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Sunday, May 26, 2019

CROATIA 2019 πŸ‡­πŸ‡· REVIEW

Our latest journey took us to Croatia, officially the Republic of Croatia, a country at the crossroads of Central and Southeast Europe, on the Adriatic Sea.

CROATIA
It borders Slovenia to the northwest, Hungary to the northeast, Serbia to the east, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Montenegro to the southeast, sharing a maritime border with Italy. It was our first visit here and covered a two week period from May 5th until May 19th. For the duration, we rented a comfortable detached house near the small village of Razvode, around an hours drive from Split. Our vehicle for the duration of our stay was an SUV Dacia Duster 4WD. We completed over 1600 miles, around 50% of which was offroad travelling around the many tracks of the Krka National Park and coastal regions of Dalmatia and Istria.

One of the many offroad tracks that can be driven with care.
On Tuesday 14th we spent the day in Bosnia Herzegovina entering at the border crossing at Strmica, a small village in the Knin Municipality and headed up to BuΕ‘ko Blato before reentering Croatia later at Kemensko. This is a hard border crossing and the hiring company (Sixt) provided us with the necessary paperwork, including a 'Green Card' to do so, you will obviously need your passports!

Stunning views from our house in Razvode
The weather for the most part of our visit was, to say the least changeable. Over the period we had just three days of cloudless skies with top temperatures reaching 22C. Two days were of torrential rains with the northern sector of the country suffering major flooding, thankfully being so far south we escaped any disruption.

Spectacular 'Dark Bura' winds and cloud heading in at Pag Island bridge.
However, we did not escape the Bura wind. Bura is a wind that blows from NNE to ENE, which, along the Adriatic coast, means that he blows from the land to the sea, gaining strength and power as he cascades down the mountainsides before hitting the water, fanning out and causing high seas. It is a dry, cold wind which blows in gusts and can reach incredible speeds – in 2003 on the Kralja Tomislava highway, speeds were recorded at a whopping 304 km. There are two types of Bura, light and dark. ‘Light Bura’, is more typical and is when the skies are clear. Unfortunately, we suffered a ‘Dark Bura’, which is characterized by dark clouds which gather on the hilltops, move towards the sea and bring rain.

Typical of the many abandoned houses throughout Croatia
Croatia is an up and coming birding destination and is already well known for its coastal summer holiday resorts, with many popular attractions such as visits to historical and cultural sites, boating, diving or just relaxing, but many of these resorts are also close to a number of excellent birdwatching areas and a balance needs to be drawn. During our whole visit, we did not meet a single Croatian birder and found a lot of the official rangers around the National Parks only briefed in tourism and sightseeing with little insight into the wildlife, which is here in abundance. The people are friendly, if not a little cautious and many speak good English.

For our part, the weather was a definite issue, with visits to some of the Islands cancelled and planned itinerary scuppered but as usual, we simply made the best of things and enjoyed discovering the real Croatia well away from the tourists and driving the many offroad tracks, stopping numerous times for long walks to explore the stunning scenery and diverse flora and fauna. This a country that still displays many signs of its recent past with much dereliction and abandonment. Despite the unseasonal weather, this was a productive holiday with many highlights and memories to cherish some of which are recorded in the following LINKS:

CROATIA DAY 1CROATIA DAY 2CROATIA DAY 3CROATIA DAY 4/5CROATIA DAY 6
CROATIA DAY 7/8CROATIA DAY 9CROATIA DAY 10/11CROATIA LAST DAYS

Photo Highlights...
Pygmy Cormorants nest at Vranko Lake (A Lifer)
Rock Partridge in the hills above Vranka Lake

Black-headed Bunting encountered on my morning walks.
Odanata was represented mostly by Scarce Chaser but unfortunately, the weather played its part.

Southern White Admiral among many species noted.

Queen of Spain Fritillary was a nice find.

Southern Festoon ~ A striking butterfly belonging to the butterfly family Papilionidae

Black-Eared Wheatear ~ Outnumbered Northern Wheatear during our stay.

