The Fest of Cranes - a once-in-a-lifetime spectacle

Hungary in October

October 13 to 20

October 20 to 27


This small group tour offers a deep insight into the autumn birdlife of Hungary. October is a period when transients and wintering birds, some late summer visitors and resident species can all be found in the same areas for a few weeks offering an extraordinary birding experience. The tour covers four of Hungary´s national parks.
The Hungarian steppe or the so called "puszta" is home to one of the largest Great Bustard populations in Europe, but gatherings of Dotterels and Stone-curlews are also worth mentioning. All the wetlands are in turmoil in October: thousands of shorebirds, waterfowl and gulls blend into a gigantic, feathery mass, among them Ferruginous Duck, Lesser White-fronted Goose, Caspian Gull, Pygmy Cormorant, Spoonbill and occasionally Red-breasted Goose. Hortobágy and the southern fishponds of the Hungarian Great Plain are the staging areas of the biggest gatherings of Common Cranes in the world. Reedbeds surrounding these wetlands are noisy from the flocks of Bearded Reedlings, Penduline Tits but some late Moustached Warblers are also still present. Sakers, Eastern Imperial and White-tailed Eagles, Long-legged Buzzards and Rough-legged Buzzards cruise in the autumn sky while the members of the nightshift include Long-eared, Short-eared, Little, Barn, Ural and Eagle Owls. Several woodpeckers, such as the Black, Middle Spotted, Syrian, Green, Grey and White-backed ones are also on the menu.

Group size: 4 to 8 participants

Walking: Easy

Accommodation: In comfortable double and triple rooms. The hotels are as close to the birding areas as possible to reduce extra travelling.


Day 1 - Arrival, transfer to the Forster Castle:

Meeting the English speaking local guides at Budapest airport and transfer to Forster Castle near the village of Bugyi. The castle is surrounded by an ancient park inhabited by several passerines including Hawfinch. Hopefully we will find our first Syrian Woodpeckers here..

Overnight: Forster Castle near Bugyi

Day 2 - Kiskunsag National Park 1:

After breakfast we explore the vast alkaline steppes of the Upper Kiskunsag looking for Great Bustards and flocks of geese. A certain site is very good for Stone-curlews, where sometimes a few dozen assemble before departing for the South, also keeping an eye out for soaring raptors overhead. Later on we stop off on route to visit the bird ringing center near Lake Kolon and its extensive reedbed. Moustached Warbler, Bearded Reedling, Penduline Tit and Wren are among small passerines that we are looking for. We spend the night near the lake in a friendly hotel, which is famous for its local specialities and wines.

Overnight: Hotel Vino, Izsák

Day 3 - Kiskunsag National Park 2

Today we wake up earlier than usual.
The first stop is a large fishpond system, called Lake Csaj. Pygmy Cormorants, Ferruginous Ducks, Spoonbills, Great White Egrets, Caspian Gulls, White-tailed Eagles are rather common. Ducks and Geese are quite numerous too. Bearded Tits form noisy flocks in the reeds, alongside Penduline Tit are less conspicuous but still easy to find. Drained pond units host a phenomenal range of migrating shorebirds - far too numerous to list. Water Pipits also feature among the regular autumn visitors of these muddy surfaces. We spend the early afternoon at Büdös-szék, which is pristine alkaline swamp teeming with shorebirds. Before dusk we reach Lake Fehér near Szeged and make a stop right at that point where thousands of Common Cranes coming from their feeding grounds start descending to their traditional roosting site.

Overnight: Halászcsárda near Lake Fehér

Day 4 - Körös-Maros National Park

Today we are looking for several notable raptors, including Saker Falcon, Imperial Eagle and Long-legged Buzzard, alongside some early Rough-legged Buzzards and Merlins also feature on the vast steppes around. Short-eared, Long-eared and Little Owls are also on the agenda. In the afternoon we visit the Great Bustard Sanctuary near Dévaványa, where injured bustards are being cured and the survivors of damaged nests raised. We also take a short walk in the nearby steppes looking for further raptors. Eagle Owl sitting on the rock of a local stone mine.

Overnight: The hotel of Körös-Maros National Park, Dévaványa..

Day 5 - Hortobágy National Park

The morning program includes the moulting site of Dotterels on a pasture of the Hortobágy National Park, where these beautiful birds can be observed from a very close range. After that we visit the Hortobágy Fishponds. Here we take a small train, which goes all across the ponds and carries us to the largest one called Kondás. This is one of the best stop-over places for all kind of shorebirds and waterfowl including the exceedingly rare Lesser White-fronted Geese. White-tailed Eagle is also a regular visitor of the area. Here we achieve our quest in the Hungarian Great Plain and head to the northern hills.

Overnight: Hotel Síkfõkút, Noszvaj

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