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» About the Kiskunsag National Park » THE PROTECTED AREAS OF THE HOMOKHÁTSÁG
THE PROTECTED AREAS OF THE HOMOKHÁTSÁG
 
The central and perhaps most characteristic region of the Kiskunság and of the Kiskunság National Park is the Homokhátság in the Danube-Tisza Interfluve. The sandy areas preserved in a close to natural state are: the sand mounds outside Fülöpház, the meadows outside Orgovány and Bugac are among the protected areas of the national park.
 
The Danube-Tisza Interfluve has been formed by alluvial deposits of the old Danube. The row of deposits has settled on the alluvium in the river from quick sand or loess blown by the wind. The watershed along the low backbone of the some 7500 km2 Hátság divides the sandy area – both in a hydrological and biogeographical sense – into a narrow western and a wider, less steep slope. In the west the Hátság steeply inclines towards the Turjánvidék – rich in water – and the Őrjeg, whereas the eastern slope easily blends into the former flood area of the Tisza river.
The major part of the Homokhátság is made up of mound ridges standing out of their environment by 10-15 m. Its soil is quicksand, the majority of its surface has already been bound by vegetation. The Hátság is poor in surface waters as the precipitation quickly seeps into the ground or seeps down towards the river valleys. In the flats among the mounds shallow sodic lakes have formed. Most of the them have dried out by now as a result of changes in the weather and of human activity, they are covered by water only in the rare rainy years.
 
The flora of the sand mounds
 
The sandy areas of the national park are charaterized by open and closed sand grasslands, sand forests, and in some places by remains of forest steppe. In many places acacia, pine trees and poplars were planted, which substantially changed the natural habitats. The agricultural activity by smallholders on farms – beginning in the 19th century – also had a strong impact on the vegetation. The most fertile land – just like today – was the plough lands.
 
On the open sand surfaces lichens (Cladonia furcata, C. magyarica, C. foliacea, Parmelia conspersa) and mosses (Syntrichia ruralis, Tortella inclinata) play an important role in binding quicksand. In addition to checking the movement of sand, they also enrich the soil with humus. The grass starts to take root on the sand mounds when the dropping brome (Bromus tectorum), and the (Secale silvestre) settle. It is normally to be found in the driest and sparsest places. Among the mounds it appears together with (Festucetum vaginatae holoschoenosum), and (Festucetum vaginatae salicetosum rosmarinifoliae). The mounds in the initial stages of forestation – covered with juniper – greatly contribute to the landscape.
On the quickly warming sand we can find beautiful flowers even in early spring. One can find cinquefoil (Potentilla arenaria), dwarf pansy (Viola kitaibeliana), and (Carex liparicarpos) in large numbers. It is from May on that the flora of the mounds starts to be in full blossom. The truss of the (Festuca vaginata) and blue hair grass (Koeleria glauca) appear then. The blue-flower alkanet (Alkanna tinctória) – whose rootstock contains red alkanin – can be seen in several places. One can see the sand catchfly (Silene conica) only rarely, and the small stonecrop (Sedum hillebrantii). The gentle wind rocks the masses of sand feather grass (Stipa borysthenica) on the side of the mounds. The sprawling needle sunrose (Fumana procumbens) with its often vibrant yellow flowers dominates the top of the mounds exposed to the wind. The rock rose (Helianthemum nummulárium) blossoms later, and searches for places lying lower. Some species of orchid also live among the sand mounds. Red helleborine (Cephalanthera rubra) grows in abundance in the shadow of the white poplar forests. Dark red helloborine (Epipactis atrorubens) grows mainly among the bushes of rosemary leaf willow. The broad-leaved helleborine (Epipactis helleborine) blooming later prefers wet forests.
 
 
The sandy soil shrub varieties grow on the sides of the mounds protected from the wind. The common hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) sometimes grows to the size of a tree. Only the common junniper (Juniperus communis) and barberry (Berberis vulgaris) dare to grow on the top of the mounds.
In the summer the mounds show a new facet. The withering heat witnesses the blossoming of the Siberian spurge (Euphorbia seguieriana) and the fragrant, white (Dianthus serotinus). The only flower indigenous to this area is the (D. diutinus) to be found mainly in the vicinity of Kiskunmajsa on the mounds of Bodoglár. The Anatolian flax with its blue flowers (Linum hirsutum ssp. Glabrescens) and the (Centaurea arenaria) can be seen from afar on the loose soil. The most conspicuous flower of the summer – the globe whistle (Echinops ruthenicus) - stands out together with the (Onosma arenaria). It is also at the same time that the dwarf everlast (Helichrysum arenarium) blossoms. On the sunny mound sides yet another plant grows with its strong scent – the shrub-like yarrow (Achillea ochroleuca). In the middle of the summer the sea grape (Ephedra distachya) – already growing seeds – can be recognized by its red berries.
At the end of the summer and in the autumn the European knotweed (Polygonum arenarium), the cream scabious (Scabiosa ochroleuca) and the (Syrenia cana) with its little yellow flowers dominate. The red mass of shiny bugseed (Corispermum nitidum) can be seen from afar. The wind twists the stalks of the prickly saltwort (Salsola kali) and of the field eryngo (Eryngium campestre) – therefore it is called the devil`s cart in Hungarian. In September, for example, in Bugac masses of sand saffron (Colchicum arenaria) spread. Apart from the Danube-Tisza Interfluve, this blue flower can be found in the Gödöllő area.
 
