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Hungary's varied landscapes,abundant wildlife, rich folklore andexcellent wines combine to createthe perfect destination at any time of year.For the birdwatcher, however, one seasonstands out above the rest -the autumn.Each October over 50,000 CommonCranes gather on the steppes of theHortobágy on their way south to theirwintering grounds in North Africa. Thereare few experiences in the natural world torival the sight and sound of an eveningcrane roost and this exciting tour willposition you directly under their flight path!Add to this a supporting cast of wildfowl,raptors, waders - including Dotterel -and the mighty Great Bustard, and youhave all the ingredients for a spectacularweek of Magyar birdwatching.We will spend the first five days of theholiday in the Hortobágy National Parkwhich lies in the east of the country, somethree hours east of Budapest. In October,the puszta,a dry semi-natural grasslandbroken only by acacia copses,farmsteads, reed-fringed fish-ponds andgaggling flocks of white geese, plays hostto an exciting variety of birdlife. This is aflat land of distant horizons, dotted withisolated sweep wells and grazed upon byflocks of scruffy sheep, each with itsattendant walnut-faced shepherd andsmall 'puli' sheep-dog. Imperial andWhite-tailed Eagles, Long-legged Buzzard,Saker Falcon, Merlin, Hen and MarshHarriers hunt over the plains flushingparties of Lapland Bunting, Twite and Red-throated Pipits as they go. Great Bustardsgather in groups here during the autumnand show well, whilst Spoonbills, GreatWhite Egrets, Bitterns and PygmyCormorants are still present around thehuge fish-pond systems. This is anexcellent month for waders too, as themany drained fish-ponds present carpetsof invertebrate-rich mud which attractGolden and Grey Plovers, flocks of Ruffand Spotted Redshank, plus Green, Wood and Curlew Sandpipers. Just as in Britain, October is an excellentmonth for rare and vagrant migrants, withsuch elusive species as Slender-billedCurlew now recorded over a dozen timeson the Hortobágy during this period. Largenumbers of ducks- particularly Gadwall,Teal, Wigeon, Pintail, Shoveler andFerruginous Ducks-are attracted to thefish-ponds, and thousands of grey geese(mostly White-fronted and Bean Geeseaccompanied by smaller groups of LesserWhite-fronts) use the ponds as roosts. BothPenduline and Bearded Tits are residentand common around the edges of theendless reed beds, whilst an autumnspeciality of the Hortobágy is the collectionof confiding Dotterel flocks which remainhere until the first frosts of winter.Over the last decade, the number ofCommon Cranes passing through theHortobágy, on their way from breedinggrounds further north to their winterquarters in Africa, has steadily increased.Well over 50,000 now regularly spend theautumn in eastern Hungary, and onsuccessive evenings we will be in placejust before dusk to experience flight afterflight of Cranes, whistling and trumpetingas they pass low overhead from theirdaytime feeding areas to secure wetlandroosts. This is one of Europe's mostspectacular ornithological sights andsounds, and will no doubt be the highlightof the week for many.For the second part of our holiday we will transfer to the broad-leavedwoodlands of the Bükk Hills in the north ofthe country, close to the Slovakian border. The Bükk National Park protects one of Hungary's most scenic regions and itsrolling landscape of forested hills,vineyards and quaint villages offers adramatic contrast to the flat lands of theHortobágy and the great HungarianSteppe. Our hotel is situated in a smalland traditional wine-producing village withbirds such as Serin, Black Redstart andHawfinch typically amongst the gardenbirds. We will also head a little furtherafield, however, and explore thesurrounding forests in search of Black,Middle Spotted, Grey-headed, Syrian andthe localised White-backed Woodpecker,plus Hawfinch, Goshawk, Eastern ImperialEagle and Short-toed Treecreeper. For those wishing to extend their stay wewould recommend a couple of nights inBudapest, Hungary's beautiful and vibrantcapital. Here you may choose to spendsome time exploring the historic CastleDistrict or perhaps end your holiday withan evening cruise down the Danube - afitting finale to autumn in Hungary!Autumn in HungaryAn 8-day birdwatching tour to enjoy the spectacular migration of Cranes through the Hortobágy,together with wildfowl, raptors and Great Bustards.Tuesday 9th October - Tuesday 16th October 2012 Cost: £1,295Wednesday 16th October - Wednesday 23rd October 2013 Cost: £1,395 Book direct on 01962 733051or see page 284 for Booking InformationSLOVAKIAAUSTRIACROATIAROMANIABUDA HILLSBUDAPESTRIVER DANUBELAKETISZAGYÖRGYÕSAGGTELEKNATIONAL PARKMISKOLCTISZAFÜREDHORTOBÁGYNATIONAL PARKDEBRECENRIVER TISZALAKE VELENCELAKE BALATONHUNGARYKISKUNSÁGNATIONALPARKBÖRZSÖNYHILLSBÜKKHILLSOutline itinerary Day 1Fly Budapest andtransfer Hortobágy. Day 2/5Hortobágy NationalPark. Day 6/7Bükk National Park. Day 8Fly London.AccommodationComfortable hotels with privatefacilities.FoodAll included in the price.GradingA. Day walks only.FocusBirds.LeaderGeoff Carr, plus local guides.Single room supplement£160.ExtensionsArranged on request. Extra nightsin Budapest recommended andworthwhile.Web quick search: HUN0179Common CranesLong-eared OwlCommon Crane

