First song of the Song Thrush

It was hard to wake up at 6Am but the productive birding made it worth. I visited the Old Lake with Dani and Laci last time in the official winter season. One more day and ‘spring’ is here…


László Musicz, the local goose expert, birding mate and a very good friend of mine. © Gyorgy Szimuly


Blasting geese at Old Lake. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Goose numbers has further decreased probably by the long lasting frost what resulted very small area of open water. Spring was present even stronger in the lake-side forest with the first songs of Song Thrush. At least one bird was over-wintering nearby but I guess it was an early arrival. Another melancholic ‘first-caller‘ was a Common Wood Pigeon. Woodpeckers were again quite loud around the observation tower.

Mute Swan 2
Tundra Bean Goose 2,900
Greater White-fronted Goose 1,600
Greylag Goose 25
Barnacle Goose 1
Mallard 600
Eurasian Teal 210
Northern Pintail 4
Common Pochard 20
Common Goldeneye 15
Great Cormorant 8
Pygmy Cormorant 11
Eurasian Coot 9
Yellow-legged Gull 2
Mediterranean Gull 1 ad.

The single and lone Mediterranean Gull was a great surprise as being quite irregular here. The night roosting gulls had already left the lake before we arrived.


Malom and Szaz Valley is among the most beautiful part of the Gerecse Mountain. © Gyorgy Szimuly

From the Old Lake we moved to the mountains for an easy walk. The beautiful but, this time of the year, very grey Szaz Valley provided some nice view on chasing woodpeckers. There have been signs of White-backed Woodpecker feeding activity but any was spotted. Most of the forest was still quiet but birds were apparently returning and especially woodpeckers were busy in keeping territories. Stock Doves were calling and overflying almost everywhere.

Species seen:
Common Buzzard 1
Stock Dove 12
Middle Spotted Woodpecker 8
Great Spotted Woodpecker 6
Lesser Spotted Woodpecker 1
Black Woodpecker 1
Eurasian Nuthatch 10
Short-toed Treecreeper 1
Eurasian Blackbird 2
Fieldfare 3
Great Tit 20
Eurasian Blue Tit 9
Northern Raven 5
Hawfinch 7

On our way back home we drove along the Danube river where we had a short break. Around a small island of the river we found quite many waterbirds so I picked up the Swarovski scope and browsed that section.

Birds seen:
Great Crested Grebe 1
Great White Egret 6
Grey Heron 4
Tundra Bean Goose 40
Greater White-fronted Goose 25
Greylag Goose 60
Mallard 670
Eurasian Wigeon 1
Northern Pintail 2
Common Pochard 35
Tufted Duck 15
Common Goldeneye 120
Smew 8
Common Merganser 17
Great Cormorant 15
Eurasian Coot 20

Last stop was at the Ferencmajor fishponds where only a few ponds had open water. We had no time to make proper counts but saw 7 Red-crested Pochards (first for 2011) and a few Pygmy Cormorant. Wild geese were flying around. Approximate numbers were about 2,000 birds. I plan to come again in the coming days and make a proper count, especially when ice is melting away.


Large number of Grey Herons and Great White Egrets were feeding on the the small pools where fishes are wintered. © Gyorgy Szimuly


My traditional birding round trip is starting from Tata. Site names counter clockwise: Old Lake, Tata (bottom left icon), Szaz Valley, Gerecse Mountain, Danube River and Ferencmajor fishponds.

Year list moved to 105 by the 5 new additions today.


Guest writer: Alan McBride on the forthcoming bird finding guide to Australia

Alan has become my Facebook friend a couple of months ago and, as with others, we started to interact online. Then in November 2010 we participated the same bird watching conference in India where we turned the virtual friendship into a real one. Alan is a very nice multi-function guy with a very good sense of humor. I am happy to read his lines about an important Australian bird finding guide, to be on the shelves in March 2011, in which he is a co-authoring.

