The Sárvíz valley extends over Mezőföld from the Sárrét basin to the valley of the Danube at a length of nearly 100 km. A 20 km-long segment of the valley, stretching from Tác to Sárszentágota, is now the Sárvíz valley Landscape-protection Area. Created in 1997, the protection area covers 3650 hectares of land in a mosaic pattern, 157 hectares of which enjoy priority protection.Until the beginning of the 19th century, the valley had been a vast marshland, which prevented both transport and agricultural cultivation in the region despite several desiccation attempts as early as of 1772. Today the branching waters of the old Sárvíz are drained by two canals: the Nádor Canal on the east and the Malom Canal on the west [a man-made extension to the river Séd]. In the deeper sections of the valley, cut off from the Sárvíz by the draining operations, a variety of lakes and temporary ponds were formed, whose water-level is now entirely dependent on groundwater and the volume of rain and snowfall.
Flora: The Protection Area, whose flora is closely linked to the neighbouring Great Hungarian Plain, boasts a number of protected botanical groupings, among which the alkali and steppe associations are the richest in protected species and natural treasures. Similarly, the artemisia-spotted alkali plains and the confined sandy meadow associations also contribute to the protected values of the area. The indigenous marshland vegetation, however, has retracted and can be found in smaller patches, around fishponds or in deeper areas. Botanical research has highlighted 25 protected and highly protected species such as the bug-smelling orchid whose population exceeds 100,000. This is also where the county’s largest population of the highly protected early spider-orchid can be found. Another remarkable feature of the region is the forests, which cover almost one-third of the Protected Area. Planted artificially more than a century ago they are the largest coherent forests consisting mostly of indigenous tree species in Mezõföld.
Fauna: The highest zoological value within the Landscape-protection Area is attributed to waterfowls. The fishponds and the water reservoir in the neighbourhood of Soponya, which have a combined water surface of several hundred hectares, and the meadows which are flooded with water periodically, are the favourite resting, feeding and nesting places of waterfowls.
Of the nesting species, the variety of herons is outstanding. Colonies of the largest night heron, small heron and squacco heron enjoy the protection of the landscape-protection area. The fishponds are also the favourite feeding areas of the great white egrets and spoonbills hatching in Dinnyési-Ferto located at a distance of 30 km.
Besides the colony of several hundred pairs of black-headed gulls, Mediterranean gulls, ferruginous ducks, pochards and tufted ducks are among the species that hatch around Soponya. Starting from early summer grey-lag goose pairs leading their nestlings can be seen regularly around the fishponds.
One of Hungary's nicest lakeside birds, the avocet also hatches in small colonies on the shores of natron lakes along with the little ringed plover sporting simple feathers. The Kentish plover also makes its rare appearance here. The shallow water of the ponds rock the nests of whiskered terns and black-necked grebes, which sometimes appear in large numbers.
The migration of the birds in autumn makes the range of species even more colourful. Wild geese coming from the north like to use the Soponya water reservoir as a resting place. The loud honk of sometimes 10-12 thousand geese can be heard even from a long distance. The birdland of the natron lakes also offers a splendid view. Pintail ducks, grey ducks, shovel-nosed ducks and teals are splashing in the water, and countless lakeside birds show up on the shores. In the wet fields, several thousand ruffs and lapwings, as well as hundreds of curlews look for food.
Preserving the habitats of the species in the Landscape-protection Area is a top priority for environment protection, because - crossing through Mezőföld, which has so much been disturbed by human activity - the Sárvíz-valley is a unique ecological channel between the central mountains of the Transdanubia and the river Danube which ensures an unlimited migration of flora and fauna.
The route offers the sight of one the most spectacular areas in the Sárvíz-valley Landscape-protection Area, the Soponya water reservoir, where visitors may get a glimpse of the waterfowls living there almost throughout the year.
The area can be accessed by buses running from Székesfehérvár in the direction of Soponya. Get off the bus at 21 Petőfi Street (the first stop after Székesfehérvár). Then walk back 100 m on the main road and take the asphalt road on the right that leads to the water reservoir. Reaching the first intersection turn right, and a short 200m walk will take you right to the heart of the Landscape-protection Area where a comfortable path takes you along the embankment of the water reservoir.
This artificial water surface of 170 and the islands created in the lake provide undisturbed nesting places for several hundred pairs of black-headed gulls and several duck varieties, including ferruginous ducks that enjoy priority protection. The great white egret, spoonbill, grey heron, greylag geese and various grebes can be observed here while they are feeding. In springtime and especially in autumn, the water surface is swarmed by a large number of geese and ducks, coming from the north. In noisy flocks bean geese, white-fronted geese, pochards, shovelers and numerous other bird varieties can be discovered beside other species nesting here. From the bird watchtower located on the north side of the area, a wonderful nice view opens up to the water reservoir and its wider environs.
On the east side of the water reservoir, the grassland still preserves the natural vegetation of the one-time Sárvíz basin. There are steppe meadows at the higher levels, sedge meadows at the deep points and reeds at the deepest areas. Look out for the marsh orchis, a protected plant of characteristic this area, which grows in these meadows. In early spring, lapwings, godwits and other sandpiper varieties feed on the meadows, and above them the duck-hawks and common buzzards are seen hunting from the air. If you are lucky, you might see Hungary’s largest bird of prey, the white-tailed eagle.
The path leaves the embankment and the water reservoir on its west side, and it takes you back to the bus stop in Soponya. The tour route is about 5 km long, and can be easily walked, so we recommend it to all interested in birds and protected wildlife.