Eastern Subalpine Warbler ~ A regular daily sighting.

Woodlarks one of the highlights of my morning walks with its sweet, melancholy song.

Spanish Sparrow nesting at the house.

Red-backed Shrike ~ For me one of the icons of our visit and seemingly thriving in Croatia.

White-winged Tern ~ Many feeding over the lakes.
(Greater) Short-toed Lark

(Greater) Short-toed Lark ~ Fascinating to watch displaying at Dabar while a thunderstorm raged close by.

This Lesser Grey Shrike was one of the highlights of our day in Bosnia & Herzegovina 

Little Bittern gave us a fright as we turned a corner while offroading.

Tawny Pipit at Pag Island

A Short-toed Eagle drifts silently overhead.

One of a duo of Golden Eagles while at 3,000ft above the Adriatic in Biokova National Park.
This still image from a video we filmed of one of six Red-footed Falcons brought down in torrential rain.
Montague's Harrier ~ A daily sighting.
Montague's Harrier

Heard daily the grating song of Great Reed Warblers with thankfully the odd appearance.

Blue Rock Thrush ~ most likely a juvenile.

Three-toed Orchid ~ With other specimens I've yet to identify.

Often heard but not seen a Golden Oriole ~ A rare opportunity to actually photograph one of these elusive birds. Well done Dazza, my wife!

A timely reminder of the hazards while birding in Croatia! 


Hoopoe ~ The muffled call 'oop-oop-oop seems to carry for miles.

Bird Species… Shelduck, Mallard, Goosander, Rock Partridge, Grey Partridge, Quail, Corncrake, Pheasant, Great Crested Grebe, Little Grebe, Great Cormorant, Pygmy Cormorant, Little Bittern, Little Egret, Squacco Heron, Great Egret, Grey Heron, Purple Heron, Black Stork, Glossy Ibis, Golden Eagle, Short-toed Eagle, Bonelli’s Eagle, Black Kite, Marsh Harrier, Montagu’s Harrier, Buzzard, Honey Buzzard, Sparrowhawk, Goshawk, Levant Sparrowhawk, Common Kestrel, Lesser Kestrel, Red-footed Falcon, Hobby, Eleonora’s Falcon, Water Rail, Spotted Crake, Coot, Stone Curlew, Grey Plover, Lapwing, Dunlin, Common Sandpiper, Greenshank, black-headed Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Audouin’s Gull, Common Tern, White-winged Tern, Whiskered Tern, Rock Dove, Feral Pigeon, Wood Pigeon, Turtle Dove, Collared Dove, Cuckoo, Eagle Owl, Nightjar, Common Swift, Alpine Swift, Pallid Swift, Bee-Eater, Hoopoe, Roller, Wryneck, Short-Toed Lark, Calandra Lark, Skylark, Crested Lark, Woodlark, Sand Martin, Crag Martin, Barn Swallow, Red-rumped Swallow, House Martin, Tawny Pipit, White Wagtail, Yellow Wagtail, Grey Wagtail, Dipper, Dunnock, Robin, Nightingale, Redstart, Black Redstart, Northern Wheatear, Black-eared Wheatear, Whinchat, Stonechat, Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush, Blackbird, Ring Ouzel, Blue Rock Thrush, Rock Thrush, Barred Warbler, Garden Warbler, Blackcap, Whitethroat, Eastern Orphean Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Eastern Subalpine Warbler, Zitting Cisticola, Cetti’s Warbler, Reed Warbler, Marsh Warbler, Great Reed Warbler, Icterine Warbler, Olive-tree Warbler, Olivaceous Warbler, Bonelli’s Warbler, Chiffchaff, Spotted Flycatcher, Collared Flycatcher, Great Tit, Coal Tit, Blue Tit, Long-Tailed Tit, Lesser Grey Shrike, Red-backed Shrike, Woodchat Shrike, Jay, Jackdaw, Alpine Chough, Hooded Crow, Raven, Starling, Golden Oriole, House Sparrow, Spanish Sparrow, Chaffinch, Linnet, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Serin, Ortolan Bunting, Cirl Bunting, Black-headed Bunting, Corn Bunting, Rock Bunting

