Croatia Day 3 - Veliko Rujno & Nin Pans

Alpine Swift, Veliko Rujno
Up at the crack of dawn...again. Scops Owl, Nightjar and Nightingale are still making their presence heard. After finally getting my heart started and gear together it was time to head out to Veliko Rujno, a famous Rock Partridge stake out above the town of Starigrad.
Even before I reached the car it was clear that things had changed bird wise. Flocks of Hirundines were much larger than previous. High flying European Bee-eaters were noticeable only by their calls. Also, more birds, of different species were visible in the bushes and trees. Icterine Warbler, Sardinian Warblers and Wood Warblers were all new birds between the apartment and the car.

Icterine Warbler, Zaton Camp

Wood Warbler, Zaton Camp
Todays route
The route today would take me from my base at Zaton Camp along main roads to Starigrad via the dramatic Maslenica Bridge and along part of the Dalmatian Riviera, then follow the well sign posted route through the houses to Veliko Rujno.

 The Old Maslenica Bridge. There is a Bungee Jump point in the centre. FOOLS!
Veliko Rujno
There were only a few cars as I travelled up the mountain side. I stopped at the second view point (marked) just to admire the scenery and try to find some reptiles. The scenery was easy to find! Reptiles, not so much. There were a few Dalmatian and Italian Wall Lizards but no snakes. Birds included Golden Eagle, Eastern Black-eared Wheatear and Subalpine Warbler.
Dalmatian Wall Lizard
Eastern Black-eared Wheatear

Looking up Veliko Rujno from the second view point.
Telephone Box site
Further up the road is one of the markers for the Rock Partridge, the broken blue telephone box and a ramp over the bridge by Stone House Martellini. This site was looked at during the descent.

The next site is a small junction with a gated, tree laden, depression at its corner. There is a 2 way yellow sign (Milovci & Bristovac) I think. Birds were abundant here but kept inside the depression where it was cooler. There are quite a few working bee hives here. Golden Oriole and Nightingale were very common. Common Whitethroat was seen as was my only Blue Tit of the trip. It is also a fantastic site for Eastern Orphean Warbler with 4 singing males seen. Sombre Tit was a life tick for me. There are also lots of butterflies and Orchids.
Lady Orchid, Veliko Rujno
Scarce Swallowtail
From the Bee hives I then drove to the end of the tarmac portion of the road. This ends in a car park with a shrine. Great views from here with an unexpected Alpine Accentor seen along with lots of Eastern Black-eared Wheatears, Eastern Subalpine Warblers and Blue Rock Thrush. With no signs of Rock Partridge or Western Rock Nuthatch I descended the Veliko Rujno only to flush a male Rock Thrush from the roadside.
I stopped at the Stone House Martellini and the woodland there. Rock Partridge was heard but not seen (again!). Red-backed Shrike, Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler were seen here. Looking back up the mountain for raptors produced a group of 3 falcons. 2 of the falcons were Peregrines but the 3rd had a larger head, different shaped wings, body and a longer tail. It appeared slightly larger overall and the flight was different. Discussion with 2 Austrian birders concluded that this was a Lanner Falcon. A very rare breeding bird in Croatia with only 1 pair locally. Bonus.
I decided to head back to camp as time was marching on. A quick stop at the view point by the quarry allowed me to photograph another Eastern Orphean and also look at the Alpine Swifts, fresh in today.
Alpine Swift

Eastern Orphean Warbler, male
Once over the Maslenica Bridge a detour forced me North-west along the coast and some quaint little Hamlets. A photogenic Blue Rock Thrush was found here. Further along at Similic a large flock of 50+ Bee-eaters made me stop the car. A group of 23 Whinchats were also present.

male Blue Rock Thrush

European Bee-eaters, Similic
Back at Nin salt pans it was clear that migrants had also dropped in here. The first thing I noticed was an imposing Caspian Tern which had a fly about then settled in with the Yellow-legged and Caspian Gulls. The tern had a red colour ring which showed it to be part of a Swedish Caspian Tern survey.
Joy of joys! the Terek Sandpiper is still here and it allowed a few distant pics. I have learned that this was only the 3rd Croatian record in 50 years. Also present was a moulting White-winged Tern, good numbers of Greenshank, Curlew Sandpipers and Dunlin plus a Temminck's Stint. A female Citrine Wagtail was noted catching insects alongside the local White Wagtails. Pygmy Cormorant showed up toward the end.

Caspian Tern, Nin
Spot the Caspian...Gulls ;-)
Kentish Plovers, pair
Terek Sandpiper. 3rd Croatian record in 50 years!

White-winged Tern, moult
Pygmy Cormorant
Day 4 to come. Krka NP