Friday, 31 December 2010

Birding Tours: Hungary May 2011

From 21 - 28 May (2011) the UK-based company Heatherlea are once again running a birdwatching tour to Hungary. Based at two centres in the east, in the hills and forests of the Bukk Hills and then around the plains of the Hortobagy National Park. Key species seen previously on this route include Pygmy Cormorant, Black Stork, Ferruginous Duck, Red-footed Falcon, Long-legged Buzzard, Saker, White-tailed, Lesser Spotted and Eastern Imperial Eagles, Collared Pratincole, Stone Curlew, Ural Owl, Wryneck, Syrian, White-backed and Black Woodpeckers, Bee-eater, Roller, Lesser Grey Shrike, Icterine, Barred, River, Marsh and Aquatic Warblers, and many more great birds. More details via this link: HUNGARY IN MAY

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Destinations: Nos Emine - Bulgaria.

The headland of Nos Emine lies on the Black Sea coast in Bulgaria. It is about 60km south of Varna and 45 north of Burgas. It is a good place to observe bird migration in autumn, especially from late August into September. White Storks can number 1000s per day and Lesser Spotted Eagle is the most numerous large raptor. Olive Tree Warbler, Sombre Tit and various shrikes, larks and wheatears breed locally. Photo taken by Gergely Kovacs.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Special Birds: White Pelicans

Eurasian White Pelicans over Lake Burgas, Bulgaria. Another example of birds in an industrial landscape. Photo taken by Gergely Kovacs.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Special Birds: Long-eared Owl - roosts

Long-eared Owls Asio otus are quite widespread and locally common in Eastern Europe. In winter night roosts of 50 birds, and sometimes over 100 birds together, are not uncommon. Eastern Hungary and northern Serbia are two particularly good regions for such roosts. Roosts are often in urban parks, cemeteries and the like.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Birding Tours: Croatia April 9-16, 2011

From 9-16 April 2011 the UK-based company Heatherlea are running a birding tour to Croatia. The tour takes in 3 bases, 1 in the wine-country of the north and 2 on the Dalmatian coast. Key species will be Rock Partridge, Ferruginous Duck, Alpine Chough, Alpine Swift, Eurasian Scops Owl, Rufous-tailed and Blue Rock Thrushes, Western Rock Nuthatch and Black-eared Wheatear amongst many others. Click here for more info: Croatia

Friday, 5 November 2010

Special Birds: Penduline Tit

The dainty little Penduline Tit Remiz pendulinus is a common bird of wetlands with trees throughout the region. Populations in the north are migratory, those in the south largely sedentary. Photo taken at Hortobagy, Hungary by Nigel Sprowell.

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Tour Company Profile: Oriole Birding

Oriole Birding are based in the UK and indeed they run tours around Britain. However Oriole also have an international portfolio of trips with a strong emphasis in Eastern Europe. For example, week-long and shorter birding breaks to Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Croatia, Hungary and Slovakia etc.  

Friday, 22 October 2010

Birding Tours: WildWings - Hungarian Bird Festival 2011

From 8-15 May, 2011, the UK-based company WildWings are once again running the Hungarian Bird Festival. This is a different kind of birding holiday where once in place participants choose each day whether to join guided excusions, short or long, or do their own birding. It is based in the east at the famous Hortobagy area with excursions to nearby hills and forests also arranged. Key species to be expected are Pygmy Cormorant, Red-footed Falcon, Saker, Lesser Spotted Eagle, Eastern Imperial Eagle, Ural Owl, Barred, River and Aquatic Warblers, etc. For more info click this link: Hungarian Bird Festival 

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Special Birds: Common Cranes

The east of Hungary sees 10s of 1000s of Common Cranes Grus grus visit and stop-over every autumn. For example, last week 22,550 were counted in Hortobagy area. By the end of October around 100,000 can be present. It is a true birding spectacle. Numbers have steadily increased in recent years.

Friday, 1 October 2010

Special Birds: Dalmatian Pelicans

Dalmatian Pelicans in an industrial landscape. Photo taken at Lake Burgas, Bulgaria, in August 2010 by Gergely Kovacs.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Birding Tours: Croatia 2011

From 4-8 April 2011 the UK-based company Birdfinders are running a tour to Croatia. Based in Dalmatia key target species will be Rock Partridge, Alpine Chough, Alpine Swift, Eurasian Scops Owl, Rufous-tailed and Blue Rock Thrushes, Western Rock Nuthatch and Black-eared Wheatear amongst others. Click here for the online brochure page: CROATIA BIRD TOUR

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Special Birds: displaying Great Bustard

This wonderful photo of a male Great Bustard in display was taken by Gabor Kovacs in the Hortobagy NP, Hungary, in spring 2010. This pose, when males turn their white feathers up and inside-out, has been described as the "foam bath".

