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» Other protected areas in the Kiskunság » The Nature Protection Area in Pusztaszer
The Nature Protection Area in Pusztaszer

In the area of Szeged the nature protection area over 22 thousand hectares is characterized by big varied sodic lands, flat swamps, remains of sodic lakes and the Tisza river, its flood areas, forests and ox-bows. One of its best-known parts is the Fehér-tó of Szeged, which has been a protected area of national importance since 1939. The conversion of the lake into a fish pond started in the 1920’s as a business proposition. To ensure a safe and secure water supply, a 9 km feed canal was created to connect it with the Tisza. The sodic lake which used to be supplied with fresh water, has lost its original character, thus the former sodic lake habitat has slowly changed. A habitat poorer in species came into being on the artificial lakes. The fish food that is increasingly lost for fish breeding provides ample food for the avifauna. It is because of this rich avifauna that the lake was declared protected back in 1930’s.

At the beginning of the winter, in October-November thousands of greater white-frosted goose (Anser albifrons) and been goose (The. fabalis) come to the lake to rest. When the bodies of water freeze over in the area, on the Fehér Lake they can still find some larger holes, where they can rest and drink. With their permanent movement they delay the disappearence of holes too. They spend a few weeks here, then –before the real winter sets in – they move on to their wintering places further south. Amongst the predators the hen harrier (Circus cyaneus) is one of the most frequent winter guests. During more severe winters conservationists regularly put out food for the white-tailed eagle (Haliaetus albicilla). It is partly a scavenger, so it eats dead fish put on the ice too.

As the spring draws near, peewits (Vanellus vanellus) return to the drained lake beds, just like the black-tailed godwit (Limosa limosa) and the whirling groups of ruffs (Philomachus pugnax). They have a rest here, then most of them go on to their breeding place further north. Among the singing birds in the reeds, the red warbler (Acrocephalus scirpaceus) and the great reed (A. arundinaceus) sing most distinctively. As the reed along the shores has encroached, bluethroat (Luscinia svecica) has become increasingly common. It hides its nest among clumps of grass on the slopes of dams. The penduline twit (Remiz pendulinus) builds its artistic nest on branches of willow leaning over the water of the lake. Its nest – consisting of millions of soft feathers – was put on the chest of women as according to folk medicine it helps nursing mothers have milk in abundance.

Ducks and geese enrich the bird world of the lake not only during their migration, but they are also important as nesting species. The greylag goose (Anser anser) selects its mate for life. With loud squawking the young birds choose a mate, and for one or two summers – until the first breeding – they are only ’engaged’ to each other. It is during the rearing of the first nest that they really ’get married’. It may happen that an old bird that has lost its mate no longer finds another one. The common pochards (Aythia ferina) find their partners in their wintering places. A strong relationship is formed between the female and the male, but it loosens by the end of the breeding time. Just like the Eurasian coot (Fullica atra) the female builds a swimming nest close to the surface of the water, which she keeps making higher as the water level rises. Around Easter – along with the March winds the gaggle of garganey (Anas querquedula) arrive too. The female makes a hollow with her beak and upper body on a higher elevation of the reed around the lakes, and hatches 8-10 chicks in this makeshift looking nest in 20-23 days. When it migrates, it flies during the night, and spends the winter further south than any other Anatidae.

The noisy life of the gull colony of the Korom Island in the centre of the XI. lake can be seen from the observation tower – close to the Hill of Szatymaz - on the western shore of the lake system. Mainly black-headed gulls (Larus ridibundus) and terns (Sterna hirundo) have their nests here, in the company of some Mediterranean gulls (Larus melanocephalus), practically beak to beak.

The conversion of the Fehér Lake into a fish pond helped the settling of species preferring swamps and deeper fresh waters, including herons. The dwellers of the heron colony among the reeds are the great egret (Egretta alba), the little egret (E. Garzetta), the purple heron (Ardea purpurea) or the black-crowned night heron (Nycticorax nycticorax). But one can see here two species of bitterns that do not breed in colonies, the little bittern (Ixobrichus minutus) and the great bittern (Botaurus stellaris), both being artists in hiding. Whenever they sense danger, they hold their beaks towards the sky, they become motionless among the reeds, and they blend into their environment with their colour as well. The bittern can spend hours in this position, while it flees from reed to reed with such slowness that it is hardly visible to the eye. When the wind blows the reed, the little bittern also sways from left to right and back again.

The large plough lands in the south of the Conservation Area of Pusztaszer provide an ideal feeding place for the cranes (Grus grus) migrating in groups of several tens of thousands after the harvest in the autumn. The migration of the cranes is the most exciting natural spectacle of the autumn at the Fehér Lake outside Szeged.

