Tuesday, 26 May 2015

3 visitors to the Mersey

A quick visit on Saturday morning to Speke Garston Coastal Park paid dividends before the visit of the 3 Queens.

Standing on the old ship looking over Garston shore I spotted three sanderlings in with the dunlin and ringed plover. One of the sanderlings had colour rings and a flag bingo!! You can get great recovery records on waders.

I watched the bird for over 30minutes but it always stayed just on the scopes edge. Finally I was happy that the birds right leg had yellow, green flag and red and the left leg had two reds. A quick email and a day later we have the record for the this bird.
The bird was ringed 6/7/2011 in Hochstetter Forland Greenland. The bird was next found 14/11/2013 at Walvis Bay Namibia by Mark Boorman. The bird returned to Namibia and was last seen in November 2014. A remarkable journey of 7148 miles one way!




Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Cornflakes to Corncrakes?

Atmospheric Mull

The three RSPB birders, Ron Alan and myself have just returned from a four day birding trip to the Island of Mull. We drove up first thing at 4am on Sunday morning and encountered torrential rain for the best part of our journey. Things didn't look good for us at this point of our journey.

After catching the ferry from Oban, we arrived on a misty Mull around 14:00hrs, dropped off our gear at the hotel and went for a drive around the middle part of the island in the rain (we must have been keen, mad or both ?)

Even though the wind and the rain were still evident, the scenery and terrain was stunning especially with the `spate` waterfalls cascading off the top of the mountains were a sight to be seen especially for migrating fish.
Mull waterfall

It stopped raining around 18:00hrs as the weather front blew over and we were lucky to see three Short eared owls hunting and were perched on fence posts and on the ground on the high moor.
Short eared owl

Unfortunately i hadn't bothered to take my main camera and lens with me, due to all the heavy rain and didn't envisage seeing anything what with the poor conditions ... so!, how wrong can one be while out birding ?

Sea otter
We also saw a Sea Otter eating a crab on a small outcrop of rock in the sea but the light was still bad as it was overcast and misty and my photo's didn't turn out too good.

On the Monday and after a good nights sleep, we woke up early and had a full Scottish breakfast (would be rude not to) which was a toss up between getting out early to see the Corncrakes or enjoying our full Scottish breakfast (including Black Puddings ... even the white bits were black) In the end they both had priority.

The weather had brightened up by then, but it was still very windy and we decided to drive over to the other side of the Island and catch the ferry to Iona, to try and get a glimpse of the elusive Corncrakes. Up until a few decades or so ago they nearly went extinct due to the farming practices of that time. Since then the farmers have been educated by the RSPB and now cut their fields after the chicks had fledged.

The ferry crossing was a bit rough but us old sea dogs were use to that .. and when on the Island we only had to walk twenty yards past the village to where the birds were last seen by our previous years RSPB group. Because this year we were there three weeks earlier, the grass hadn't grown and was too short in that particular field for the birds to hide in.
Saying that, we did see one scampering away along the track from us, then disappeared into some Iris plants in a ditch ....
We then made out way towards the old Abbey where all the Scottish kings are buried and heard a familiar sound of "One flew over the cuckoo's nest" in the distance  ... we eventually located our first Cuckoo of the year. Always a nice sound to hear which announces the official beginning of Spring.
As we walked back towards the village, we got chatting to a few birders, who had actually seen the Corncrakes and had taken a photograph of them with their mobile phone. They very kindly gave us the exact location, which was a small patch of grass behind the Spar shop in the village. 
crex crex
So we immediately headed off in that direction and as we got neared we could hear the distinctive sound of the birds calling. In fact they were a bit too close for my lens, as i struggled to get them into the frame. I expected that they'd be a lot further away than they were, so hadn't bothered to take a smaller lens with me.

We had a very good view, as they were very vocal in calling a prospective mate. It just sounded like someone running their fingernail over the ends of the teeth of a comb in front of a loud speaker.

