Hortobagy National Park
The most typical biotopes in the Carpatian Basin are steppe and steppe like meadows. These are habitats that compare to the steppes in the far East. Here, bird-, insect- and plantspecies live that can otherwise only be found much further to the east in Asia, such as Red-footed Falcon, Saker Falcon, Eastern Imperial Eagle etc.
Hortobágy is the largest continuous natural grassland in Europe. The Hortobágy National Park, established in 1973 is the country’s largest protected area of 82 thousand hectares. Hortobágy has outstanding landscape features and is a unique example of the harmonic coexistence of people and nature based on the considerate use of the land, maintaining great biological variety in respect of species and habitats. However, at first sight there is nothing here. If you look around, the most conspicuous thing is that your eyes are not arrested by any buildings or other horizon breakers.
A major part of the area of the National Park is formed by natural habitats, alkaline grasslands, and meadows, smaller and bigger marshes enclosed between them. Some artificial wetlands covering a much smaller area are of considerable importance: these are the fishponds, situated on 6 thousand hectares. The marshes and fishponds are breeding habitats of birds and important sites for the migrating birds.
The Hortobágy National Park has been inscribed on the World Heritage List by UNESCO on the 1st of December in 1999 in the category of cultural landscapes, since the Hortobágy Puszta have been used by humans for grazing their domestic animals for more than two millennia. Herdsmen with Racka sheep and Grey Cattle (both Hungarian races) still characterise the landscape. Extended dry steppe and marshes are still where they were ages ago. Together with the fishponds, they form an extremely valuable and eye-catching mosaic.
With more than 500 square kilometres, The Hortobagy is one of the best birding places in Europe. 340 Species of birds have been spotted here (3/4 of European birds!) and 160 species actually breed here. One of the greatest attractions of the park is of course the Great Bustard. In the marshes and fishponds herons can be seen in unbelievable, almost funny numbers. Even Squacco Heron and Little Bittern are not too difficult. Glossy Ibis also breeds irregularly. Pygmy Cormorant and White-winged Black Tern have breeding colonies as well. Raptors, like Saker and Long-legged Buzzard have their private places.
Interesting butterflies in these landscapes are: Large Copper, Lesser Fiery Copper, Bath White and some Clouded Yellow’s. One of the most beautiful butterflies of Europe, the Southern Festoon can be very numerous in the spring, especially in the fishponds.
In the autumn, more then 80,000 Cranes forage in the Hortobagy on passage. But also raptors, like Pallid Harrier, Long-legged Buzzard and White-tailed eagles can be seen in autumn, together with many other passengers.