Highlights of the Wildlife in Hungary
Almost 400 bird species are breeding and for many birds Hungary is an important stopover during spring or autumn migration. Hungary has one of the best Birding areas in Europe. In Hortobagy National Park (70,000 hectares) 320 species have been observed. A few highlights: the ever growing numbers of roosting Cranes are a true spectacle in the autumn (80.000-100.000). The Aquatic Warbler population in the Hortobagy is the second largest in Europe (after Poland). The density of the Ural Owl population in the Zemplen hills is higher then anywher else in Central Europe. Nowhere near Hungary you’ll find as many Saker Falcons and Imperial Eagles. In nearly every orchard one or more pairs of the Wryneck breeds. Hawfinches and Collared Flycatcher are among the commonest breeders in the forested hills. In the winter near hundred White-tailed Eagles stay in the region. Sometimes an exiting observation involves common animals, because they are so common. Imagine between 5 and 10 thousand Sand Martins leaving the telephone wires because of an approaching Hobby. Or 16 Hawfinches on 1 bird feeder. Very spectacular!
With 160 butterfly species and a total of more then 3500 species of butterflies and moths, Hungary is one of the better places in Europe. Hungary has key populations of several globally or in Europe threatened butterflies, such as Dusky Large Blue, Scarce Large Blue, Woodland Brown, Clouded Apollo, Scarce Fritillary. Many other species that are rare in large parts of western Europe are common here, such as Large Tortoiseshell, Scarce Swallowtail, Large Purple Emperor, Duke of Burgundy, Alcon Blue, Large Copper, several Hairstreaks etc. For some reason, many butterfly species are more abundant in Hungary then in the surrounding countries. Silver-washed Fritillaries for example can be found in hundreds on a good flowery forest edge. Once we counted 78 butterflies, among 15 different species, on the 8 meter long Lavendula border in the garden. Large mud-puddling parties are common. Parties of a 100 butterflies are regular, but even 1000 butterflies are not exeptional. We have seen more then 50 Scarce Swallowtails together on a few square dm. Or more then 100 Silverwashed Fritillaries on a few squashed Dung Beetles. On 5 June 2009, taking out a group on a butterfly excursion, we observed 21 Poplar Admirals on a stretch of 20 meters. A Robinson mothtrap might produce 200 species (including micros) on a good warm, overcast and windy night. Sometimes 5 or 6 Hawkmoth species are in the trap.
Highlights of other insects must include the Stagbeetle, which in June is the main food of Night Jars chicks, just illustrating how common they can be. In the forested hills the most beautifull bright blue Long-horn beetle is Rosalia alpina, which is difficult to find but not uncommon. A spectacular phenomenon is the migration of Migrant Hawker which sometimes occurs in groups of 10.000 individuals. Regularly, in the gardens of Farm Lator they gather in such numbers on quiet and warm days when the ants have their brides flight. Other striking events are the raids of Amazone ants. This ant species parasites on another ant species and when they have run out of slaves they need to go and rob new ones.
Amphibians and reptiles
Among amphibians and reptiles we mention 3 species. First of all the Red-bellied Toed, which is a pretty animal, but phenomenal is the chorus of thousands of them together during a nice sunset at a natural swamp on the puszta or between the fishponds. The second one is the Aesculapian Snake, which is spectacular for its size. They go until 2 meter. It is a feast to see them climbing an old apple tree. The third one is the striking Fire Salamander, which on a good day comes out in numbers just next to the village Lator.
Observations of other mammals then the usual deer species and squirls are rare moments, because so many are only active at night or very secretive. But Hungary has the steppes and those inhabit Susliks, a bit of a funny ground squirl. They are active in daytime, which allows us to observe them and Imparial Eagles or Saker Falcons to catch them. Uncommon throughout Europe are dormice, but in the forested hills and especially in the orchards bordering the forests they can be rather abundant. It is very nice to observe Edible Dormouse while running over the tiniest branches or eating from an apple. Farm Lator organises special trips to observe Dormouse and other mammals, such as Marten, Badger and Wild Cat.
Near to 4000 plant species live within the borders of Hungary. Especially because of the unique pannonian flora, the Carpatian Basin is listed as a seperate eco-region. Many pannonian endemics are to be found in NE Hungary.
Influences from far east and south
Several organisms have the Western or Northern edge of their distribution in Hungary, such as Red-footed Falcon, Saker Falcon, Eastern Imperial Eagle, Long-legged Buzzard, Ural Owl, Lesser Fiery Copper, Pallas’s Fritillary, Cardinal, Nettle Tree Butterfly, Southern Festoon, Eastern Pale Clouded Yellow, Yellow-legged Tortoiseshell, Anomalous Blue, Osiris Blue, Lesser Fiery Copper, Saga pedo………
A well preserved nature
Hungary conserves and promotes her nature very well. The National Parks are large, and several very succesfull conservation projects have increased endangered bird populations of species that are rare or even absent in the surrounding countries (e.g. Imperial Eagle, Saker Falcon, Great Bustard). Red-footed Falcons are having a hard time in Europe, but receive much help from nature conservation. The density of Rollers in the Little Hortobagy is higher than anywhere else in central Europe, as a result of an extensive nest-box project.