Slovenia & Croatia_______________________________________

 

 

Slovenia & Croatia 2013

...with István Bártol

April 27th - May 4th

This was Birdwatching Breaks first trip to Slovenia and Croatia. Despite the late spring in the region the two country trip had many highlights including excellent views of Black, Grey-headed and Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, a good selection of raptors – Golden and Short-toed Snake Eagle, Montagu’s Harrier, Eleonora’s Falcon and Eurasian Hobby as well as Rock Partridge, Western Bonelli’s Warbler, Rock Bunting, Eurasian Nutcracker, Yellow-billed Chough, Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush, Ring Ouzel, Black-eared Wheatear and Cirl Bunting.

April 27th: Stansted, Ljubljana, Lake Bohinj.

Weather: Cloudy with light rain showers and light breeze 16 C.

Five of the group left Stansted early Saturday afternoon arriving in Ljubljana just after 16.00pm to be met by Patricia and Jane from Cyprus and the group leader István Bártol from Ecotours. With luggage and birding equipment quickly packed into the mini-bus, the group set off for the Lake Bohinj area about 60km to the north west of the capital. The journey to our hotel was broken by two stops. A couple of Blue and Coal Tit greeted the group as they scanned the cliffs at the first for Eurasian Crag Martin. At least twenty of these birds were flying over the area while Grey Heron, Common Kestrel, Blackcap, Stock Dove and Eurasian Blackbird were also present. A short distance away near a small riverside power station the group watched three White-throated Dipper on the opposite shore. Two males appeared to be displaying to a lone female by swimming under water in front of her as well as feeding her. Nearby single White and Grey Wagtail were feeding. A lone Mallard flew over the area. The group reached the Hotel Center near the shores of Lake Bohinj at Bohinjska Bistirca, our base for the next two nights. A nearby walk by some of the group produced Eurasian Chaffinch, Song Thrush, Serin, House Martin and a Great Spotted Woodpecker.

April 28th: Lake Bohinj, Slap Savica (Waterfall),Stara Fužina, Pokljuka, Koprivnik, Goreljek.

Weather: Cloudy with light to heavy rain. No wind. 16 C

Heavy rain greeted the group on the first morning in the Lake Bohinj area but luckily the birds seen at the first stop close to the shores of the Lake did not disappoint - Common Buzzard, Whinchat, Hawfinch, Black Redstart, Spotted and Pied Flycatcher, Barn Swallow, Black-headed and Yellow-legged Gull, an overflying Yellow Wagtail, a Eurasian Sparrowhawk, several Common Cuckoo and a couple of Marsh Tit. In the beech trees Western Bonelli’s Warbler were spotted and a Grey-headed Woodpecker was glimpsed briefly as it flew over the area. There was no letup in the rain at the Slap Savica Waterfall. This was in full flow and despite an invigorating walk up the 526 steps to the viewing platform (counted by Dorothy), the conditions there meant bird life was not in evident, although a Grey Wagtail was in the car park. As there was low cloud cover over the highest mountain tops, the visit to the top of Mount Vogel was postponed till the next day and it was decided to head towards Koprivnik. A roadside stop enabled everyone to all get good views of a couple of Western Bonelli’s Warbler and of two Rock Buntings that paused briefly on the top of a spruce. Across the valley were a Tree Pipit and another Spotted Flycatcher. Stopping on the way up towards snow level Goldcrest were heard and further on a Nutcracker posed on the top of a pine in a photo opportunity. Two Alpine Chough flew over during the lunch break. Crested, Willow and Coal Tit were flitting in the tops of the trees together with a female Whinchat. Moving on to the Goreljek area four Ring Ouzel were feeding on the snow-covered grass together with a couple of Mistle Thrush. Finally the cold and the rain won and the group headed back to the hotel.

April 29th : Mount Vogel, Ukanc, Bohinj, Koprivnik, Goreljek, Rakov Skocjan.

