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Hungary is a scenic land of woodedhills and endless steppe, dottedwith reed-fringed lakes andbisected by one of Europe's great rivers,the mighty Danube. With such a variety oflandscapes and habitats on offer it ishardly surprising that Hungary is also oneof Europe's very best wildlife destinations.Its birdlife, especially, is both abundantand varied, and in early May it is at itsbest! At this time of year resident speciesare joined by migrating waders, warblersand raptors on their way further north andthe country's many woods are alive withbirdsong. To enjoy it all, we will journeythrough of some the country's mostpicturesque 'Magyar' landscapes on thistour, from the forested Zemplen Hills in thenorth-east, to the lowland steppe,grassland and farmlands of the Kiskunságand Hortobágy National Parks. Aside fromits avifauna, Hungary also has much tooffer in terms of butterflies and otherwildlife, and in cultural terms it is both richin folklore and famed for its full-bodiedwines and hearty food. Indeed, throughoutthe tour we will sample only authenticHungarian cuisine! Having flown to Budapest - the capital ofHungary, split in two by the Danube - ourfirst destination is the Kiskunság NationalPark, just an hour's drive away. Thistranquil lowland region of steppe, sandydunes, farmland and wooded copses isone of Hungary's most important areas forthe Great Bustard, which we'll hope to seedisplaying! Collared Pratincoles also breedhere, whilst ponds and gravel pits attractall three marsh terns, plus Red-crested Pochard and Ferruginous Duck. Fringingreedbeds are home to Moustached, Savi'sand Great Reed Warblers, and overheadMontagu's Harrier, Saker Falcon and Red-footed Falcon may be seen hunting.Rollers and Lesser Grey Shrikes adorn theroadside wires and on an evening walk wewill look for Scops Owl, Long-eared Owland Nightjar. For our next three nights we head north-east to the Zemplen Hills. This region ischaracterised by dense broad-leavedforests, traditionally farmed fields,flowering meadows and vineyards. This isthe best area in the country for Ural andEagle Owls and no less than nine speciesof woodpecker, including the rare White-backed Woodpecker. It is also rich in birdsof prey, with Goshawk, Eastern Imperial,Short-toed and Lesser Spotted Eagles allbreeding here. The scratchy 'crex-crex' ofthe Corncrake may be all we record of thiselusive species, but there will be manymore obvious birds to enjoy such asWoodlark, Red-backed Shrike, BlackRedstart, Barred Warbler and GoldenOriole, to name but a few. We will then travel to the famousHortobágy National Park, the foremostwildlife region of Hungary and one ofEurope's most valuable ecological areas,for our final two nights. This is a flat landof distant horizons, dotted with smallwoodlands and reed-fringed fish ponds,but dominated by the lowland semi-steppeand grassland known as the 'puszta'.Abundant small mammals and insects livein the grasslands here, making it anexcellent area for raptors, amongst themLong-legged Buzzards, Imperial Eagles,Red-footed Falcons, Montagu's Harriersand Saker Falcons - the curious, gopher-like Souslik (a small ground-squirrel) beinga favoured prey of the larger raptorspecies. The pusztaof the Hortobágy willalso offer us anotheropportunity to enjoy sightingsof the massive Great Bustard, along withStone Curlews, Collared Pratincoles andhawking White-winged Terns. But it is theWhite Storks nesting on the roofs ofcottages, the shepherds with their scruffy'puli' dogs, and flocks of gaggling whitegeese that most of all add to theatmosphere of the puszta, which is notsurprisingly steeped in folklore and myth.A series of huge complexes of fish pondsthat lie scattered over the Hortobágy areanother magnet for birds - both breedingmarshland