Autumnal weekend in Hortobágy National Park

During the second weekend in October (7.-9.10.2011) our travel agency set up a short sightseeing tour to discover the beauties of Hortobágy National Park (HNP). In cooperation with SOS/BirdLife Slovakia and a non-governmental organization PRO NATURA SK we prepared a nice mixture of birdwatching and cultural experience in vast puszta land.

Our main goal was, naturally, to see big flocks of Cranes (Grus grus) on their migration from north to the south. On the other hand we wanted to see how large puszta is and how it literally tastes.

Our trip started on Friday early morning in Bratislava and route headed via Nitra, Zvolen, Eger to Tiszafüred, where we have got our accommodation in local camping. On the road to the heart of Hortobágy National Park, to the village Hortobágy, we observed our first tens of Cranes of this weekend. We visited information center of HNP, where we attended a lecture on natural environment of Hortobágy. With much new information about HNP we moved to the eastern edge of HNP where we observed our first flocks of Cranes that headed to their roosting places.

On Saturday after the breakfast we traveled to the central area of HNP. We made a short stop in the village of Kócsujfalu, where we observed up to 300 Cranes feeding in the corn field in beautiful morning sun. After that we moved to the zoo of local animals, where we could see Racka sheep, Mangalitsa pig, grey donkey, water buffalo and few others. That morning a fair of local breed of grey long-horned livestock took place. We had a glimpse of herdsmen and their livestock in the way it is typical in this region.

Then we moved to visit Hortobágy Great Fishponds. We took a train of narrow gauge railway, that operates on the track across the system of fishponds that is one of the largest in Central Europe. The rich avifauna could be observed using several watching towers and hides. During our visit we have seen several species of waders e.g.: Curlew (Numenius arquata), Avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta), Black-tailed Godwit (Limosa limosa), Spotted Redshank (Tringa erythropus); tens of herons (Ardea cinerea, Egretta alba) and Spoonbills (Platalea leucorodia), White-tailed Eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla), five species of ducks and many others.

After that we did a little sightseeing in the village of Hortobágy and moved to the Patkós csarda road inn restaurant where we have discovered how puszta tastes. The local famous Hungarian fish soup was delicious and other meals too.

Our last, but not least, point of interest on Saturday were the Cranes again. In the area of Cserepes, northwards from Hortobágy Great Fishponds we observed during almost an hour few thousands of Cranes feeding in the fields or flying in smaller or larger flocks to their roosting places in the wetlands of puszta. It was probably the greatest moment of this weekend as most of the participants of our trip have understood the beauty of autumnal Crane migration. As we were told, up to the 90 000 Cranes were at that time in the area, that means that we hit the right time of the migration in its peak in this area.

On Sunday morning we made a two-hour walk in the town of Tiszafüred. We walked alongside of an oxbow lake of Tisza River. We observed several typical local bird species but we were few times disturbed by local fishermen in their boats. In the afternoon we traveled back to Slovakia.

This weekend brought us knowledge how puszta region of Hortobágy National Park looks like, how it tastes and has persuaded us to come back and explore more. We would like to thank to the people and organizations that contributed in this pretty autumnal weekend: SOS/BirdLife Slovakia, PRO NATURA SK, Richard Kvetko and Hortobágyi National Park information center, RPS – Raptor Protection Slovakia.

List of observed bird species (49):

Common Pheasant (Phasianus colchicus)
Greylag Goose (Anser anser)
White-fronted Goose (Anser albifrons)
Mute Swan (Cygnus olor)
Gadwall (Anas strepera)
Wigeon (Anas penelope)
Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)
Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata)
Teal (Anas crecca)
Great Crested Grebe (Podiceps cristatus)
White Stork (Ciconia ciconia)
Spoonbill (Platalea leucorodia)
Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea)
Great Egret (Ardea alba / Egretta alba)
Pygmy Cormorant (Microcarbo pygmeus / Phalacrocorax pygmeus)
Great Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo)
White-tailed Eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla)
Marsh Harrier (Circus aeruginosus)
Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo)
Common Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus)
Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus)
Coot (Fulica atra)
Common Crane (Grus grus)
Avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta)
Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus)
Grey Plover (Pluvialis squatarola)
Black-tailed Godwit (Limosa limosa)
Curlew (Numenius arquata)
Spotted Redshank (Tringa erythropus)
Dunlin (Calidris alpina)
Ruff (Philomachus pugnax)
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus / Larus ridibundus)
Caspian Gull (Larus cachinnans)
Feral Pigeon (Columba livia)
Collared Dove (Streptopelia decaocto)
Green Woodpecker (Picus viridis)
unidentified woodpecker (Picidae)
Great Grey Shrike (Lanius excubitor)
Common Magpie (Pica pica)
Rook (Corvus frugilegus)
Hooded Crow (Corvus cornix)
Great Tit (Parus major)
Bearded Reeding (Panurus biarmicus)
Sedge Warbler (Acrocephalus schoenobaenus)
Common Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)
House Sparrow (Passer domesticus)
Tree Sparrow (Passer montanus)
White Wagtail (Motacilla alba)
Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis)

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