Saturday, 19 July 2014

Hungary for more!

Its been pretty much non-stop for the last few weeks, so I've eventually got around to writing a blog post.
At the start of June I was back in Scotland volunteering with National Trust for Scotland at Threave NNR, staying on the reserve meant I was able to get out and around the reserve on an evening which produced some great views of Roe Deer, Osprey and Barn Owl to name but a few. The resident of Barn owls were making themselves heard sometimes in the middle of the night right outside of the bedroom window! Being able to watch them quarter, hunt and fly back and into the nest to feed the young was particularly memorable experience! Whilst undertaking a bird survey around the reserve I was particularly pleased to find Tree sparrows nesting high in an Ash tree, a good record for the reserve and hopefully they will continue to increase. As always the stars of the show were the Ospreys and an evening spent along the banks of the Dee produced the first sighting of single young bird which was confirmed in the morning when one of the Osprey volunteers radioed in to say that two young were showing on the nest, they are some size now!

Threave estate

Over one of the weekends whilst away I went out to look at Seabird colonies in Dumfries & Galloway, it was my first visit to some of the cliffs, which is unusual since I've been visiting the area since I was very young! The cliffs didn't disappoint with large amounts of Guillemot, Razorbill, Kittiewake and Fulmar. The thrift clinging to the cliff edge help create a brilliant foreground and backdrop for photographing the Auks, Gulls and Fulmars, it was a bit disappointing that the light was so bad but the strong wind helped create brilliant soaring conditions for the star birds of the day, a pair of Peregrine falcon hunkered down on the cliff side at the nest were just visable and the size difference between the Male and Female was immediately noticeable. The female took off and was soon soaring above the cliffs as the wind hitting the cliff face was force upwards, she stayed in the air, soaring, for over 20 minutes in that time being briefly joined by the Male and several attacking Herring and Lesser black-backed gulls. A few hours spent in the afternoon looking for Otters was unsuccessful as too were my attempts to see Otter on the Dee throughout my stay, the closest I came to seeing one was during an early morning of Osprey watching when a dog walker happened to tell me had just seen one further upstream from one of the hides, unfortunately for me by the time I arrived it was gone.
Thanks to Karl for taking me up to see the Cliffs and Peregrines!

Guillemot on 'nest'

A few days after returning from Dumfries and Galloway I was heading for eastern Europe, a region completely new to me with wildlife that would be completely new to me too. Touching down in Budapest the first new species for me to encounter was Suslik, a species which I had anticipated being far more likely on the plains however as it turned out that Suslik was to be the only Suslik of the trip.
Brian (Killy Birder) has written a day by day report of the trip which can be found HERE so I am therefore going to keep this fairly brief and just point out my highlights.
On arriving in the Bukk Hills National park it wasn't long before we were watching one of the iconic birds of the area, the awe inspiring Eastern Imperial Eagle, the wingspan of the bird and the overall size of the bird was immense and unlike anything I have ever come across in the past, just watching the Imperial Eagle would have been one of my trip highlights however soon after a small bird of prey came into view circling lower on the same band of thermals as the Imperial Eagle above, it wasn't long before the two birds began to interact and as they came closer it was soon fairly obvious that it was a Goshawk attacking the Imperial Eagle! Having been unfortunate and not had the chance to see Goshawk in the U.K it was a real privilege to see interaction between two of the regions Iconic birds and something I doubt I will ever see again!
The scenery and atmosphere of the Hortobagy National park and the 'Putsza' takes some beating, watching cattle being pushed across the plains in the distance through the heathaze on the Little Hortobagy with the sound of Common Crane in the background was very surreal.

White Storks at the nest

White Stork "Bill clattering"

White Stork

Common Darter

Banded Damoiselle 

Something that stuck in my mind about these areas was the amount of "Farmland" species, Tree Sparrows could be found just about everywhere, something which can unfortunately not be said about the U.K, the farming techniques and land management in Hungary still have a somewhat soviet feel and in areas are still fairly 'primitive' in some respects, the amount of land set aside on field margins of nearly every field are large, Red-backed Shrikes can be found alongside nearly every roadside in these areas.

Female Red-backed Shrike

Hooded Crow

At Farm lator where we were staying in the Bukk Hills National Park the back garden of the accommodation also had a hide within an old store shed type building, myself and Brian tried to take full advantage of the hide by using it pretty much every morning sometimes at around 6:00-6:30 in the morning to make the most of the backlit effect being created by the early morning light. A wide range of species visited the garden each morning with the most predominant being Marsh tit, Eurasian Nuthatch, Great Tit and Great spotted Woodpecker. Of course you can find all these species in the U.K I know of very few places in the U.K where the photographic opportunities for these species are better! Some more "Exotic" species that came into the feeding station were Serin (Lifer for me!), Hawfinch (Lifer for me!) and Middle Spotted Woodpecker (Another new lifer!) all giving superb views too! Red Squirrels did make very brief appearances but didn't favour venturing down to the feeders.

Farmland of the Bukk Hills National park

Great spotted Woodpecker

Juvenile Great spotted Woodpecker

Eurasian Nuthatch

Juvenile Hawfinch

Several days were spent venturing out in search for Butterflies and they didn't disappoint! But more on that in an up coming blog post!
More pictures to follow soon! Both of wildlife and Budapest so keep you eyes open for more pictures from Hungary over the next few weeks.
Thanks for reading and looking at just a small amount of photographs from Hungary! here is a quick look at what's to appear next time!

Twin-spot Fritillary