Norfolk Birders

Norfolk Birdwatching and beyond!

Trip Report to Croatia by Sue Bryan

 

June 7th – June 11th 2022

Sue Bryan


John Geeson

Introduction

 

As I enjoy short breaks and travelling, I proposed a short trip to Croatia using a cheap airline where John and I could have a few days away birding and butterflying as well as adding to my list of countries visited. Travelling has always been important to me so that I can see as much of the world as possible but also combining it with my love of wildlife and bird watching. I managed to find some cheap flights and a hotel on the Dalamtian coastline but this was thwarted by the pandemic and had to be cancelled. Another year passed and I resurrected the trip booking cheap flights with Ryanair only to have them cancel the flights a few months before we were due to fly out. I re-booked with Easyjet which cost considerably more and flying to Split instead of Zadar.

 

Guides:  Sue and John!

 

Itinerary

 

Jun 7th Gatwick – Split - Starigrad

 

Jun 8th Starigrad - Veliko Rujno - Pag Island

 

Jun 9th Obrivak – Velebit Mountains - Starigrad

 

Jun 10th Pag Island - Zadar

 

Jun 11th Starigrad – Split – Gatwick


Flights

 

International return flights with www.easyjet.com to Split cost £245 each

 

Car Hire

 

We booked a hire car via the Easyjet website at a cost of £165 for the duration of our stay. We were picked up from the airport and taken to a site not far from the airport.

 

Hotel

 

Hotel Vicko at Starigrad was booked using  www.booking.com which had a good room with a lovely balcony overlooking the sea, a substantial breakfast and a reasonable evening meal. Our hosts could not have been more helpful. Total cost for B and B for 4 nights for two us including dinner on two nights came to £386.

 

Money

 

We took a few Euros with us but ran into difficulty as many restaurants and ice-cream sellers etc would only give change in Croatian Kunas and would not accept debit or credit cards. Our hotel bill was paid by credit card at the end of our stay.

 

General Information

 

Croatia is in the EU and retailers will accept Euros but will give change in the local currency. Credit cards and debit cards are not so readily accepted as we are used to, but we paid for the hotel and fuel bills with them. Most tourist retailers/restaurants spoke some English but not all. Starigrad had a small harbour with a few small supermarkets and a few restaurants. It was pleasantly warm in the evenings to sit outside for a few beers!

 

We enjoyed a mix of mountain travelling as well as time on an offshore island reached via a bridge.

 

Climate

 

Croatia has a Mediterranean/temperate climate with warm dry summers and cooler winters and we expected hot weather in June. The daytime temperature was hovering around 24 degrees and whilst it was sunny for most of our stay we had some rain in the mountains on our second day and gale-force winds on our last full day.

 

Habitat

 

The Dinaric and Julian Alps rise above a rugged seacoast with glacier-carved lakes. The karst limestone is riddled with caves, gorges, waterfalls and crystalline rivers. Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast has a thousand islands and reefs, offering idyllic Mediterranean scenery.

 

 

 

Daily Log

 

7th June

 

John and I caught a flight to Split where we watched Pallid Swifts whilst waiting for our car to arrive. We drove to our hotel in Starigrad and after settling in, walked down to the harbour where we enjoyed a meal in a restaurant overlooking the sea.

Cheers!

                                                      Posedarje

8th June

 

After a delightful buffet breakfast watching Swift, House Martin, Swallow, Blackbird and Yellow-legged Gulls we set off trying to find the start of the road up to Veliko Runjo. As John had been before he knew roughly where the turning was but we had a few false starts and we stopped to ask a local lady for help. Eventually we found the road (No.63153) and after a bit of a trial with the car I took over the driving and we made our way up the mountain.

Veiko Rujno 

 

We stopped several times on our way up to watch for birds and to admire the butterflies. Nightingales seemed to be singing everywhere but we did not see one! A Woodchat Shrike flew across the road but we could not relocate it in the deep vegetation. A Scarce Swallowtail caught my eye as a Dark-green Fritillary alighted on the side of an old abandoned van. We continued to the top of the road and using the Merlin ID App, set it to record what birds were singing. It soon told me that Eastern Sub-alpine Warblers and Nightingales were singing along with a Cuckoo. What a useful App!