Butterfly Species... Adonis Blue, Silver-Studded Blue, Common Blue, Green Hairstreak, Brown Argus, Small Copper, Small Blue, Large Blue, Dingy Skipper, Mountain Apollo, Southern Festoon, Old World Swallowtail, Scarce Swallowtail, Glanville Fritillary, Queen of Spain Fritillary, Southern White Admiral, Painted Lady, Small Heath, Gatekeeper, Wall Brown, Speckled Wood, Clouded Yellow, Southern Small White, Brimstone

Saturday, May 18, 2019

πŸ“– BIRDING CROATIA 2019 πŸ‡­πŸ‡· ~ Last Days!

☀️⛈21C Friday 17th May 2019 ~ The morning walk was below cloudless skies, a rarity during this holiday but the birdsong today was glorious and at its peak. Corn Bunting, Black-Headed Bunting and Cirl Bunting were heard within yards of each other and it's also great to hear singing Shrikes with Lesser Grey, Woodchat and Red-Backed. Other species recorded included Cuckoo, Black-eared Wheatear, Tawny Pipit, Chiffchaff, Eastern Orphean Warbler, Eastern Subalpine Warbler and even a distant Quail got in on the act. One surprise was a trio of Black Storks which drifted overhead towards the west and both Short-Toed Eagle and Red-Footed Falcon were seen at distance.


Red-Backed Shrike


Black-Headed Bunting
Last week during the rain and wind we took a drive out to Lake Peruća and the surrounding meadows which looked like excellent habitat. Today we returned in the sunshine and were not disappointed. The area combines complex karst fields with large wet and dry meadows in between, these are covered with predominantly beech and to a lesser extent mixed with oak, hornbeam and thermophilic pubescent oak forests and shrub.


Three Toothed Orchid


Southern Festoon
One particular meadow we walked through produced a few nice finds including Three-Toothed Orchid and Southern Festoon Butterfly. The marsh areas produced Purple Heron, Corncrake, Great Reed Warbler, Water Rail and a possible Little Crake heard, although I'm not claiming it as the local frog population soon drowned it out. Both Stonechat and Whinchat were noted while here along with a flyby Montagu's Harrier.


Yet another Montagu's Harrier
Driving higher up into the Karst Meadows was a delight, literally stopping every few minutes to check out sightings and some spectacular lightning from nearby storms. There were double-figure Bee-Eaters, mainly around the watering holes and Wheaters were in abundance with many sightings of Northern and Black-Eared, plus RollerTawny Pipit and Stone Curlew. However, the highlight had to be a pair of displaying (Greater) Short-Toed Larks.



(Greater) Short-Toed Lark 


(Greater) Short-Toed Lark 
☀️🌧20C Saturday 18th May 2019 ~ Today was our final day and with rain forecast for the afternoon, we decided to stay pretty close to home. We're literally on the edge of the Krka National Park and the plan was to take in some areas of the northern edge we'd not yet visited.


Large Blue
Queen of Spain Fritillary


Queen of Spain Fritillary
It was a lovely walk to end our trip picking up a few more species to add to our holiday list including Barred Warbler, Dipper, Large Blue and Queen of Spain Fritillary Butterflies. I'll post a final list of species once I've trawled through the many photos back in the UK, lots I'm sure with ID queries. However, I must end by mentioning the guys back home who've already helped in ID issues: Fred Stokes, Jim Rushforth and Jim Timms, who are always willing to help and of course the brilliant Dazza my amazing wife who has unlimited patience 😍 Farewell Croatia....

A few more images of the day...



Hoopoe


Silver Studded Blue


Great Reed Warbler

Thursday, May 16, 2019

πŸ“– BIRDING CROATIA 2019 πŸ‡­πŸ‡· ~ DAY 10/11

⛅️20C Wednesday 15th May 2019 ~ Thankfully the Bura wind had finally dissipated to produce a reasonably calm and mostly sunny day. A shorter morning walk than normal and a few additions to the local sightings with Common Whitethroat, Sardinian Warbler, Chiffchaff and Olivaceous Warbler, which I thought I'd heard the other day but never managed to connect with.