After about and hour or so on the island, we then caught the ferry back to the mainland and braved the rough seas again. 
Then off around the Island looking for more birds .... the roads were mainly one track with periodic passing places, which during the height of summer must be horrendous what with all the tour buses and visitors cars etc on the island and not to mention the midges and Black fly who tend to prefer human blood for their sustenance.
One of the residents - highland cow

On the Tuesday, the heavy rain and mist rolled in again, swamping the green and rocky landscapes of the Island
We called into the Hotel California ... errrm! "The Eagles" watch in the forestry area but due to the heavy mist we had to abandon that, as we couldn't see across the valley to where the nest was . So returned in the afternoon when the weather had blown over.
eagles soar

We saw the male White tailed and Golden hotels ... errrm! Eagles soaring high in the sky with the female white tailed Eagle on the nest with two young. They could just be made out using a scope but the eerie was well over a quarter of a mile away and with the occasional shower and misty conditions, made it difficult to see them.
Sightings list

On the Wednesday we had (fortunately) pre booked a boat tour from Ulva (for £35 each, which was well worth it), to see the White tailed Sea Eagles close up while being throw a fish by boat's skipper. We arrived at the harbour for 10am and the boat took us out into the bay near to the cliffs where the eagles recognise the feeding boat by sight and by name and eagerly flew in for their breakfast and no Black Puddings for them either.


The Skipper was restricted to how may fish he could feed to the Eagles. As if too many they will become lazy and rely too much on free hand-outs .. or perhaps that should be fish-outs in this case ??
I was fortunate enough to get some nice close up shots of the Eagles swooping down and snatching the supplied fish off the surface of the water. The light wasn't perfect and i had to tweak my photo's a bit to enhance the birds. They are magnificent and powerful birds to see close up ... and a must in everyone's lifetime.

Cheeky Rob
Thursday morning came and i was in the hotel foyer all packed up waiting to go when i was surprised by a cheeky Robin (to which they are) that fluttered in through the hotel's open doors and scampered around the floor, searching amongst the dining tables for any left over Black Pudding crumbs, which was a pleasure to see.
We caught the ferry back to Oban and after a long tiring drive, arrived home around 18:00hrs.

So all in all and despite the bad weather we all got a few firsts in the birds and it turned out to be a great holiday, although sadly we didn't see any Wales as that was too far away without having to go to Specsavers.  ;-)
Saying that, the boat Skipper informed us that Basking sharks had been seen in March this year. Which is very early for them, as the seas hadn't really warmed up enough to support the plumes of plankton for the feeding sharks .. or had they. ?


P.S. What was noticeable was the lack of variety of small birds and wading birds on and around the Island ... perhaps a little early in the month ?

Neil ............ 

Monday, 18 May 2015

Iceland the final post

This is the final piece on my cruise around Iceland. Most people visit Reykjavik and there is lots to see. But the more interesting nature and wildlife was to be found cruising around to Iceland's second biggest city Akureyri and then a planned visit to Lake Myvatn.

The north western side of Iceland has major sea cliffs which are home to millions of auks. A recent programme on the BBC showed the arctic fox hunting on these cliffs.

You can imaging my surprise when I looked up and saw one the prime targets of the trip flying over the ship. This Gyr falcon circled the ship allowing good views and giving me a chance to show this bird off to some of the other 800 passenger on board the ship.
The next day we docked in Akureyri. The city is at the bottom of a 60 km fiord.
I was off the boat early in the morning and walked to the car hire. Car sorted and I was off driving out of town towards Laugaland. A quick picture of the ship and a nice summer plumaged great northern diver with 2 winter plumaged black guillemot's.
Up the valley I came across a family of Gyr falcon being put through there paces by the parents.

The afternoon plan was to go whale watching. Harbour porpoise and a long 2 hours looking at very little was soon forgotten when a humpback whale spouted.

