Hungary has three main geographical zones: Transdanubia west of the Danube, the Northern Hills from the Danube Bend to the north-east corner of the country and the Great Plain east of the Danube and south of the Northern Hills. Visits in May to the most famous part of the Great Plain, Hortobagy, and the easternmost part of the Northern Hills, Zempleni, gives a good introduction to the rich and varied Hungarian bird fauna.
Hortobagy offers a mixture of puszta grasslands and large fishpond complexes. The fishponds are crowded by Red-crested Pochard, Ferruginous Duck, Red-necked Grebe, Black-necked Grebe, Pygmy Cormorant, Little Bittern, Night Heron, Squacco Heron, Little Egret, Purple Heron, Glossy Ibis, Spoonbill, White-tailed Eagle, Spotted Eagle, Spotted Crake, Little Crake, Whiskered Tern, Black Tern, White-winged Tern, Kingfisher, Bluethroat, Great Reed Warbler, Icterine Warbler, Bearded Tit and Penduline Tit. Large numbers of tundra-breeding waders stage and a few Great Black-headed Gulls might summer. Red-footed Falcons breed in Rook colonies in the coppices, Bee-eaters together with Sand Martins breed in gravel pits and there is at least one pair of White Stork in each village. Great Egrets feed in the grasslands, Golden Orioles and Turtle Doves are present everywhere, while Rollers and Lesser Grey Shrikes perch on telephone wires. In the drier parts, one can with some luck spot Long-legged Buzzard, Short-toed Eagle, Eastern Imperial Eagle, Great Bustard, Little Owl, Montagu’s Harrier and Short-toed Lark, and on a lucky day a Saker hunting Sousliks. Large numbers of Hungarian Grey Cattle, Water Buffalo, Rakka sheep and hairy pigs feed in the grasslands, and of wild mammals we have found Steppe Polecat, European Souslik as well as Golden Jackal.
Zempleni offers a varied landscape with valleys, low mountains, woods, small fields, scattered villages, brooks, pastures and glades, housing a very rich breeding fauna: Black Stork, Honey-Buzzard, Short-toed Eagle, Montagu’s Harrier, Goshawk, Lesser Spotted Eagle, Eastern Imperial Eagle, Booted Eagle, Golden Eagle, Corn Crake, Ural Owl, Nightjar, Wryneck, Grey-headed Woodpecker, Green Woodpecker, Black Woodpecker, Syrian Woodpecker, White-backed Woodpecker, Middle Spotted Woodpecker, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Grey Wagtail, Bluethroat, River Warbler, Barred Warbler, Red- breasted Flycatcher, Collared Flycatcher, Hawfinch, and so on. The total number of bird taxa recorded during earlier tours amounts to 240. All photos were taken by Volker Schoessler during earlier tours to eastern Hungary, most of them in 2015.