Croatia Birding Tour October 5-10 Val Tours with guide Robert Crnkovic

For all the bird photos on our Croatia trip, see http://web.ncf.ca/eb317/Croatia/croatia%20birds.htm

For the sightseeing part of our Croatia trip, see http://web.ncf.ca/eb317/Croatia/Croatia Zagreb Tours.htm and http://web.ncf.ca/eb317/Croatia/Croatia Dubrovnik.htm



Our trip begins in northern Dalmatia on the Adriatic Sea where we spend a week birding followed by a 10 day tour of the country with four friends, starting in Zagreb, then travelling in Istria and returning to Dalmatia, ending with a day exploring Dubrovnik in southern Dalmatia.


Monday, October 3, 2011: Travel Day

It was a challenging travel day including a cancelled flight, several hours wait, delayed arrival at Frankfurt and a dash to catch our connecting flight to Zagreb. We appreciated the soft colours of the sun rise over the Atlantic, 6 hours ahead of Ottawa time.



Tuesday, October 4: Val Tours Day 1 with guide Robert Crnkovic


We got right to work birding when we discovered the Zagreb airport has a park near the front entrance. We found three new birds for our bird list. Note that most Croatian birds are different than ours.


Then we flew to Zadar on the north Adriatic coast where Natasha from Val Tours http://www.val-tours.hr/ picked us up in her van.



About half an hour later we were at our hotel
http://www.ilirijabiograd.com/en/hotel-ilirija/hi-about-the-hotel , between Zadar and Spilt: http://biograd.info/en/. We took a short walk and spotted several swimmers and many boats. Natasha told us that the weather had been unusually warm, and that the sea was still at 25C. We quickly settled in and sampled our first Croatian beer marveling at the blueness of the Adriatic Sea. We would spend the next week here, with all meals included, so we could concentrate on birding. Breakfasts and dinners were a buffet and the kitchen prepared massive picnic lunches of bread, meat, cheese, tomatoes and fruit for us. Note the photo is just a lunch for one person.



Our birding guide, Robert Crnkovic, dropped in to introduce himself and discuss our activities for the next day. He had just arrived from his home town, Trogir, and would spend the week in Biograd with Natasha's family at their apartment. We agreed we would set out at 7:45 the next morning.

Birds Today Photos at Croatian Birds http://web.ncf.ca/eb317/Croatia/croatia%20birds.htm

1. Rook
2. Hooded Crow
3. Nuthatch



Wednesday, October 5: Val Tours Day 2 with guide Robert Crnkovic

Val Tours plan
Picturesque canyons and cliffs of the Zrmania River


Highlights

hot, sunny day



mountain roads with dramatic vistas - and sheep!



• hiking and exploring



• Rock Nuthatch and Crag Martin nests in large mountain cave

• a variety of colourful wildlife


History


• evidence of Croatian War of Independence - damaged buildings, fragment of bomb, warning signs of landmines



Our reflections

The Zrmania River outlined by white karst mountains provided amazing scenery as we experienced our first full day of birding in Croatia. Robert's skilled ears and eyes kept us busy learning about the variety of birds and wildlife in this natural area. Many lifers for Bill!



New Birds Today
Photos at Croatian Birds http://web.ncf.ca/eb317/Croatia/croatia%20birds.htm

4. Common Buzzard
5. Starling
6. Corn Bunting
7. Crested Lark
8. Great Cormorant
9. Chiffchaff Warbler
10. Wood Lark
11. Crag Martin
12. Common Kestrel
13. Dipper
14. Chaffinch
15. Grey Wagtail
16. Spanish Sparrow
17. Blackbird
18. Barn Swallow
19. Rock Bunting
20. Mistle Thrush
21. Goshawk
22. Alpine Chow
23. Robin
24. Great Tit
25. White Wagtail
26. House Sparrow
27. Serrin
28. Tree Sparrow
29. European Goldfinch
30. Jay
31. Willow Warbler


Thursday, October 6: Val Tours Day 3 with guide Robert Crnkovic

Val Tours plan
Rocky habitats and exposed cliffs of Paklenika National Park
http://www.paklenica.hr/paklenica_en/index_en.html


Highlights - Paklenika National Park

hot, sunny day



stunning cliffs



impressive rock climbing sites



• path and off-path birding and nature



old farm house in mountains



• Searching for raptors



Highlights - Adriatic Seashore

defensive stone tower



water birds / people



olive gardens



field birding



Our reflections

Birding, climbing, hiking, Paklenika has a lot to offer - canyon birds, towering peaks with miniscule climbers (binoculars came in handy for climber spotting). The access trail is well travelled - lots of steps, up, up, up. Robert was pleased to run into an old friend, the park superintendent. On the drive back to Biograd we had a taste of birding on the shore and in fields beside the Adriatic Sea, which we shared with some farmers, some kids on scooters and some sunbathers. As well, we inspected a Venetian defensive tower, several hundred years old. We noted how our birding ventures heighten our awareness of Croatian geography, history and local activities.