The Complete Guide to Finding the Birds of Australia
Richard Thomas, Sarah Thomas, David Andrew and Alan McBride


An updated edition of ‘Thomas & Thomas’ is long overdue and the original authors along with David Andrew and Alan McBride are very pleased to see the March release of this update. The first guide was universally known as “Thomas & Thomas” or “T & T” and all felt it was important to keep that link. This one has affectionally come to be known as TIMTAM: it doesn’t quite fit but TimTam is a well know Aussie chocolate biscuit much loved by travelling birders on a junk food diet.


Alan McBride is one of the author if the bird finding guide. @ Alan McBride

The book is intended to help both resident and visiting birders to visit a site for each species on the Aussie list (although with outlying territories this list is growing ridiculously large). It is NOT A SITE GUIDE though, it is simply a guide to finding the birds by highlighting the most accessible (not always easiest) site in each of the species range. Naturally some are covered in more than one state.

As with the first edition, it is divided into three main parts: the first is site information organised by locality per state; the second is a bird finding guide in which all Australian birds are listed in taxonomic order with hints on where and how to find them and finally there’s a section covering contact information, glossary and various appendices of further use or interest to birders. 

We hope you will find this new edition useful and the authors welcome any comments, suggestions and indeed any criticism. Please contact the authors through the publisher website.

Birding sites are organised state-by-state starting with Victoria and running anti-clockwise around the country. Any apparent geographic bias is unintentional: obviously a birding trip around Australia could start wherever your base or arrival point is.


Common and scientific names are organised as per Systematics and Taxonomy of Australian Birds by L. Christidis and W.E. Boles (CSIRO Publishing, 2008). A full discussion of taxonomy is beyond the scope of this book and we recommend ‘Christidis & Boles’ for more information.

The back of the book contains some practical hints on finding birds, a list of field guides and CDs that may be useful, a list of organisations, tour companies and individuals who are happy to help with further birding sites, local information and possibly even to assist visiting birders with transport and logistics.

Alan McBride is happy to be contacted by e-mail with questions. Alan works as a bird guide, writer, photographer and is a keen supporter of where visiting birders can post there sightings and experiences Facebook style but simply for wildlife.

Almost completely frozen lake 4 days before March

After a very cold night (-13°C by early morning) the Old Lake was almost completely frozen. This reduced the number of ducks drastically. Some days ago their number raised to 2,000 while today we counted not more than a 100. Goose number was also dropped by about 3,500 birds. Light conditions was not perfect and species identification was very difficult. Furthermore most geese were sleeping on the ice. Mute Swans could not find any food and found slept on the ice.

Gulls were leaving the area continuously but a few hundred still left on the ice. Mainly Yellow-legged and Mew Gulls stayed. A few Black-headed Gull was also seen. 


Middle Spotted Woodpecker feeding. © Gyorgy Szimuly

By looking towards the lake we saw winter but spring was heard behind us at the same time. Woodpeckers drummed and chased each others around the observation tower. Loudly calling Green Woodpeckers and Great Spotted Woodpeckers broke the noise of the town. I also heard a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker drumming. Number of Hawfinches has increased and provided nice views on the surrounding trees.

Some records:

Mute Swan 5
Greylag Goose 50
Greater White-fronted Goose 2,200
Bean Goose species 5,200
Mallard 50
Eurasian Teal 30
Common Pochard 30
Common Buzzard 1
Rook 2,500
Hooded Crow 65
Western Jackdaw 30+
Green Woodpecker 2
Great Spotted Woodpecker 2
Middle Spotted Woodpecker 1
Lesser Spotted Woodpecker 1
Hawfinch 15
European Greenfinch 13

Northern Lapwings are mixing flocks with Common Starlings

I had again a day long bird survey in the middle of the country for a industrial project with my friend, Laci. Weather was moderate and sunny and there were sign of spring almost everywhere.


In the Kiskunság National Park we saw moving Northern Lapwings. That is a real sign of the end of hard winter times. No Ruff have been recorded so far but I think it is only a matter of a few more warm days. About a hundred Black-headed Gulls, 25 Mew Gulls and a few Yellow-legged Gulls were also counted. It was nice to hear and see migrating Eurasian Skylarks as well. Near Apaj an immature White-tailed Eagle was frightening a few hundred Greater White-fronted Geese and Greylag Geese.

