Monday, 16 May 2011

Zemplen Hills, NE Hungary, 12th, 13th and 14th May, 2011

This return visit to the Zemplen Hills was again organised by Mr. Janos Olah, Saker Tours.

I departed Gatwick, 11th May, at 11.15 hours to arrive at Budapest at 15.15 hours, promptly met by Arpad and travelled the 165 miles arriving 17.30 hours at the Solyomvar Panzio es Etterem, (the Falcon Castle Hotel), Komloska, a small village, population c300 in the Zemplen Hills of Hungary

Out for a wander round the village by 18.00 hours, perfect blue sky, the first bird heard, louder than all the other bird calls was a Golden Oriole, this is the first time I had a good view of a Golden Oriole. High in the trees about 100 metres away. Birds noted around the village were

Golden Oriole
Black Redstart
Tree Sparrow, House Sparrow, Song Thrush
Great Tit, Blue Tit
Blackbird, Robin and Pied Wagtail
Jay, Collared Dove, Wood Pigeon, Starling and Swallows

Evening meal at 19.30 hours and in bed by 20.30 hours.

I had requested Saker Tours to arrange this two day visit to be guided by Mr. Zolton Petrovics who I had given me such a superb time on my visit 3 weeks ago to see the 9 Woodpeckers of Hungary. (See my report 16th, 17th, 18th April)


Thursday, 12th, my guide for the two days was again Zoltan who picked me up at 07.30 hours.

25 minutes later at the first stop

Corncrake, heard calling, many,
Quail, 1, heard
Cuckoo, heard all day long,
Barred Warbler, several
Golden Oriole, 3
Turtle Dove
Common Buzzard, 2
Bee-eater, 4 flew over
Wryneck, heard, briefly seen
Whinchat, 4 +
Corn Bunting
Stonechat, many
Common Whitethroat
Lesser Whitethroat, heard

Scarce Swallowtail

A kilometer up the same road


Lesser Spotted Eagle

the sun is very hot, sweltering, temperature high !

turned into a vineyard track leading up to the forest to escape the heat seeing

Red-backed Shrike, a male
Wryneck, a glimpse of one

Siberian Iris



Corn Bunting

Siberian Iris


Red-backed Shrike

Then into the shade of the forest to escape the heat

Broad-bodied Chaser
Silver-studded Blue

In the forest, quiet, cool, stealth.

Zoltan found a tree with recent signs of a woodpecker activity, wood chippings on the forest floor below a woodpecker hole in this same tree, he scratched the tree trunk, then moved on. I was some 15 meters behind and saw the woodpecker look out of its nest hole. My immitation bird call alerted Zoltan who immediatly identified the woodpecker as a White-backed Woodpecker. Zoltan was very pleased with this find as he explained it was now a very rare woodpecker, needing a large teritory of exactly the correct mixed woodland.

Out of the forest, we visited a quarry to see

Eagle Owl

Then the last location of the day

Grey Wagtail
White Wagtail
Willow Tit, (bigger bib, window on wing and of course the call)


White Wagtail

Day over, back at hotel at 19.00 hours


Friday, 13th, day started with Zoltan picking me up at 07.30 hours prompt.
Low cloud, very warm

A local destination to see first

Wood Lark, 1
Golden Oriole, several
Spotted Flycatcher
Yellow Wagtail
Great White Egret, flew over

Then a visit to a quarry for second Eagle Owl sighting

Then a drive to another site some distance away

Great Reed Warbler
Cuckoo, 4 flew over together
Saker Falcon, 2, a male and female on adjoining pylons
Imperial Eagle
Marsh Harrier

                            Great Reed Warbler

Saker Falcon

moved back to another location

Ural Owl, 2, a male and female

Moved on to another quarry location to look for Rock Bunting, NONE, but saw 

Eagle Owl, 3rd  
Bee Eater, 6 distant

Once again the sun is now out and very hot, another quarry, another Eagle Owl, 4th, this time no matter how hard I looked I could not see it, to distant, to well camoflaged. Zoltan says there used to be Rock Thrush at this site but now none.

Rain clouds now threaten, temperature drops but no rain, we now visit another site of wasteland overlooking a river to see

Barred Warbler
River Warbler
Corncrake, 1, heard
Nightingales, 1 seen, heard many
Common Buzzard, flew over
Honey Buzzard, flew over
Great White Egret, flew up river

Barred Warbler

moved on stopping at a roadside bridge on another forest road to look for Dipper, None

Then to our final destination of the day to see

Syrian Woodpecker

Returning back to the hotel at 19.00 hours.


Saturday 14th, my return flight was not until 20.15 hours.
Mr. Janos Olah had arranged that this day I would be left to look local myself and that I would be picked up at 15.00 hours for transfer to airport.

I passed the day on the road to the next village seeing

Golden Oriole, many
Hawfinch, 2
Black Stork, it circled round low and gave me superb views
Grey Wagtails
Tree Sparrow
Black Redstart

Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary


Scarce Swallowtail

                            Black Stork

Golden Oriole

Arpad picked me up at 15.15 hours, a drive to the airport, flight home arriving at Gatwick at 22.00 hours.

This was the most well organised trip you could ever plan. The weather was superb, the birds and nature was stunning, my gratefull thanks to Saker Tours and a big thank you to Mr. Zoltan Petrovics who gave me 'an extra special two days',  Zoltan, I will come back next May to do the same again ! 

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