White-tailed Eagles of the Hortobagy

The magnificent White-tailed Eagles of the Hortobágy need little introduction (János Oláh)

The magnificent White-tailed Eagles of the Hortobágy need little introduction (János Oláh)


Thursday 1st February - Monday 5th February 2018
(5 days)

Leaders: János Oláh and his team
Group Size Limit: 6


Potential photographic highlights:

  • Hide photography for White-tailed Egales and other raptors
  • Action shots of Caspian Gulls if weather conditions right
  • Long-eared Owls in touching distance
  • Middle-spotted Woodpecker and Hawfinch from the woodland hide
  • Winter landscape photography


This short five-day tour, focuses on the magnificent White-tailed Eagle photography in the World Heritage Hortobágy National Park where as many as 150 birds spend the winter. The Hungarian ’Puszta’ freezes at this season, and with temperatures dropping to as low as -15 degrees C, the magnificent eagles visit the feeding stations regularly. We have three heated hides in different parts of the national park, which allow great opportunities to capture the life of these huge raptors. The regulations are very strict and we can only enter these hides in darkness, before dawn, and leave after dusk, so as not to disturb the birds. Depending on the weather circumstances other birds can be photographed from the hides as well. If some of the nearby fishponds have not been totally frozen Caspian Gulls are regular guests, and they offer excellent action photography chances as they fight over the food. Common Buzzards also regulars but with luck Rough-legged Buzzard and Hen Harrier can also be captured from the eagle hides. Occasionally the rare Eastern Imperial Eagle can be photographed but it requires a lot of luck too.

We usually use one of the three full days spent with photography at the passerine hide, to break the long days of eagle photography. This allows a more leisure start and lots of actions. Regular winter species at the hide are Middle-spotted Woodpecker, Hawfinch, Sparrowhawk, Jay, various tits. This is optional and if somebody wish to spend all three days for the eagles it is possible.

On the last morning, before travelling back to Budapest, we hope to visit a winter roost of Long-eared Owls where up to 100, and in some years even 250, owls roost. This is an amazing sight and there are great opportunity to take images of these fantastic birds.


THE HIDES

White-tailed Eagle Hide 1
This hide is located in the northern part of the Hortobágy National Park close to a wood which is regularly used by the eagles for roosting. It was installed in an open steppe habitat in September 2007. It is possible to drive to the hide in most years. Most of the hide is in the ground, with only 50cm of it emerging above the surface so it blends perfectly into the flat treeless landscape. It is comfortable for three photographers.

White-tailed Eagle Hide 2
This hide is located in the eastern part of the Hortobágy National Park close to a fishpond system which is regularly used by the eagles for hunting. It was installed in open steppe habitat in September 2008. It is possible to drive to the hide. Most of the hide is in the ground, just 60cm emerge above the surface so it blends perfectly into the flat treeless landscape. It is comfortable for three photographers.

White-tailed Eagle Hide 3
This hide is located in the northern part of the Hortobágy National Park in a steppe area regularly used by the eagles. It was installed in summer 2009 inside an old well so perfectly blends into the historical landscape. It is possible to drive to the hide in most years. Most of the hide is in the well, with only 100cm of it emerging above the surface. This hide has three photo-through windows allowing photographic-views in more directions! It is comfortable for three photographers.

Passerine feeding station
This hide operates throughout the year but in winter instead of being a drinking pool it provides food for various species including woodpeckers. The hide was installed in the Debrecen Great Wood reserve, which is a superb old oak forest, in October 2008. It is a 300m gentle walk to the hide which is comfortable for three photographers.


Hide comfort
The hides have wide photo-through panorama windows looking in one, two or three directions. The panoramic hides with two or more photo-directions are divided inside into mobile and flexible compartments by curtains, so that the photo-through glasses can operate properly and effectively. The hides are spacious and comfortable enough to be used by up to three photographers. Winter hides are all heated allowing good comfort even when the outside temperature are down to degrees C. Chairs with a back support are provided for some of the hides, while other hides have mattresses. As the eagle hides are used for more than 10 hours for photography, without the possibility to leave, they have a portable toilet.


Itinerary

Day 1  The tour begins this afternoon at Budapest, from where we will transfer to the Balmazújváros city on the eastern edge of the Hortobágy National Park for a four nights stay.

Days 2 - 4  We will have three full days of photography allowing us to enjoy a variety of eagle hides and possible use of the Passerine feeding station (for those that desire). The exact programme will be determined by the leader depending on the possibilities of the different hides and the desires of the photographers, though everyone will have ample opportunity to enjoy the main focus, the White-tailed Eagles.

Day 5  After a final morning of photography (probably focusing on Long-eared Owls) we will return to Budapest.

Accommodation & Road Transport: The hotel is of a very good standard and has additional spa possibilities which gives a unigue way of relaxation after a hard day of photography. Road transport is by minibus from the airport to the Hortobágy and then 4WD vehicles for the hide transfers.

Walking: The walking effort is mostly easy, though, if we encounter unfavorable weather conditions, it may be necessary to walk up to one kilometre to reach the hides.

Climate: Classic winter weather would be sunny and cold. Daytime temperature are often around freezing, but it can be a lot colder at night. Some days can be overcast or even foggy but if the subjects are close enough it is not a problem. Snow is a distinct possibility.


CUSTOM DEPARTURES AT ANY TIME
These superb hides lend themselves to customized tours at any time during the winter and of any duration, and you will always be looked after by János or a member of his team. Please contact us if you would like us to put together a customized itinerary for you.

BUDAPEST CITY BREAKS

Budapest is one of Europe's most attractive and interesting capital cities and is only around a 30 minute taxi ride from its airport. Why not take the opportunity to have an extra night or two here in addiiton to the tour? Please contact us for more details.

 

Prices are provisional

Tour Price: £1030, €1220, $1350 Budapest/Budapest.

Price includes all transportation, all accommodations, all meals, all excursions, all entrance fees, leader services. Tips at the hotel are not included. Price based on minimum 2 participants.

Single Room Supplement: £96, €113, $125.

Deposit: £300, €350, $400.

Air Travel To & From The Tour: Our in-house IATA ticket agency can arrange your air travel in connection with the tour from a departure point anywhere in the world, or you may arrange your own air travel if you prefer. We can tailor-make your itinerary to your personal requirements, so if you would like to travel in advance of the tour (and spend a night in an hotel so you will feel fresh when the tour starts), or return later than the end of the tour, or make a side trip to some other destination, or travel business class rather than economy, we will be happy to assist. Please contact us about your air travel requirements.

An immature White-tailed Eagle makes its way to the feeding station (János Oláh)

An immature White-tailed Eagle makes its way to the feeding station (János Oláh)

We will be hoping for some action! (János Oláh)

We will be hoping for some action! (János Oláh)

(János Oláh)

(János Oláh)

Wonderful eye-level views of the White-tailed Eagles is the norm, with a variety of ages present such as this immature (Mike Watson)

Wonderful eye-level views of the White-tailed Eagles is the norm, with a variety of ages present such as this immature (Mike Watson)

... and these striking adult White-tailed Eagles (János Oláh)

... and these striking adult White-tailed Eagles (János Oláh)

Everynow and then the birds do something unexpected, such as these delightful Hawfinches, seemingly in an amorous pose! (János Oláh)

Everynow and then the birds do something unexpected, such as these delightful Hawfinches, seemingly in an amorous pose! (János Oláh)

Roosting Long-eared Owls in the snow and frost can make for some stunning photographic opportunities (János Oláh)

Roosting Long-eared Owls in the snow and frost can make for some stunning photographic opportunities (János Oláh)

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