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CROATIA

23–27 April 2015

This short break to the beautiful Dalmatian coast of Croatia focuses mainly on the birds of the Velebit Mountains including (Eastern) Black-eared Wheatear, Rock Nuthatch, Blue and Rufous-tailed Rock-thrushes, Rock Bunting, Rock Dove, Yellow-billed Chough and, in particular, Rock Partridge.

Day 1 We will take an evening direct flight from London Stansted to Zadar, where we will meet our local guide and depart by private air-conditioned bus on a one-hour drive to Stari Paklenica, where we will be based for four nights. We may well search out the local European Scops-owls after dinner.

Day 2 We will spend all day in the Paklenica National Park. This scenic area on the slopes of the Velebit Mountains extends from the range's highest peaks down to sea level and the coastal Mediterranean zone. Habitats include rugged peaks, oak, elm, hornbeam and beech-covered valleys, orchards, dry scrub and impressive karst features including two large limestone gorges: Mala Paklenica and Velika Paklenica. We will start today by searching the stony and scrubby hillsides for Rock Partridge, our main target species. Another bird we will keep our eyes open for is Rock Dove, as genuine wild birds occur in some areas away from the coast. Other birds we should come across today include (Eastern) Black-eared Wheatear, Spanish Sparrow, European Serin, Cirl Bunting, Eastern Orphean, Sardinian and Subalpine Warblers, Zitting Cisticola, Sombre Tit, Eurasian Wryneck, Blue Rock-thrush, Eurasian Crag-martin, Rock Nuthatch and Rock Bunting. Hermann's Tortoise, Dalmatian Algyroides, European Glass Lizard, Balkan Green Lizard and Italian Wall Lizard also occur here.

Day 3 Today we will drive a short distance onto the island of Pag, via a road bridge. Pag lies in the Dalmatian archipelago and is the fifth largest island on the Croatian coast, and the one with the longest coastline. Most of the interior is stony terrain with some macchia scrub, vineyards, olive-groves and bush-dotted grass-sage grazing land criss-crossed by dry-stone walls. Typical birds here are Eurasian Thick-knee, Greater Short-toed and Crested Larks, Tawny Pipit, Eurasian Hoopoe and Woodchat, Lesser Grey and Red-backed Shrikes. Rock Partridges can be found here, too. At the heart of the island is a freshwater wetland, Veliko Blato, where we will look for Squacco and Purple Herons, Little Egret, Glossy Ibis, Garganey, Montagu’s Harrier, White-winged Tern, Yellow-legged Gull and Western Yellow (Black-headed) Wagtail.We will also stop to check the island’s coastline for passage waders.

Day 4 Today we will drive further up into the Velebit Mountains. We will then have to do some walking to reach the beech and pine forests at higher elevations, home to Black Woodpecker and the alpinus race of Eurasian Three-toed Woodpecker. Other birds possible today include Golden and Short-toed Eagles, Peregrine, Red-rumped Swallow, Rufous-tailed Rock-thrush, Common Raven and Yellow-billed Chough. The latter are also sometimes sighted lower down, just above sea level. On the way back to our hotel we will check the sea for Red-throated and Arctic Loons, which occur on passage at this time.

Day 5 This morning we will head towards Lake Vrana, the largest natural lake in Croatia and an important wetland for birds. Besides the open water there are marshes, reed-beds, meadows, scrub and surrounding groves and farmland. The north-western part of the lake is a reserve with Pygmy Cormorant and Purple Heron nesting in the reed-beds. Other birds possible here are Little Bittern, Great Egret, Black-crowned Night-heron, Ferruginous Duck, Little Crake, Cetti's Warbler, Eurasian Marsh-harrier, Black-winged Stilt, Marsh and Wood Sandpipers, Whiskered and Black Terns, European Bee-eater, Great Reed-warbler and Savi's Warbler. Later we will head for nearby Zadar Airport and our evening flight home.

General Information There are no special health requirements. Visas are not required. The pace of the tour is medium with only a moderate level of fitness required for walking.

Group Size Minimum number for tour to go ahead: 6; maximum group size: 10 with 1 leader, 16 with 2 leaders.

Black-eared Wheatear

Black-eared Wheatear

Recommended books available from NHBS