Thursday 31 May 2018

Pine Marten in Bukk Hills, Hungary. Day 8. May 20th 2018.

Pine Marten

This was the final time I pressed the shutter on our trip to Hungary before we left for the airport, and what a great species to end on!

My sincere thanks to Oliver Smart for alerting us to this Pine Marten which he located in the treetops due to the many alarm calls of the local birds.

Initially I couldn't get a clear view and had many images of blurred greenery with an out of focus silhouette of the animal but perseverance paid off and I managed a few half decent shots.

Great to see one of these animals totally in the wild and not being enticed to pose with bread and jam!

A fitting conclusion to an amazing photo trip.

Butterflies in Hungary. Days 7 & 8. May 2018.

Lesser Purple Emperor

The Bukk Hills didn't disappoint as a top European butterfly area.

Medium altitude meadows, oak tree filled valleys and wet pastures all made for an interesting mix of species.

The Lesser Purple Emperor was feeding on salt or mineral licks at the edge of the road in a wet valley, along with Scarce Fritillary.

Adonis Blue, Mazarine Blue & Wood White were in a meadow at the foot of a valley just a few hundred metres from the nesting Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers.

When we went up to the forest edge to look for the Ural Owl we were in wide forest glades which were grazed at specific times to get the sward just right for the butterflies.

Here we found Clouded Apollo, Chestnut Heath and many of the Blues.

Scarce Fritillary

Adonis Blue

Mazarine Blue

Wood White

Grizzled Skipper

Clouded Apollo

Chestnut Heath

Tuesday 29 May 2018

Birds in Hungary Day 6. Ural Owl in the Bukk Hills. 19th May 2018.

Ural Owl

The Ural Owl was one of our target species to photograph whilst up in the Bukk Hills region.

Sadly this was the only usable photo I got and I don't think anyone else got any either.

It's been a bad vole year in the forest glades and the owls haven't bred this year. That makes it very difficult to find the birds as they now wander freely across the region.

Luckily our guides Attila 1 and Attila 2 managed to track one down and our illustrious leader Oliver Smart pointed this bird out to me as it perched amongst the foliage at some distance.

Never going to win any awards but very pleased to add this bird to my non-existant list!

Birds in Hungary Day 6. Woodpeckers in the Bukk Hills. 19th May 2018.

Male Lesser spotted Woodpecker

We'd traveled about an hour and a half from Tiszaalpar up into the Bukk Hills and booked into a small hotel in Bogacs which was clean and tidy but not overly welcoming.

We had said goodbye to our good friend and guide Istvan and were now in the capable hands of Attila. Luckily we had him as our new host at the hotel spoke no English other than "David Beckham, Wayne Rooney & Bobby Charlton"!
(He didn't speak like them I add, but seemed to know their names and claimed to have coached them all in his time as an Hungarian International Football coach! I think a lot of information was lost in translation!).

The first afternoon we watched well, but photographed poorly a pair of White backed Woodpeckers which were high up in a forest canopy and we had to climb up a steep wooded valley in order to get any angle on the birds.

The next morning we were introduced to a local ranger who took us to see Grey headed Woodpeckers but a bit of rain and an uncooperative bird made for more low quality pictures.

However we then met with a Dutch guy who was living nearby and was a bird guide and he took us into a marshy edge of a bit of woodland and right to a 2 metre tree stump with a pair of Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers nesting at eye level.

These birds were fantastic and allowed us to photograph them at close range... albeit with a 500mm lens but they were a treat!

Male Lesser spotted Woodpecker

Female Lesser spotted Woodpecker

Female Lesser spotted Woodpecker 
Female White backed Woodpecker

Grey headed Woodpecker

Birds in Hungary Day 5. Red backed Shrike. 18th May 2018.

Male Red backed Shrike

Another bird that struggles to retain a foothold as a breeding species in the UK is the Red backed Shrike.
They are however a frequent bird in this part of Hungary and it was not uncommon to see several perched on their vantage points as we traveled around the countryside.

Male Red backed Shrike

Male Red backed Shrike

Thursday 24 May 2018

Birds in Hungary Day 4. Hoopoe site revisited.17th May 2018.

I revisited the Hoopoe nest site this morning to try to get some better light on the bird than the previous visit.

The nest is situated in a woodland clearing and has a lot of trees surrounding it and thus is very dark.