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Destinations: Las Wolski, Krakow - Poland

Las Wolski is a fine parkland and forest on the western edge of the city of Krakow. It is composed of mixed broadleaved and coniferous tree species, with some old stands, and can be reached in minutes from the city by public bus. A series of marked walking trails cross the forest. Birds include 8 resident woodpeckers species, Firecrest and Goldcrest, various tits and in spring and summer 4 flycatchers.

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Special Birds: Rock Bunting

Rock Bunting Emberiza cia is a locally common bird in dry, scrubby, rocky habitats in the south of the region, particularly the Balkan countries. This great photo of singing male was taken by Mladen Vasilev in Bulgaria.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Birding Tours: Poland 2011

From 14 - 21 May 2011, the UK company Heatherlea is running a birdwatching tour to POLAND. Based at two centres in the east, in the forests of Bialowieza and then around the wetlands of the Biebrza National Park, key species seen previously on this easy-going tour are White and Black Storks, White-tailed, Lesser and Great Spotted Eagles, Wryneck, Great Snipe, White-winged Black Tern, Three-toed, Grey-headed and Black Woodpeckers, Great Grey Shrike, Icterine, Barred, River, Marsh and Aquatic Warblers, and many more great birds. More info via this link: POLAND TOUR.

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Special Birds: Little Crake

Little Crake Porzana parva is another classic breeding bird of Eastern Europe. Though often hard to observe being a small, unobtrusive dweller of reedbeds, it is actually rather common locally.

Monday, 2 August 2010

Special Birds: Syrian Woodpecker male














This great shot of a male Syrian Woodpecker Dendrocopos syriacus (note the red nape patch) was taken in his native Bulgaria by Mladen Vasilev.

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Special Birds: White-backed Woodpecker male

This photo of an adult male White-backed Woodpecker Dendrocopos leucotos was taken in Hungary by Laszlo Becsy. There are two races of this species, the nominate leucotos in northern and central Europe eastwards into Asia (as the bird here) and lilfordi in southern Europe, in the Mediterranean and Balkan countries.

Friday, 16 July 2010

Books: The Birds of Hungary

The Birds of Hungary by Gerard Gorman (Christopher Helm, London) is a status handbook of all the birds known to have occurred in Hungary up to 1995. Introductory sections cover Nomenclature, Geographical Background, Land Use, Habitats, Climate, Conservation, Reserves & Parks, and Migration. The bulk of the book is taken up with a species by species status review and each species has a range map (this is the first time ever that maps have been produced and published for all the birds occurring in Hungary). As well as Status data notes on Distribution and Timing indicate the areas and periods where and when each species is present. There are also very useful tables and charts covering such topics as Aquatic Warbler numbers and trends and the Status of Breeding Birds of Prey. The book is enlivened by black & white line drawings by John Davis. If the visiting birder uses this book with one of the above mentioned guides he/she will be wonderfully equipped with all the practical information needed to plan and execute a successful visit.

Sunday, 11 July 2010

Destinations: Burzyn, Biebrza NP - Poland

This spot, near the hamlet of the same name, offers a great view over the marshes and flood plain of the Biebrza River. In spring, April and early May, masses of wildfowl, gulls and waders gather here and some stay to breed. Burzyn lies on the western side of the Biebrza National Park, in the SW, a few miles north of Wizna.

Thursday, 1 July 2010

Special Birds: The Ural Owl

Ural Owl Strix uralensis is a bird that is often high on the list of species that visitors to Eastern Europe want to see. It inhabits forests throughout the region from the Baltic States to the Balkans. Photo by Juozas Miskinis taken in Lithuania.

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Special Birds: Red-crested Pochard - Female














Female Red-crested Pochard Netta rufina. Arguably not as attractive as the drake but nevertheless still distinctive.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Destinations: Biebrza Marshes - Poland

Storm brewing over the Biebrza Marshes, NE Poland, May 2010. This huge wetland area of fens, marshes, bogs, meadows, pastures and woodlands along the River Biebrza is home to 1000s of breeding White-winged Black Terns, is a stronghold of Aquatic Warblers and holds a few leks of Great Snipe... amongst many others.

Monday, 17 May 2010

Birding Tour: Hungary in Autumn











Click this link for details of Heatherlea's 2010 Autumn Birding Tour to Hungary: Huge migration of Common Cranes, White-tailed Eagle, Eastern Imperial Eagle, Saker, Long-legged Buzzard, wildfowl, waders and a host of woodpeckers.

