A visit to Romania and Hungary in Spring 2022

Trip Report Author: John Brooks
Guide : Daniel Balla

Our tour had originally been organised to include the Danube Delta but due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine we decided to cancel this part. So instead we arrived a day early and took a city tour, which was well worth it, as it was fascinating. The birding  tour started the next day when we were met by our guide, Daniel Balla, a young  very enthusiastic and knowledgeable guide.  

April 25th  Bucharest,  Romania.

This morning we left Bucharest and drove 125kms northwards to near Brasnov where we entered the Eastern Carpathian  Mountains and were in the Bucegi NP. At 1600mtrs we had to stop driving a dead end road due to snow making it impassable. However we walked up about 5kms hoping to see a Shore Lark, but were unlucky. However we did see Ring Ousel and Water Pipit. Then down to a lake at Rotbav,about 30kms away where we saw Caspian Gull, Mediterranean Gull,  Ferruginous Duck, Glossy Ibis, Black-Crowned Night Heron, Curlew Sandpiper, Little Stint, Lesser and Common Whitethroat together with many other species, which we saw when we drove on to San Paul fish ponds in the Homorod Valley.

We then drove to our superbly located Hargita Bear Lodge where we stayed for 3 nights. 

April 26th  Hargita Mountains

We drove up to around 1600mtrs in cloud and freezing snow to a ski resort. We tried to walk along a track to see Capercaille but the snow was too thick, but had we not tried to walk this track we would have missed spectacular views of Spotted Nutcracker searching the uncovered patches for food. Also Crested Tit, Hooded Crow, Common Firecrest but very little else.

In the afternoon we went to the local city park and saw Icterine Warbler, Syrian Woodpecker, Serin amongst others.

April  27th Hargita Mountains

Leaving early we went back to the ski resort and had great views of Capercaille running about the mountainside. Our guide said it was the most he had ever seen. Then on to Bekas Gorge hoping for  Wallcreeper but without luck but we did see a Sparrowhawk and White Throated Dipper. Then on to Liban were we saw Lesser Spotted Eagle, and Nutcracker again. Not far away at Szekelyudvarhely there was a Ural Owl sat calmly looking at us, fantastic views. Also a Great Spotted Woodpecker and Common Redstart.

Later we went to a low level hide in a small tree lined valley in the early evening where we saw close up 12 or more wild Brown Bears. The hide had at eyelevel a small pond  where Marsh Tit , Willow Tit and many more came to drink just to add to the excitement.  

April 28th Apsuseni Mountains

It rained most of the day during our 3.5hr drive to Apuseni but we managed to get a walk in a beautiful beech wood but we did see Collared Flycatcher, Nuthatch  and White-Backed Woodpecker.

We stayed at the Botar Guest House in Rimetea for 2 nights.

April 29th Apsuseni Mountains

We drove 10kms to the Torocko Valley where we climbed upwards through long grass and mud. However we had close-up views of several Sombre Tits in full song. Then into Ketkokoz Gorge and Red Backed Shrike, Little Owl, Woodlark, Red Rumped Swallow, Rock Bunting but the highlights were Golden Eagle and Peregrine Falcon.

April 30th Hortobagy NP. Hungary

We started the morning birding around Rimetea then we drove to Tetchea which is a wetland area created when  they dammed the river. We drove along kms of the embankment before we crossed the border into Hungary where we stopped at Foldes which is a restored marshland grazed by buffalo.

We stayed at Hotel Camilla in Balmazujvaros for 3 nights.

We saw 12 species of ducks, Marsh Harier, Buzzard, Common Crane, Little Ringed Plover, Temmincks Stint, Little Gull, Common, Whiskered, White-Winged and Black Terns, Sedge Warbler plus many others.

May 1st Hortobagy NP

We spent the day in the northern part of the Park in a wetland area near Balmazujvaros.  There were many species of water birds from White Stork to Little Grebe, Spoonbill, Barred Warbler, Marsh and Wood Sandpiper,  Common Gull, Ruff and a really good sighting of a Little Bittern but best of all was a Eastern Imperial Eagle. However Red Footed and Saker Falcons were also clearly seen, as was a Long-Eared Owl. Much to our surprise we had very good views of the elusive Grasshopper Warbler which sat on the outside of bushes rather than deep inside them.  Also nearby was a singing Nightingale and Red Throated Pipit.

May 2nd Hortobagy NP

Today was spent in the southern part of the Park with many fishponds and open grassland. Here we saw Pygmy Cormorant, Squacco Heron, Great Bustard, Whimbrel, Jack and Great Snipe, Cuckoo, European Roller, Penduline Tit, Bearded Reedling, Crested Lark, Great Reed and Eurasian Reed Warbler, Savi’s Warbler, Bluethroat, Northern Wheatear and Reed Bunting plus many others.

May 3rd Zemplin Hills

We drove first to Debrecen and spent time in a forest hide with a lake in front. Then on to Konlasho in the centre of the Zemplin Hills. This region is also famous for wines and vineyards covered the sloping hills. We also birded the wetlands of Taktakoz looking for Little Crake and we were lucky enough to have excellent views of it as it walked amongst the reeds. Great Egret, Purple Heron, Hoopoe, Middle-Spotted Woodpecker, Green and Grey-Headed Woodpecker, Moustached Warbler, Short-Toed Treecreeper were also seen.

Here we stayed 2 nights at Solomvar Pension, Komloska.

May 4th Zemplen Hills

Today we birded the hills, and even though we saw over 50 species only one was new. But what a good one. We were by a cemetery when a  Hawfinch jumped up onto a low branch and started to sing. We were only meters away but this didn’t bother him, as he sat there for nearly five minutes. However we did make some compensation by having a superb dinner and wine tasting at a local winery.

May 5th Budapest

Today we drove to Budapest where the tour ended. However on the way we stopped at Kiskunsag NP and Buggi flatlands were we added Black Kite, White-Tailed Eagle, Eurasian Eagle Owl, and Tawny Owl, Wryneck, Lesser-Spotted Woodpecker, Black Woodpecker, Golden Oriel, Skylark, Wood Warbler, Eurasian Treecreeper to end off a fabulous tour. 

In total we saw 183 species, many of which are not listed above. Our accommodation was superb and Daniel full of energy always trying to find more  species. A very relaxing tour through fantastic rural countryside, small quiet villages and a sense of absolute security.

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