Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Another cunning plan bears fruit

Time for the Twites to go forth again.

How about the Hud Whimbrel? I ask Mr Fisher.  Yeagh!

Itinerary: Find out where Pagham is.  Note that it hasn't moved since last time you went.  Check Network Rail site. Trains still run to Chichester, and handily from Waterloo, which is somewhere on the Jubilee line, which also has Stratford on it, which is where I nearly live.  So far so good. Check the bird is still there, which is also good.  Meet Mr Fisher and buy tickets. Then get on tube, get off at the right place and then get on a train. I love it when a plan comes together. A potential spanner in the works is that we have to change at Havant, and more worryingly a platform.  Luckily there are only 2 to choose from, and since we came home chuffed at seeing the bird, I guess we got it right.

At Chichester we need to find a bus station, luckily some planning bod realised that on arrival in Chichester you might not want to stay there and put the bus depot nearby. They have buses going where we are, so amazed by this coincidence we decide to use their service.  Cannily we buy a return ticket.

For some reason, known only to me and considering the limited time we have, I decide that we should walk back from Selsey where our bus is going.  As the miles, past the reserve, begin to tick, I am realising the error of my ways. This is confirmed when we arrive at the destination of a exceedingly seedy looking holiday camp at West Sands.  This is a no-brainer: we will stay on the bus for the return journey.  This time we get off at the visitor centre, only an hour later.

First up we have a look at the ferry lagoon, which has a few godwit quite close to the road.  Sadly these are either failed breeders or non-breeders, which probably accounts for the couple of Avocet looking introspective on its margins too.  News from the reserve is not good, our bird hasn't been seen for a few hours and disappointed faces are meeting us as we wander up towards the sea-wall.

There are still a good number of hopefuls waiting, optimistically for it to follow it's usual routines. We start checking the fairly empty mud flats.  There are a few Whimbrel knocking around and some Curlew in the haze in the further channels.  Little Tern fished the receding water courses, and a few Oystercatcher piped a bit.  Then our little group of four picked up a good candidate, in that it had no white on the rump flying down the main channel a good way off.  Probably, no definitely, our bird.  Half an hour later it flew back and everyone was happy.

After a while noting the relevant features we decided to look at the sea. This being one of Mr Fisher's stomping grounds of his youth, and he worked here, he told me stories of what him and, especially, his dad had seen there.  We saw bugger all, bar a Cuckoo way over on the east side of the harbour.

Time to go, judging it just right to get the bus screeching to a halt on a particularly tight corner.  Bus met train and so we were in Havant before we get the now customary refreshments for the journey home.  Yup pissed again!

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Gosh, larks and japes in the New Forest

Minding my own business wandering down by the Roding, thinking a) how I was going to fill the day and b) how I was going to get to Pagham on Sunday with my driver papping Nutcracker in Poland, when Mr Bradnum calls (always a good sign).  Apparently there is some rather smart Wheatear doing the business down the New Forest, would I like to go?  A no brainer this one.

Twenty minutes later we are on our way to pick up Mr Vaughan (this particular Wheatear a bit of a bogey bird for Howard) and then down the M3 where we pick up a NGB, Ollie Simms on his way back from the Hud.

The New Forest is rather special, every county should have one, this particular bit I had not been to before and it is truly awesome. While we waited in the growing crowd we watched Goshawks and a few Buzzard owning the air, but soon were called sheep like to a rendezvous with an incredible smart Eastern form of a Black-eared Wheatear, and I can quite understand my Mr Lethbridge goes all weak-kneed about the birds.


A male it was quite stunning as it perched, shrike like on the burnt gorse, every now and then flycatching or pouncing on something in the grass.  Distantly mostly, but it did come close at one point after being flushed by some young ladies on their horses – not quite enough to get the killer shots that would have really annoyed Mr L, but enough for a few record shots.

