At the end of November, the bird conservation groups in Hungary (MME, the Birdlife Partner & SzVTE, a local volunteer-based conservation organisation) organise a spectacular bird festival in the ancient town of Tata, about an hour west of Budapest. The town surrounds a huge ancient reservoir (man-made lake, Öreg Tó) on which many thousands of geese roost overnight in winter.
People gathered to enjoy the geese coming in from the fields
In order to keep the disturbance of the over-wintering geese to a minimum, the local authorities and conservation organisations have worked together to limit the number of lights around the lake such that even though one is in the middle of a town/city, the lake is surprisingly dark at night. The one structure that does stand out is the Baroque castle, on the west bank of the lake.
Find out more about the IX Tatai Vadlúd Sokadalom in a short movie I made last year.
The 20,000 goose-strong flocks are mainly Bean Geese and Greater White-fronted Goose, with large numbers of Greylag Geese and regular sightings of both Red-breasted Goose and Lesser White-fronted Goose.
Testing the new EL Swarovision binoculars at last year's festival
But besides the most remarkable bird spectacle, what I have personally found so wonderful about the Tatai Vadlúd Sokadalom (Tata Wild Goose Festival) is the sheer number of people hanging out and enjoying the spectacle. People come from all over the country to experience the spectacle, and being able to do so with thousands of other nature-appreciators is just fantastic. And everywhere you look, there are kids joining in. Now, I don´t mean kids getting dragged along by their parents, and playing games at the adults' feet. I mean participating as equals. They have their own binoculars. Or borrow from others. Peer through telescopes for ages, and soak up the spectacle.
Geese coming in to roost on the "old lake" Öreg Tó
If you are able to get to Hungary on 26-27 November this year for the X Tatai Vadlúd Sokadalom, then you should really do so. And while you are there, get ahold of one of their beautifully painted festival T-shirts. Last year was a Lesser White-fronted Goose and the year before was a Red-breasted Goose.