traveling directly to Budapest should arrive no later than this evening (see Note **, below). Night in Budapest.

Day 2: Our tour begins with the morning arrival in Budapest of the Sunbird group from London. From there we’ll drive about 60 miles to Kondor EcoLodge, in the heart of Kiskunsag National Park and our base for six nights. Within minutes of our arrival we could be watching Roller and Lesser Grey Shrike, and after dinner Scops Owl and Nightjar in display flight could bring our day to a close. Night at Kondor EcoLodge. 

Days 3–7: On our pre-breakfast walks around the garden we’re likely to see breeding birds such as Common and Black Redstarts, Red-backed Shrike, and Spotted Flycatcher, with Golden Oriole and Hoopoe nearby. Non-avian species around our lodge could include Red Squirrel and European Souslik, and highly prized butterflies such as Cardinal, Lesser Fiery and Large Coppers, Queen of Spain and Knapweed Fritillaries, Mazarine Blue, Hungarian Skipper, and Black-veined White are all possible. 

During our stay we’ll make excursions each day to see the typically flat, steppe grassland plains of the puszta, home to an array of highly desired Eastern European species including Saker Falcon, Great Bustard, Pygmy Cormorant, and Collared Pratincole. While these species are shy and not prone to posing for the camera, the same cannot be said for the colonies of Red-footed Falcons and the numerous Rollers and Bee-eaters, which often nest low in the sandy roadside verges and have a habit of sitting up in prominent positions, as do the smart Lesser Grey Shrikes that breed here. Besides the birds, there may be stunning Sand and Green Lizards posing for us, and butterflies could include Green-underside Blue, European Swallowtail, and Pearly Heath. Some of the mammals present here are Roe Deer, Steppe Polecat, Eastern Hedgehog, and the entertaining European Souslik, although our views of these shy creatures are more likely to be through binoculars than a camera lens. In the puszta many flowers bloom quite early but there should still be a good showing at the time of our visit, and we’ll search for these among sand dunes and wet meadows, at the same time keeping an eye open for some of the many amphibians present. Nights at Kondor EcoLodge.

Days 8-10:  On day 8 we’ll travel north to the Bükk, Hungary’s largest national park. Bükk’s noteworthy geological features include various karst formations within its limestone mountains, particularly caves once inhabited by prehistoric people. We’ll see spectacular gorges and huge cliffs with panoramic views of the surrounding countryside. 

This is a perfect place for photographing raptors such as Imperial Eagle or Goshawk soaring above the valleys. Another special bird of the area is the dapper Rock Bunting, which frequents abandoned quarries. With good luck we may also discover an Eagle Owl sitting quietly on a rocky ledge during the day. The dense deciduous woodlands below the cliffs will provide opportunities for owls (including Ural Owl), warblers, and woodpeckers, including Black, White-backed, Grey-headed, Great Spotted, Middle Spotted, and Lesser Spotted. Although these woodland species are never easy to approach, we hope to capture some images of them during our stay. We may also encounter a herd of Mouflon or Red Deer or some foraging Wild Boars. Nights in a village bordering Bükk National Park. 

Day 11: We’ll have a leisurely morning before we head back to the Budapest airport where in late afternoon the tour concludes.

Updated: 30 October 2015

Prices

  • 2018 Tour Price : $3,250
  • Single Occupancy Supplement : $230
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Notes

This tour is organized by our British company, Sunbird. Information on Sunbird and an explanation of Sunbird tour pricing can be found here.

* Tour invoices paid by check carry a 4% discount. Details here.

Maximum group size eight with two leaders.

**Accommodation the night of Day 1 and transfers from and to the airport as needed are included in the tour cost for WINGS participants. Meals are not included until you join the Sunbird group arriving on Day 2.