Tiring of its host of admirers it flew high over the trees to new pastures.  We decided to have a sky watch for large raptors.  I picked up a Goshawk to the west, but mostly I was picking up blobs way in the distance.  H, with his scope, made out some probable Honey B to the east, but to me, again they were just blobs. While we watched Tree Pipit and Woodlark sang, so I thought I'd have a go at the latter.  Not long after wandering off one, a young bird I am figuring  with a bit of its gape still visible, landed on the path just in front of me.  Really quite ugly birds close up and a real contrast to their wonderful song.

We had another look at the Wheaty, picked up a few Firecrest singing, but then decided to head back to London, a Quail at Rainham the encouragement.  Didn't find the Quail, but I did get a calling Tawny Owl in Wanstead Park as I walked home.  Sweet!  Cheers Dave.

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Another Well orgainised circular trip Part 2

As I left the Waterpark the rain stopped and I could see blue sky, I was on the point of thinking I should stay when a bit further down the road I got soaked in another downpour. I made my way across the railway tracks to Taksony station, a couple of Crested Larks were singing in a field along with Skylarks. The station seemed deserted, there was on woman standing on a tiny platform in the rain, a train came in and then went south. A woman attendant came out and I managed to ask her when the train was, she pointed to wait there. I ended up getting a bus instead as there was one in 2 minutes just outside. I think I caught a train within 20 minutes going back to Brno, I was going to stop off on the way, maybe Bratislava, but the weather was not good.

Once back at Brno I went to the most expensive hotel opposite the station, this is now traditional, as Grant and I had stayed here in July 2001, something David was laughing about when I met him. It was only £22 each then, now it was like 88 euros. They had some conference on so I ended up going to the next most expensive hotel, the Grandezza hotel near the square and paying the same kind of money, I didn't care, I need to wash, eat, and get dry. It was perfect. I spent the evening walking around recording stuff, mainly sounds in the churches and cathedrals nearby. There was a service in one of the churches with a lovely organ sound, I went in and recorded that. The following morning bells from the Cathedral of St Peter and Paul.

I decided to catch a train to Trutnov, to go on to the Krkonoše mountains, then I'd planned to go to the Šumava Mountains in the west on the border of Germany. The train went through Adamov on the way, maybe one of the first places I went birding here in 1996. Once the train pulled in at Pardubice, the weather improved incredibly, it was gorgeous, the sun was out and it was warm. Then after another change at Hradec Králové with seconds to spare I was on the last stretch to Trutnov. The countryside all the way up is impressive, going from hills back down to rural lowlands with grassy fields up into the foothills of mountains, past a huge lake and dam at Česká Skalice, then up into higher ground before ending at Trutnov.

From there I walked to a place to the south called Dolce, near a town called Oblanov. I knew a quick way of getting there but for some reason I took the wrong route and it took ages to get there. Once I got there I went to the visitor centre. I came here in 2001 with Grant in July, peak season. I knew they had shalets here. So I asked the girl at the reception. She said they were 270 koruna a night which is equal to just £7.20. I was in. But better still she said that there was an empty penzion in a town in the mountains for the same price! I was ready to leave. She said she would drive me up there when she finished. So I went down to a kiosk that served beer and food down by a lake. Then I went for a walk around the area. When I came in July I hadn't really noticed that many birds. But today the place was teeming with stuff. The habitat here is varied and close together. From Spruce woodland, open farmland, quaint little cottage gardens, two small lakes and a valley with a marsh and scrub and hills. I could hear Yellowhammers singing in the fields and as I walked round the marsh area I could hear a variety of warblers, 2 River Warblers singing, and then in a chase across a path. Marsh Warblers, Reed, Icterine, Willow, Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Whitethroat, Lesser Whitethroat and 3 Garden Warblers. Add to this Serin, Black Redstart, Redstart, Crested Tit and Firecrest, Spotted Flycatcher, Crested Tit and 4 alarming Fieldfare fending off something in the birches.