                               

























                                             Scarce Swallowtail

























                                              Ilex Hairstreak
Eastern Subalpine Warbler



I went in search of the Eastern Subalpine Warbler that was singing at the top of the scree slope. It was not an easy climb as I could see the warbler sitting on a tree near the top. I climbed up further and luckily the bird flew down towards me where another bird was singing somewhere behind me. It landed in a shrub and I managed a few snatched photos before it disappeared down the slope where I was not going to follow it down!

 

Hairstreaks were flying around me and I soon learned from John how to differentiate the difference between Blue-spot Hairstreak and Ilex Hairstreaks. Southern Small Whites were fluttering around as were Clouded Yellows but getting a photograph of them with their wings open was quite a different matter! Goodness knows how many attempts I had.

























                                      Blue-spot Hairstreak                           
                                                 Southern Small White































                             Clouded Yellow































                                              Clouded Yellow
Rose-coloured Starling



John was eager to move on and we descended the mountain, watching Blue Rock Thrushes, Collared Doves along with Greenfinches and drove around the coastline where Mallard and Goldfinch were noted. We crossed the bridge to Pag Island where the terrain was much flatter but the ground was very stony.


Once on the island flocks of Rose-coloured Starlings were on the move and we stopped by some marshes to take some photos but it had started to rain. Luckily this did not last long and we were able to admire a Red-backed Shrike and a few European Bee-eaters that were also present here.


























                             Red-backed Shrike                    


























                             European Bee-eater
Pag Island



We walked down a short track and noted Small Skipper, Adonis Blue, Balkan Marbled White, Silver-studded Blue, Wall and Southern White Admiral. House Sparrows were sharing the reedbed as we listened to Corn Buntings singing. It took a while to locate one. We scanned over the water and around the muddy fringes where we added Little Egret, Little Ringed Plover, Curlew and Lapwing to our lists.

 

We motored on stopping to watch a Golden Eagle overhead and a Crested Lark singing at the side of the road posing on a rock for us.




























                                 Golden Eagle

























                                                 Crested Lark

We stopped for some lunch watching yet more flocks of Rose-colored Starlings passing through as well as more European Bee-eaters catching insects. A few Jackdaws added themselves to our lists before we set off once again. A short walk across the stony ground had us trying to identify a small brown bird flying in front of us. When it eventually settled we managed to take a few photos of a Tawny Pipit in the heat haze. A Sardinian Warbler flew across the road as Skylarks were singing and Hooded Crows abounded on tops of rocks.



























                                       Tawny Pipit                                                                    

























                                           Corn Bunting






















                                         Montagu’s Harrier                                                              
                                                            Bladetail
Coastline near Starigrad

Back near the marshes after we had done a circular tour we watched a Montagu’s Harrier hunting. What fabulous birds these are! A Corn Bunting sat and posed when suddenly a dragonfly landed on the track in front of me. John got excited when he realised it was a Bladetail and we both managed to get good photos of it.


 

We drove back across the bridge and stopped on our way back to take a few photos before a sumptuous evening meal back in our hotel.


9th June

 

After another buffet breakfast in our hotel we intended to spend the day up in the mountains but were not too sure how to access the higher reaches. Our hosts kindly supplied us with a local map and after explaining what we wanted to do, suggested a route to take. We set off but had not gone far when we noticed a birding group that had stopped at a local supermarket. We stopped to have a chat! Another few miles on we saw them again scanning a rocky area below the mountain slope near the turning for Obrovac and so we stopped again as they were listening to a Rock Partridge calling. With all of us scanning and knowing that it was quite close it was very frustrating when none of us could locate it. We asked the guides about the correct turning for our road/track and set off once more.

 

Once on the mountain road we stopped at its base to admire Black-headed Buntings, Woodlark and a Common Buzzard. Hoopoes were calling from several directions and we saw three birds in flight as I stopped to take a photograph of an Eastern Black-eared Wheatear.

