Croatia May 2014

Lake Varna  

We chose an apartment that was as close to Lake Varna as possible, I was hoping for walking distance however we went for a nicer place five minute drive away.  
Lake Varna is Croatia's largest fresh water lake and is famous for breeding Pygmy Cormorant, purple Heron and Little Bittern. 

Overgrown with grass, sedge, rush and reed, it resembles a field with shallow ponds scattered all over it, and is covered in all-weather flowers of vibrant colours, surrounded by a multitude of butterflies, dragonflies, and other species of insects. These factors create an all-year round habitat for the birds that reside on the lake and in the park, as well.

Pygmy Cormorant: One of the first birds I came across, a world first for me.

But with the biggest nesting population of the Pygmy Cormorant in Croatia it's not that big of a surprise.  

These great birds were spotted at both ends of the large lake and often roosting in the trees near the birdwatching huts.
Wood Sandpiper: I found a couple of waders around the banks of the lake including, Wood Sands, Black-winged Stilts, Dunlin, Temminck's Stint, Green Sand and several Curlew Sandpiper.
This Wood Sand and most of the the other waders were spotted in the marsh area between the road and wooden walkway that cuts through the marsh towards the birdwatching huts.
Purple Heron: Lake Varna is the only large swamp in the Mediterranean part of Croatia alongside Lower Neretva, it is therefore perfect for these slender necked herons.
Marsh Harrier: A great place for harriers with huge numbers of marsh and Monty's.
Woodchat Shrike: Lake Varna is surrounded by arable farmland and irrigation streams and is divided up by tall trees and fence posts - a great place to find Shrike.
This bird was taken from our hire car as we watched it do what Shrike do best, catch insects!

Black-eared Wheatear: Again spotted from the car, we drove around the West side of the lake where we pinned down this little beauty.

Little Bittern: It was funny that I saw these birds all over Lake Varna and this was the best picture I could get, but the week I got back I had one in Manchester that posed really nicely for me.

Italian Wall Lizard: Dawn and I stayed in a little village more or less on the banks of Lake Varna called Pakoštane. This is a lovely village and we stayed in an amazing apartment owned by two of the nicest people I have ever met and I would highly recommend.

Villa Paklenica Pakoštane

Black-winged Stilt.

Montagu's Harrier: This was the first bird I saw in Croatia, I spotted it from the plane as we landed. There was a male bird hunting over one of the derelict fields.

Bee Eater: These bright beauties were everywhere around the Lake.

At one point in the trip I broke down (or rather I popped one of the car tyres and had to walk miles back to the apartment) but all I could think was; "There's no better place to breakdown!" ...
... I had a flock of Bee Eaters flying around me, Corn Buntings in the hedges, Spoonbill and Glossy Ibis in the fields, Monty's cursing overhead and caught sight of my first Golden Oriole flying through the pines. ...
Yellow-legged Gull: ... So it may have taken me three hours to walk back and I may have got sun burnt but it was a stunning walk back.


The island of Pag is home to the following bird reserves: Kolansko blato, Blato Rogoza, Veliko blato and Malo blato. All of these are marshlands which are home to species including the Gadwall, Montagu’s Harrier and Calandra Lark, which are endangered in Europe.

We drove from Zadar to Pag after a walk around Zadar's historical monuments and pricing up the boat trips. This journey took about an hour - but with the gorgeous views of Croatia the hour soon flew by. 

Squacco Heron:  Once Dawn and I arrived at Pag we headed down to Blato Rogoza one of the large marshes, this reserve had one very large hide on stilts overlooking the lake.

From here we spotted a Great White Egret, and Pygmy Cormorants.

The edges of the lake were very muddy and gassy - a typical marsh I guess and we had a number of Heron species including Great white, Squacco and Purple.

Northern Wheatear: Through a small entrance beside a stone wall we stumbled across this Wheatear however like most Northern types I couldn't get much closer than this. 
Rock Partridge:  My main target bird of Pag was Rock Partridge so we had to leave the lakes and head up into the hills to connect with this bird.

Like most small game birds we could hear them but not see them! Dawn and I eventually flushed a couple that landed on a nearby wall.
Curlew Sandpiper: We also visited Veliko blato and Malo blato, two lakes next to each other and it was here we bagged most of the waders including Curlew Sands and Black-winged Stilts.
It was great to get close to this brick red Curlew Sand who was happy foraging at the edge of Veliko blato.
Moustached Warbler: Another highlight was this little warbler.

 Purple Heron.
Woodchat Shrike: Pag is criss-crossed with loads of limestone walls, a good place to pick up Crested Larks, Corn Bunting and Shrike.

 Yellow-legged Gull.

Montagu's Harrier: Like I have said before these guys were everywhere and pag was no exception.

 Paklenica National Park

Paklenica National Park occupies the coastal part of the southern Velebit mountains. The Park is famous for the large difference in altitudes you cross as you travel through it, complete with changes in climate, all in a relatively small area. 

Bird species you might spot on the rock and cliff faces include the Rock Nuthatch and the Blue Rock Thrush. Rare and endangered birds of prey that can be found here include the Golden Eagle, Peregrine Falcon, Short-Toed Eagle and Goshawk. Entry tickets to the park cost 30-40kn depending on the time of year. 

Birdwatching as an individual is not permitted: they request that you please call ahead to organise a tour with one of the Park’s official guides - however Dawn and I did lots of research but we were unable to find a contact to organise this, so we went anyway with binoculars in hand and my camera on my shoulder and had no problems. 

Alpine Swift: Paklenica was immence! I was hoping for some good birds in the nice warm sunshine...

... what I actually got was a gruelling hike up a very steep mountain in the searing heat!
 But the birds were still very good.
Alpine Swift and Craig Martin were the highlights.
One of my main target birds was Rock Nuthatch, I scanned over all the regular sites up the mountain and through the gorge however I was unable to pick out the Nuthatch.
Although all that neck craning paid off as I was able to spot some really nice broad winged birds of prey including Black kite and Buzzard.
Blue Rock Thrush.

Praying Mantis: One morning as Dawn and I were leaving the apartment we very nearly walked right over this little guy.

A real life alien!

What was weird is that this awesome looking thing stayed in the same place on the ground right outside the apartment all day!

All in all we were both very impressed with Croatia, such a beautiful country with some beautiful wildlife. And I even got Dawn using the binos!