Ragged Robin
After a while it was time to go, so I went with the nice girl (who's name escapes me) and her ex boyfriend and their huge dog to the penzion in a village called Janské Lázně, a small tourist town at the foot of a hill called Černá hora. This is a popular ski area in the winter, in the summer it appears quiet, but there is actually quite a bit going on if you look around. I spent a few hours exploring the area, quite a great deal of Spruce monoculture, it was going to be hard birding this area. Yet another Black Woodpecker called in the distance and on top of the cable car terminal a Black Redstart was singing.

The following day I walked up to Černá hora through the spruce forest. Lots of Firecrest, Crossbills, Coal Tits, Siskins, Willow Warblers, Tree Pipits displaying and the odd Redstart and Wood Warbler (even singing from spruce trees as long as there was one or two beech trees amongst them). As I got to the top I started seeing lots of Ring Ouzels, the alpine race, slightly brighter on the wings and checkered on the sides than our birds. They were quite tame and busy collecting food.

Yet another Black Woodpecker flew down on to a tree stump, but flew off again within a few seconds. I then could see the mountains over yet another valley. They looked a fair way off. I carried on past an abandoned old hotel and followed the signs to Pec pod Sněžkou. Down a beautiful valley with Yellowhammers, Grey Wagtail singing. and into a deep valley. At the next town I walked up to the cable car terminal, stopped for a coffee, then continued up. A return trip up to the highest peak called Snezka is around 320 Koruna. I hopped on to a car with 3 german tourist (by the sounds of it) and tried to talk to them, however they didn't seem to speak English. I could feel a draft from the door which I thought odd, as we got higher, it was clear my binoculars (being in my pocket) had wedged the door open, I quickly pulled them out! This happed twice though!

At the top of Snezka I came out onto a quite rocky summit, it's around 1602 metres and walked across to another building which turned out to be a restaurant/bar. The place was busy. Lots of parties of school children on trips plus other tourists. A couple of Water Pipits flight displayed from the rocks nearby, a Black Redstart sang from the cable car terminal roof. I went in to the restaurant and it was clear from the menu I was now actually in Poland, I figured out the border posts running along the summit, a white post with a red letter C or P was all the border consisted of. I decided to move down the other side of the mountain as I couldn't quite hear if there were any birds, too many people here. I heard what sounded a bit like a Skylark flying over, but couldn't help think it was an Alpine Accentor as there is supposed to be a very small colony up here. Further down all I could hear was a lot of Meadow Pipits.

Snezka from further down
Up here there are places called Bouda's dotted about, these are huge wooden hotels with restaurants. I had originally expected there to be a bothy or two, but this was a different thing all together. You can't get a pint of Tyskie or Lech in a bothy! There was one below, so I went for a Lech.
After that I continued down a track that literally followed the border line. Suddenly I was aware of a strange bird singing from a post with it's tail cocked, then flight displaying. It was a Red-spotted Bluethroat, this being a major stronghold of the species in the Czech Republic at least, probably not Poland though. I got some not particularly good shots. I saw another guy with binoculars and asked him where he was from, 'Poland of course' he said. I then asked him which side of the border I was on just to check and he pointed at the posts to the north and said, 'Czechy.... Polski'. I was on the Czech side. I then asked him if he had seen the Bluethroat, and he just said, 'What?!' and walked off.

Further along the path there was another place called Luční bouda, this was even bigger and an impressive building. I saw a couple of girls from a group I had seen on the train on the way up and they also recognised me and we talked for a bit.

 Luční bouda

Alpine Pasqueflower (Pulsatilla alpina)

I had another drink in yet another Bouda and then headed down a very long road with very little variety of birds in more spruce forest.

The following day I went shopping in Trutnov, then spend the afternoon birding lower down in the village. Checking out some beech woods, looking for and finding a nice male Red-breasted Flycatcher, the only one I saw here. But it perched out right above my head until I got the camera out and I got a shot of a blur.

