About the book
The Hortobágy and Tisza river floodplain cover the National Park Hortobágy and adjacent river course in eastern Hungary – the largest coherent area of natural steppes in Europe.
- Landscape history
- Flora and Fauna
- Where to watch birds
- Finding orchids and other wildflowers
- 9 detailed routes with observation tips and 12 site descriptions
About the area
The Hortobágy is Hungary's most famous National Park, and covers a large area of marshlands and Puszta, the Hungarian version of the steppes. Hortobágy is also Hungary´s first National Park and is one of the westernmost extensions of the essentially central Asian steppe ecosystem, thereby holding the promise of exotic, eastern species of plants and animals.
The visitor to Hortobágy is invariably struck by the vast, level plain and, on closer inspection, its complex mosaic of different types of grassland, ranging from shallow reed and sedge marshes to herb-rich 'tall-grass' steppes. The dominating grassland is, however, a sparser type, that thrives on the alkaline (saline) soils that characterise this region. This vegetation is thin and species poor, but the plants that can be found here are almost without exception highly specialised rarities. In sharp contrast, the rivers in the area are lushly forested ribbons in the largely treeless region. In particular the beautiful River Tisza is flanked by extensive willow swamps.
The Hortobágy is first and foremost a bird sanctuary. The vast marshes – many of which have been converted to huge, reed-fringed fishponds – harbour thousands of egrets, herons, spoonbills, crakes, Pygmy Cormorants and other marshland species, most of which are fairly easy to observe. The steppes are home to several typical bird species, such as Rollers, Red-footed Falcons, Sakers and the Great Bustard. The steppes are also home to the engaging Suslik; a small mammal with an uncanny resemblance to the better known American Prairie Dog. The dense flood forests are beautiful wild landscapes, where Night Herons and Black Storks breed.
The Hortobágy puszta is more than a nature reserve. It is also the archetype of traditional Hungarian country life. Shepherds still roam the wavy grass swards, as they have done for centuries. Their herds largely consist of the traditional longhorn cows and bulls and the typical screw-horned Racka sheep that dominated Hungarian livestock for centuries. The agricultural revolution of the 20th century has dramatically changed the face of the Hungarian countryside, but the Hortobágy, with its steppes, traditional wells, farms and shepherds, is a reminder of an older Hungary.
The Crossbill Guide to the Hortobágy and Tisza River introduces you to this fascinating region and provides you with itineraries, allowing you to discover the area at your own pace. A trip to the Hortobágy can easily be combined with a visit to the Bükk National park, the Zemplen hills or the Karst region of Aggtelek (also in Hungary) and Slovensky Kras (just over the border in Slovakia). Alternatively, you could also travel south to the puszta reserves of Köros Maros and Kiskunság or east, into Transylvania (Romania).