Saturday, 23 February 2008

Destinations: Lake Ferto - Hungary

This large shallow lake is perhaps more well known by its German name the Neusiedler See. Indeed much of the lake lies in Austria. The shores of the Hungarian part are less "developed" than the Austrian side with larger reedbeds, a result of having previously been right on the "Iron Curtain" and out-of-bounds. Common and Little Bitterns, Great White Egret, Purple Heron and Spoonbill all nest in this former "no-man's land". Bluethroat, Bearded Tit and Moustached, Savi's and Great Reed Warblers are all common, too. Breeding ducks include Shoveler and Ferruginous. In the south-west a road skirts the lake from Fertorakos through Balf to Hidegseg and being high above the areas gives panoramic views. Just south of Fertorakos a road runs westwards through reedbeds to a lakeside resort and here reed dwelling birds can be observed without having to enter the strict reserve. From Fertod a road heads north to Fertoujlak right on the Austrian border (things have changed, I was detained here in 1989). The salt marsh here called Mekszikopuszta is good for breeding Black-tailed Godwit and Kentish Plover and passage waders. The reedbeds are generally best from April to June though Moustached Warblers often stay around well into October. White Storks breed in villages and occur in groups around the lake, along with Black Stork, in August before migrating south. Autumn brings many 1000s of grey geese to the lake on passage with some staying on to winter. Bean Geese are the most numerous. Hen Harriers and Rough-legged Buzzards occur from October through to March.
Red-breasted Geese occur most winters and Short-eared Owls, sometimes parties of of up to a dozen, are possible in autumn on grasslands near the lake. The lake is around 210 km west of Budapest and about an hour by car from Vienna crossing the border at Klingenbach-Sopron. Most of the area is a National Park (Ferto-Hanság NP) with a Visitors' Centre, the Kócsagvár (Egret Castle), in Sarród. There are several marked paths and bicycle routes around the lake. New border crossings with Austria have been opened making exploration from there easier.

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