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Hungary and the Hortobagy plains.

Every continent has its star birds and each of us usually has our favourite bird groups. Mine are the waders, warblers and divers. Many are fascinated by birds of prey, or owls or simply are attracted to colour. As a rule I tend not to find the most flamboyant birds the most attractive.

However this changed somewhat on the recent trip I led to Hungary for Nature’s Images. The star attractions here vary but all of us became hooked on the rollers and bee-eaters. Mick loved the red-footed falcons and all of us were mesmerised by the returning kestrel. The woodland hides might be more challenging for photography but if the light is right and the male hawfinch comes for a drink I would defy anyone not to be impressed.

We spent each day in a different hide which allowed all of us many different opportunities. Some hides, because of the direction of the light are half day only affairs, others can be useable all day.

My favourites were definitely the bee-eaters. These had just returned from Africa and displayed amazingly in front of our hide. Perhaps not so stunning as the electric blue of the roller but the more subtle, yet still vibrant, colours I found to be really attractive. With a bit of practice it was possible to get some really nice images as they landed on the perches in front of their sandy colony.

The rollers had just started to breed and one day I witnessed some stunning, if a little vigorous, mating behaviour. When the male raises his wings the images became transported to an electric blue world.

The red-footed falcons, luckily for us, had been delayed in Southern Europe and were late in returning. This meant that egg laying was literally just starting and we were all lucky to get fine sequences of the sooty male mating with the very differently plumaged female. 

The weather on the whole was good though some days you certainly had to put the hours in. On one drizzly, grey day I was moaning about the lack of light and how bedraggled the hoopoes looked. Yet at the end of the day, the evening sun broke through, (not before time!) and bathed these cracking birds in the most gorgeous  light.

Wetland hides worked well on some days. I missed out on these but many of the group managed some fantastic images of black stork, spoonbill, night heron and white stork.

All in all, another super trip with Europe’s most colourful birds. And of course a great group of people. Thank you, Sue, Roger, Graham, Jeff, Mick, Dave and Brian for making this trip such good fun.