Weather: Sunny periods. Slight SW wind. 22 C (6 C on Mount Vogel)

Leaving the Hotel Center the group headed for the cable car that would take it to the top of Mount Vogel. A quick walk around the wooded car park area produced two Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, a Eurasian Nuthatch and Coal Tit, while another Nutcraker was seen while waiting for the cable car to leave. At least ten Yellow-billed Choughs provided photo opportunites as they flew around the cable car exit at the top of the mountain. Over one and a half metres of snow was still at the top of Mount Vogel which made exploring the area harder than anticipated, but the group had the chance to see Ring Ouzel again as well as Dunnock, Black Redstart and a pair of Common Raven. More Ravens were seen high above the area from the bridge at Ukanc when down at ground level again. Many House and several Crag Martin were also seen. Deciding to return to Lake Bohinj for lunch proved a great success as the Grey-headed Woodpecker seen the day before was more visible and everyone had great views as it perched in trees near the water. It was decided to return to the Koprivnik and Goreljek areas again as the weather was much improved. This also turned out to be a successful visit as a Black Woodpecker was in the area and Yellowhammer, Carrion Crow and Common Starling were added to the list. A good number of Mistle Thrush were feeding on the slopes together with Coal Tit , Eurasian Jay and several very vocal Song Thrush. It was then time to drive back down and head to the next hotel in the Rakov Skocjan area. During the drive via Lake Bled four White Stork and a Eurasian Sparrowhawk were among the birds seen. The group checked into the hotel Rakov Skocjan -its base for the next two nights.

April 30th: Rakov Skocjan, Lake Cerknica, Mount Nanos.

Weather: Sunny periods. Wind SW. 27 C

An early walk near the hotel added Wood Warbler, Golden Oriole and Eurasian Treecreeper. After breakfast the group set off to explore the nearby Lake Cerknica after first checking out a ‘swallow-hole’ above which a Common Raven’s nest held three young. Eurasian Skylark and Tree Sparrow were then watched in a small orchard before exploration of the Lake began. At the first stop two races of Yellow Wagtail were observed – the Black-headed feldegg and the Ashy-headed cinereocapilla. On the lake were Mute Swan, Garganey, Great Crested Grebe and many Eurasian Coot. A lone Common Pochard was picked out by Mervyn, a male Reed Bunting and Common Whitethroat were also present and a Eurasian Bittern was heard booming. At the next stop the group flushed a Common Corncrake and got great views of Red-backed Shrike while Patricia located a male Red-necked Grebe in full breeding plumage. During lunch Long-tailed Tit, Northern Wheatear, Woodchat Shrike and many Sedge Warbler were seen, while at least four Eurasian Hobby hunted for insects above. Western Marsh Harrier and Tree Pipit were also seen before the group made for the mountains again- this time Mount Nanos. A quick stop on the way to the top produced better views of Rock Bunting than previously. The late spring meant reduced numbers of migrants at the summit but a male Montagu’s Harrier was a good sighting, a Grey-headed Woodpecker was heard, several Rock Bunting were spotted and two Roe Deer were an added bonus. On the way back to the hotel a quick scan of fields near the motorway produced several Corn Bunting, Whinchat and Crag Martin nesting on the motorway stanchions.

May 1st: Rakov Skocjan, Golubinjak nr Lokve, Plitvice National Park, Starigrad.

Weather: Hazy sunshine. Wind W to NW. 27 C.

Today the group left Slovenia and headed for Croatia. Border formalities completed we headed for Golubinjak near Lokve where locals were celebrating May Day. Despite the crowds a Nutcracker was seen, Raven and Goldcrest were heard and once again Crag Martin were observed using the motorway supports as a nest site. Peter and Jane spotted a single Roller on wires on the way through the Croatian countryside. Stopping at the Plitvice National Park on the way to explore the area and its waterfalls, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Hawfinch and a male Collared Flycatcher were seen. The group reached Starigrad on the Dalmation coast in the late afternoon and checked into Hotel Rajna. Serin, Cirl Bunting, Common Nightingale and Turtle Dove were in the wooded area in front of the hotel and after the evening meal a Eurasian Scop’s Owl started calling and continued all night.

