Snow Bunting flock

Yesterday my friend wrote me about his observation of a bigger flock of Snow Bunting around the wind power station near Nagyigmánd, NW Hungary. This morning I decided to visit the site which is just 10 km away from my home.

I picked up Péter Szeimann, my birding friend, and we drove to the area. We found the site easily based on the verbal guiding by László Musicz. On the huge arable land quite a few wind power towers have emerged which changed the shape of the landscape dramatically. Along the service roads we immediately saw the footprints and feeding remains of seed-eating birds which we thought to be a promising sign. As we reached the one of the farest tower I spotted a flying flock of passerines with white wing flashings. They were there.

They actually kept the area at least during our time of watching but they were flying quite often made counting their numbers hard. Finally Peti counted 56 birds two times and I counted the same when they landed just next to us. This is the largest flock we have had here so far. László Musicz counted 32 yesterday.

Snow Bunting is a rare and irregular visitor to our county so this finding is a really nice one. Wish I had a camera gear to take some nice images on them. My year list slowly climbing up. It is 95 by today.

Tundra Swan Day

Well, 3 hours sleeping before an almost day long birding day doesn’t seem to be enough. Anyway I had a beautiful day with two of my kids. Kea stayed home this time with Andi.

We targeted the Danube river as some nice birds were reported during the whole week. Actually two hotspots have been visited. At Visegrád on a shelter harbor usually many waterbirds gathers. Today any uncommon species was observed at that place but was nice to see pairing Smews. Here I saw the first Little Grebe for this year. As light conditions were pretty bad we left for the 2nd hotspot we chose for today.

At the Bay of Pilismarót we meet two local birders. Ádám Selmeczi Kovács is an old birding buddy. We had some nice rarity hunting together in previous years. I haven’t seen him for a while (he is occasionally hunting for rarities now but rather photographing birds) so was nice to meet him again.

At our arrival some nice sea duck showed up including 5 Velvet Scoters and a male and female Black Scoter. Among the dozens of Mallard, Common Pochard and Eurasian Coot and some Tufted Ducks we saw 5 Greater Scaups as well.

Again I was impressed by the performance of the KOWA Prominar spotting scope. Thanks for Ádám for showing us those nice birds. I was still missing to see a Black-throated Loon and the White-tailed Eagle we moved to Esztergom where a Tundra Swan was reported a few days ago.

In Esztergom we tried to search the Tundra Swan around the bridge crossing Danube river to Slovakia. The swans are changing locations and moving where people are feeding them. This morning some birders ‘invited’ the swans to the Hungarian side of the river. They directed us to the right place where we found the flock of Mute Swans including the cute and elegant Tundra Swan. This is not a mega rarity and I have seen this species for some times in Hungary but always nice to see especially from this distance. They were just an arms away from us.

The Tundra Swan has been already ringed but due to to lack of natural food supply it stayed tame but looked to be careful. Since we met Ádám again and he was trying to photograph this beauty we let him alone to have better chances to take some nice shots.

Additionally we have visited the western tip of the island near Tát village where usually nice number of waterbirds occur but this time we had no luck. Numbers were solid and only a dozen of Common Merganser provided close and nice view. Szandra and Dani just loved the coloration of the males.

We followed our way through the Gerecse Mountain where nothing exciting were seen. At the end of our birding time we visited the Ferencmajor fishponds. At the entrance we saw 25 Stock Doves feeding on a corn field. Corn Buntings and Common Reed Buntings were feeding in good numbers on a weedy land.

Much of the lakes are frozen and the water surface will be heavily decreasing in the coming days as cold spells reached Central Europe from Siberia. Today it was -6 oC all day. On a few ponds Mainly Mallards were seen. An Eurasian Bittern provided the best view while walking on the dam. Still no Common Kingfisher and Bearded Reedling was found.

Anyway, it’s been a really nice day. Year list moved to 93.

Midwinter Waterbird Counts 2009/2010

This was the only sunny day we have had for weeks. Excellent timing for the annual Midwinter Waterbird Census. As usual in every mid-week-end of January most of the European birdwatchers count wildfowl (waterbirds). In some countries this is also the time to count the White-tailed Eagles as well.

