Trip Report – June 2008
Day 1: We started our trip by enjoying the incredible city of Prague in the Czech Republic. We stayed in a small hotel, Casa Marcello, in the center of things which was once part of a monastery – but is now a small beautiful hotel. The first evening we wandered down to the square in the center of Old Town to enjoy a lively meal and, we found Lesser Kestrel.
Day 2: This was a full day for sightseeing in Prague – the Charles Bridge, Prague Castle, River Vltava and much more – not a great deal of birds but an amazing city – there are several opportunities to enjoy classical concerts throughout the city – for those that are interested.
Day 3: This could be an optional birding or sightseeing day. We chose sightseeing but next time I would go birding in the Greater Prague area – hawfinch, bullfinch and woodpeckers will be on the list
Day 4: After a slightly slower start this morning, we left Prague and drove onto Hungary, passing through a corner of Austria that provided good views of Imperial Eagle. Birding en route, we headed to the town of Sopron. We stayed in the old town at an amazing little hotel, Hotel Wollner – with the friendliest owners and a lovely hanging garden in the back.
Day 5: Today we visited an amazing wetland area that straddles the Austria/Hungary border and provided access to an enormous number of birds, Lake Ferto. We hired a local guide and took a picnic breakfast and lunch (provided by the hotel) to maximize our viewing time. We saw 120 species!! En route we experienced our first sights of white stork nesting in the Hungarian villages.
Day 6: Birding today was en route to Heviz for our next stay down at Lake Balaton. Our delightful hotel, Romantik Hotel Kis Helikon, was right near a beautiful thermal spa ( for which Hungary is famous) and we relaxed and swam for the afternoon. Dinner was at one of the best locations we have ever been! Overlooking the lake at a fantastic restaurant, Kisfaludy House in Badacsony, is a truly memorable place. ( Its a little tricky to find so get directions.)
Day 7: This was a full day of birding at Kis-Balaton, a massive reed bed at the south west corner of Balaton Lake. Large numbers of ducks, waders, terns and gulls along with raptors and many species of reed warbler. We visited a banding station at Fenekpuszta ( at the 115km marker on the road) which was very badly run and the people were very unfriendly ( not uncommon in Hungary) so I wouldn’t recommend it but we had some up close views of the reed warblers and the birding around it was very good. Nice Hungarian meal at Muskatis in the small village of Heviz.
Day 8: In the morning we continued birding the Kis-Balaton area –next time I would hire a guide because it is such a vast area (our guide from Sopron would have come down) and then we departed at lunch time for Budapest where we were booked into the Residence Isabella for 3 nights. It was an apartment hotel, very nice, good location but very pricey.
Day 9,10 & 11; While staying in Budapest, we hired a local guide and explored 3 different birding areas outside of the city – this was our chance for Collared Pratincole, Red-footed falcon and many, many more. (For those who want to take a break from birding on any of these days explore Budapest and the great Danube River. I would highly recommend a guide for these areas because the birds are quite spread out and you really need to know the exact spot to head for. Just amazing though!
Day 12: Leaving Budapest we headed up to the town of Eger. This was quite something! Stayed at the hotel Villa Volgy and really enjoyed this beautiful, historic little town. Did some wine tasting in the Valley of the Beautiful Women just around the corner form the hotel. You have to see this to believe it!! because all the wineries are there and they are buried into the rock in caves. Great spot for Hawfinch!
Day 13: We didn’t do this but if I went again, I would take today to move slightly north towards the Slovak border for better access to the
Bukk Hills and the Aggtelek Hills. Hire a local guide (your guide from Budapest would probably come up) and concentrate on the woodland birds.
Day 14; Once again we didn’t do this but I would spend this morning in the Aggtelek Hills for more woodland birding and one of the best locations for Hazelhen. In the afternoon you could visit the Baradla-Domica caves. This area can also offer an alternate activity as hiking is extremely popular here.
Day 15: We used this day to determine where to spend our last day of woodland birding based on which species we hadn’t yet seen – our guide came up from Budapest which was just as well because we would have been challenged without him.
Day 16: Then on to the Hortobagy plains – the grasslands of Hungary. After birding en route, our guide took us to meet a park ranger who took us into parts of the grasslands that are off limits to the public where we will found Aquatic Warbler. Stayed at the Hortobagy Club Hotel – seen better days but good location.
Day 17: Another day’s birding on the plains looking for Grasshopper warbler, Garden warbler, Great Bustard, Common Crane and many more,. Took the train at Hortobagy-Helasto Kisvasot and headed to the end for the dyke for great birding. The Hortobagy plains must be seen to be believed. Stayed as the same hotel.
Day 18 & 19: If we went again I would add a couple more days at the end to head south or east. I would take a couple of optional routes with me and decide at the last minute where to go depending on what species I still needed.
Day 20: Where ever the last 2 days take us, we will leave in time to depart from Budapest directly home.
General Comments: Driving is very easy. The roads and the maps are good and the signage is in English. Most people speak a little English. Beware that your bank card may get cut off by your bank if you use it here so don’t rely on one card!
We went in July – which was a great time.
Prague – Hotel Casa Marcello
Sopron – Hotel Wollner
Heviz – Romantik Hotel Kis Helikon – no longer on the website
Budapest – Rezidence Isabella – no longer on the website
Eger – Hotel Villa Volgy
Hortobagy – Hortobagy Club Hotel
Guides & Resources
Western Hungary (Sopron) – Bolazs
Central Hungary ( Budapest) – Dan Bastaja – Contact me an I will provide his contact information
BirdingPals is always a great resource for free and professional guides.
A ‘must’ in Europe is ‘The Most complete Field Guide to the birds of Britain and Europe’ by Mullarney, Svensson, Zetterstrom & Grant.
The Birds of Hungary by Gerard Gorman is not a field guide but is interesting and worth picking up.
You could also pick up a little guide called Finding Birds in Hungary by Dave Gosney – but we found the maps very hard to follow. Its very inexpensive so maybe worth it anyway.
Bird song: Purchase from nhbs we use Bird songs and Calls of Britain and Europe – Jean C Roche
Lonely Planet Guides for Hungary and Prague