On the Wednesday I went back to Snezka. The weather didn't look too good but it wasn't raining heavily. However at Pec pod Sněžkou it was clear the cable car only went up half way to Růžová hora due to the wind. So went half way up, trying to exit through the security office door in Mr Magoo fashion, much to the bemusement of the two security guards, then found the right exit and walked up the rest of the mountain. From here on it is Dwarf Pine and Spruce, Dunnocks singing everywhere, along with Willow Warblers. As I got to towards the top the wind got very strong and there was ice on the ground. When I got to the summit it was a complete contrast to Monday, I was the only person there, there was a thick mist that turned to ice whenever it came into contact with anything, including my hair.

A chapel I kept coming back to to warm up!

The Czech/Polish border

I walked down a path on the Polish side, a big party of school kids were battling their way up in the wind in colourful jackets with very little practical use in this weather it seemed. A female teacher asked how far to the top, I said about 15 mins. Another male teacher was pulling his collar up to protect himself against the icy wind, it looked as though he was dressed to pop out and get a pack of cigs from the local store.

I continued down a steep path to the north and into a fantastic fairly glen type valley, quiet different from the Czech side with some small growth Ash trees, waterfalls and some open spruce forest. Quite beautiful. A couple of very smart male Common Rosefinch were singing at the bottom. I continued on a bit but it very quickly became spruce forest. I returned back up the path, quite a climb!

I got back to Janské Lázně in the later afternoon, exhausted. I had been invited to join the nice girl who's name still escapes me and watch her ex playing guitar in a band down in the town. I managed to make this and had a good time, I got talking to him during the break and had a few beers and a couple of Jagermeisters. He told me he was a skiing (or was it a climbing) instructor during the winter. I didn't feel particularly drunk but was getting tired so I eventually left. During the night I was really sick. I really wasn't expecting it but I spent the whole of the next day in bed and wasn't able to eat anything till about 5pm. At about 7pm I went to my favourite restaurant in the square and had a meal then followed a road up a different way up through a forest and out into a fantastic open meadow with long grass. Tree Pipits were singing from the telegraph wires.

Then a Corncrake started up in the long grass somewhere. 3 Whinchat were in the field, a pair of Bullfinch flew into a copse. A group of Hawfinch came in to roost. A Grasshopper Warbler started reeling somewhere nearby but I couldn't locate where. A Black Woodpecker flew over the forest at the back. I heard what sounded like a Scops Owl, but may have been a Pygmy Owl, this was whilst it was still quite light, so I'm not sure if it was one or not.

This was certainly a great spot and very quite. I think the name of the place was Hladikova vysina. It was near Janská Bouda.

On the Friday I was back off yet again to the hills. Taking the cable car all the way up. This time I went down to one of two glacial lakes on the Polish side, this one was called Mały Staw, again very beautiful. Another Rosefinch was singing lower down. 2 Lesser Whitethroat were singing from Dwarf Pines higher up, definitely about 1000 metres.

I then continued further on to an area and came across 1 or 2 Citrine Wagtails. I walked back up  to the Czech side and headed back towards Lucni Hora, a smaller mountain with a lot of snow patches on the top. Another male Bluethroat was singing from Dwarf Pines below the hill, further up there was a singing male Whinchat, and at the summit  a pair of Northern Wheatear and a couple of Water Pipits along with some Skylarks.

Dwarf Primrose (Primula minima)

A Clubmoss species

The following day it was time to leave, I really didn't want to, I ended up getting the local train after walking several miles to the next village. A really great train this, one single diesel powered carriage that shoots along a straight track to Trutnov with a very loud horn. 

I caught a train back fairly quickly, had to change to a bus (in Great Anglia style) at (not Ely) but Chlumec nad Cidlinou then go to the next town and get another train. Very shortly I was in Prague where I spent a couple of hours walking in a park, then spend a couple more hours in the square watching gypsy folk music and dancers whilst I ate sausage and had a couple of beers interupted at one point by a noisy march of what sounded like a hundred football supporters marching and chanting along the road diverting everyone's attention from the performances for a little while. 