 
Closed sandy meadows formed on the sandy soils which are more set, contain more humus and are better supplied with water. Its remains can be seen in Bugacpuszta and on the clearings of the sandy forests. In the phytocoenosis containing many species the Grape Hyacinth (Muscari racemosum), and the iris (Iris humilis ssp. arenaria) blossom in the spring. Our most beautiful mullein, the purple mullein (Verbascum phoeniceum) likes the month of May. The white mullein (V.lychnitis), the moth mullein (V. blattaria) and the Nettle-leaved Mullein (V. austriacum) are also of interest. The tufted milkwort (Polygala comosa) and the Hungarian carnation (Dianthus pontederae) produce their small purple or blue flowers surrounded by sages (Salvia pratensis, S. nemorosa, S. aethiopis).
In the deep areas of the homokhátság where the wind has removed the sand, shallow sodic lakes have formed. In the more set, sandy and sodic soils we can find plants that are characteristic of the salty meadows, the redtop (Agrostis alba), the distant sedge (Carex distans), yellowwort (Blackstonia acuminata), the low goosefoot (Chenopodium chenopodioides).
The natural stocks of the sandy forests have mainly formed from juniper dotted with white poplar. At shrub level the wild privet (Ligustrum vulgare) lives in big clusters, but the common hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna), the blackthorn (Prunus spinosa), the common buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica), the European spindle (Eonymus europeus), the barberry (Berberis vulgaris) also find their places.
The most beautiful stocks of the Pannonic inland sand mound thicket grew in Bugac in the Ősborókás. However, a devastating fire destroyed most of it in 2012. It will take time, the power of nature and the skills of foresters to revive it. The richest of the sandy forests was the oak forest with lilies of the valley. Now only negligible patches remain in the whole Kiskunság. One of the most difficult tasks of conservationists is to revive and preserve the oak forests with lilies of the valley.
 
The fauna of the Homokhátság
 
The dominantly dry sandy habitats feature a rather rich world of insects. It is relatively rare to come across the large antlion (Acanthaclisis occitannica) a member of the net-winged species. It spends the daytime and when it is very hot on blades of grass and dry stalks, and it can only be seen before dusk flying lazily with its long and narrow wings. The larvae of the antlions (Myrmeleontidae) – except for the Acanthaclisis occitanica – dig a funnel into the sand, and wait for their insect food at the bottom. On fields and meadows the grasshoppers and locusts scatter as we approach them. The typical species of the puszta is the heath bush cricket (Gampsocleis glabra). The (Acrida hungarica) - indigenous to the Carpathian Basin – can be recognized by its elongated head. It is interesting to see how the longpipe (Acrotylus) behaves: as the evening draws near, it digs itself into the sand. First it kicks the sand from under itself with its two hindlegs, then it retreats into the hollow and buries itself completely – similarly to the band-winged grasshopper (Acrotylus insubricus). Digging itself is a sign of adjustment to desert conditions.
Among the beetles there are many species that like the sand. The cicindela soluta beetles (Cicindela soluta) in the Great Plain only like quicksand – there are many of them around Fülöpháza. A typical rarity among the sand mounds is the clown beetle (Exaesiopus grossipes). The characteristic “cuckoo spit” of the froghoppers (Cercopidae) can be seen on the leaves of plants (e.g. spurge species, rosemary leaf willow, field eryngo) especially in the spring and at the beginning of summer.
The caterpillars of the spurge hawk moth (Celerio euphorbiae) and of the bedstraw hawk-moth (Celerio gallii) chew the spurge species.
Thera are at least 200 spider species living in the area. The karélyos keresztespók (Argiope lobata) is a species widely known around the Mediterranean Sea; here it reaches the northernmost border of its habitat. The (Synema ornatum) are hunters biding their time on the field spurge. The way of life of the crab spider (Misumena vatia) is similar to that of the (Synema ornatum). Their colour ranges from white through to yellow and purple. They normally look for flowers whose colour is identical with the colour of their body. This way they try to make the flowers believe that they are also part of the flower.
 
 
Perhaps it is the common spadefoot (Pelobates fuscus) that has the most interesting way of life – an amphibious species that is the most characteristic of the sandy areas. From dusk on the European green toad (Bufo viridis) can be often observed. The European tree frog (Hyla arborea) makes itself heard from springtime. The sand grasslands and open sandy surfaces are a well-laden table for the sand lizard (Lacerta agilis), the green lizard (Lacerta viridis), and the Balkan wall lizard (Podarcis taurica).
 