Trying to find a spot on the boat for photos and trying to work out what the whale would do found the captain moving the boat around till the Humpback accepted us.

The great thing about Iceland is you don't have to worry about losing the light. So a quick visit to the family and I was off out in the car driving to Myvatn. Found another target bird the harlequin duck at the bridge as the One road turns left. The One Road is the main road around Iceland so driving is ok.
This duck loves turbulent water as you can see where as the scaup stayed in the calmer water.

I found some where to pull over and look for the other target species barrows goldeneye but realised the midges where going to have a field day with me.

Braving the midges I soon found groups of goldeneyes sitting about enjoying the evening. A drive around the lake and watching the steam rising from recent lava activity made me wish I had lots more time in this area but the ship was due to continue the cruise above the arctic circle and back to Liverpool so time to leave.

Some the waterfalls are spectacular and driving past the Godfoss was worth the 10 minute stop.
The next day we should have sailed but the wind pinned ship to the quay!! This meant we missed are last stop in Iceland but it didn't matter I had seen enough of this island to realise its well worth another visit.



Sunday, 17 May 2015

Nature Alert! Chapter 1 - Letter to an Enemy

European nature is in immediate danger. We need your help today. By taking a simple action you can defend the vital laws that protect our most precious nature and wildlife.
Sadly, right now the European Commission is considering undermining these laws, undoing years of progress.
The European Commission is asking for our opinion and now is the time to make our voices heard.
The Commission’s consultation asks several questions and below we have suggested the answers that best protect nature.
We must act now and say that we want these laws to be maintained, enforced and not weakened.

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Spectacular seabird spectacle at Preston Marina

An unusual choice? Nesting common tern - Paul Ellis 

Hundreds of seabirds are arriving at Preston Marina for the breeding season after making the epic journey from West Africa.
Over the next few months, the breakwaters around the Marina will be teeming with common terns as they attempt to nest on the surrounding breakwaters. Nicknamed sea swallows, these charismatic birds are admired for their graceful flight.

The RSPB is giving visitors the opportunity to get to know the charismatic seabirds with a series of tern-watching events starting on Saturday 23 May. Staff and volunteers from the nature conservation organisation will be on hand with powerful telescopes, offering close up views of the fast and agile birds.
Calum Booth, RSPB Marine Conservation Officer for North West England, is organising the events. He said: “Common terns are fascinating birds to see in action, whether it’s looking at the cute fluffy chicks in their nest or watching their speedy parents outmanoeuvre piratical gulls trying to steal their dinner.”   

Common terns have tried to nest on the breakwaters around the marina since 2009 but, initially, a lack of suitable nest materials hampered their success. 
Contrary to what their name might suggest, common terns have been in long-term decline and are classed as a species of conservation concern.
Keen to give the birds the best chance of nesting success, in 2011 the Fylde Bird Club teamed up with Preston City Council and created numerous artificial nests by placing recycled tyres and gravel on the breakwaters. In 2012, the RSPB joined the partnership and has actively supported the project ever since.
Over the last two years, Fylde Bird Club also has been working with pupils and staff at Saint Aidan’s Church of England Technology College, Preesall, to create purpose-built tern nest boxes. These provide tern eggs and chicks with shelter and protection from predators.

Deputy Headteacher, Anthony Lord, said "This has been an excellent project to be part of.  The students can't wait to see the birds actually settled on the boxes on site."

By providing safe places to nest, the number of terns breeding at the marina has gone from two pairs in 2009 to more than 140 in 2014.

Paul Ellis of the Fylde Bird Club, added: “Preston Marina offers an unsurpassed opportunity to see these birds at close quarters and watch all the drama of life in the colony. Last year the colony increased by 20% and two pairs of arctic terns joined the common terns. However, available nest material still limited their numbers.

