March 2010 Aggtelek

The timing of the end of winter is very flexible in northeast Hungary and this year spring arrived just as we left! There were several heavy snowfalls and the wooded hills and the fields of Aggtelek looked spectacular. The temperature fell to below -15°C on several nights. The snow cover provided us with opportunities to track mammals with local large carnivore expert Ádám Szabó – and we found evidence of many, including Wild Boar, Red and Roe Deer, Pine Marten and Wild Cat.

We were very fortunate to be joined by Kyle Turner, a wildlife sound recordist working on European woodpeckers. Thanks to him, we heard and saw eight species of woodpeckers, a Pygmy Owl and a Ural Owl, as well as many other bird species. In spite of the cold, we managed to record 10 moth species, including several of the impressive Rannoch Sprawler emerging as adults with snow still on the ground! Tony Williams, our host for the LPO in La Brenne, joined us for this placement: he entertained us in his usual inimitable way and also won the table tennis competition we held! Janos Tóth our entomologist friend from Debrecen University and several other Hungarian students also spent all or part of the fortnight with us.

We worked in the neglected fields at Acskó extending the cleared area that we have created over the last three years. We also continued with the scrubclearing in the plum and quince orchards below Tornakápolna and worked in teams to construct 20 artifical stork’s nests, which were afterwards erected on poles in the local villages in time for the arrival of the White Storks in April.

It was a supremely memorable visit. Other highlights include Eszter’s fantastic food, the bats hibernating in the caves, the wine- and pálinka-tasting session in Imre’s winecellar on the hillside in a snowstorm, the cold egrets on the frozen lake at Rakaca and the re-enactment in Jósvafö of the failed 1848 revolution on March 15th National Day, followed by folk dancing.


Adam Taylor Donna Nichamin
Jonathon Cramer Keith Howland
Mat King Sam Amy
Jess Neumann Laura Ashfield
Jenny Sherwen Geoff Robotham

July 2010 Fertő-Hanság and Aggtelek

A marked butterfly

This was our third butterfly surveying visit to Hungary but the first time we had divided our time between the two National Parks. Having driven through Europe in the minibus towing a trailer of tools and luggage, camping in Kent, central Germany (where we watched the World Cup Final in a public park nearby) and southern Germany, we spent the first week doing mark/recapture surveys for our host Dr Andras Ambrus on three species of Large Blue butterflies – the Scarce Large Blue, Dusky Large Blue and Alcon Blue – in a wet meadow on the edge of the Fertő-Hanság National Park in western Hungary.

Surveying for butterflies

For the second half of the visit, we were in Aggtelek National Park surveying wet grassland sites on the periphery of the national park for the presence of Large Coppers and the Scarce Large Blues and/or their larval foodplant Greater Burnet, Sanguisorba officinalis. In both nationals parks, we worked with our friend from Debrecen University, Janos Tóth, and two other Hungarian entomologists.

Memories of the visit – apart from the incredible humid heat in Fertő-Hanság and the mosquitoes that accompanied it – will focus on the wonderful relaxed atmosphere and the hospitality of our hosts, the stunning butterflies (79 species!) including three Purple Emperors on a dog-poo at the campsite in Germany; over 184 species of moths; the susliks on the pastures at Fertő-Hanság, looking at us like little prairie dogs; White Storks in every village; the Bee-eaters in the disused gravel pit; the Peregrine on the cathedral at Köln seen on the brief stop-over during the rail journey home. Not forgetting the jazz concert in the cave, the folk music concert we went to and the Hungarian dancing we did in our hostel. Unforgettable!


Aaron Kennett Kim Strawbridge
Katie Cruickshanks James Richardson
John Black Vicky Gilson
Megan Lowe Joe Middleton
Fertő-Hanság Plant List Aggtelek Plant List