Croatia trip report, 7th to 16th July 2012


I stayed at Kastel Stari, between Split and it's airport on the Dalmation coast of southern Croatia for a family holiday. The coastal strip is built-up with c400 year-old villages, and just inland is a mountainous escarpment rising to c700 metres. The land is rocky, with juniper and pine. It is very hot and arid. There is a footpath that goes along the top of the escarpment, which I walked a section of - very hot ! Inland of the escarpment there is an expanse of rocky hills with stunted oak, pine and scrub, with sparse small farming villages.

View of the coast at Kastel Stari with Split on left (out of photo) and airport on right, taken from the escarpmemt.

Sunday 8th July – Walked to the outskirts of town in morning – 3 Turtle Dove, 1 Woodchat Shrike, a male Serin singing 2 yards away and a Common Tern in the harbour. The town has few open areas, so the only birds are the c1000 Swift that zoomed noisily past the patio.

Monday 9th July – In the morning I drove up to the top of the escarpment at Malacka, where there is a big cross and a memorial to the fallen in the 1991-95 war. A lovely male Black-eared Wheatear showed well with a juv/female, and a (probable) Subalpine Warbler. On the way up, there were about 5 Golden Oriole with 2 seen quite well and 2 Red-backed Shrike.

In the evening I went to Trogir (a lovely medieval town), where there is a small marsh (Pantan). It is disrupted a lot by tourists on the beach next to its western end, but I did manage to glimpse a male Little Bittern there, briefly. The other end of the marsh is a bit more protected as it is the back-drop of a cafe (Pantan Minice). A Pygmy Cormorant went to roost here ! And I also saw it twice in the main bay of the sea, which goes against my text-book, but it is brackish water here. An Alpine Swift gave great views as it whizzed low over the reeds, and there were 8 Turtle Dove, a Wood Sandpiper, c50 Yellow-legged Gull, 2 Cetti's Warbler, 4 Little Grebe and a few Reed Warbler.

Rubbish photo of Pygmy Cormorant, (looking like a Cormorant in photo, except for long tail).


Tuesday 10th July – Walked along a track that traversed the escarpment half-way up, through scrub and pine woods. It was incredibly hot (the temperature didn't get below 25 deg C, even at night, the whole time we were there, and was usually up to 35 deg in the day). A pair of Short-toed Eagle showed well and a Peregrine chased a Kestrel. Also: 4 Subalpine Warbler, 4 Golden Oriole performed well without any prolonged views, a flock of 9 Raven soared and the only Sparrowhawk of the trip.

In the afternoon, a distant Eleonora's Falcon was 'scoped along the escarpment, from the flat. A swimming trip to Primosten found 4 Red Squirrel playing in pines.

Wednesday 11th July – A visit to the Krka National Park; a large system of lakes and spectacular waterfalls. On the way, in the plain next to the park, a Bonelli's Eagle soared. The lakes in the park were amazingly bird-free, with just 6 Little Grebe and 5 Mute Swan (a pair, named after the first King and Queen of Croatia! And 2 cygnets, plus another adult). But a boat trip up a gorge gave fantastic views, including a fire-fighting plane skimming the lake for water, and produced 2 Short-toed Eagle, 4 wild Rock Dove and 2 Mountain Sheep

. Also, the fish in the clear water were very numerous with : Dalmatian sub-species of Barbel and Dace, and loads of Chubb.


Friday 13th July – A drive inland to the large lake called 'Perucko Lezero'. On the way, at the mountain village of Pribude an adult and a juvenile Honey Buzzard soared below the road, in a valley, and gave fantastic views. I presume these were migrating, as my bird book does not have them breeding here (although the pine woods look ideal). Also on the way: 1 Red-backed Shrike, 6 Turtle Dove (including one that got hit by a car, but flew off), 3 Black-eared Wheatear and a Short-toed Eagle. The lake is an amazing colour and has a superb mountain back-drop.


I drove round the road on the NE side, which is a gravel track in places.The first bird of interest was a Black-necked Grebe in breeding plumage.


On the farmlands there were 5 Crested Lark, and another 10 on the football pitch of Hrvace FC.

Rubbish photo of a Crested Lark . . .


A nice find on farmland at Zasiok, were 4 Woodlark and also 6 Bee-eater, 1 Short-toed Eagle, lots of Red-backed Shrike, 5 Woodchat Shrike, a male Spanish Sparrow, a possible Scop's Owl heard during the day, and the best find - a male Black-headed Bunting which was on the road at the north end of the lake. There was also this Red-rumped Swallow sat on wires with other Swallows.

Red-Rumped Swallow . . . and Bee-eater.

At Podosoje there were a few water birds: 1 Pygmy Cormorant, 6 Great Crested Grebe, 5 Common Pochard, 1 male Tufted Duck and 3 Common Sandpiper.

Lastly, at the north end of the lake (by River Cetina), a 1 foot long bright green lizard was on the roadside and 2 more Honey Buzzard soared over, calling loudly.

Monday 16th July – A walk around a track that runs round the far end of the airport runway (! on the outside of the fence !), was where I saw a probable Olive-tree Warbler; a large, long-tailed, dark-grey backed Warbler that flew across the road between olive groves. Also a Tree Sparrow, 2 Crested Lark and several more shrikes here.

A summary of the above is that birds were pretty sparse, but those found were good quality. However, the insects are amazingly numerous and interesting.

A large Ant-Lion at Malacka.

Stag Beetle and male & female Chaffer (Oryctes nasicornis), found dead at Malacka, where they light the memorial after dark. The Stag Beetle is about 2 inches long.

A very large Bush-cricket . . . and also large Long-winged Conehead (?) at Malacka.

Agrion virgo Damselfly at Krka NR.

Black Bee.

Great Banded Grayling (I think). Very difficult to photo, as always on the move, in clearings in pine woods.

Queen of Spain Fritiliary. What a beauty ! This, and loads of commoner butterflies, were on Lavender in a new church on the inland edge of Kastel Stari.

Southern White Admiral . . . and underwing.

Scarce Swallowtail - these were very common, in all environments (including in town !).

Tree Grayling (I think).

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Last revised: 23 July 2012.