CROATIA πŸ‡­πŸ‡· ~ Our main event for 2019 was a visit 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:


HUNGARY πŸ‡­πŸ‡Ί ~ This short birding/sightseeing trip was originally planned for our Easter break, but we had to delay due to buying our new property in Scotland at the time. We eventually arrived in Budapest in late September and of course, nearly all of the targeted species we'd have hoped to have seen in May had departed to their wintering grounds. That said it was a superb visit which included trips to Kiskunsag National Park and HortobΓ‘gy National Park. Both parts of my original posts on the visits can be found here: PART ONE PART TWO

Photo Highlights From Croatia...

Pygmy Cormorants ~ nest at Vranko Lake
Rock Partridge ~ in the hills above Vranka Lake

Black-headed Bunting ~ A regular sighting and often encountered on my morning walks.
Odonata 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
Whinchat ~ These two downed in yet another deluge at Sibenik 
Tawny Pipit ~ A juvenile at Dabar
Eastern Subalpine Warbler ~ Another regular daily sighting, this one from the garden
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 ~ Common during our stay with 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 ~ This individual gave us an unprecedented view as we turned a corner while offroading around Vranka Lake
Tawny Pipit ~ at Pag Island
Short-toed Eagle ~ drifts silently overhead
One of two 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 throughout our stay, this one on a rare day with cloudless skies
Montague's Harrier

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

Blue Rock Thrush ~ This juvenile playing 'hide and seek' with us

Three-toothed Orchid ~ With other Orchid 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 to my wife Dazza!

A timely reminder of the hazards while birding in Croatia! 
Hoopoe ~ The muffled call 'oop-oop-oop seems to carry for miles.

Photo Highlights From Hungary...

Great Bustard ~ A straggler from the main group of 27 near Kiskunsag National Park 
Great Bustard ~ A long afternoon search ended in success thanks to Dazza's persistence!  
Pygmy Cormorant over The Hortobagy 'Fishponds'
Large Copper ~ Despite being late in the year plenty of butterflies were still on the wing
Eastern Bath White
Wintering Cranes were arriving in huge numbers during our visits to The Hortobagy 
Great Grey Shrike Likely a wintering bird recently arrived
Hooded Crow ~ Photographed by Dazza in Budapest city centre
One of our target birds the Eastern Imperial Eagle ~ A great find at The Hortobagy
Eastern Imperial Eagle ~ A great opportunity for some flight shots
Good numbers of Penduline Tits can be found at the 'Fishponds'. These delicate little birds always remind me of 'miniature Shrikes'.
Peregrine on the prowl
A lingering juvenile Red-backed Shrike

A couple of White-tailed Eagles enjoying the thermals 
Another unmistakable White-tailed Eagle sails over the 'Fishponds' at The Hortobagy
White-tailed Eagle close up!

Bird Species Seen… Shelduck, Mallard, Goosander, Rock Partridge, Grey Partridge, Quail, Corncrake, Pheasant, Great Crested Grebe, Black-necked 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, Eastern Imperial Eagle, White-tailed 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, Red-necked Phalarope, 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, Penduline 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 Seen... Adonis Blue, Silver-Studded Blue, Common Blue, Green Hairstreak, Brown Argus, Small Copper, Large 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, Eastern Bath White, Brimstone