A relaxed and non-intensive holiday with many of Europe's sought after birds to delight us. Key species include Rock Partridge, Pygmy Cormorant, Rock Thrush, Scops Owl, and a wide range of southern European species. Squacco, Purple and Night Heron, White Stork, Black-winged Stilt, Spotted Redshank, Wood Sandpiper, Ruff, Glossy Ibis, Stone Curlew, Short-toed Eagle, Golden Eagle, Montagu’s Harrier, Ferruginous Duck, Garganey, Grey-headed and Middle-spotted Woodpecker, Wryneck, Hoopoe, 'real' Rock Dove, Alpine Swift, Crag Martin, Red-rumped Swallow, Rock Nuthatch, Tawny Pipit, Short-toed Treecreeper, Black Redstart, Blue Rock Thrush, Black-eared Wheatear, Sombre Tit, Subalpine, Orphean, Great Reed, Wood, Fan-tailed and Cetti's Warbler, Woodchat Shrike, Bee-eater, Golden Oriole, Hawfinch, Serin, Rock Bunting and Cirl Bunting to name but some of the avian delights.
This holiday is bird orientated, but reptiles, insects and butterflies also play a large part, and we might see Hermann's Tortoise, Dice Snake, Balkan Green Lizard, Dalmatian Wall Lizard, legless European Glass Lizard and the near-endemic Dalmatian Algyroides. Butterflies might include Southern Festoon, Scarce and Common Swallowtails, Southern Comma, Cleopatra, Southern White Admiral, Common Glider and endemic Dalmatian Ringlet. Dragons include Beautiful Demoiselle and Common Clubtail, and flora of interest may include Green-Winged Orchid and Lax-flowered Orchid.
Rock Partridge. Often confused with Chukar, this important European bird is a key target.
'Green and lush, and then rocky country before taking the coast road through Dalmatia along the stunningly beautiful blue Adriatic Sea. We stayed first in Skradin, an attractive old town with red-tiled roofs on the River Krka. Upon arrival a large plane tree outside our hotel was full of twittering Spanish Sparrows with many nests. They provided us with constant entertainment. Scops Owls kept up their hooting throughout and we caught glimpses of them as we sat in the hotel café.........
'..... The sparse vegetation on the island of Pag is grazed by flocks of sheep which are milked to make the famous Pag Cheese, which we were to sample later. Our hotel in Starigrad was beautifully situated, with the Velebit Mountains rising behind us and the Adriatic Sea just a few yards in front.........
'........We left Croatia with an impression of blue sunny skies, clear Adriatic waters, spectacular scenery, friendly welcoming people and an impressive list of birds, plus many interesting reptiles, butterflies and plants.'
Extracts from a recent visit by your Heatherlea guide Gerard Gorman.
Enjoy your complimentary pre-flight overnight hotel before your holiday begins. Full details from our office!
Day 1: After relaxing in our complimentary VIP Airport Lounge, we board our plane to Zagreb. Once we arrive, we drive for around one hour to our first base southwest of Zagreb. We should see White Storks as we go and we will make roadside stops for other birds. Night Jastrebarsko.
Day 2: All day around Crna Mlaka. This mosaic of wetlands and woodlands has fishponds of various sizes, reedbeds, meadows, parkland and old oakwoods. We will work the area on several easy walks and in the middle of the day have a picnic in a suitably birdy spot. Possibilities include Black Stork, a range of herons and egrets, Ferruginous Duck, Garganey, Marsh Harrier, Goshawk, Wryneck, Grey-headed, Middle Spotted, Lesser Spotted and Black Woodpeckers, Great Reed and Savi's Warblers, Short-toed Treecreeper and Hawfinch. There should also be some tern and wader passage with flocks of Ruff and Spotted Redshank likely. Night Jastrebarsko.
Day 3: Today we head south through impressive hinterland landscapes into Dalmatia, the coast and finally to the Krka National Park. We will stop as the birds demand. This is an impressive landscape of karstic limestone plateaux, dry macchia scrub, meadows and broadleaved forests through which the rushing River Krka flows. There are some impressive gorges and waterfalls and a rich range of flora and fauna. Scops Owl, Blue Rock Thrush, Serin and Spanish Sparrow can all be seen near our hotel. Night Skradin.
Day 4: All day in and around the Krka NP. Krka is a fine area for birds of prey with Short-toed and Golden Eagles possible. Two very scenic spots we will visit are the waterfalls at Roški Slap and Skradinski Buk where Pygmy Cormorant, Yellow-legged Gull, Nightingale and Cetti's Warblers are not uncommon. Its rocky gorges are home to Black-eared Wheatear, Rock Nuthatch, Black Redstart, Crag Martin and Alpine Swift. Scrubby hillsides hold Subalpine Warbler and Rock Partridge. On easy walks we will also come across reptiles with Hermann's Tortoise, Balkan Green Lizard and Italian and Dalmatian Wall-Lizards possible. Night Skradin.