Velebit Mountains






















                            Eastern Black-eared Wheatear























                                   Adonis Blue































                              Viper's Bugloss

We stopped for John to have a quick snack before stumbling across a wonderful meadow next to an Oak wood where I could hear Golden Orioles singing. I can only describe the next couple of hours as a wonderful experience as in the hot sun John and I were in heaven as we took many photographs of the stunning array of butterflies everywhere whilst Golden Orioles were singing and flying around us! We were treated to Adonis Blue, Syntomid marjana Moth, Dark-green Fritillary, Eastern Rock Grayling, Spotted Fritillary and Lulworth Skipper when I need a comfort break. I headed off behind some bushes when I noticed a butterfly land on a tree trunk that I did not recognise. All of a sudden a large brown butterfly flew by me as a Golden Oriole perched up in a tree beside me. I did not know what to do first as I did not want to miss the opportunity of taking photos of any of them. I called John but he’s not keen on me wandering off and said he could hear another Rock Partridge calling. I chose to continue my efforts and managed to complete all my intentions by which time John was not sure he had heard one after all and came scurrying over to see what I had found! John’s knowledge of the butterflies is far superior than mine but we did have to consult the field guides to sort the IDs out for some of the butterflies after I had obtained some photographs.

                      Dark-green Fritillary                           
                  Eastern Rock Grayling                                
              Lulworth Skipper                                                                




























                               Golden Oriole                                                          
                                              Great Sooty Satyr





























                                         Balkan Marbled White                                                         
                                        High-brown Fritillary




























                                         Spotted Fritillary                                                                      
                                           Spotted Fritillary                                                                      

Syntomid marjana Moth




It had been a magical hour or so but we felt the need to drive up the mountain even higher to see if we could find a Rock Partridge calling. We stopped to admire a few more birds including Orphean Warblers chasing around and a pair of Ortolan Buntings that were continually on the move as I tried to keep up with them walking as fast as I could uphill!

























                                          Black-headed Bunting
                                            Ortolan Bunting

Black – headed Buntings were singing everywhere but always seemed to be distant sitting on top of trees. Close birds always flew off as soon as I approached. Eventually I managed to sneak up on one!

We continued on driving even higher with magnificent scenery but looking ahead could see an ominous bank of cloud approaching. Down below us a thunderstorm was raging. It was an odd experience as we seemed to be above it but it was quite clearly heading our way. It didn’t take long before we could not see a thing. We hoped that it would pass and continued on for a while, but it was pointless as a fork in the road with no signs left us bewildered and we turned around and retraced our journey back down the mountain. After a bit of an unpleasant experience in the pouring rain and streams of water on the track we arrived back to a metalled road and safety. Eventually we headed to Obrivak and found a cafe. Our day was cut short and we headed back to the hotel.

































                            Velebit Mountains                                                      
































                                        Serin

Parking the car at the hotel John gazed up at the trees in the car park where a Hawfinch and a Serin sat. Sadly I was not quick enough for a photo of the Hawfinch as it flew off. A Pied Wagtail was also flitting around.

10th June


We had a disturbed night as we were kept awake with a howling gale and thunder storm. A door banging somewhere did not help as every time a gust came through we nearly jumped out of our skin. By the morning the rain had stopped but not the wind. It was now sunny and warm but trying to stay on our feet was a big issue and trying to keep the car on the road was another issue. We were not too sure what the birds would make of it. We drove to the foot of the mountains and walked where we had heard Rock Partridge yesterday but the howl of the wind made listening for anything impossible. After an hour or so we gave up and drove towards Pag Island stopping at Maslenica where I walked across the bridge to take some photos. We walked the gorge in lee of the wind but apart from a few hirundines and a Pallid Swift saw very little.


John drove over the bridge to Pag Island but struggled with the car as we nearly got blown off the bridge. Motorcyclists all had to stop to hold up their bikes as spray whooshed over us from the sea. We drove to Veliko i Malo Blato bird reserve where there was a bird hide which gave us a little shelter but not much as the wooden structure had some open sides. We watched Marsh Harrier, Purple Heron, Crested Lark and Tawny Pipit here and saw a few butterflies including Grayling and a Mallow Skipper.
































                               Maslenica  
Sue hanging on at Veliko i Malo Blato bird reserve (photo courtesy J. Geeson)

We continued along the lanes and stopped as a very tired, exhausted Rose-coloured Starling was blocking our way along a very narrow high-walled track drinking from a puddle. We stopped for several minutes watching it before it alighted up to the top of the wall.
