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Greater White-fronted Geese. © Gyorgy Szimuly

This morning I walked to the observation tower of the Old Lake where my friend was already counting. On the way to the tower I found a Carrion Crow feeding on something on the ice.

The crisp light condition provided excellent view on the waterbirds. Every bird was painted deep gold and was just a joy to see them through Laci’s scope. Despite most of the lake has been frozen for weeks more than 21 thousands waterbirds were counted. Additionally 10+ thousands Corvids (Rooks and Westerna Jackdaws) left the night roosting site just before I arrived to the tower.

Here is the result of the counts:
Bean Goose species 5,800
Greater White-fronted Goose 8,800
Greylag Goose 80
Red-breasted Goose 1
Mallard 2,900
Eurasian Teal 90
Common Pochard 22
Common Goldeneye 24
Great Cormorant 495
Grey Heron 2
Great Egret 18
Eurasian Coot 2
Black-headed Gull 2,300
Mew Gull 700
Caspian Gull 500
Carrion Crow 1

Total number of wildfowl is about 21,700.

What a strong start – first Oriental Turtle Dove for Hungary

Yesterday an interesting record appeared on birding.hu as an European Turtle Dove is present in NW Hungary. As discussion started about this record some documentary image has been uploaded by the observer. It soon became obvious that the bird wasn’t an European Turtle Dove but the Central Asian race, the meena of the Oriental Turtle Dove. That is a real mega species and it will be the first ever official record for Hungary if accepted.

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Oriental Turtle Dove at Fertörákos, Hungary. © János Oláh, Jr.

I had a chance today to visit the area and try for this rare bird. I could not join to the first batch of birders in the morning but arrived at around 1PM. A team from Budapest was arriving at the same time so I had a chance to see it through a spotting scope. The bird was spotted immediately on the tree where it was found. It was in a flock of a few Eurasian Collared Dove.

Thanks to the superior optic quality of the latest generation of KOWA top line spotting scopes the observation was really a joy. I must admit that under those overcast conditions the picture I could see through the lens was extraordinary. One of the birding mate had a brand new KOWA TSN-883 Prominar Lens Spotting Scope with Kowa TE-10Z 20-60 Zoom Eye Piece. Even at 60x magnification the image quality has not decreased at all. It is known that I have been hesitating for a while which brand to buy but I think it was decided today.

This is awesome how this year is starting. One lifer and two new to my country list in the first 13 days of the new year. I am really happy by this record. I hope the next lifer will be the long time sought after species, the Ural Owl, but that is gonna be another story.

Thanks to Sándor Mogyorósi for the incredible finding and guidance. Thanks to Zoltán Bajor for the perfect view through his scope and the team for nice company.

New image gallery added

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Common Starling © Gyorgy Szimuly

I have finally started to add the reprocessed images into a new gallery. This is far not the best solution but my website development doesn’t progress well and I could not wait for it anymore.

The thumbnailed species taxonomy structure will help for easy overview and entry to the species gallery. I have added comment option to every image so the only thing is needed to use it. Please, take your time to add your comment under any of the image. The feedback of my followers and readers is important as inspires me!

In the coming days and weeks more species galleries and more species images will be added. The hided galleries are under development. I will work out with old files this time but hopefully the larger resolution will make viewing more enjoyable. I hope I can be back on field soon to be able to add new images.

The gallery is not optimized for Internet Explorer and might not open properly. Recommended web browsers are Safari, Chrome, Firefox or Opera.

Is it a good start?

In the first days of the new year many birders got happy by successfully twitching a real mega, a first ever for Hungary, the White-winged Snowfinch Montifringilla nivalis. It was found just before the New Year’s Eve at the Fort of Somoskö, (SE Slovakia) (sadly the fort was separated from the Hungarian village Somoskö in 1920 so actually it belongs to Slovakia). Based on the report of the local guard the bird had first appeared about 2 months ago(?). Despite the bird is preferring the fort it was many times seen crossing the border and entering Hungary.