Day 5: Coastal drive stopping at Lake Vrana and Pag Island. Lake Vrana is the largest natural lake in Croatia and recognized as an internationally important wetland for migrating and breeding birds. The lake lies by the Adriatic and is a migration stop-over in both April and September. One of Croatia's most important bird reserves and an ornithological research station, lies at the north-western end of the lake. A key species here is Pygmy Cormorant and there should be gulls, terns, herons and wildfowl. Next we visit Pag Island, reached 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 of stony terrain though there is some macchia scrub, vineyards, olive-groves and bush-dotted, grass-sage grazing land, criss-crossed by dry-stone walls. Typical birds here are Stone Curlew, Short-toed and Crested Larks, Tawny Pipit, Hoopoe and Woodchat Shrike. Rock Partridges are here, too. At the heart of the island is a freshwater wetland, Veliko Blato, where we will look for Squacco and Purple Herons, and the black-headed race of Yellow Wagtail. We will also stop to check the island's coastline for passage waders, ducks and divers. Night Starigrad Paklenica.
Days 6 & 7: All day in the Paklenica NP. The Paklenica National Park lies is part of the Velebit Mountains range, and the views of the Adriatic coast are often stunning. The park is dominated by two gorges, Mala Paklenica and Velika Paklenica. Once again, we will take our time and make several fairly easy walks. Birds we should see here are Blue Rock Thrush, Sombre Tit, Alpine Swift, Alpine Chough (at low levels!), Cirl Bunting, Rock Nuthatch and Crag Martin. Rock Partridges are fairly common here. The Rock Doves here are genuinely wild, too. The sea often hosts birds on passage such as Black-throated Diver and Red-breasted Merganser. This arid landscape is ideal for reptiles and we may come across the endemic Dalmatian Algyroides. Nights Starigrad Paklenica.
Day 8: Head for Zagreb Airport.
More Holiday Information
Accommodation is in comfortable hotels or guest houses with all rooms en suite.
Food Breakfast is usually continental style. Fruit juice and tea or coffee is available at breakfast. Food can be quite Mediterranean, with salads, fruit and often seafood and fish. Local dishes may also feature. Evening meals are usually a set menu (not a la carte), dietary requirements will be catered for, please inform us in advance. Picnic lunches will be provided by your guide, and will include a variety of local produce plus soft drinks. Vegetarian and other diets are welcome.
Walking is generally light/moderate. There may be some uphill track and road walking, though generally an average level of fitness is required.
Weather Croatia has a varied climate, with continental climate conditions in the north and Mediterranean ones on the Adriatic coast. When we visit in April the weather should be pleasantly warm during the daytime, with cooler mornings and evenings. There is a possibility of rain at this time of year.
Insects There may be biting insects, a good mosquito repellent is recommended just in case.
Group size is restricted to 12 clients maximum.
Flights are by scheduled airline, from London Heathrow. We may be able to offer flight arrangements from another airport and/or or quote without flights so you can make your own arrangements. If you wish to add an extension either before or after your holiday, please contact us and we will be happy to arrange this for you.
Gerard Gorman is an acknowledged authority on birding in Eastern Europe, having led many tours over more than twenty years. Gerard is also a well-known author of birding books, including 'Woodpeckers of Europe'.
What's included in your holiday price:
• scheduled return flights between London Heathrow and Zagreb, airport taxes,
• ground transportation as outlined including all transportation in Croatia in a modern and spacious air-conditioned vehicle,
• accommodation and all meals, including breakfast, lunch and dinner.
• the services of your leaders.
• entrance fees to parks and reserves, and tips to hotels and restaurants.
• The Heatherlea Pre-Flight Service offers everything you need at the airport, including hotels, car parking, airport lounges, regional flights, and upgrades. Let Heatherlea take the strain! Pre-flight airport hotel and lounge included subject to terms and conditions. Read more....
What's not included in your holiday price:
• personal insurance, drinks and other personal expenses, visa costs where necessary, optional tips to the driver and local guide, and any other costs not specified as 'included'.
WHY CHOOSE HEATHERLEA?
Our overseas holidays are planned with care to offer great birding and wildlife, led by capable Leaders who really look after you. Every holiday is run the 'Heatherlea Way', and we hope our Overseas Adventures remind you of the quality and care so many of you enjoy in Scotland. That means rewarding and exciting days in the field, and good quality accommodation and meals, with a real flavour of the country we are visiting. Heatherlea always seek to include the personal touches that make all the difference.
Heatherlea holidays are not ‘dawn to dusk’ expeditions. Our less-intensive approach is ideal for those whowant to relax whilst experiencing the best wildlife watching, and wherever possible we organise early or lateactivity on an optional basis. We also take sensible breaks when in very hot places and regular comfort breakson every holiday whenever possible. All itineraries are planned carefully around the best wildlife opportunities,and you won’t miss out on memorable wildlife, whilst enjoying relaxed, informal days that are great fun. The really important part of any wildlife holiday is the experience for you, our valued customer.