                                           Mallow Skipper                                                          
                                             Rose-coloured Starling

A little further on a Woodchat Shrike sat at the side of a wood before we turned the car around and stopped to investigate a lake and an abandoned house. The surrounds were very overgrown and we chanced upon a small colony of Spanish Sparrows. As we were searching the grounds John flushed out a Nightjar but we could not re-find it for me to see. Grrrr....


On the lake we watched Mute Swans, Little Egrets and a Cormorant. House Martins were flying around and I heard a Serin but could not locate it. We watched Graylings, Holly Blue and Common Blue butterflies before stopping at a local supermarket for an ice-cream as it was now very hot. However the wind was now so strong I could not get the car door open and John had to come round to my side of the car to open it!























                                 Woodchat Shrike                                                                     
                                        Spanish Sparrow

Sue on the bridge at Zadar




We stopped at our little marsh and walked the small track that would offer a bit of shelter but decided that it was pointless and drove to Zadar to play tourist for a while and find an evening meal. We saw more flocks of Rose-coloured Starlings still moving on their migration.


 

We eventually found somewhere to park and walked across the bridge. It was nowhere as windy here and was beautifully hot as we wandered around the old part of the city. We found an outdoors restaurant and enjoyed a meal before returning to our hotel and the wind once more!

11th June


We had to leave the hotel very early to catch our flight to Gatwick. We added Starling to our list on the way to the airport.

Species List


Birds


  1. Mute Swan        Cygnus olor       08/06/2022        Starigrad
  2. Mallard               Anas platyrhynchos       08/06/2022        Starigrad
  3. Alpine Swift       Tachymarptis melba      09/06/2022        Velebit Mountains
  4. Swift     Apus apus          07/06/2022        Starigrad
  5. Pallid Swift         Apus pallidus    07/06/2022        Split
  6. Eurasian Collared Dove Streptopelia decaocto   08/06/2022        Veliko Rujno (Starigrad)
  7. Lapwing              Vanellus vanellus            08/06/2022        Pag Island
  8. Little Ringed Plover         Charadrius dubius          08/06/2022        Pag Island
  9. Curlew  Numenius arquata         08/06/2022        Pag Island
  10. Yellow-legged Gull          Larus michahellis            07/06/2022        Starigrad
  11. Purple Heron     Ardea purpurea              10/06/2022        Pag Island
  12. Little Egret          Egretta garzetta              08/06/2022        Pag Island
  13. Golden Eagle     Aquila chrysaetos           08/06/2022        Pag Island
  14. Marsh Harrier   Circus aeruginosus         10/06/2022        Pag Island
  15. Montagu's Harrier          Circus pygargus 08/06/2022        Pag Island
  16. Buzzard              Buteo buteo      09/06/2022        Obrovac
  17. Hoopoe              Upupa epops    09/06/2022        Obrovac
  18. Bee-eater           Merops apiaster             08/06/2022        Pag Island
  19. Red-backed Shrike          Lanius collurio   08/06/2022        Pag Island
  20. Woodchat Shrike            Lanius senator  08/06/2022        Veliko Rujno (Starigrad)
  21. Golden Oriole   Oriolus oriolus  09/06/2022        Velebit Mountains
  22. Alpine Chough  Pyrrhocorax graculus     09/06/2022        Velebit Mountains
  23. Jackdaw              Coloeus monedula         08/06/2022        Pag Island
  24. Hooded Crow    Corvus cornix    08/06/2022        Pag Island
  25. Woodlark           Lullula arborea 09/06/2022        Obrovac
  26. Skylark  Alauda arvensis              08/06/2022        Pag Island
  27. Crested Lark      Galerida cristata             08/06/2022        Pag Island
  28. Swallow              Hirundo rustica 07/06/2022        Starigrad
  29. Common House Martin Delichon urbicum           07/06/2022        Starigrad
  30. Eastern Orphean Warbler           Curruca crassirostris      09/06/2022              Velebit Mountains
  31. Sardinian Warbler          Curruca melanocephala              08/06/2022              Pag Island
  32. Eastern Subalpine Warbler         Curruca cantillans           08/06/2022              Veliko Rujno (Starigrad)
  33. Rose-coloured Starling  Pastor roseus    08/06/2022        Pag Island
  34. Starling               Sturnus vulgaris              11/06/2022       Split
  35. Blackbird            Turdus merula  07/06/2022        Starigrad
  36. Blue Rock Thrush            Monticola solitarius       08/06/2022        Veliko Rujno (Starigrad)
  37. Eastern Black-eared Wheatear  Oenanthe melanoleuca 09/06/2022              Velebit Mountains
  38. Spanish Sparrow             Passer hispaniolensis     10/06/2022        Pag Island
  39. House Sparrow Passer domesticus          08/06/2022        Pag Island
  40. Pied Wagtail      Motacilla alba   09/06/2022        Starigrad
  41. Tawny Pipit        Anthus campestris         08/06/2022        Pag Island
  42. Hawfinch            Coccothraustes coccothraustes 09/06/2022        Starigrad
  43. Greenfinch         Chloris chloris  08/06/2022        Veliko Rujno (Starigrad)
  44. Goldfinch           Carduelis carduelis         08/06/2022        Veliko Rujno (Starigrad)
  45. Serin     Serinus serinus 09/06/2022        Starigrad
  46. Corn Bunting     Emberiza calandra         08/06/2022        Pag Island
  47. Ortolan Bunting              Emberiza hortulana       09/06/2022        Velebit Mountains
  48. Black-headed Bunting    Emberiza melanocephala            09/06/2022              Obrovac