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Another Well orgainised circular trip taking in Czech Republic, Slovakia Hungary and Poland. Part One

Back in February I bought a ticket to Brno for around £24 on way and a return ticket from Prague 2 weeks later for £55. Not at all bad. The reason I chose Brno is that is in South Moravia and I have friends who live there I hadn't seen since 2001 when I went there with Grant. Plus it's easy travel to Budapest and right next to Austria and Slovakia. So, I packed light. By the time I went I had crambed my tent into my small rucksack, some clothes, Nick's camera and my recording stuff minus the umbrella into 2 bags. I didn't fancy paying the excess baggage fee that Ryan air charged, so didn't take a sleeping bag or sleeping mat (very bad move!). Of course I didn't care back then but was a little worried.

I arrived in Brno and David, Lenka and their kids met me at Turany airport, his elder son loves seeing the planes come in. David is a professional ornithologist/naturalist and I had first met him and his former partner Alice back in 1996. David said there had been a couple of Crested Larks just before I arrived but they proved hard to find. There was a lone Fieldfare on the grass outside the terminal and about 5 Kestrels hunting around the airfield. I had booked a hotel in the Bratislavská district of Brno, in a gypsy neighbourhood and there was a band playing just past the hotel that hailed from somewhere near the Tatra Mountains in Slovakia. Also all the museums in Brno were open all night, free of charge. We then had a nice meal in a pub, went to a square with series of impressive, expensive, high tech water-fountains which all kids for miles were drawn to, then took the now tired kids back to their apartment and me and David went out drinking till about 1 am and had a chance to catch up. Fourteen years is a long time!

The following day I went for a walk in a park called Špilberk where there was a singing male Collared Flycatcher and 2 Redstarts. I then caught a train to a village called Pouzdrany. When I tried to get of the train I couldn't open the door and ran to the next carriage got the door open only to find the train pulling off, I managed to jump out but couldn't shut the train door. The guy who had got off behind me waved his arms to say don't worry about it, so that put me at ease at bit. I forgot that the trains never stop at these small village platforms for very long.

That done I walked to a big reservoir complex called Nové Mlýny (New Mills). I have been here maybe 3 or 4 times. It's really best in the winter and during migration, but there were loads of good passerines (for UK standards anyway). There was a group of 53 Red-crested Pochard on a small lake just down from Pouzdrany, a Black Woodpecker flew across and landed on a small tree stump, again I wasn't quick enough to photograph it before it flew off. Along the walk towards the western side of the res there were more Collared Flycatchers singing, at least 9 Icterine Warblers, 2 River Warblers cicadering away from a scrubby field, Savi's Warbler reeling from the reedbeds, several Marsh, Reed and Sedge Warblers and at least 12 Great Reed Warblers croaking away, a Honey Buzzard displaying in butterfly-like flight, a Grey-headed Woodpecker, Syrian Woodpeckers, Serin, Nightingales, Penduline Tit, Hobby, Red-backed Shrike, a few Golden Orioles and more.

I was aiming for a camp site near Pasohlávky, but ended up staying again in a hotel called Terminal thinking the campsite had gone, but it turned out it was still there. I took a walk around the south of the reservoirs in the evening, though this meant walking the busy Mikulov - Vienna road along to the south, not particularly advisable.

In August 1996, a friend and I waded out to this church (then derelict) and slept
inside for the night, we had to swim one section of a few metres on a hot evening
seeing Night Herons en route.  Now I think it is very hard to get over there. 
Devin Hill and the Palava Hills, my next port of call. Main specialities here
are Barred Warbler (supposedly), Red backed Shrike, Wryneck, Hawfinch and it
is a wintering area for Wallcreeper but very hard to find  apparently.
This Great Reed Warbler was grating away right next to the main Vienna Road
On the Sunday afternoon, David texted me to say they were up on Pouzdrany Step, a great area for some rare flora and insects. He said he'd heard 5 singing Barred Warblers as well as 7 Bee-eaters (probably a colony nearby), plus a rare beetle.