species and migrating wadersand passerines. At this time of year thereedbeds resound to a cacophony ofsong, from the loud, harsh notes of GreatReed Warblers, to the sweeter, mellowsongs of Marsh and Moustached Warblersand the reeling of Savi's Warblers. Theadjacent sedge beds are home to thebeautiful 'tiger-striped' Aquatic Warbler;although this rare bird is sadly declining inHungary and becoming increasingly moredifficult to see. By early May the heronsand egrets will be nesting in large raucouscolonies. Spoonbill, Great Egret, PurpleHeron and Glossy Ibis all occur here, asdoes the secretive Bittern which can oftenbe heard booming from the surroundingreedbeds. Other interesting speciesinclude Whiskered Tern, Black-neckedGrebe and Pygmy Cormorant, whilst ahost of migrating waders and wildfowlfurther augment the variety.With our holiday at an end we will return toBudapest. From here you can eithercomplete your journey home or perhapsconsider extending your stay with a coupleof nights in Hungary's attractive andvibrant capital. Hungary in SpringAn 8-day birdwatching tour exploring the hills, plains and wetlands of Hungary.Saturday 4th May - Saturday 11th May Cost: £1,395Book direct on 01962 733051or see page 284 for Booking InformationSLOVAKIAAUSTRIACROATIATATAROMANIAESZTERGOMBUDA HILLSBUDAPESTRIVER DANUBELAKETISZAZEMPLENHILLSTISZAFÜREDHORTOBÁGYNATIONAL PARKDEBRECENRIVER TISZALAKE VELENCELAKE BALATONHUNGARYKISKUNSÁGNATIONALPARKDANUBE BENDOutline itineraryDay 1Fly Budapest andtransfer to KiskunságNational Park.Day 2Kiskunság NationalPark.Day 3/5 Zemplen Hills.Day 6/7Hortobágy NationalPark. Day 8Fly London.AccommodationComfortable hotels throughout, allwith private facilities.FoodAll included in the price.GradingA/B. Day walks only.FocusBirds.LeaderPeter Dunn, plus local guide.Single room supplement £160.ExtensionsArranged on request. Extra nightsin Budapest recommended andworthwhile.Web quick search: HUN0375Puszta shepherd and pulidogGreat BustardRed-footed Falcon

Hungary has long been establishedas one of Europe's top birdwatchingdestinations, but this beautifullandlocked country, at the heart of thecontinent, is less well known for its otherwildlife treasures, in particular itsbutterflies. Although modern farmingpractices are on the increase, many areasare still farmed using a variety of lowintensity, wildlife-friendly techniques,unchanged for generations. As a resultbutterflies still flourish and dancing cloudsof these colourful sprites are still acommon sight over flower-filled meadowsand sunny woodland glades. Nearly 200species occur here, well over three timesthe number to be found in Britain, andHungary is sure to become a favourite withthe lepidopterists amongst us, as it hasalready become with ornithologists.Indeed, it is one of the aims of this holiday,run in conjunction with ButterflyConservation (to whose conservation fund10% of the holiday cost will be donated),to raise the interest in butterflies overseas. We begin our holiday with a flight to thenation's capital, Budapest, a beautiful citythat merits a few extra days for sightseeingprior to, or at the end of our tour, shouldyou so wish. From here we travel to theAggtelek National Park, which lies alongHungary's border with Slovakia, about fourhours' drive from the capital. Aggtelek issituated within one of the most scenicparts of Hungary, a region rich in wildlife,history and folklore. Here, amongst alandscape which predominantly consistsof rolling meadows that are still mown byhand and ploughed by horse, prettyvillages lie scattered, together withpatches of deciduous woodland, limestonekarst and, along the River Bódva, dampwater meadows. This diversity of habitatsis home to a wealth of butterflies, as wellas other fauna and flora, and we have twofull days here to thoroughly explore