“This year 106 new nest trays have been provided and we are hoping these will allow even more birds to join the colony.  If they continue to have good breeding success the population could eventually exceed 200 pairs.
“Once again, Preston City Council deserves high praise for supporting this project and we are very grateful to Saint Aidan’s Technology College for assisting by making nest trays.”

Preston City Councillor Robert Boswell, Cabinet member for environment, said: “This is a very important project for the council to be involved in. It’s fantastic news that the numbers of common tern pairs are growing year on year. Hopefully this can carry on with the efforts of the RSPB and Fylde Bird Club, we owe them a big thank you. I would urge people to get to one of the events and see these fascinating birds.”

The RSPB will be running common tern events at Preston Marina on the following dates: Sat 23 May, Sat 6 Jun, Sun 21 Jun, Wed 8 Jul, Wed 22 Jul, Thu 6 Aug, Fri 21 Aug. The free events run from 10am to 4pm. Visitors are free to drop by at any time. The events will take place in the long car park on Mariners Way. 

Head behind the scenes at RSPB Hesketh Out Marsh and witness a wildlife spectacle


There is a wonderful wildlife spectacle to witness on the Ribble Estuary as the breeding season gets underway, with fantastic views of nesting birds and other wildlife to be had – and what better way to experience this than on a guided walk with the RSPB at Hesketh Out Marsh.
Thanks to a £43,000 grant from The Veolia Environmental Trust, which was awarded through the Landfill Communities Fund, the RSPB has transformed this saltmarsh reserve from fields back into a thriving home for nature, with the creation of new pools and the provision of nesting sites attracting a range of wildlife.
Now the team are offering people the chance to join a guided ‘Springwatch-walk’ at the reserve, near Hesketh Bank, on Saturday 23 May and take a look behind the scenes to see the recent changes and the wildlife spectacle that the nesting birds provide.
John Langley, Assistant Warden for RSPB Ribble Reserves, said: “Thanks to the funding from The Veolia Environmental Trust, we have been able to turn the reserve back into a wonderful, tidal wetland, with the new pools offering a variety of wildlife a home, including avocets, redshanks, peregrines and brown hares.
“It is a truly fantastic site and a guided walk is a great way to find out more about the wildlife here and the changes we have made on the marsh. We hope as many people as possible come and join us.”

Paul Taylor, the Executive Director of The Veolia Environmental Trust, added:
“It is great to hear that this project has been a success. It has brought many benefits for birds and people and is a great example of how the Trust and the Landfill Communities Fund can both help improve habitats and make it possible for more people to experience and enjoy the natural world. I look forward to hearing about the reserve thriving in the future.”
The guided walk will include some moderate periods of walking along footpaths and sturdy footwear and waterproof clothing is essential.
This event will cost £4 for RSPB members and £5 for non-members. Booking is essential, please call the Ribble Discovery Centre on 01253 796292 to book your place.

Meet at 2pm at the Hesketh Out Marsh car park, Dib Road off Shore Road, between Hesketh Bank and Banks villages.

For more information about Hesketh Out Marsh, please visit rspb.org.uk/heskethoutmarsh

100 voluntary organisations unite to defend nature


100 voluntary organisations across the UK have joined forces to call for the protection of Europe’s natural environment

EU legislation – the Birds and Habitats Directives – exist to protect the most important wildlife species and habitats in the UK and Europe. However, these laws are now under review and at risk of being weakened.

Today, the ‘Joint Links group’, representing 100 voluntary organisations across the UK, has published a position statement warning that the European Commission’s REFIT ‘Fitness Check’ of the Birds and Habitats Directives is the single biggest threat to UK and European nature and biodiversity in a generation.

The organisations raise concerns that the Directives are under threat of being weakened by those who mistakenly regard them as a block on business and economic growth. In the current political context any revision of the Directives would expose them to prolonged uncertainty and leave the long-term future of Europe’s biodiversity vulnerable to short-term political priorities.