After a comfortable night and breakfast which I paid 8 euros for I took my stuff and went around the south of the reservoirs where I scanned a distant White-tailed Eagle, Med Gull and Night Heron (there being a small colony here) then up to the Palava Hills to look for Barred Warbler, as I had seen them here in July 2001. However, I could not locate any, though there were still good birds up here, Collared Flycatchers, Black Woodpecker, Hawfinch, Short-toed Treecreeper and an amazing amount of limestone flora and some stunning views.

I spent a good deal of the Monday up here, then set up my tent in a campsite at the next village called Pavlov. 3 Bee-eaters flew over on my way in to the campsite. Then I returned to the hills for the evening watching Kestrels and Hobbies hunting and a group of about 4 Ravens which seemed to be keeping an eye on my movements, sometimes flying in very close to. It was a nice fairly hot, 26-28 centigrade during the day.

Female Black Redsart (abundant species in the area)

Burning Bush (Dictamnus albus) -  Devin Hill

Scarce Swallowtail - Devin Hills

Queen-of-Spain Fritillary (I think)
The Tuesday, I got a bus to Lednice and walked to Lednice fish ponds. I met a birder on the way standing outside an immense grand Austrian style hotel, He knew David and he was taking a birding tour around the area. He gave me the heads up on where to see singing Barred Warbler. But he sounded suprised I asked as they are common birds in the area. I eventually found about 3 males displaying along some hedgebanks between vineyards, and watch a pair of Bee-eaters hunting insects from high up on electricity cables. The birdlife along the edge of the reservoirs was thriving with basically most of the species I had a Nove Mlyny. A lot of Golden Orioles this time, more Nightingales, but not much on the fish ponds themselves, Marsh Harriers, Greylags, a couple of Caspian Gulls etc.

As it was hot during the day it wasn't too bad sleeping until it got past midnight, then it was pretty cold. There was a mad Icterine Warbler I heard outside the tent that even gave some bursts of song during the small hours. Plus the sound of distant Great Reed Warblers all night. So quite pleasant other than that.
Serin, another abundant species - I think I counted 8-10 singing
males one evening in Pavlov alone.
The following morning I left for a town called Breclav to catch a train to Budapest. Breclav is not the nicest of towns, rather grim and post industrial, so definately not the place to hang around. When I first came here in 2001 it was even stranger, rows of taxis lined the streets with apparently no one else about. David said they were there to collect the Austrian businessmen and take them to the brothels. No one else could afford to use taxis. 

Anyway today, I had 3 minutes to catch the train and I was off. Not far from hear is an area of floodplain forest on the aluvial plain of the Morava and Dyje rivers that eventually flow into the Danube. I visited this site (a game preserve) in February 2001. It is right at the bottom tip of the Czech Republic bordering Austria and Slovakia and has a series of oxbow river systems, dense forest and marsh. Here there is a now healthy population of breeding Imperial Eagles. I saw three here on that trip plus two pairs of Saker Falcon which have now gone apparently. 

The first bird I saw when I went quickly across the border to Slovakia was a Hoopoe. Not my first Slovakian species, as I have been in the country before but a good one. The train journey was pleasant enough, one exceptional looking place in Hungary was called Nagymaros.

I reached Budapest Kaleti station at lunchtime, had a quick walk around the area, it was a pleasant day, very warm. I was going to head for a place called Dunavarsány, about 15 miles south of Budapest. When I asked for a ticket in my perfect Anglo-Hungarian accent, the women at the booth obviously had no idea what the hell I was on about. So I got a ticket from the machine. I had to change trains at Ferencváros. I found a train going to Dunavarsány, but had to ask by showing my ticket to the guard. I found it hard to know which station was which, none seemed to have obvious signs!

There was a woman on the carriage begging for money in a dreadful state, alcoholic. One guy got angry with her, it was quite grim as she smelled terrible. I saw a station that looked like it had the right name, she got off too. I hopped off the train into a suburban town where I got lost for two hours. I could hear Bee-eaters at one point somewhere to the south, so that gave me hope I may be in the right area. I asked at several shops if they knew of a waterpark nearby, as that was were I knew there was a camp site but had no luck. One really helpful women in a small shop gave me directions to a penzion, so I spend an hour trying to find that only to find it closed. It was really humid and I couldn't understand why this town was so big.