Monday, 10 May 2010

Special Birds: Red-breasted Geese

Great shot of Red-breasted Geese Branta ruficollis in flight by Pete Ferrara. Taken on the Black Sea coast in Bulgaria in autumn/fall 2009.

Saturday, 1 May 2010

Destinations: Pirin - Bulgaria

Now here is a rugged place for you! The Pirin range is in south-west Bulgaria. There are forests of conifer and broadleaved at lower levels and bar rock and scree higher up. All in all this scenic area is suited to a hiking, walking, birding trip not a quick visit. Birds include Alpine Chough, Alpine Accentor, Alpine Swift, Crag Martin and Rock Bunting. In the forests there are Ural Owls and Black, Grey-headed and White-backed Woodpeckers. With luck you might even find Shore Lark or Wallcreeper here. The best approach to the western Pirin is in the south-west via the towns of Blagoevgrad and Sandanski. Bansko is the region's hiking and skiing base. Photo Mladen Vasilev.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Special Birds: Semi-collared Flycatcher














Semi-collared Flycatcher Ficedula semitorquata is one of the most wanted birds on many "western" birders' lists. In Europe Bulgaria is the place to see this species, in deciduous, particular oak, woodlands along the Black Sea coast such as Kamchia and Ropotamo-Arkutino. Indeed, this photo of a male was taken by Mladen Vasilev in Bulgaria.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Special Birds: Rough-legged Buzzard

This great photo of a Rough-legged Buzzard Buteo lagopus (aka Rough-legged Hawk) was taken in Bulgaria in February 2010 by Mladen Vasilev. This species does not breed in the Eastern European region but is a regular winter visitor, mostly to lowland plains. More of Mladen's work can be seen here.

Monday, 12 April 2010

Special Birds: Long-legged Buzzard

This superb flight shot of Long-legged Buzzard Buteo rufinus was taken by Pete Ferrara in Bulgaria in the winter of 2009. This species is fairly widespread in lowlands in the Balkans, especially in Romania, Serbia and Bulgaria, and reaches as far north as eastern Hungary.

Monday, 29 March 2010

Destinations: Pakri neem - Estonia

The Pakri neem headland can be a wind-swept and desolate place, with its old lighthouse and crumbling Soviet army ruins. But at the right times, with favourable weather in spring and autumn it is an excellent passage watch-point. Drivers, wildfowl, gulls and raptors can be numerous and several Estonian rarities have been found here. This is also the best place in Estonia to see Black Guillemot. It is just north of Paldiski which is an hour west of Tallinn by the coastal road number 19.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Special Birds: Eagle Owl

Eurasian Eagle Owl Bubo bubo is Europe's largest owl, sometimes 4 kilos in weight. It is powerful predator of the night. Eagle Owls are widespread and live in a variety of habitats in the region, urban and wilderness, from sea-level to high mountains but usually in rocky places. This photo by Peter Ferrara was taken in eastern Bulgaria.

Monday, 8 March 2010

Destinations: Slovensky Raj - Slovakia

Slovensky Raj is known in English as the Slovak Paradise. It is indeed a scenic mountain area, a National Park with streams and waterfalls. There are extensive mixed forests of beech and conifer with most of the forest and sub-Alpine birds that one would expect in Central Europe. For example, Three-toed and Black Woodpeckers, Pygmy and Ural Owls, Hazel Grouse, Wallcreeper, Dipper, Crested and Willow Tits and Nutcracker etc. There are also Wolves, Lynx and Brown Bears here. This is not an easy place to bird, so some effort will be needed to get the rewards. The park has an extensive, marked system of hiking trails though some are tough, with ladders to climb and walkways to cross, so check contours on the good local maps before you set off. The gateway to the area is the town of Spisska Nova Ves.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Destinations: Haapsalu - Estonia

The small town of Haapsalu lies in NW Estonia in Laane County right on the Baltic Coast. Tallinn is 100km away to the NE by road. This is a comfortable place to bird, indeed a good range of wetland birds - wildfowl, waders, terns and gulls - can often be seen from the waterfront prom and waterside hotels. On the east side of town there is even a high observation tower from which to scan the bay, though it can be windy here. The northern part of the town is a tuning-fork shaped peninsula that juts into Haapsalu Bay. Some of this is a port and closed off, but there are places from where the water can be scanned. In spring grebes, swans and sea-duck flock here and White-tailed Eagles regularly drop in. In summer Haapsalu is packed with tourists and not the best for birding.