theregion in search of the numerous blues,whites, coppers, graylings, hairstreaks andfritillaries that abound. Species to look outfor include Pallas's Fritillary, High BrownFritillary, Silver-washed Fritillary, Duke ofBurgundy, Map Butterfly, CamberwellBeauty, Purple Emperor, Hungarian Glider,Dryad, Great Banded Grayling, ScarceSwallowtail and many, many others. Thebirdwatchers amongst us will no doubtkeep an eye skyward in case a Goshawkor an Imperial or Short-toed Eagle shouldpass overhead whilst, at lower levels, suchspecies as Barred Warbler, Red-backedShrike, Woodlark and Rock Bunting maybe seen. Leaving Aggtelek National Park, we nextdrive the short distance to the BükkNational Park, our base for the final fournights of this holiday. The Bükk Hills lie atthe southern edge of the Carpathians andrise gently from 300 metres above sealevel to a maximum elevation of 960metres. Although an upland area, most ofour time will be spent exploring thedeciduous woodlands and valleys in thelower reaches of the park and thus nostrenuous walks will be necessary to fullyappreciate this rich area. During our threefull days here we will explore, amongstother areas, the Hoy Valley and the Nagy-mezo and Omassa regions of the BükkPlateau. This is an extremely rich park forbutterflies. Amongst the woods and overthe flower-filled meadows and verges flyScarce and Common Swallowtails, WoodWhites, Chestnut Heaths, both Brown andPurple Hairstreaks, Poplar Admirals, Large,Sooty and Purple-edged Coppers, Queenof Spain Fritillaries, Purple and LesserPurple Emperors, Berger's CloudedYellows, and Chalk-hill, Short-tailed,Chequered, Turquoise and Reverdin'sBlues amongst many others. Woodlandedges host Scarce Fritillaries and BlackHairstreaks whilst the Bükk's fine oldBeech woods are home to CamberwellBeauty and Hungarian Glider. The greatHungarian Plain begins at the foot of theBükk Hills and we will also visit thegrasslands and wetlands here in the hopeof adding such species as Silver-studdedBlue and Chapman's Blue to our tally. Forthose with an interest in other wildlife,birds to look out for include Hawfinch,White-backed, Black and Grey-headedWoodpeckers, whilst dragonflies includeSouthern and Small Emerald Damselflies,Blue-tailed Damselfly, Common andMigrant Hawkers, White-tailed Skimmerand Vagrant Darter.This north-eastern region of Hungary isalso famed for its full-bodied red and whitewines, the fruity red Bull's Blood being oneof its more famous exports. There aremany old wine cellars cut into the hillsideshere and an evening's wine-tastingexcursion to one of the very best will bearranged for those who are interested.Here you will be free to sample the localproduce . and perhaps raise a glass tothe quality of the Magyar wildlife enjoyedduring the week! Butterflies ofHungaryAn 8-day butterfly holiday, run in conjunction with Butterfly Conservation, to the Aggtelek and Bükk National Parks in north-eastern Hungary. Tuesday 18th June - Tuesday 25th June Cost: £1,395 Outline itineraryDay 1Fly Budapest andtransfer to AggtelekNational Park.Day 2/3Aggtelek National Park.Day 4/7Bükk National Park.Day 8Fly London.AccommodationComfortable hotels throughout; allrooms with private facilities.FoodAll included in the price.GradingA. Easy day walks.FocusButterflies, dragonflies and otherwildlife.LeaderRob Parker, plus local guides.Single room supplement£160.ExtensionsArranged on request. Extra nightsin Budapest recommended andworthwhile.Web quick search: HUN0276Call now or visit your free Trip ItinerarySLOVAKIAAUSTRIACROATIAROMANIABUDA HILLSBUDAPESTRIVER DANUBELAKETISZAGYÖRGYÕSMISKOLCTISZAFÜREDHORTOBÁGYNATIONAL PARKDEBRECENRIVER TISZALAKE VELENCELAKE BALATONHUNGARYKISKUNSÁGNATIONALPARKBÖRZSÖNYHILLSBÜKKHILLSAGGTELEKNATIONAL PARKSwallowtails10% DONATIONTOSooty CopperScarce Fritillary