Butterflies


 

  1. Scarce Swallowtail          Iphiclides podalirius       08/06/2022        Veliko Rujno (Starigrad)
  2. Southern Small White    Artogeia mannii              08/06/2022        Veliko Rujno (Starigrad)
  3. Eastern Dappled White Euchloe ausonia             08/06/2022        Pag Island
  4. Clouded Yellow Colias crocea     08/06/2022        Veliko Rujno (Starigrad)
  5. Ilex Hairstreak   Nordmannia ilicis            08/06/2022        Veliko Rujno (Starigrad)
  6. Blue-spot Hairstreak      Strymonidia spini           08/06/2022        Veliko Rujno (Starigrad)
  7. Holly Blue           Celastrina argiolus          10/06/2022        Pag Island
  8. Silver-studded Blue        Plebejus argus   08/06/2022        Veliko Rujno (Starigrad)
  9. Adonis Blue       Lysandra bellargus         08/06/2022        Veliko Rujno (Starigrad)
  10. Common Blue   Polyommatus icarus      10/06/2022        Pag Island
  11. Southern White Admiral             Limenitis reducta            08/06/2022              Veliko Rujno (Starigrad)
  12. Dark Green Fritillary       Argynnis aglaja 09/06/2022        Velebit Mountains
  13. High Brown Fritillary      Argynnis adippe              09/06/2022        Velebit Mountains
  14. Spotted Fritillary             Melitaea didyma             09/06/2022        Velebit Mountains
  15. Balkan Marbled White  Melanargia larissa         08/06/2022        Veliko Rujno (Starigrad)
  16. Eastern Rock Grayling    Hipparchia syriaca          09/06/2022        Velebit Mountains
  17. Grayling              Hipparchia semele         10/06/2022        Pag Island
  18. Great Sooty Satyr            Satyrus ferula   09/06/2022        Velebit Mountains
  19. Meadow Brown              Maniola jurtina              09/06/2022        Velebit Mountains
  20. Small Heath       Coenonympha pamphilus           08/06/2022        Pag Island
  21. Wall Brown        Lasiommata megera      08/06/2022        Veliko Rujno (Starigrad)
  22. Large Wall Brown           Lasiommata maera        09/06/2022        Velebit Mountains
  23. Mallow Skipper Carcharodus alceae       10/06/2022        Pag Island
  24. Lulworth Skipper            Thymelicus acteon         09/06/2022        Velebit Mountains
  25. Small Skipper    Thymelicus sylvestris     08/06/2022        Veliko Rujno (Starigrad)
  26. Large Skipper    Ochlodes venatus           09/06/2022        Velebit Mountains


Dragonflies


  1. Bladetail             Lindenia tetraphylla       08/06/2022        Pag Island
  2. Black-tailed Skimmer     Orthetrum cancellatum 10/06/2022        Pag Island