Monday, 15 February 2010

Birding Tours: Hungary Spring 2010

From 22 - 29 May (2010) the UK company Heatherlea are running a birdwatching tour to Hungary. Based at two centres in the east, in the forests of the Bukk Hills and then on the flatlands of the Hortobagy National Park, key species seen previously on this easy-going tour are Pygmy Cormorant, Black Stork, Ferruginous Duck (as in the photo here), Red-footed Falcon, Long-legged Buzzard, Saker, White-tailed, Lesser Spotted and Eastern Imperial Eagles, Collared Pratincole, Stone Curlew, Ural Owl, Wryneck, Syrian, White-backed and Black Woodpeckers, Bee-eater, Roller, Lesser Grey Shrike, Icterine, Barred, River, Marsh and Aquatic Warblers, and many, many more. More info via this link: Hungary Heatherlea.

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Hungary: A Birding Festival

From 2-9 May, 2010, the UK company WildWings are once again running the Hungarian Bird Festival. This is a different kind of birding holiday where once in place participants choose each day whether to join guided excusions, short or long, or do their own birding. Based in the east by the Hortobagy area with excursions to nearby hills and forests, too, key species to be expected are Pygmy Cormorant, Red-footed Falcon, Saker, Lesser Spotted Eagle, Eastern Imperial Eagle, Ural Owl, Barred, River and Aquatic Warblers, etc. For more info click this link to: http://www.wildwings.co.uk/hungary.html
Photo of a Saker in the Hortobagy National Park by Gabor Kovacs.

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Serbia: A Birding Tour

Few birders visit Serbia and this is a mistake! But here is your chance. From May 10-17, 2010, Probirder is running a guided tour around the heart of the country. It is an original tour itinerary. Let me stress that Serbia is a great, and safe, birding destination. The tour visits the Fruska Gora Nat Park and the Maljen Mountains, and focuses on a range of upland and lowland species including Rock Partridge, Booted Eagle, Griffon Vulture, Hazel Grouse, Nutcracker, Sombre Tit, Black-headed Bunting etc. In the photo here is Eurasian Nutcracker (by local birder Katarina Paunovic) another great bird that should be seen on this tour. For more details, just get in touch via this blog.

Monday, 18 January 2010

Destinations: Velebit Mountains - Croatia

The Velebit Mountains lie in Croatia and run from north to south just inland from the coast. In places they rise quite sharply from the Adriatic up to sub-Alpine like habitats. The coastal, western flanks are covered in Mediterranean vegetation and the eastern slopes more Continental. Rock Partridge is fairly common in the warmer, stony areas. Other birds, depending of course upon habitat and season, include Scops and Eagle Owls, Peregrine, Short-toed and Golden Eagles, Common and Rock Nuthatches, Blue Rock Thrush, Black-eared Wheatear, Common and Alpine Swifts, Crag Martin and a range of scrub and woodland warblers. A wide range of butterflies occurs in summer and the dry limestone landscapes are ideal for reptiles such as Hermann's Tortoise, Dalmatian Algyroides, Balkan Green Lizard, Dalmatian Wall Lizard, Horvath's Rock Lizard and many others. Mammals include Brown Bear, Wolf and Chamois. Photo here shows the Velebits in the depths of winter.

Friday, 15 January 2010

Special Birds: Fieldfare

The Fieldfare Turdus pilaris is another species that breeds in the north of the region but which in the south is only really seen in winter. A breeding population does however exist in Romania, to the south of its main breeding range, up in the Carpathians. In most winters large flocks of this thrush often invade the warmer climes. It is resident sand quite common in many countries north of Hungary. Photo taken by Laszlo Becsy.

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Probirder - from the Baltic to the Balkans...

Probirder organises birding tours and arranges birding and wildlife guides in Eastern Europe. If you are planning a trip to Eastern Europe then Probirder is the right place to go for assistance. In particular, if you are looking for a quality birding or wildlife-watching tour then Probirder can help with an unrivalled selection of carefully planned tour itineraries. Many global wildlife holiday companies and bird clubs, societies, families with children and disabled birders have used Probirder. Besides birds, tours focusing on mammals, butterflies, natural history in general and wildlife tracking are run, too. Probirder ... from the Baltic to the Balkans...

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Birding Tours: Hungary October 2010

From 23-27 October 2010, the UK tour company Oriole Birding are running a tour to eastern Hungary. The main focus is the 1000s upon 1000s of Common Cranes that occur here in autumn. Other key target species on the trip are Great Bustard, Lesser White-fronted Geese, Saker, Rough-legged Buzzard, Eastern Imperial and White-tailed Eagles, Dotterel, Pygmy Cormorant, Long-eared Owl roosts, and 8 species of European woodpecker species are likely. Here's the link to the trip details: Hungary Festival of Cranes