Returning to the Old Lake Goose Watching

The winter season has started! Swallows and most of the summer visitors have already gone and nordic migrants arrived about a week ago. The Old Lake which is embraced by the town I have been living is an internationally important bird area, a Ramsar site which holds tens of thousands wildfowl every winter.


Tundra Bean Geese and Greater White-fronted Geese arriwing to increasing numbers to the Old Lake wintering area. © György Szimuly

This morning we had the first birding appointment at the lake. The lack of transition between summer and winter made this morning quite unpleasant. 10 days ago we had 28˚C daily peak while this morning we had -1˚C and not more than 11˚C in midday.

Slow fogging made birding challenging and we could not make complete count especially on ducks. Laci Musicz, my local birding friend and goose expert, wanted to check the number of wild geese as a part of the very long running goose monitoring in the region. Dani, my son, who is recovering from illness, came also with me.

There were two surprise for this morning. I spotted a crow endlessly chasing a Black-heded Gull, probably, for food. It finally landed in front of us It was a Carrion Crow (Corvus corone) which is not so common here.

The other great surprise was a walking Eurasian Otter (Lutra lutra) from the direction of the town. It soon entered the water and disappeared. This was the first observation for me but Laci, who has been birding here for more than 30 years, seen it only for three times.

Birds seen (not complete list):

Tundra Bean Goose 80
Greylag Goose 19
Greater White-fronted 5
Mute Swan 1
Mallard 100
Eurasian Teal 6
Common Pochard 6
Great Crested Grebe 1
Great Cormorant 20
Great Egret 6
Grey Heron 13
White-tailed Eagle 2
Black-headed Gull 130
Yellow-legged Gull 25
Common Wood Pigeon 5
Stock Dove 17
Black Woodpecker 2
Rook 2,800
Western Jackdaw 200
Hooded Crow 120
Carrion Crow 1
Fieldfare 3
Grey Wagtail 1
White Wagtail 25
European Siskin 8


Mute Swan at the Old Lake. © György Szimuly

During the day a small birding group from Budapest saw a nice Merlin, many Eurasian Teals and a single Dunlin at the lake.

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