New Birds Today Photos at Croatian Birds http://web.ncf.ca/eb317/Croatia/croatia%20birds.htm

32. Common Gull
33. Sparrow Hawk
34. Mallard
35. Mute Swan
36. Rock Pigeon
37. Rock Nuthatch
38. Black Redstart
39. Raven
40. Blue Tit
41. Rock Bunting
42. House Wren
43. Blue-winged Tit
44. Tawny Pipit
45. Stone Chat
46. Black-headed Gull
47. Ring-necked pheasant
48. Greenfinch
49. Blackcap Warbler
50. Linnet


Friday, October 7: Val Tours Day 4 with guide Robert Crnkovic

Val Tours plan
Orthinological reservations Velo and Kolansko Blato on the island of Pag wetlands and swampy habitats http://www.find-croatia.com/islands-croatia/pag.html



Highlights


wind, rain, salt and sheep



• birding in salt pans



• birding in sheep pens



• sheep and birds



• lunch on the beach



Our reflections

The topography of Pag Island was harsh but appealing. A variety of birds have made their homes here in salt flats, in rocky fields and at the sea. The wind and rain made our day challenging but the weather seemed to suit the terrain. We appreciated the natural outdoors part of Pag, in contrast to its beaches and resorts. And we appreciated Robert's driving skills during a heavy downpour on the return to Biograd. He told us later that the the bridge was closed, due to high winds, shortly after we crossed over.


New Birds Today
Photos at Croatian Birds http://web.ncf.ca/eb317/Croatia/croatia%20birds.htm

51. Eurasian-collared Dove
52. Yellow-legged Gull
53. Grey Heron
54. Dunlin
55. Winchat
56. Curlew
57. Pygmy Cormorant
58. Coot
59. Greenshank
60. Skylark
61. Rock Partridge
62. Kingfisher
63. Shag
64. Northern Wheatear
65. Ciril Bunting
66. Yellowhammer

Saturday, October 8: Val Tours Day 5 with guide Robert Crnkovic

Val Tours plan

Area of Ljubac, Ravni Kotari open habitats



Highlights

• bright windy day on the Adriatic



• bird nest in abandoned house




• lunch on a pier




• touches of colour



• salt pan birding at Nin



• local café



Our reflections


It was a day on the water, salt water beach, salt water lagoons and salt water pans. Our water bird sightings were remarkable. We were even able to bird during lunch on a pier.



New Birds Today
Photos at Croatian Birds http://web.ncf.ca/eb317/Croatia/croatia%20birds.htm

67. Grey Plover
68. Little Egret
69. Ferruginous Duck
70. Zitting Cisticola
71. Winter Wren
72. White-faced Warbler
73. Common Sandpiper
74. Sandwich Tern
75. Black-winged Stilt
76. Common Redshank
77. Ringed Plover


Sunday, October 9: Val Tours Day 6 with guide Robert Crnkovic

Val Tours plan
Swampy habitat with flooded meadows and reeds of the Vrana Lake Nature Park http://www.arbela.hr/en-vrana.html



Highlights


• cool windy day at Vrana Lake, largest lake in Croatia


• Vrana Lake vistas




• Scouting for birds in the mountains



• Orthinological banding station



History

• Vrana history - 1600s



• bunker from Croatian War of Independence



Our reflections


Once again we experienced an amazing day of discoveries, spectacular lake and mountain scenery on a twisty high mountain gravel road and, at Vrana Lake level, an active bird banding station. Robert was very familiar with this facility and he participates as a volunteer bird bander. During our visit we met a father, son and his wife who were acting as volunteer banders for two weeks. They live at the station during this time and set up mist nets and birdsong tapes to collect birds for banding. At the high season in the spring there will be up to 400 birds daily. The banders generously treated us to hot coffee and cookies and explained their activities to us. The banding work is a good demonstration of Croatia's contribution to the natural environment.



New Birds Today
Photos at Croatian Birds http://web.ncf.ca/eb317/Croatia/croatia%20birds.htm

78. Firecrest
79. Jackdaw
80. Garden Warbler
81. Reed Warbler
82. Little Grebe
83. Great Crested Grebe
84. Marsh Harrier
85. Moorhen
86. Hen Harrier
87. Teal
88. Snipe
89. Water Rail
90. Great Egret
91. Yellow Wagtail


Monday, October 10: Val Tours Day 7
with guide Robert Crnkovic

Val Tours plan
Biograd-Zadar north loop



Highlights


• Local scenes




• Puddle birding



• Field birding


•Garden birding



• Road birding


• Mountain field birding



• Adriatic sunset


Our reflections

We enjoyed our "backcountry" day, appreciating birding in both fields and mountains. Although raptors eluded us, we had amazing views of a jay travelling back and forth storing seeds for the winter. We also met some local people who added to our day. Back at Biograd we spent our last evening hiking along the sea, our last evening here.



New Birds Today
Photos at Croatian Birds http://web.ncf.ca/eb317/Croatia/croatia%20birds.htm

92. Song Thrush
93. Dunnock
94. Great Spotted Woodpecker
95. Grey Partridge
96. Meadow Pipit


Val Tours Summary


We felt privileged to have a personal tour by Robert for a week. Each day when we woke to a rooster calling in Biograd, we knew it was a good start to a birding day.



He shared his expert knowledge and passion for birding and nature in the mountains, fields and at the seashore. Each day he introduced us to new habitat.



When we watched the sun set over the Adriatic at night, we knew it was a perfect ending to an excellent birding experience.

We saw 96 bird species - and 78 were lifers!

Five more species were added on the sightseeing tour for a trip total of 101 with 83 lifers

For all the bird photos on our Croatia trip, see http://web.ncf.ca/eb317/Croatia/croatia%20birds.htm

For the sightseeing part of our Croatia trip, see http://web.ncf.ca/eb317/Croatia/Croatia Zagreb Tours.htm and http://web.ncf.ca/eb317/Croatia/Croatia Dubrovnik.htm