Raptor lifers around the Hortobágy for my Finnish friends

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Nice abandoned-looking house in the Hortobágy. © György Szimuly

Today I picked my Finnish friends in Budapest for a one day promising birding trip to the Hortobágy National Park. We decided not to have a too early start so departed only around 8AM. There were several target species for Olli and his boys for today so I planned everything accordingly. Olli Haukkovaara is my old Facebook friend and now we met in real. His family is really nice and we had great times together.

The Eastern Imperial Eagle was one of the targets. I have to say that we were extremely lucky to find 5 birds on four different loations. I have never seen as many Eastern Imperial Eagles on a single day than today. The first bird was seen along the highway M3 (km 63) in the Heves region. We could not jump out of the car so it was just a brief view on it. When we stopped in the rest place I spotted two soaring Eastern Imperial Eagles attacked by Common Buzzards. It was at km 75 near Gyöngyös. Luckily one of the bird was gliding just over us providing a very good view. Soon after we left the car park we found another soaring bird near Feldebrő at km 99. It was a really nice start of the day.

The first site we stopped by was at the edge of the Hortobágy National Park. It was just next to Tiszafüred. This has been a nesting site of Saker Falcon. On a nest box placed on a high power electricity fence we found one bird preening and soon after another one together with Common Kestrels. On this spot we found a Lesser Grey Shrike and a male European Stonechat. Second lifer for Olli.

As we entered the territory of the national park I stopped at one of the largest Red-footed Falcon colony along the road #33 at Péteri forest. This is an awesome place for watching the Red-footed Falcon from a very close distance. The forest was full of nest boxes managed by the Hortobágy Environmental Association. Here we saw close to a hundred Red-footed Falcons, Lesser Grey Shrike, Common Nightingale, European Golden Oriole, White Stork. Just before the site we found European Roller which is also a breeder in the forest.

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Hungarian Grey Cow is a native domestic animal part of the Hortobágy landscape. © György Szimuly

After having a nice lunch in the Hortobágy village we moved to the northern part of the park trying for Long-legged Buzzard which was another target for Olli. Attila Szilágyi (Fiteti), my local birding friend advised us to visit the known location for the buzzard. As I knew the location we found it easily. The area is a nice steppe surrounded and scattered by group of trees and bushes. After about 20 minutes of waiting one Long-legged Buzzard appeared and soared in front of us. So the third lifers has been ticked for Olli. By that time the kids had several lifers.

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Nice puszta habitat at the Long-legged Buzzard site. © György Szimuly

After a coffee break we moved to the last birding site for today. The Hortobágy fishponds is a huge fishpond system in the middle of the puszta region. It is an important bird area. Kids had several lifers and Olli has got the Whiskered Tern to his life list. Birds seen here was Ferruginous Duck, Eurasian Teal, Common Pochard, European Spoonbill, Squacco Heron, Purple Heron, Little Egret, Great Egret, Pygmy Cormorant, Greylag Goose, Northern Lapwing, Eurasian Curlew, Whimbrel, Common Redshank, Little Ringed Plover, Black-tailed Godwit, Whiskered Tern, Black Tern, Bluethroat, Lesser Grey Shrike, Western Yellow Wagtail, Moustached Warbler, Savi’s Warbler, Great Reed Warbler, Eurioepan Reed Warbler, Bearded Reedling, Common Starling and other species. On a barn next to the fishpond we stopped for Little Owls which we could observe from a close distance. Another lifer for the boys.

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Western Yeallow Wagtails are common along the main track of the fishpond. © György Szimuly

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Common Kestrels are breeding in the nest boxes along the main track of the fishponds. They seemed to be colonial here. © György.Szimuly

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Squacco Herons were well seen along the ponds. © György Szimuly

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View from the hide of fishponds to the Hortobágy fishponds. © György Szimuly

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Olli and me at the Hortobágy fishponds. Nice to see a long time online friend in real. He is such a nice person and his family is very kind. © Roni Haukkovaara

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We found quite a lot night roosting White Stork at the edge of the national park. © György Szimuly

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All in all we had a wonderful day and were really grateful for the excellent weather and birds.

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