Heatherlea invest in many things to offer you the best possible service;
• We have been organising birding and wildlife holidays for 27 seasons, and have a highly experienced and capable office team. We also offer a telephone and email service outside normal office hours.
• Heatherlea overseas holidays have a maximum of 12 clients per trip, putting the emphasis on personal service, and helping you get the best possible experience.
• Our holidays often include things which others might invite you to pay yourself, for instance Departure Taxes and tips to hotels.
• All elements of our holidays are sold under our own licence, ATOL 6113. Under ‘Flight-Plus’ legislation it is a legal requirement of any tour operator to hold an ATOL licence for the supply of any overseas holiday where a flight is involved, if that holiday includes either overseas accommodation and/or car hire. It can be a criminal offence for an operator to book flights as part of a package without an ATOL licence. Heatherlea also hold fullTour Operator Insurance for your added protection.
• Heatherlea is your complete wildlife holiday provider. Our ‘Back Office’ team can organise all your pre-flight and other travel needs. Our specialists will help you book the right services, at the best price. Book holiday extensions through us, and your ATOL protection is extended further. We don’t charge extra for this service.
• Heatherlea is a limited company, registered in Scotland, and registered to pay VAT (applies to all holidays within the European Union).
The following excerpt with kind permission of Gerard
A Taste of Dalmatian Spring by Yvana Reeves
Trip Report on Visit to Croatia, led by Gerard Gorman
'Imagine a boat ride across a glassy harbour reflecting the blue and chill of the early morning. Warblers are calling and Pygmy Cormorants standing guard along the banks, the sun emerges and the pretty harbour at Skradin drifts behind as we make our way further into Krka National Park. We're the first boat to arrive and the group walks in the sunshine bouncing off the lakes and waterfalls, the most famous of which is the Skradinski Buk. Accompanied by the tinkling of Chiffchaff, we stop to take photos and hone in on unusual flowers or the meadows of tiny dandelions, to notice sudden views of a female Blackcap perched in the open on a spray of bright yellow Broom. We continue on to Roski Slap, another area of karst landscape, where the limestone has created natural platforms from which water falls. The place is full of the noise of watery rushing and tumbling. We stop at a viewpoint over Roski Slap, like a mini Grand Canyon and Gerard conjures up a whole show for us - our first Blue Rock Thrush, then its mate, then another male, tenderising a lizard on a rock. Then a Subalpine Warbler. Notice the moustache, like a white stripe, the brick-red throat, and we're treated to it flicking to and fro, teasing and showing, near and far away.
Another day we go to a scrubby area, rising gently above a broad valley, and watch warblers, Corn Bunting and Cirl Bunting, then catch glimpses of a bird less interesting than its name, a Zitting Cisticola. But our vote for bird of the day here was the male Sardinian Warbler who flitted and perched around us, showing its glossy black cap, white throat and bright red eye ring.
Our days develop a pattern: early birding for those so inclined, a treat of a place to visit am and pm. Our kind and helpful driver organises a picnic lunch, tasting great after hours of fresh air. Drives along the stunning coastline or into the gorges and parks to see particular birds and time to collect our self before a convivial supper. We meet hospitable people, clean towns and new roads, still mostly empty of traffic. We notice the mark of the Venetian or Austro-Hungarian cultures that have influenced this country, in the architecture, food and people.
We stop to watch a Marsh Harrier repeatedly mob a Coot, Short toed Eagle spotted high, clambering over parched rocks at salt pans against a background of snow capped mountains, scoping for waders and ducks, spotting Pintail and Garganey, Black Winged Stilt. A morning in the sun with a perfect view of a Rock Partridge, followed by obliging Wrynecks and time to admire the subtlety and variety of their brown markings; a Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush popping into view just as we focus on a Rock Nuthatch close by an abandoned farm being restored in a quiet valley. Rock formations that reminded me of concrete abandoned and left to set, these made softer by the colours of emerging wild flowers. Violets, fresh lime green Euphorbias, cowslips nestling in spiky grass, lichen and butterflies. Other sights; Golden Eagle on a high ridge, a flock of thirty Alpine Chough, dipping Swallows and Martins, Sombre Tits showing well in an old orchard, the whirring wings of Hoopoes.
The tentative sun stayed mostly behind the clouds but our hoods were down for the first time that day. Steps became brisker, birds started calling. A Blue Rock Thrush showed well, a Wryneck was called in for admiring looks, a Nightingale called, Blackcaps and Chiffchaff everywhere, a sudden sighting of two Hoopoes. We noticed abandoned homesteads, old farms where we guessed younger generations had drifted away from subsistence farming and goat herding.
The bird of the week was decided, and the choice emerged between the Rock Partridge and the Wryneck, the latter winning, maybe because several came when called, gave splendid scoped views from all angles and Gerard quipped that it was from his favourite bird family, the Woodpeckers. Our final count of different species came to 121