There was nothing else for it. Beer. I found a small bar populated by a young couple, a bar maid and her boyfriend. I felt better after a beer. It was clear that thunderstorms were building up in the distance. From the couple at the bar I managed to get the idea I had got off at the wrong station, they pointed towards the bus stop, so I caught a bus south, the next town was Taksony, there was a sign to Bugyi, that was great. It turned out I had got off the train at Dunaharaszti  (a lot of towns have Duna at the beginning of their name as it means simply Danube). I walked a few miles along the road to Bugyi (as this was the place I intended to go birding). Then I saw the sign post to the Rukkel-tó waterpark, it was 3kms away. I walked along a busy unrestricted road with trucks going to and from sand quarries. I passed an abandoned quarry with a couple of Great Egrets on it. There were Nightingales singing from the Robinia scrub. Then I came to the waterpark with its impressive water slides, it was empty.

The owner and another younger guy were at the gate. They said the weren't open but didn't mind me camping in the park. They were both very pleasant. The younger guy spoke perfect English and gave me bus times and showed me where to camp. He said the toilet block was open but there was no hot water. That didn't bother me at the time. I think it cost something like 1500 forint a night, 4.5 euros. He also added before he left that there was a guard dog here at night, 'he's quite friendly but don't wander too far at night' At night. Quite friendly, that sounds okay.

This is what it's like in the high summer.
I put up the tent and sat by the lake and had a couple of beers. Thunderstorms began to roll in across from the South-west but looked like they were passing way off. The clouds were impressive.

And this is what it looked like when I came here
I sat there enjoying the cooling air. It was getting apparent the thunderstorms were going to come right across me as it got dark. I decided to move everything into the toilet block and left the tent.
A massive and quite violent series of thunderstorms hit for most of the early part of the night, the sky was incredible, with an awesome display of lighting. There was a strong gale blowing, wind was blowing the doors of the toilet block open. This, the thunder and the sound of the huge quarry trucks rolling past with all the spray from the road added to a rather intense atmosphere. The weather was cooling. I tried to sleep on the cold tiled floors of the block but found it very uncomfortable. During the storms in the middle of the night, a bird landed on the door with a beak full caterpillars, it was a Black Redstart, she had a nest in the woman's toilet block next door. Strangely I only entered the women's toilet block once as it felt wrong, but that's strange, there was only me here!

Eventually the storms subsided and I went out, rain had set in with a feel of permanence, I looked for the tent but couldn't find it in the dark. Then I found it, it was flattened and looked like a deflated children's paddling pool of water in the middle. That's that then. Off to the toilet block for a very uncomfortable night. The temperature had dropped considerably.

After a fairly shitty night I awoke (if I slept at all, I'm not sure) to the sound of Golden Orioles above me and a pair of Black Woodpeckers flying from tree to tree in the dim light. Great Reeds continued grating off in the distance.

I walked to the bus stop to get a bus to Bugyi, using the timetable the kind gentleman from the office written for me. Bugyi was a small village. I scanned fields looking for signs of any Bustards, but there didn't seem to be anything on the fields at all. I walked along a road and came to an open playing field that had a few Mediterranean Gulls on it, behind that I could see a Marsh Harrier. That looked good, I continued along to a junction that led to long straight road in very bad repair, that looked even better, From here I walked along a track through some reed beds. Savi's Warblers were singing with Great Reed, Reed, Sedge, Marsh Warblers and a male White-spotted Bluethroat appeared. A male Montagu's Harrier was hunting the field nearby, then another along with several Marsh Harriers. This was it. the northern end of the Kiskunsag National Park. Blue headed Wagtails flew over, I walked back the road, a Long-eared Owl was flying in and out of the hedgerow along the road and disappearing, then reappearing, even in front of the odd passing car or lorry (of which, here there were relatively few). I continued along the rutted, tarmacked road. I came across some huge fields to the south. Scanned across. There was an object moving along a bank between the field. I looked automated like some kind of brown and white buggy. Is that a Great Bustard, I couldn't comprehend it at first, it was a Great Bustard, a displaying male. Way too far off to photograph. Then 2 females. Then several in flight, then more behind me. I counted 11 in all. Then I could hear a Collared Pratincole, which landed in a field to the North, again a long way off.