West to the Danube River, in Dinnyés grasslands (puszta) we found a large flock of Common Starlings and Fieldfares feeding on the wet ground. There were 26 Northern Lapwings among them. While nights could be frosty for the coming days, I think Lapwings will continue the migration and closing their northern European breeding grounds as well.


Today was also a special day as we’ve been celebrating the 2nd birthday of my little daughter. Kea was so sweet when getting her birthday cake. Happy BirthDay Kea!

Boosting duck numbers on the Old Lake

Weather in the last two days was more than unpleasant by the chilly arctic wind. Early morning wake up is simply not really working to me recently thus I picked up Dani and went out for the last our of the day to see the arriving geese. Geese were arriving very late making identification impossible so I counted the ducks and gulls instead.


We saw heavy fights of drake Mallards. This gave us hope for the closing spring. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Here is the result:
Mute Swan 9
Wild geese altogether 1,200 (still arriving to the roosting site in the dark)
Mallard 1,030
Eurasian Teal 136
Northern Pintail 2
Common Pochard 270
Tufted Duck 15
Common Goldeneye 190
Common Merganser 3
Smew 2
Yellow-legged Gull 75
Mew Gull 140
Black-headed Gull 135
Rook 1,400
Western Jackdaw 25
Hooded Crow 35

First sign of Spring 2011

Yesterday a lone Northern Lapwing made me really happy as it crossed the Old Lake. The warm, spring-like weather brought a few birds to Hungary despite the weather would not warming up considerably. In the coming days daily maximums is forecasted to stay around zero Celsius. I was happy to add this record to WorldWaders database dedicated especially to waders.


Northern Lapwing. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Today while I was out for a short and chilling baby walk I found my first Red-brested Mergansers for the Old Lake. Two females were feeding with other Common Mergansers. I also found a leg banded Black-headed Gull but flew away before I could spot the spotting scope on it. The plastic ring was red coloured with white code.


Baby stroller armoured with Swarovski spotting scope. © Gyorgy Szimuly

New Canon lens announcements made my day

Today Canon announced some very exciting new lenses to be available this year. Being a bird photographer (even if owning any photo equipment at the moment) these new lenses excited me a lot.


Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Extender 1.4x telezoom lens.

One of the lens I had been waiting for ages is the new Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Extender 1.4x. So far only the 100-400mm lens was available which far not my favourite Canon lens. The integrated 1.4x extender makes this lens very special. It could be enabled or disable depends on the requirements. I hope image quality will be far better than the 100-400 had. By the internal zoom is internal avoiding vacuuming dust to sensor. This lens could be a very nice addition to my bird photography line-up to be used especially for wildlife and birds in flight photography.

Its price is not yet available but in my opinion and calculation it should be around $ 6-8,000.


Canon EF 500mm F/4L IS II USM.


Canon EF 600mm F/4L IS II USM super telephoto lens.

Two other big toys have also been announced. The new EF 500mm and EF 600mm lens will come out with improved image stabilization, redesigned glass elements and brand new weather proof housing. Details are widely available on the net but what impressed me the most, especially regarding the 600mm II, was the awesome reduction of its weight (27%). I remember those days on the Anaso Tack in the Lore Lindu National Park of Sulawesi where my old 600mm lens was carried in my backpack. I would have been happier by 1.4 kg less weight while climbing towards the summit. Also its length was reduced by approx. 90mm which makes packing a bit easier.

The new 600mm lens will be lighter than then current 500mm super tele lens. That is a very good news. The bad news is the price of the new 600mm lens which equal of a small car. The announced price is $ 11.999.


Canon EOS-1D Mark IV camera body.

So what the next camera body will be introduced? Will Canon EOS-1D Mark IV still be a close to perfect solution for bird photographers for the next couple of years or we can expect something even more spectacular. By the way… how Nikon will respond to recent innovations. Will they be able to catch up Canon at all?

It is time to open an account to save some money…