The cemetery mound of Szatymaz rises above the land on the western side of the Fehér Lake. It is probably a mound of graves from the Bronze Age, which is used as a cemetery even today. It is a place of cultural significance. It has some of the remaining species of loess land vegetation that has remained in small patches, such as the crested wheatgrass (Agropyron cristatum), the Austrian violet (Viola ambigua), the wild strawberry (Fragaria collina). The bridal veil (Stipa capillata) is a typical plant of the sandy fields, just like the dwarf iris (Iris pumila) blossoming here, the thyme types (Thymus sp.).


The Büdös-szék in Pusztaszer

After the Fehér Lake outside Szeged had been converted into a fish pond, the natural sodic character had best been preserved by the about 60 hectare Büdös-szék. Thus the lake – and the puszta around it – have taken the former ecological role of the Fehér Lake. The shallow water sodic lake – part and parcel of the most beautiful sodic land of the nature conservation area – becomes completely dry in years of drought.

Alkali bulrush (Bolboschoenus maritimus) is a typical species in the vegetation on the shore of the lake. In deeper lying fields and pastures this is replaced by the creeping bentgrass (Agrostis stolonifera,) and by the beautiful patches of the meadow foxtail (Alopecurus pratensis). However, (more often than not) the dominant species is salt marsh grass (Puccinellia limosa). On the edges of the barren alkaline patches (Camphorosma annua) and chamomille (Matricaria chamomilla) – blossoming in May – create a dense carpet. The (Lepidium cartilagineum) is widespread on lime and alkaline soils. At the end of May it changes the landscape into a continuous flower carpet up to several hectares. A frequent plant on the edge of the shore is (Plantago swazenbergiana). In Hungary it can only be found in a few places. Amongst the species flowering in the spring, dwarf iris (Iris pumila) is worth mentioning, and the purple mass of orchid species blossoming at the end of the spring and in early summer. Kentish plover (Charadrius alexangrinus) breeds regularly on the shore of the Büdös-szék on the barren patches left open by the Bolboschocnus maritimus. The black-winged stilt (Himantopus himantopus) breeds regularly only in Hungary in Central Europe. The pied ovocet (Recurvirostra avosetta) is a species breeding in loose colonies around the sodic lakes. The members of the colony first ’fly over’ the intruders approaching their nests to drive them away. If there is no result, they pretend to be wounded birds with a broken wing clumsily moving on the ground to lure the intruders farther away. They bravely face off foxes and other predators as well. Great bittern (Botaurus stellaris) is a typical nesting bird in the closed patches of Bolboschocnus maritimus, the purple heron (Ardea purpurea) and the great egret (Egretta alba) breed among the reeds of the sodic swamps. 

During the winter – after the mass migration of birds is over – the landscape seems desolate. At this time mainly finches look for food on the weedy patches of the puszta. Among the reed small groups of bearded reedling (Panarus biarmicus) fly from reed to reed. The snow bunting (Plectrophenax nivalis) is an occassional winter guest. The white-tailed eagles keep preying on the ducks until the water freezes over.


The Csajtó in Tömörkény

Some 4 kms to the north of the Büdös-szék is the other big system of fish ponds – the Csajtó – of the nature reserve. Its development is similar to that of the Fehér Lake. The building of the system of fish ponds started in 1962 on the sodic land which used to be covered with partly permanent, partly temporary waters. This fishpond is also known for its bird population. Amongst the birds breeding here, the gadwall (Anas strepera) – mainly widespread in the East and as such rare in Hungary – is worth mentioning. On the Csajtó - by successfully introducing a natural habitat reconstruction – one of the biggest heron sites of the Carpathian Basin was created. All species of herons in Hungary breed among its reeds. Sometimes the batla (Plegadis falcinellus) also joins their nesting community. If during their spring migration the birds also find some drained lakes, then we can observe sea shore birds wich are rare in Hungary, such as the oystercatcher (Haematopus ostralegus), the golden plover (Pluvialis apricaria), or the ruddy turnstone (Arenaria interpres). On the surface of the lake covered by hair-grass beautiful colonies of the black-necked grebe (Podiceps nigricollis) and of the whiskered tern (Chlidonias hybrida) can form.


The Baksi-puszta

In its vegetation – in addition to the sandy land vegetation – the plants of the sodic planes are dominant. The typical species of the Artemisio santonoci-Festucetum pseudovinae can be found here. At the bottom of the deeper sodic rills timothy grass abounds. In the areas temporarily covered by water, the salt marsh grass (Puccinellia limosa) is colony-forming. The sternbergia (Sternbergia colchiciflora) – a small bulbous plant – yields its yellow flowers in the autumn on small loess-covered mounds wedged in the puszta. This botanical rarity in the Danube-Tisza Interfluve reaches the northern border of its reach. It yields its yellow flowers in September, but its long fibrous leaves appear only in the spring.

