Search This Blog

Monday, 22 May 2017

Croatia Day 2, 7th May, Nin salt pans & Pag

Crested Lark, Velo Blato, Pag
My first full day in Croatia. I had expected an early start but 2:45am was beyond stupid. Then I discovered what had woken me...a pair of Eurasian Scops Owls duetting. They were so loud that I thought they were on the end of the bed! I didn't see them but they saw me because the noise stopped when I went outside and then started again deeper into the Pine wood.
A few other birds were making their presence heard over the noise of the Cicada's. The ubiquitous Nightingale of course, an unexpected European Nightjar and something else which, after 15 minutes on the Xeno Canto website, was identified as Long-eared Owl, again unexpected.
Back to the land of Nod.
Woke again at a more reasonable hour and had a stroll around the woodland attached to the site. Lots of common birds such as Chaffinch, Greenfinch and Goldfinch but also some typically Mediterranean species such as Golden Oriole, Hoopoe and Cirl Buntings. Brown Hare was also seen. A few pieces of log were turned over and mainly produced a variety of Ants but also some of the largest, most vicious, Centipedes I have ever seen. 
Wild flowers were in perfusion. These are just three...
Butterfly Orchid, Anacamptis papilionacea

Bertoloni's Bee Orchid, Ophrys bertolonii

Tassel Hyacinth, Muscari comosum
The main plan for today was to visit Nin salt pans and the island of Pag searching for Rock Partridge mainly. The route is below.
Day 2 route.
Site A - Nin Salt Pans
First stop was the, nearby, Salt Pans at Nin. The pans are still working and the are quite a tourist attraction, along with the museum. The water levels do vary which can affect the birds seen. A road bisects the pans and there is a raised viewing platform for birdwatching, parking off the road, on the verge. Black-winged Stilts were obvious, as were the Little Terns, This is the only site where Little Terns were seen. Up to 30 birds at any one time.

 "Bird On A Stick!", Black-winged Stilt, Nin
Little Tern, Nin
There were a variety of waders on show. Nin is one of only 3 sites which host nesting Kentish Plover in Croatia. Several pairs were on show alongside Ringed and Little Ringed Plovers. Sandpipers were represented by Dunlin, Curlew Sandpiper, Greenshank, and Spotted Redshank. A small, pale wader, on it's own drew my attention. TEREK SANDPIPER! a Croatian rarity, though I didn't know how rare at the time. Two Eurasian Spoonbills were also present. A handful of Wagtails were all Black-headed Wagtails.
Curlew Sandpiper, Nin

 male Black-headed Wagtail, M. f. feldegg, Nin
Nin salt pans

Nin, the extremely old footbridge and some of the town fortifications.
Site B
The second site today was the parking area just after crossing the famous Pag Bridge. The landscape looks barren but holds Blue-Rock Thrush, Eastern Black-eared Wheatear and Short-toed Lark.
Pag Bridge

Velebit range from Pag.
Site C

Next stop before heading for Velo Blato wetlands was the view points overlooking Pag Town. There are great views of the surrounding area. Birds included a female Rock Thrush, Tawny Pipit, European Bee-eater, female Red-footed Falcon and Lesser Kestrel. Several Rock Partridge could be heard close by but none were seen.
Site D
After lunch I decided to head for Velo Malo but accidentally turned off before the actual road at the Village of Gorica. What a stroke of luck. The road went through reed beds up to 8ft high with wet, clear, areas between them. It was here I added a lifer with a singing male Eastern Orphean Warbler. Melodious Warbler, Zitting Cisticola, and Red-backed Shrikes were also present along with 15 Green Sandpipers, 44 Wood Sandpipers, 18 Little Stint and a Dunlin.
Following the road right led to a change in habitat with grassy fields and thick bushes. A stop near the junction with the main road produced Stone Curlew, Quail, Common Redstart and an Eastern Olivaceous Warbler...another lifer. The final piece of track is not for the faint hearted.
Red-backed Shrike, nr Gorica
Site E
The penultimate stop was Velo Malo which is the summer residence of several pairs of Montagu's Harrier. Lots of Rock Partridges were heard on nearby farmland but, again, none were seen. Crested Lark and Skylark were plentiful.

Montagu's Harrier, male, Velo Malo
Site F - Velo Blato (P=parking)
The last site of the day was Velo Blato. Probably the only real area of standing water on the whole island. A Pygmy Cormorant showed well as did Squacco Heron and Glossy Ibis. Less cooperative but still seen were a pair of Great-spotted Cuckoos flushed accidentally from a small plantation, Golden Oriole and Moustached Warbler. Stone Curlew and Rock Partridge were both heard but not seen. Bee-eaters were more common here.

Crested Lark, Velo Blato

Squacco Heron, Velo Blato
Well that's it for day 2. Off to Veliko Rujno for day 3

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Croatia - Day 1 - Arrival in Split and Travel to Nin