Thursday 2nd May: Veliko Rujno, Paklenica National Park, Seline, Modric.

Weather: Hazy sunshine, light rain. Wind SW. 28 C.

An early morning visit to Veliko Rujno close to the hotel was a great success enabling good views of Rock Partridge, displaying Blue Rock Thrush, Subalpine and Sardinian Warbler, Woodchat and Red-backed Shrike, Black-eared Wheatear, Wood Warbler and an obliging Wryneck. A Golden Eagle was seen soaring in the distance but a Short-toed Snake Eagle floated by at closer range. After breakfast a displaying Grey Wagtail was seen at the Paklenica National Park together with two more Rock Partridge, Blue Rock Thrush , Crag Martin and several Golden Oriole. After lunch in another part of the National Park good views of Eleonora’s Falcon, Peregrine Falcon, Alpine Swift and a Goshawk were had, while at least two Rock Nuthatch were in the area. A drive along the coast at the end of the day found four Red-throated Diver, a Eurasian Shag and several Spanish Sparrow. A Hoopoe was found on the beach in front of the hotel by Ainsley.

Friday 3rd May: Dinjiska Salt Pans, Veliko Blato, Malo Blato, Burici, Vrana Lake.

Weather: Sunny. Variable light wind. 27 C.

Red-breasted Merganser were on the sea at Starigrad in the morning with calling Wryneck and Hoopoe nearby. On the way to the Dinjiska Salt Pans a female Montagu’s Harrier, a Golden Oriole and several European Bee-eater were seen. Stopping at several vantage points over the Salt Pans the group watched Garganey, Common Shelduck, Black-winged Stilt, Curlew Sandpiper, Wood Sandpiper, Common Ringed and Kentish Plover, Little Stint, Great Egret, Norther Shoveler, Spotted Redshank, Eurasian Curlew, Greenshank and Grey Plover. More European Bee-eaters were passing over the area and Common Stonechat, Crested Lark and Ashy-headed Wagtail were also seen. On the freshwater Veliko Blato the group found Pygmy Cormorant, Glossy Ibis, White-winged Tern, Black-crowned Night Heron, Squacco Heron, Little Egret as well as Tawny Pipit, Little Owl, Eurasian Hobby and another Short-toed Snake Eagle. At nearby Malo Blato a group of Montagu’s and Marsh Harrier were watched circling up. Near the village of Burici a search of roadside scrub produced a male Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush as well as a couple of Black-eared Wheatear and Woodchat Shrike and more Red-throated Diver on the sea. A male Eastern Orphean Warbler was watched during lunch before the group visited Vrana Lake. The first stop at reed-beds found several singing Great Reed Warbler as well as a lone Little Bittern, and on the lake itself were Pygmy and Great Cormorant, Whiskered and Common Tern. A low flying small aircraft put up many birds revealing several Purple and Grey Heron, a Eurasian Spoonbill and a Great Egret as well as Black-headed Gull, Common Redshank and a Northern Lapwing. Montagu’s and Marsh Harrier were hunting in the area and Common Reed and Cetti’s Warbler were heard.

Saturday 4th May: Paklenica National Park, Rijeka, drive from Croatia to Ljubljana airport.

Final species total: 160

Weather: Sunny with heavy rain showers. Variable wind. 25 C.

Checking out of the hotel the group visited a wooded river vally area near to Paklenica National Park. Common Nightingale predominated but Common Whitethroat were also heard as were Turtle Dove and migrating European Bee-eater. Golden Oriole and Alpine Swift were seen. A quick stop on the coastal road added a breeding plumaged Black-throated Diver to the list while a Long-tailed Tit, Goshawk, Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush, Common Cuckoo and Cirl Bunting were amongst the birds seen on the drive back into Slovenia and the departure airport of Ljubljana.

For details of the full species list or to request further information about the next time we will be offering this trip. Contact us at enquiries@birdwatchingbreaks.com.


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