The most elegant dweller of the grey poplar groves is the European roller (Coracius garrulus). Its most beautiful Hungarian colony can be found in the Danube-Tisza Interfluve on the Homokhátság. It gets to its breeding place in the middle of April. After nesting and raising its offspring its starts on its way to Africa from early September to its hibernacle. The hoopoe (Upupa epops) settles in decaying tree trunks. The lesser grey shrike (Lanius minor) lies in wait for its prey on dry branches. The red-backed shrike (Lanius collurio) lives in open bush areas. The lesser whitethroat (Sylvia curruca) and the common whitethroat (Sylvia communis) have their nests in bushes on the side of mounds protected from the wind (dogberry, blackthorn, European barberry). The Western jackdaw (Corvus monedula) has its colonies in decaying poplars among the mounds.
 
The number of the European bee-eater (Merops apiaster) is on the increase, they dig their nests into ridges of dirt roads and into the sides of sand pits. The nests of the white stork (Ciconia ciconia) can be seen around farms, mainly on electricity pylons, but sometimes even on acacia trees or poplars. The Eurasian collared dove (Streptopelia decaocto) and the turtle dove (Streptopelia turtur) hatch close to each other. The European golden oriole (Oriolus oriolus) has its nest on the branches of acacia trees.
The badger (Meles meles) used to live in greater numbers in the forests of Bócsa and Bugac, but by now it is widespread all over the region. The fox (Vulpes vulpes) is widely present in forests, swamps and on the sodic puszta as well. In Bugac the golden jackal (Canis aureus) can be heard mainly towards the end of the winter, the number of wild boars (Sus scrofa) is also on the increase and they cause more and more damage. On the sandy lands the brown hare (Lepus europeus) can be found. The most populous colonies of the common rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) are on the forested sand mounds. The gophers (Citellus citellus) can be observed in the greatest number on closed sand grasslands around Bugac. Among the ungulata the most widespread is the roe deer (Capreolus capreolus). The red deer is a rare wild animal in the forests of Bugac.
 
Excursions and tours on the Homokhátság
 
Bugac
 
Bugac: circular walks in the puszta
One of the sections of the short walk in the puszta (2.2 km) is the Road of Birds and Trees. The long walk in the puszta (GPS: 46° 40’ 6,905” ; 19° 38’ 0,900”) is 6 km. One of its sections is the Boróka nature trail also indicated by information signs. The 2900 m nature trail starts at the Pásztormúzeum and finishes at the Hittanya station of the old narrow-gauge railway. Its signs are in Hungarian and in German.
 
Sáskajárás sétaút (plague of locust) walking trail for children: its length is about 1300 m. It starts at the
 
Pásztormúzeum returning there later. GPS: 46° 39’ 34,164” , 19° 36’ 56,713”
Further sights: Pásztormúzeum (herdmen’s museum), stud farm, indigenous domestic animals, open-air structures used by herdsmen. GPS: 46° 39’ 34,100” , 19° 36’ 56,572”
 
In Bugac and in its environs there are a lot of traditional farmhouses used as guesthouse and riding farms for holiday makers and people interested in the puszta.
www.bugac.hu , www.bugacpuszta.hu
 
 
The meadows around Orgovány
 
The Rekettye nature trail (GPS: 46° 48’ 41,239” , 19° 28’ 39,134”) is 2300 m. It starts in Ágasegyháza at the mayor’s office, its information signs are in Hungarian and English. One has to return to Ágasegyháza via the same route. Anyone wishing to undertake a longer tour can continue on the Pimpó nature trail, which can be joined from here and from Orgovány. The length of the Pimpó nature trail is 5800 m. Its first station is indicated by a sign in front of the Community Centre in Orgovány. GPS: 46° 46’ 16,304” , 19° 27’ 13,226” The two nature trails connect Orgovány and Ágasegyháza, which take visitors along the protected area.
 
 
Fülöpháza
 
Báránypirosító nature trail: It can be found at the nature protection training centre of the national park. Its length is 2600 m, the information signs are in Hungarian and English.
GPS: 46° 52’ 4,961” ; 19° 25’ 31,551”
 
The about 8 km long Garmada nature trail also starts here and goes along the northern edge of the protected area. One of its branches goes to the Somodi farm inn, the other to the village of Fülöpháza. (Fülöpháza village centre: GPS: 46° 53’ 33,75” , 19° 26’ 38,58”; Somodi farm: GPS: 46° 53’ 03,06” , 19° 23’ 48,37)
 
Geological Exploration Protection Area in Csólyospálos: Geological display site,
The dolomitic limestone – one of the charactersitic formations of the Danube-Tisza Interfluve – can be studied here.
GPS: 46° 25’ 35,915” , 19° 51’ 54,944”
 
 
   
 
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