Most of the available trip reports about Croatia shows the preference of birders to go there in spring or summer: that’s why I decided to explore for three days the northern Dalmatia in January, looking for some specialties.
My main targets were two birds that I had missed so far during my spring and summer visits, Sombre Tit and Western Rock Nuthatch, even if they should be present in the area of Southern Velebit where I lead a butterfly tour in June for Naturetrek (link ->).
Together with my friend Federico Pino, we followed the good motorway that goes from Rjieka to Zadar, exiting by the dramatic valley of Zrmanja river.
Here we visited the lovely monastery of Krupa (“Manastir Krupa” in Croatian and “Манастир Крупа” in Serbian), known to be, with more than 7 centuries of history, the most ancient Orthodox monastery of Croatia.
The valley was particularly interesting, looking like an oasis in the desert with beautiful cultivated fields, meadows, rivers, islands, hedges and shepherds with their flocks of sheep.
With such an attractive habitat, the birdwatching was rather productive.
The first insects of the year, with a mild sunshine, were noticed as well.
But the true stars were a pair of Sombre Tits (Poecile lugubris), with their dark brownish hoods and triangular white patches on the cheeks.
Following the deep canyon of river Zrmanja, we passed Obrovac to face to the inner sea of Karin, called “Karinsko more“.
Here we had 30 Eurasian Wigeons (Mareca penelope), 1 Hen Harrier (Circus cyaneus) and 50 Hawfinches (Coccothraustes coccothraustes), then we followed the western coast going north, to the adjacent inner sea, the Novigrad sea, called “Novigradsko more” where we found larger flocks of waterbirds (wigeons, gadwalls, coots, etc) plus some grebes and a single far Red-throated Diver (Gavia stellata).
Then we drove north to the Paklenica National Park, following the coast of the Baljenica bay.
When we arrived by the first gorge, the sunset had almost ended and some bats flew around, including a loud European Free-tailed Bat (Tadarina teniotis).
Despite the fall of temperature, we decided to wait the arrival of the night in the silence… our wait was awarded by the amazing view of a singing male of Eagle Owl (Bubo bubo)!
The day after we went to explore the southern part of Pag: this island was made particularly attractive by its barren landscapes, almost moon surface like, caused by ancient deforestation and by the blow of the strong wind called “bura”.
At midday, we transferred back to the Paklenica National Park, exploring the most popular gorge, Velika Paklenica, without see too much in terms of birds but a pretty Wallcreeper (Tichodroma muraria) and two Ravens (Corvus corax).
With a lot of hikers and climbers around and the noise of running water to cover eventual calls of birds, during the walk we dedicated more to the flora.
The second evening the Eagle Owl kept silent, giving way to the flight of a Woodcock (Scolopax rusticola), and the same did the day after, when we explored for the last time the Paklenica National Park, observing finally some good birds.
On the way back to Italy, we couldn’t not notice the amazing bridges for the wildlife that crossed above the motorway: something in-existent in our country where Marsican Bears, Wolves and Golden Jackals keep getting victim of roadkilling.
We finished our day having a last look, with the faint remaining light of the sunset, to the Isonzo mouth area, already described in my recent post: “The last day of 2019 birding in Friuli-Venezia Giulia“.