Chair of the Joint Links’ Habitats and Birds group Kate Jennings, (RSPB), said: “The Habitats and Birds Directives are the foundation of nature conservation across Europe and are scientifically proven to be effective where properly implemented. The Directives deliver demonstrable benefits for nature, as well as significant social and economic benefits.

Dartford Warbler
“For over 30 years they have protected some of our best loved and most iconic landscapes from the Scottish Flow County to the sand dunes and marshes of the north Norfolk coast. They are essential to the protection of species large and small, from the Basking Shark and the Harbour Porpoise, to the Dartford Warbler and the Hazel Dormouse.

“The strength of support from 100 voluntary organisations across the UK shows how significant the Directives are in safeguarding Europe’s biodiversity. Uncertainty over the future of the Directives resulting from the ‘Fitness Check’ review could be bad for nature, bad for people and bad for business.”

The Joint Links group’s response to the EC consultation sets out a huge volume of evidence that demonstrates the effectiveness of the Directives in protecting nature, providing huge benefits for people and providing a stable framework for responsible businesses.

On 30 April the European Commission launched its public consultation on the Directives. Voluntary organisations have also today launched the ‘Nature Alert’ electronic tool, enabling the public to have their say in one easy click www.naturealert.eu



WATCH THE VIDEO    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I873QOiD0xE

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Trio of threatened breeding birds of prey vanish

Male Hen Harrier -Andy Hay
Hen harriers are England’s most threatened breeding bird of prey with only four successful nests in the whole country last year, two of which were on the United Utilities Bowland Estate. With the number of breeding birds so low, the failure of the two nests will have a serious impact on the hen harrier’s future in England.   
The disappearance of the birds leaves just one active nest remaining in the Bowland Estate, putting the future of hen harriers even further in jeopardy.
Martin Harper, RSPB Conservation Director, said: “Hen harriers are hanging on by a thread in England and the disappearances of the past few weeks have made a desperate situation even worse. 
““We don’t know what has happened to these three birds, but we will find out and we will save our hen harriers. This is an awful setback, but it will not stop us.

Three nesting male hen harriers have vanished in Lancashire in as many weeks in unexplained circumstances. 

Lancashire Police and the RSPB are appealing for any information that could uncover the fate of these rare upland birds of prey. The RSPB is also putting up a £10,000 reward for any information, which leads to a conviction.

The first of the birds disappeared from its nest three weeks ago from the United Utilities Bowland Estate and a further two males on active nests have not been seen since last Thursday (30 April).

In the case of the first nest, a young male arrived almost immediately and took the place of the vanished bird, thereby securing the safety of the eggs.  The other two nests were not so fortunate; in the absence of males to provide them with food, the females were forced to abandon their eggs resulting in the failure of both nests.

The United Utilities Bowland Estate has long been the last remaining stronghold of the English hen harrier. The RSPB has been working on the estate for over 35 years and has developed a strong partnership with United Utilities, together with the support of its shooting and farming tenants.

RSPB and United Utilities staff and volunteers, who have been monitoring the nests on the estate, are extremely concerned and upset by the sadly expected disappearance of the birds. Lancashire Police are investigating the matter.

In most circumstances, it is very unusual for male hen harriers to abandon an active nest; a 2008 government-commissioned report found that it almost never happened in most places However, the report also revealed that nearly seven out of ten of the nesting attempts which failed on grouse moors, did so following the disappearance of an adult.

Nesting males are not only the hen harriers that have gone missing in the Bowland area in recent times. Last September, two young satellite tagged birds stopped transmitting only weeks after fledging from nests on the United Utilities Bowland Estate. 

Over the next five years, as part of an EU LIFE+ funded project, the RSPB is satellite tagging as many hen harrier chicks as possible (note 3). This will enable the organisation follow the birds wherever they go and monitor what happens to them, as well as identify blackspots where they’re most at risk.

“Over the last few days I’ve spoken to numerous staff and volunteers who are devastated by what has happened. But these events only strengthen our resolve to save this beautiful bird.”

