Sunday, May 26, 2019


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.

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:


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