In the depths of the Arctic winter therugged Snaefellsnes Peninsula becomesthe stage for two of the natural world'smost spectacular performances. Over recentwinters large shoals of Herring have beengathering in sheltered fjords off thepeninsula's northern coastline. WhilstHerring are the favoured prey of manyspecies, by far their most formidablenemesis is the ocean's top predator, theKiller Whale or 'Orca'. Pods of Orca are nowbeing seen regularly in the Grundafjord area,feasting on the fish there between themonths of January and March. This timing ofthe Orcas is very fortuitous, for the wintermonths are also the best time to stepoutside after dark and look skyward in thehope of witnessing nature's mostbreathtaking light show, the Aurora Borealisor Northern Lights. Although most peopletend to head south in the winter, we hopethat the potential for both Killer Whales andNorthern Lights - set against some ofEurope's most dramatic landscapes - willtempt you to journey north instead and joinNaturetrek on this unusual, but exciting,short winter break. We begin our holiday with a short flight toKeflavik, Iceland's international gatewaywhere we spend our first night at thespectacularly positioned Northern Lights Inn.The following morning we drive north foraround three hours to the dramaticSnaefellsnes Peninsula and our next base inthe small attractive town of Stykkishólmur.Incidentally, the tip of the SnaefellsnesPeninsula is dominated by the wide glacial-capped slopes of the SnaefellsjokullVolcano, the entry point for the explorers inthe famous Jules Verne novel 'Journey to theCentre of the Earth'! As the road threads itsway through the wild and empty landscapeof west Iceland we will not only admire thescenery, but also keep an eye open for oneor two birds such as a lingering WhooperSwan or a party of wintering Snow Buntings.Although it is very possible to see Orcasfrom the shoreline, on two days we will wrapup warm against the Arctic chill and headout onto the waters of Grundafjordur for acloser look. The whale watches typically lastfor around one and a half to two hours, andduring this time the captain of our vessel willemploy his wealth of knowledge of the area,and the movement of the whales, to ensurethe very best chance of an encounter withthis sleek and powerful predator. Oncelocated, the whales themselves may beindifferent to our presence, or perhapsinquisitive depending on what otherdiversions they have. If we are fortunate, thepassing shoal of Herring may stimulate ademonstration of their impressive huntingprowess, sleek black and white bodiesbreaking the surface as these consummatepredators power after their hapless prey. It isa rare privilege indeed to watch these oceanwanderers at such close quarters amidwonderful scenery, but they are not the onlyinhabitants of this spectacular coast. Podsof White-beaked Dolphins are frequentlyseen speeding past, occasionally pausing toplay in the wake of the vessel. Flocks ofseabirds including Gannets, Kittiwakes andFulmars prey on the Herring from above,while the Orcas eat their fill from below.Other birds to look out for include BlackGuillemot, Common Guillemot, CommonEider, Red-throated and Great NorthernDivers and the occasional group ofHarlequin Ducks - all risking life and limb inthe shoreline surf.There will certainly be plenty to entertain usduring the hours of daylight, but once theweak Arctic sun drops below the horizon wewill turn our attention skyward for the secondof this region's winter attractions, theNorthern Lights. Whilst we will be wellplaced for the light show, only 'mothernature' will decide whether or not a displaywill take place, with such factors as cloudcover and solar activity being out ofNaturetrek's control! We hope, however, thatboth will work in our favour and that we willend our short holiday in Iceland mesmerisedby dancing curtains of green and red lightover a landscape of snowy mountains anddark fjords. Indeed, with 2013 marking theheight of the 'solar maximum' (the mostactive part of the sun's 11-year cycle) thereis no better time to go in search of thisspectacular natural light display!All too soon, however, it will be time for us toleave the dramatic landscapes of theSnaefellsnes Peninsula and return home, butthe Orcas will continue to enjoy the harvestof Herring for a few more weeks before,once again, both hunters and prey slip awayinto the vastness of the open ocean. 80Call now or visit www.naturetrek.co.ukfor your free Trip ItineraryOutline itineraryDay 1Fly Keflavik and transferto Northern Lights Inn.Day 2/4Orca and NorthernLights watching fromStykkishólmur.Day 5Fly London.AccommodationComfortable hotel in Stykkishólmur.All rooms have private facilities.FoodAll included, except for lunches onDays 1 and 4.GradingGrade A. Easy short walks only.FocusKiller Whales, Northern Lights,birds and landscapes.LeaderMalcolm Stott.Single room supplement£125.Web quick search: ISL04Iceland - Killer Whales & Northern Lights A 5-day winter break to west Iceland's Snaefellsnes Peninsula in search of Killer Whales, wintering birds and the breathtaking Northern Lights.Sunday 3rd February - Thursday 7th February Cost: £1,295Monday 18th February - Friday 22nd February Cost: £1,295KEFLAVIKICELANDSTYKKISHÓLMURGRUNDAFJÖRDURSNAEFELLSNESPENINSULAOrcaNorthern LightsNorthern Lights