Our trip to Hungary was nearly 4 years in the making. We booked the trip pre covid and finally our flight was booked for the early hours of Sunday 21st July 2023.
7 OPS members were due to leave Oxford at 3am however the BA flight was postponed at the last minute. After rearranging the taxi to the airport and the pick up at the other end we finally left at 3pm on Sunday afternoon for an evening flight only having to turn 2 minutes later as Lost It Les had forgotten his raincoat.
Arriving at Budapest airport in the very early hours of Monday morning we had a 2.5 hours drive to our destination. Our designated rooms were very spacious and comfortable and after a short sleep we had breakfast at 10 and realised that we had missed the chance of using any hides for the morning.
Throughout the week we divided into small groups to photograph from different hides.
Breakfast was typically 5.30am and with a packed lunch we set off to sit in hides either for the morning or all day to sweat and fidget whilst trying to photograph hoopoes, kestrels, red footed falcons, rollers and shore birds.
The hides were small and functional but with the unusual hot weather for this time of year – nearly 30 degrees, inside the hides was monstrously hot bordering on uncomfortable.
The red footed falcon hide was high up with 30 small wooden steps to climb. Nigel, struggling with a recovering leg injury managed it well only to find that the mobile toilet was of course down the steps and then up again.
Late arriving form Africa the red footed falcon pairs were only just beginning to mate so provided ample opportunity for some great behavioural shots. Dave A repeatedly hit the button and will review the photos in the comfort of his own home.
There were 2 Hoopoe hides where the birds were frantically feeding young – in and out of the nest hole at great pace making flying shots more difficult but with a whole morning to practise we should have all nailed the shots.
The BeeEater hide was the most popular as there was an amazing amount of activity with birds flying in and out catching various types of insects to pass to their breeding mate. The male birds would fly off to catch a bug, beetle or bee and gallantly present it to the female. The female after swallowing the gift would then, as payment, present herself for mating. Beware of strange men bearing gifts I say.
Whilst the Bee Eater, Hoopoe and red footed falcon hides were prolific in activity it was not so in some of the other hides.
The European Roller hide was good but although the birds were passing food in the first stages of the mating process it was a little too early – maybe a week or so – for the mating shots. To provide entertainment whilst waiting for the Rollers to appear were had starlings, yellow wagtails and shrikes to photograph taking food in to feed their young.
The Reed bed hide was an all day lying down hide which was phenomenally hot and uncomfortable. We waited and hoped for an array of bird life and although we did see female reed warbles and a glimpse of bearded tit the main entertainment came from frogs, tortoise and predominantly snakes. Many young grass snakes swam across the water channel and, as it was so unbearably hot, I sat outside where there was at least a breeze to read a chapter of my book. Sat beside me as I looked up was a medium sized black snake with lime green markings. It slithered off into the water and I’m not sure who was the most startled.
The few days we had in Hungary went very quickly. I had preconceived visions of an Eastern European hardness about Hungary, but it was quite the opposite. The people we encountered were soft, kind and gentle with a fabulous countryside that was flat and green – no rubbish at all littered the verged, the animals were free roaming in large herds devouring the organic herbs and grasses of the land. All of the animals looked so fit and healthy with the horses coats reflecting their gloss in the glorious sunshine and the massive horns of the Hungarian grey cattle gave them an air of superiority.
A country I would gladly return to.