Lorraine Ellwood, Lancashire Police Rural Policing and Wildlife Co-ordinator, said: “We are working very closely with the RSPB, United Utilities and the private estates within Lancashire and were hopeful for a successful breeding season.  We are all disappointed with what has happened but will continue to work together despite this set back. 

Anyone with information about either of the birds should contact  

Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or, alternatively, call the RSPB’s confidential hotline on 0845 466 3636.



Sunday 3rd May is
Know your Chiff Chaff from your Willow Warbler? they look very alike but their song gives them away.
Bird lovers from around the world will be joining in on this world-wide event.

So, why not drag yourself out of bed, go for a stroll or sit in your garden and enjoy the birdsong, you could always tell us how you got on!?

The dawn chorus starts before sunrise with one or two birds singing. 
The robin is known to sing all night long 
http://www.xeno-canto.org/27554    Copy and paste link
Around 4.30am another resident songster, the blackbird, breaks the robin's monopoly.
http://www.xeno-canto.org/25554    Copy and paste link
The dawn chorus is joined later on by other species 
Perhaps a woodpigeon with their characteristic ‘coo-coo coo coo-coo’
A song thrush, with a repeated  phrases several times.  http://www.xeno-canto.org/237596
A wren with its trilling song.
Willow warbler   http://www.xeno-canto.org/236672
Chiff chaff
Go to Xeno canto for lots of bird song recordings

Saturday, 2 May 2015

Shedluck Tours 2015 - Crazy for Croatia

View towards Hotel Rajna, Paklenica and gorge behind

After meeting up with our guide, Gerard Gorman, we stepped out of Zagreb Airport and it was immediately apparent that spring had sprung a little earlier than in the UK.  The trees were that lovely fresh lime green colour and we had arrived on a glorious day.
Travelling on a luxurious Mercedes minibus we commenced our journey south to Otocac.  We travelled through beech forests and small villages and after about an hour or so we had our first stop at some fish ponds for some roadside birding where we found at least three Great White Egrets, Ferruginous Ducks, Garganey, Whinchat and Stonechat and a stonking Black Stork in flight to name but a few.  What a great start to the trip.  Travelling on to our hotel for the first two nights we stopped briefly to photograph one of the many White Stork nests that we were to see along the way.
Storks on nest -Ged Gorman

Most had a good night’s sleep after the early start and long journey, and 7am the next morning we were out for our pre-breakfast walk just over the road from our hotel.  The terrain was rough grassland and mature trees.  Wrynecks were calling together with the first of many Nightingales and a Yellowhammer and we were soon viewing them.  In the distance a Cuckoo called.  Back at the hotel Black Redstarts were seen and Corn Buntings gave their jangly calls. 

Lets get the party started - Mirni Kutak - Laura Bimson
After breakfast we began our journey into the northern range of the Velebit Mountains which span 145 kilometres from the northwest to the southeast of the country.  The range is ‘Karst’, a landscape formed from the dissolution of limestone, and is rich in flora and fauna. During our journey a Hawfinch flew across the road in front of the bus and perched on a nearby tree and was well seen by a lucky few.  Stopping in the small village of Svica by a river and reservoir we were treated to Alpine Swifts (Arctic Swifts to some) hawking low overhead, another Wryneck in the bushes and several common species.
In the pine woods - Laura Bimson
Our next stop in a pine forest produced several woodland species including Goldcrest, Willow Tit and Crested Tit. Magic!  We then travelled on to a spot of woodland next to a large valley.  Ged heard a Wood Lark calling and so we climbed a small hill through the trees to reach a clearing and there it was displaying overhead and hardly pausing for breath for the whole time we were there.  This was where we had our first view of the Adriatic Coast and it was stunning.  Walking back down the hill we spotted Northern Wheatear, Black Redstart and Whinchat.  During lunch Ged picked up the call of a Rock Bunting and we were all able to get good views of this little beauty.
Rock bunting- Laura Bimson
After lunch we had a couple of more woodland stops and finished the day by the River Gacka, close to our hotel, where there were several Little Grebes, Yellow Legged Gulls (the first of many to be seen as they were the gull seen most further south) and lots of Swallows buzzing around.  On our journey home, Rob reckoned he saw a Short-toed Eagle.
The next day it was time to move south to Starigrad Paklenica, our destination for the next few days.  A wet and windy day dawned and we were grateful that half of this would be spent travelling, although the planned birding stop-offs were curtailed due to the weather.  Our excellent driver, Peter, got us safely down the mountains, much to our relief, to the coast and we had a stop for coffee at Karlobeg on the Adriatic coast.  Here Sean found a pair of summer plumaged Black-throated Divers close into shore and Linda and Laura spotted a huge Peacock Moth being attacked by swallows.