This makes it a bit of a challenge photographically if one wants to try to catch the adult bird in flight as it feeds the young which are at the stage of hanging out of the nest hole in order to be first for the food!

Fortunately the newer digital cameras (DSLR's) are good at coping with bad light by upping the ISO.

So, apologies for some poor picture quality but I had much pleasure spending time with these stunning birds.

Birds in Hungary Day 4. Evening light in the Bee-eater colony. 16th May 2018.

After a morning in the tower hide and afternoon in the woodland hide it was good to be out on the open grasslands, albeit in another hide, but this time a "pop-up" version in glorious sunshine.

The bee-eaters had yet to finish their burrows or lay any eggs so were just posing for photographers and doing a bit of flirting and courting in the evening light.

It was very hot and the birds started to pant, before a moment when they all disappeared, probably to roost as their nests weren't active yet.

A few minutes later a Goshawk flew out of the nearby copse and along the field edge so really not sure if that was the reason for their early departure or if it had just got too hot.

Birds in Hungary Day 4. Sunrise, Falcons, Kestrels, Hoopoe, Rollers etc. 16th May 2018.


04:20 start was the name of the game to get us in the Tower hide for sunrise.

Well worth it as the light was amazing and the birds were obviously a bit frisky!

The Red footed Falcons were active in several nestboxes, with other boxes hosting Kestrels, Starlings, Jackdaws and Rollers.

Even a Lesser Grey Shrike put in a rather distant appearance before (and not to be outdone) a Hoopoe landed on a perch near a Kestrel nest and proceeded to call away at the top of his voice...magical!

Red footed Falcons mating

Male Red Footed Falcon

Female Red Footed Falcon
Lesser Grey Shrike

Cock Kestrel


Birds in Hungary Day 3. Part 2. 15th May 2018.

Well we took our lives in our hands... well our expensive camera gear anyway... floating just a few inches above the water as we waded out into a lake with the aim of photographing birds at water level.

We wore full length chest waders and travelled around the lake on our knees under the thatched reeds of the floating hides.

Trying to keep ourselves and our cameras dry was the main priority and it turned out to be very successful. Very back and neck aching but David Chapman and myself spent over 3 hours in the water immersed up to our chests whilst kneeling.

The main target species was Black Necked Grebes and there were lots of pairs, often with young that allowed us to enter their world as they hunted amongst the reeds.

Marsh Harriers were everywhere and it was great to be out in the reeds where they were hunting.

Marsh Harrier

Marsh Harrier

Saturday 19 May 2018

Bats in the Belfry....Hungarian holiday continued..May 2018.

Never dull on one of our photographic forays!
Yesterday we visited the ancient Cistercian church and monastery at Belapatfalva near where we are staying in the Bukk Hills... not to admire the view or say a few prayers but to climb up into the roof space to photograph bats.
We were led by Peta, one of Hungary’s top bat experts who gave us a detailed description of the roost and the species.
Later that evening we visited a forest pool with him and watched as he caught 4 different species in his mist nets as part of his ongoing research.
At the church we saw Greater and Lesser Horseshoe bats, and at the forest we saw Whiskered, Brandts, Daubentons & Barbastelle.

The town of Belapatfalva is the site of the best preserved Romanesque church building in Hungary.
It was built after 1232 with the abbey being destroyed in the 16th century, leaving only ruins.
Destruction of the abbey happened after invasions by the Mongolians and the Turks.

Tuesday 15 May 2018

Birds in Hungary Day 3. 15th May 2018.


A few more images from my day in Hungary, (and the previous evening as well!).

An amazing evening last night at the hide for the nesting Hoopoes with both adult birds feeding their chicks with insects.


A quick hour at a nestbox that has nesting Wryneck viewed from a canvas hide and a few dozen poorly lit images!


After the Wryneck David and I donned our mosquito nets and headed in to the reedbed amongst some of the tallest reeds I've ever seen.... at least 3 feet higher than my 5'10''.
We went to see another wonder of nature, the nest of a Penduline Tit.
I did see a few in Poland a few years back but this was hanging away from any vegetation under a huge Willow.

Penduline Tit.
Then this morning we awoke to heavy rain which slowed down our adventures to a sedate 7 o'clock start!

I spent the morning in a woodland reflection hide and despite the low and challenging light managed to get some shots of Hawfinch, Black Redstart,Common Starling & Tree Sparrows.

Common Starling.


Black Redstart.