I had no chance to find a logistic solution in the first two days of January but I could manage it today. We got good news by local birder as the bird had been seen during the morning time till 1PM. On our way to the village we saw a beautiful adult Eastern Imperial Eagle sitting on a tree just above the road around Pásztó. It provided a perfect view. This we thought to be a good sign…

When we arrived the sky was cloudy but the visibility was good. Soon after we climbed up to the fort the snow started to fall. Fresh 10cm (3.937 inch) snow had covered the whole area.

During our 3 hours stay we could not spot the snowfinch despite the fort was easily discoverable. The only species we could see on the top of the fort was 2 Alpine Accentors which is a nice species nevertheless. We just hoped something else…

By the evening the snow was stopped to fall and we left the area without seeing this typically Alpine bird. On our way back home we got a phone call that a group Slovakian ringers had appeared at the fort just before our arrival and they trapped the bird. I am not sure what scientific reason was behind but those kind of ringing is absolutely nonsense in my/our eyes. Should I mention there is a good chance the bird scared away the area forever.

So 2010 doesn’t start so successfully despite we saw two nice species. If the bird is really disappeared this is unlikely to see it again in my life in Hungary. I know, never say never…

Birding on the 1st day of a new decade

I don’t keep birding on the first day of the year a tradition but if I have a chance I go out. Today the weather was too pleasant to stay home so we decided to take Kea and the binocular out.

Birding wise, the little bit more than an hour outing, was surprisingly productive. I decided to keep a year list first time ever for the reason to know how much I can see through the year in Hungary and the . Bellow the list of birds seen today.

Greater White-fronted Goose 80
Tundra Bean Goose 55
Greylag Goose 24
Mallard 80
Eurasian Teal 20
Grey Heron 12
Great Cormorant 6
Eurasian Coot 2
Black-headed Gull 100+
Mew Gull 30
Caspian Gull 45
Green Woodpecker 1
Middle Spotted Woodpecker 1
Great Spotted Woodpecker 4
Eurasian Jay 2
Western Jackdaw 150+
Rook 1200
Hooded Crow 14
Willow Tit 3
Great Tit 25
Eurasian Blue Tit 17
Long-tailed Tit 6
Winter Wren 1
Eurasian Nuthatch 3
Eurasian Treecreeper 1
Common Blackbird 4
Fieldfare 6
Redwing 45
Mistle Thrush 7
House Sparrow 10
Hawfinch 2

31 species doesn’t sound bad for such a short birding…

A White-winged Snowfinch tick for Hungary

So I gave the first mega of this year, the White-winged Snowfinch, another chance to see. This morning I was kindly offered to join by a young local birder and we again visited the Fort of Somoskő. The trip wasn’t free of worry as there was a massive snowfall all the night and which continued in the daytime. Despite the long and challenging travel we climbed the fort in a hope the bird was still presented. Based on the previous day’s reports it was seen every day since my unfortunate visit.

When we entered the fort yard the Snowfinch immediately flew away. We saw it just for a flash. 2 Alpine Accentors was feeding in the tower. They allowed us to approach them to 3 meters. As walked to the eastern tower the bird appeared soon but was really skittish. That was not a surprise anymore. We saw many times the Snowfinch making huge circles around the fort crossing many times the border. Finally Gellért and my son, Dani relocated it in the northern corner where it started to feed on seeds. It allowed us to watch for a couple of minutes providing a perfect and close view.

It was funny to see a Grey-headed Woodpecker feeding on the wall of the main tower. Later when Gellért entered the main tower another Grey-headed Woodpecker flew out the window.

We decided not to stay long in the village as the snow was falling in the same intensity as in the morning. Our plan was to make some birding along the Danube River at the Dunakanyar. Sadly the best areas has been frozen so we had to leave the area without seeing anything. At the the upper part of the river, at Neszmély, there is a traditionally good wintering site for wildfowl. This time we saw the following species:

Great Crested Grebe 1
Mallard 700
Tufted Duck 55
Velvet Scoter 1
Common Goldeneye 120
Smew 35
Common Merganser 1
Grey Heron 2
Great Cormorant 40
Eurasian Coot 22

After this successful rarity birding the White-winged Snowfinch became my 343th bird species recorded in Hungary. Just for a reference, the Hungarian birder who have seen the most species for Hungary have recorded 362 bird species so far. It wasn’t a lifer to me as I have already seen it in Turkey.