Hoopoe - Laura Bimson
We arrived at our hotel in time for our picnic lunch and as no improvement in the weather was forecast we headed out for a local walk over the road.  The land between the hotel and the coast was a mix of coniferous and deciduous woodland, olive groves and smallholdings.  What a walk it turned out to be, the bad weather had grounded many migrants and we were soon spotting Pied and Collared Flycatchers, Wood Warbler, Common Redstart and Cirl Bunting.  Further along the coast near the monument we spotted more Black-throated Divers, Red-breasted Mergansers and a group of Velvet Scoters.  Next, three Hoopoes were spotted and whilst watching these Ged shouted Night Herons, we turned round to see nine of them in the air battling against the wind.  There then followed a period where you didn’t know which way to look because in quick succession we saw a Common Tern, Cuckoo, Purple Heron and Turtle Doves.  After a brief respite from the rain it started to come down heavily again and we made a hasty retreat to the hotel exhilarated and briefly viewing a Red-backed Shrike on the way.

Vecka (Doghead king's) tower, Paklenica - Laura Bimson 

The next day the weather was fine again and we travelled a short distance to Mala Paklenica, a beautiful wooded gorge in the National Park where we spent the morning.
Mala Paklenica gorge - Laura Bimson

Stunning birds and butterflies were to be found in this idyllic setting including
Sub alpine warbler probing processionary moth nest - Laura Bimson
Subalpine Warbler, Crag Martin, Blue Rock Thrush, Scarce Swallowtail, Clouded Yellow and Dalmatian Ringlet

Scarce swallowtail - Laura Bimson

Moving on we had lunch in the hills above Modric (birthplace of the famous footballer of the same name).  Here we found the stunning Black-eared Wheatear, Eastern Orphean Warbler and Tawny Pipit.  Rob and Ged also found a Yellow-browed Warbler here which was a first for the National Park.
Eastern Orphean Warbler - Laura Bimson

After our afternoon coffee stop we had a short walk in the forest of the National Park above our hotel where we found a Grey Wagtail, Blackcap, Cuckoo and Subalpine Warbler but not the Sombre Tit we were hoping for.

Cirl bunting - Ged Groman

The following morning’s pre-breakfast walk produced the first wader of the trip, Common Sandpiper, and a sunny view of a Cirl Bunting.

After breakfast we headed off to Pag Island, the fifth largest of more than 1000 islands (no it’s not where the sauce comes from) that lie against the coast of Croatia.  Crossing over by road bridge we arrived at an even rockier place than the mainland. 
The seekers of Pag - Jenny Jones
The island is rich in wildlife and our first stop was at an inland saline lake where we were treated to a pair of Montagu’s Harriers, Black-winged Stilts, Spotted Redshanks, Greenshank, Little Ringed Plover, Garganey and best of all Shelduck!  Other birds of note here were Red-rumped Swallow, Black-headed Yellow Wagtail and Crested Lark.
Little owl - Rhodie Blythe

We moved on to the next roadside stop to look for the elusive Rock Partridge and although we didn’t find it here, we got close up views of Short-toed Larks and Little Owl
Veliko blato nature reserve - Laura Bimson
Moving on to another inland pool we must have seen half a dozen Purple Herons, Pygmy Cormorants and the best view of a Wryneck of the trip.