Red-backed Shrike ~ Such wonderful birds to see each morning.
After breakfast, we headed off to Paklenica National Park, known for the dramatic canyons of Velika and Mala Paklenica, plus karst rock formations and black-pine forests. The park is also home to bears but I think its highly unlikely we'll see any today!

Stunning scenery at Paklenica

It was a tough day which included a gruelling 10-mile hike and frankly for little reward on the birding front! The scenery was incredibly stunning as you would imagine but this is a real tourist attraction and the largest rock climbing centre in Croatia, so disruption is unavoidable. We did manage a few highlights which included Black Redstart, Rock Thrush and a flyby Mountain Apollo Butterfly but it was surprisingly devoid of Raptors and Woodpeckers in the huge forested areas. I suspect we would have had to walk many more miles to achieve our target birds today.

Elusive Eastern Orphean Warbler
☀️22C Thursday 16th April 2019 ~ An enjoyable but frustrating morning walk today! An Eastern Orphean Warbler was singing well but kept on the move and would not offer itself up for a decent photo! I also had some good scoped views of a Collared Flycatcher from the house but when I walked back to investigate I couldn't locate it again. However, this may well have been the result of a Red-Footed Falcon, which seemed very active this morning!

Vransko Lake boardwalk
It was our 10th wedding anniversary today and Dazza chose another visit to Vransko Lake to celebrate, which we visited on day one of our stay, but unlike then it wasn't blowing a hoolie. In fact, It was a glorious day, the best thus far with a pleasant breeze and comfortable 22C.

White-Winged Tern ~ From the boardwalk.
We began at the Crkvina Information Centre which has a wooden walkway looking out to the lake with 4 observation areas. As before there were a number of Pygmy Cormorant, which breeds here and plenty on the wing with White-Winged Tern, Whiskered Tern and Common Tern.

Great Reed Warbler occasionally making an appearance
The Reedbed was overwhelmed with the grating call of Great Reed Warbler but Reed Warbler, Cetti's Warbler and Marsh Warbler could be heard over the din. Other species of note during our stay included Great EgretLittle Egret, Squacco Heron, Purple Heron and Little Bittern.

This Little Bittern gave us a surprise around one corner! 
From here we spent the remainder of the day offroad driving the many tracks, stopping occasionally for a walk. It was a memorable day and I've listed the notables below, along with a few more photographs.

Photos of the Day...

Pygmy Cormorant

Little Bittern

Montagu's Harrier

Blue Rock Thrush

Species of Note Today...

Rock Partridge, Grey Partridge, Pygmy Cormorant, Little Bittern, Squacco Heron, Little Egret, Great Egret, Purple Heron, Glossy Ibis, Short-toed Eagle, Black Kite, Montagu's Harrier, Common Buzzard, Honey Buzzard, Goshawk, Kestrel, Red-Footed Falcon, Eleonora's Falcon, Grey Plover, Yellow-Legged Gull, Common Tern, White-Winged Tern, Whiskered Tern, Rock Dove, Turtle Dove, Cuckoo, Common Swift, Alpine Swift, Bee-Eater, Roller, Hoopoe, Wryneck, Crested Lark, Crag Martin, Barn Swallow, Red-Rumped Swallow, House Martin, Tawny Pipit, White Wagtail, Nightingale, Black Redstart, Whinchat, Blue Rock Thrush, Black-eared Wheatear, Zitting Cisticola, Blackcap, Eastern Subalpine Warbler, Cetti's Warbler, Marsh Warbler, Reed Warbler, Great Reed Warbler, Olivaceous Warbler, Chiffchaff, Spotted Flycatcher, Collared Flycatcher, Lesser Grey Shrike, Red-backed Shrike, Woodchat Shrike, Raven, Hooded Crow, Golden Oriole, Spanish Sparrow, Serin, Linnet, Ortolan Bunting, Black-Headed Bunting, Corn Bunting