X. Hungarian Bird Race: nice birding mixed with great social evenings

The first week-end of every September in the past 10 years was the time when Hungarian birdwatchers came together for a week-end birding including the participance of the Hungarian Bird Race. The week-end is not just about running for species but also about the chance to meet other birdwatchers and friends from across the country.

I was kindly invited to the event as this was the 10th jubilee race. It was nice to attend talks about the happenings of past ten years spiced with a lots of fun and laugh. The Hortobágy birding community made a spectacular job in setting everything perfectly for successful races.

The event was held in edge of the village Hortobágy and the race itself was held in the heart of the national park, the Hortobágy fishponds. The fishpond used to be one of the best birding area in Hungary and large enough for 100-150 birders for a day long birding.

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Guys are listening to the instruction and rule announcements for the race.

The whole birding week-end started unluckily for me as I missed an adult Buff-breasted Sandpiper by 25 minutes which was close to the event centre. I tried to do everything to see it but I simply could not drive faster.

Since there has been a large number of young birders we decided not to run for the most species but for the best for the area. This old-style birding was quite demanding at some point during the day due to the perfect evening prior to the race. Sadly the best species price went to another team we had the second best species (I guess).

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Hides provides nice chance to find birds as well as chatting with other birdwatchers.

During the race we found some nice species including 2 Western Ospreys, a single Common Firecrest (which was seen only once in the past ten years of the race history), a Barred Warbler, flying over Glossy Ibises or Little Crake. Sadly there were no drained pond available so it was really hard to find shorebirds during the race. We have been informed about an easy European Nightjar roosting on a Willow tree. On the same spot a juvenile European Honey Buzzard allowed the birders perfect view.

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Zoltán Ecsedi was one of my team members and a very good friend of mine. He is one of the very best and keen birdwatchers in Hungary.

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Dr. Emil Boros was the other member of my team. Old friend who is the expert of soda lakes.

Unluckily while I was asking informations from another team my team mates found a juvenile Red-breasted Flycatcher which I could not relocate. Some bird species was really hard to find like Little Grebe or White Stork while other common birds were completely missing. Any of the team found a White-tailed Eagle which is really unusual for the area. We finally could manage to see 95 species in 24 hours while the best team saw 126. Best species became an overflying male Red Crossbill which was seen for the first time in races history.

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Squacco Herons found easily at the dried and grazed ponds.

Saturday night rain washed out my plan to visit the traditional Eurasian Dotterel site so I returned home on Sunday with 4 new additions to the year list which is at 198 now.

I wanna say a big thanks to the organisers and staff for the perfect hospitality. Lets continue the race somewhere else next year.

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