The most obvious values of the sodic wastes are birds. The black-tailed godwit (Limosa limosa) makes its nest in April on the shores of water-covered flats. The nest of the redshank (Tringa totanus) is a hollow clawed into the ground, into which the female puts four eggs. The nest of the short-eared owl (Asio flammeus) is a hollow hidden among clumps of grass and intertwining plant fibres. In years when mice appear in great numbers, the owl raises more than ten young owls. It flies low and hunts during the day too. In the crow colonies of forests around the puszta, 30-40 years ago some 160 pairs of red-footed falcons bred. As they do not build nests, they take over the nests of crows or magpies. Cranes were exterminated for an extended period, their nests almost completely disappeared, which led to the decrease in the red-footed falcons as well. In the early 1990’s – to keep and increase the population – conservationists created artificial nesting places. The occupation of the placed nestboxes provides hope for the increase of the red-footed falcon population.



Labodár is a small active floodplain in the north of the nature protection area. The area is strictly protected, mainly due to its forest association and important old heron colony. The willow-poplar forest groves, ox-bows, clay pits have a rich avifauna. Recently it has been home to grey herons (Ardea cinerea) and great cormorants (Phalacrocorax carbo). There are over 50 nesting and 80 migrating species identified in this area.


Sasér and the Atkai-holtág

It is an active floodplain of the Tisza rich in natural values on the eastern border of the nature reserve. The Sasér Nature Reserve is outside Algyő, in a bend of the Tisza. Its large fields that used to be lined with huge, old willows have become forested by now. These active flood plains are also connections, biological corridors between the isolated habitats.

The biggest ox-bow of the nature reserve is the Holt-Tisza in Atka. It is on the right side of the river, on the flood-safe side. It fulfils a dual task, on the one hand to preserve the characteristic flora and fauna of the ox-bow, on the other – due to its rich fish fauna – to offer recreation to those who want to rest and go fishing.

The forest of Sándorfalva

One of the biggest continuous forests of the nature reserve is the Forest of Sándorfalva, to have been planted on sand. It features sodic flats, sandy grasslands, planted deciduous and coniferous forests, and oak and poplar forests close to nature. The number of bird species observed in the forest so far is over 100. Out of them 62 also breeds in the area. The most important ones are the black woodpecker (Dendrocopus martius), the European roller (Coracias garrulus) and the European nightjar (Caprimulgus europaeus).


Oak forests on the floodplains

The oak forests of Bíbichát, Sül and a Palánk are about equally old. They are the remains of the oak-ash-elm forest groves that used to grow on the higher elevations of the shore of the Tisza. The periodic floods of the Tisza did not come up to this level, they went round the elevation. This is how these forests and their undergrowth have been preserved. Often these forests are the only nesting places for the birds of prey of the area. The saker falcon (Falco cherrug) has recently returned, it breeds here regularly. Just like the rest of falcons, it does not build a nest either, it occupies the nest of other birds. It can also drive away the white-tailed eagle from its nest with his characteristic determination. The raven (Corvus corax) nests here regularly, though not in great numbers.

Excursions in the Nature Reserve of Pusztaszer

The sights in the Nature Reserve of Pusztaszer and Mártély can be seen in one day on a good network of roads as a fun family outing.

The Show House of the Tisza Valley is next to road E5 in the vicinity of the cemetery mound in Szatymaz. Its permanent exhibitions – in addition to the Nature Reserve of Pusztaszer and the Fehér-tó of Szeged – also present the changes in the landscape.

The Sirály nature trail starts at the Show House. GPS: 46° 20’ 1,261” , 20° 3’ 56,033”.

The Beretzk Péter observation tower is on the shore of the Fehér-tó, offering a good view of the swarm and noise of the gull colony on the Korom-sziget or the majestic flight of the herons. The nature trail goes on the dam between the fishpond units, so we can observe the birds at very close range.

The Hétvezér (Seven Tribal Leaders) monument is outside Pusztaszer, in Ópusztaszer the Nemzeti Történeti Emlékpark (National Historical Memorial Park), the thousand year old ruins of the monastery in Pusztaszer, the Árpád Monument, the Feszty cyclorama, the village museum provide a memorable experience for the visitors.

Ópusztaszer National Historical Heritage Park: The theme park less then 2-hours south of Budapest, half-an-hour north of Szeged on the M5 highway (10 km from the Kistelek exit) invites you to explore the history of Hungary as well as the culture and life-style of people living on the Southern Great Plain.

Ópusztaszer National Historical Heritage Park, H-6767 Ópusztaszer, Szoborkert 68.

Phone: +36 62 275 257

GPS: 46° 29,295”, 20° 5,644’'

2014. 12. 11. Oldal nyomtatása
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