The Italian Alps...from 38'000 ft.!
EasyJet flight EZY3021 lifted from Stansted at 06:25 on May 6th; by 10:00(CET) I was in Split, Croatia, looking at Spanish Sparrows nesting under the airport entrance canopy. There was a bit of hassle with the hire car company but eventually I was on my way, concentrating deeply to stay on the correct side of the road. Roundabouts were fun! The pick up point for the car produced the first of countless Blackbirds but also Serin and Nightingale, another candidate for commonest bird of the trip.
Route (red) from Split, north-west, to Zaton Holiday Resort
I followed the coast road north towards Zaton, roughly 200km, my base for the stay. The scenery is brilliant with coastal strip and the mountains behind. I was a bit strung out after my early start but there are quite a few stopping areas and one of them was good enough for a kip. It also produced my first decent look at the bird life, which was a bit disappointing at first with Great Tit, Kestrel and Woodpigeon. Luckily a Nightingale started singing by the path and I got a very good look at my first male Eastern Subalpine Warbler of the trip. Yellow-legged Gulls were also visible everywhere.
Eastern Subalpine Warbler, male, nr Sibenik
I planned to stop at the bird reserve at Vransko Jezero, near Pakostane, I made it with a few hours to spare before sunset. Using the few reports from previous visitors I identified the canal bridge, tower hide, parking and walk ways.
Vransko Jezero
As I got out of the car at the canal bridge, the first sound to greet me was a cacophony of singing warblers. Great Reed Warbler was the biggest culprit and there seemed to be one every few meters. Close behind them were Cetti's Warbler, a single Savi's Warbler and, trying to keep up, a single Eurasian Reed Warbler. The reed beds are vast.
Great Reed Warbler, Vransko Jezero
I walked along the path to the tower hide and something moved in the grass to my left. Ever vigilant of things that bite I looked down and came eye to eye with...a drake Garganey less than 5 feet away. Surprisingly it allowed a couple of "through the undergrowth" shots before loosing it's bottle and flying away in a flurry of grass, guano and feathers.
Drake Garganey, Vransko Jezero. Well hidden even at 5 feet distance.
I eventually made it to the tower hide and the first bird I saw was a lifer for me. As the Pygmy Cormorant flew closer I was so excited that I made this foolish noise...a bit like a cross between a wounded Meerkat and a loud fart! Thankfully I was the only person there because if anyone knew then it could be embarrassing.
Pygmy Cormorants going to roost
I counted at least 18 Pygmy Cormorants just sitting in a tree. Scans amongst the Yellow-legged Gulls gave my only Little Gull of the trip, a first summer bird, a close in  Whiskered Tern and fly past Ruff and Common Snipe. Across the far side I could see my first Black-winged Stilt of the trip and also a Collared Pratincole, an uncommon migrant in this part of the world. 2 Green Sandpipers were also there.
I left the tower and drove back to the tiny information centre with it's young, enthusiastic and very informative occupant. Birds here included Zitting Cisticola, Sedge Warbler and many Turtle Doves. My first moth and caterpillar, discounting Pine Processionary which is in epidemic proportions. Don't know the caterpillar but the moth was a Common White Plume.
Yellow-legged Gull
Turtle Dove, very common
Whiskered Tern
Finally a flock of 8 Glossy Ibis came into roost.
Glossy Ibis
Unknown caterpillar ? Pine Processionary
Common White Plume
Pine Processionary moth cocoon. An abundant blight on Croatia's conifers.
The rest of the day was used settling into my accommodation. Very nice too.



Thursday, 6 April 2017

Norfolk Catch Up

Mandarin, male, River Little Ouse, Santon Downham
Spring in Norfolk has arrived, albeit slowly. There seem to be few real rarities now that Titchwell's Red-flanked Bluetail and New Holkham's juvenile Pallid Harrier have been added to the MIA list. Migrants numbers are growing slowly...Yellow Wagtail, Sedge Warblers, Swallows, Sandwich Terns and Hobby, to name a few, have all made an appearance in recent days.

Pallid Harrier, juv. female, New Holkham

Blackcap, male, Titchwell
Raptor migration has been very visible along the coast on warm days. Good numbers of Red Kite including a flock(?) of 23 over Scolt Head Island. Migrant Common Buzzards have also arrived in similar numbers. A few Merlin and Peregrine have also been noted. Common Cranes too. The local Marsh Harriers have been nest building and they have also been doing some impressive displaying over various reed beds.

Female Marsh Harrier, Burnham Overy Staithe. The two distant blurred blobs on the upper photograph are Red Kites moving along the dunes

Marsh Harrier, male, Burnham Norton
Some of Titchwell's less visible species have been showing quite well recently. Red-crested Pochards have been quite active, as have the Bearded Tits and Cetti's Warbler, especially with the warmer weather. Mediterranean Gull numbers are growing with 6 pairs taking territory on the Fresh Marsh. Finally, Bittern, normally but rarely seen flying over the reeds has been showing well in the new Reed Bed cut.
Cetti's Warblers, Titchwell, very vocal and visible at the moment.

Red-crested Pochards, Titchwell

Bearded Tits, Titchwell
Mediterranean Gull, Brancaster Staithe
Water Rail, Titchwell
A few trips to the Brecks have produced some good birds such as Golden Pheasants, Stone Curlew, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker and Hawfinch. This hotbed of Goshawk activity never disappoints. At Lynford Arboretum, aside from the Hawfinches, it was good to see the newly fledged family of Common Crossbills and the various Tits and Finches.

Goshawk, immature female, The Brecks

Goshawk, adult male, The Brecks

Male Common Crossbill, Lynford

Great Spotted Woodpecker (+ Great Tit), Lynford

Eurasian Treecreeper, Lynford
At nearby Santon Downham the much visited Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers still play a great game of Hide & Seek. Reptiles were much in evidence with Common Lizard, Grass Snake, Adder and Slow Worm all being seen. Along the river there are several pairs of Mandarin - wear your sunglasses! Nuthatches were seen attending a nest in the Poplars and Long-tailed Tits doing the same in the Forestry Commission car park. A seemingly constant stream of Siskin, Lesser Redpoll and Brambling passed overhead. Finally a pair of displaying Firecrests were found in a small line of road side conifers.
A gravid female Common Lizard, Santon Downham

Mandarin pair, Santon Downham

Nuthatch removing a faecal sac, Santon Downham.
Thank you for reading this, often irregular, blog. It is much appreciated.