Wryneck - Ged Gorman

Dragging ourselves away for lunch at another pool just off the road we enjoyed good views of a pair of Wood Sandpipers feeding in the mud.  After lunch we returned to the first lake for a second look and we were no sooner there when Ged shouted ‘Griffons Vultures’, six of them flew overhead and down the lagoon out of sight, only to reappear again a few minutes later giving great views.
Our final stop on the island was for a coffee and comfort stop and on the telegraph wires outside Sean found some Spanish Sparrows!  He knew they were Spanish because of the castanets! What a wonderful island and fabulous day we had.
After dinner we had a second attempt (we had heard an Eagle Owl the previous evening) at locating the Scops Owl in the floodlit churchyard a couple of hundred yards down the road from the hotel.  This owl is smaller than the Little Owl and has a very distinctive call.  Our lovely waitress, Slavitsa, took delight in doing her impression of this owl for us before we set off.  We had success on the second attempt and there were actually two owls in the churchyard. 

Rock  partridge - Laura Bimson

Our last full day was spent in the Paklenica National Park on the hunt for the Rock Partridge which had escaped us so far. Ged took us to a regular site of his and some were calling from cover, but after some searching Anne Pope got onto one across the hillside just above the town and Sean quickly got it into the scope for most to view.  Sadly, before he could lower it for Jen the bird retreated to cover. 

Black eared Wheatear - Laura Bimson 

Moving up the mountain we had various roadside stops and had more views of Wood Warblers, Black-eared Wheatears and Blue Rock Thrush to name but a few. 

 After a coffee and ice cream stop by the sea, with Italian Wall Lizards on the harbour wall, we returned to the gorge to have another try for Rock Nuthatch which although heard again was not located. 
Wall lizard -Laura Bimson

Cool in the mountains - Jenny Jones
Our journey back to the airport the following day produced Red-backed Shrikes at the roadside and a Honey Buzzard amongst others.  Our lunch stop was at some fishponds where we picked up several Black Kites, Black Storks and half a dozen Wood Sandpipers.  The woodland was alive with singing Blackcaps and a Hawfinch high in the canopy was a surprise.

Black Stork -Laura Bimson
Our time in this beautiful country was drawing to a close and I for one will never forget it.  Everyone came away with at least a dozen lifers and most got a lot more.

Thanks Ged for finding us the birds and some great spotting from the team.  Thanks also to Jen for imparting her geological knowledge.

               Ann Tomo


Deep in the olive groves, there's a thicket
A secret song hall, green and wild
Olive groves paklenica- Laura Bimson
Here the rufous nightingales are singing, their rich whistling voices do enthrall.
In the stillness the sun is rising, golden light shafts gently fall.
I sat spellbound, this stage all round me, waiting for the curtain call.
At last  a watchful form espies me, from his perch a chestnut bird
A frog like call, brings sudden silence, nolonger will my birds perform. 

Spider orchid, and wild thyme - Paklenica groves.

As I strolled amongst the grasses
a long eared fellow crouched before
mad march forager, nocturnal ambler
Thumped, then scarpered from his form!

Glass lizard - Laura Bimson

Silent on the dry stone wall,
a curled up creature basks to warm
A legless lizard,  greyish brown
blinks his eye and looks around
Too late I fear for I am found
In a slithering dash he has gone to ground. 

(The glass lizard, also known as the glass snake and the jointed snake) are a group of reptiles that resemble snakes, but are actually lizards. Although most species of glass lizard have no legs, their head shape and the fact that they have movable eyelids and external ear openings identify them as lizards).

Laura Bimo