A scene like this looks rather unimpressive, but that is not the case, this is a fantastic area!
Penduline Tit. What a shot!
A Great Grey Shrike appeared, 3 Red backed Shrike. A pair of Black winged Stilts in the distance, alarming Black tailed Godwits, drumming Snipe, Quail calling, Tawny Pipit on the fields, lots more Mediterranean Gulls. 2 Bee-eaters flew over.  Several Corn Buntings singing.

Obviously my award winning photos of Red-footed Falcons mating on the wing
'Great capture, Genghis' was not going to happen, couldn't find one. Seen loads anyway.
Mind you I got this shot of Great Grey Shrike. No comments
The weather actually looked like it had improved for a short while, then rain set in again and I retreated back to the waterpark. I had a look around the waterpark for anything that could help keep me warm, I found a towel (I had gone to buy a towel in Bugyi too). I found a sleeping pad, bonus, a bit dirty, but it would do. I found a sweatshirt that smelt of putty and paint. These would help. No they wouldn't as it turned out, the tent was leaking continuously, everything got wet, the rain would not cease. It was an even worse night, hardly slept at all, constantly moving between a cold tent and a cold toilet block. It was a long night, I eventually slept from about 3am till 5am. Woke up to 2 or more Golden Orioles singing which was nice. Right today I'm off to Budapest to get a sleeping bag.

So I spent a rainy day wandering around Budapest. Walked from Ferencváros right to the city centre, bought an army surplus sleeping bag, then found my card wasn't working, had to phone the bank, they said the chip was faulty. So I transferred money from my other account on to my credit card. Not ideal. Anyway that's a boring story. I was trying to get to the Danube river. Every time I thought I was going the right direction, I was heading the opposite way. I found myself in some strange area of False Acacia scrub in the middle of a railway junction. I even heard a Marsh Warbler singing in here, amongst the Robinia, odd habitat. I walked the wrong way along Róbert Károly Street but then realised my error and walked around to the Danube, where the rain set in good and proper. However, it was an enjoyable walk and in spite of the weather, a very beautiful city.

Budapest Wash-out!
A Cinderalla shop

Reminds me of Istanbul old part of the city
I got a metro back and then got the bus to Taksony and walked from there. A Crested Lark fed along the roadside on my way back. The trucks on the road seemed even more intense this afternoon.
With my new sleeping bag, I decided to dry the tent and put it up under a sheltered 'stage' area I had seen. I tied the ropes to the poles, banged in a few pegs. Now the tent was completely out of the rain, it began to dry. I went to bed really early, being so tired. The sleeping bag was warm, like a womb. It felt good. The best sleeping bag I've slept in. I was out. Then after no time was awoken by a sound. A dog barking by the tent. shit! It was the guard dog, he's seen an unfamiliar shape in the dark and he's barking at me. There was nothing for it. Beer? No, I let out a rather high pitched 'It's okay, it's okay'. This seemed to work, he started walking off barking at something else in the distance only dogs could hear. Then suddenly there was something sniffing at the front of my tent. I left food out! Fuck! Hang on, I could hear the dog further over in the distance, so what was this animal, Beech Marten, Fox? It didn't stick about. The dog actually came back a couple of times, but it sounded like it was quite an old dog with a rather gummy sound, old with no teeth, just there as a deterrent.

As I left the Waterpark this gorgeous Hoopoe took off from the grass and landed
next to a Woodpigeon in a tree. Record shot of course. I have a much better one.

In my next instalment I head back to the Czech Republic, meet a nice girl in Trutnov who lets me have a penzion all to myself in the Krknose mountains where I take walks every day, and live in peace and harmony and luxury.