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There is a narrow strip of Croatia between the Adriatic Sea and the high mountains that is the Dalmatian Coast. The geology is all important, being entirely limestone, creating spectacular cliffs, impressive rocky terrain, waterfalls, springs and a multitude of islands. From a distance some of the landscape looks quite barren but closer inspection shows it to be full of wildflowers, butterflies, a rich assortment of reptiles and, of course, birds. The names of some of the special birds of the area give a clue to the terrain. Rock Nuthatch, Rock Thrush, Blue Rock Thrush and Rock Partridge are amongst the key species. Other special birds of the area include Sombre Tit, Olive-tree Warbler, Eastern Olivaceous Warbler, Pygmy Cormorant, Eastern Orphean Warbler and Black-headed Bunting. Old favourites like Hoopoe, Bee-eater and Turtle Dove are common and widespread.
Just a short drive from Split Airport will take us to our first hotel, near Trogir. We will visit Trogirís beautiful old town, not least to see the Pallid and Common Swifts which nest in the old fort and strangely, in the palm trees. It is the home town of our local guide and he will know where many of the local specialities are nesting. With luck he may have nest sites to visit of such varied birds as Sombre Tit, Olive-tree Warbler, Eagle Owl and Short-toed Eagle. Due to the shallow soils, farmland is being abandoned and people are moving to the coast to work in the tourist industry. Where people leave, wildlife takes over. We will visit one of several picturesque hamlets which is being reclaimed by nature. They are overgrown with a wonderful mix of fig, olive, pistachio, walnut and cherry trees. Rich in wildlife, they provide homes for Red-rumped and Barn Swallows, Black-eared Wheatear, Blue Rock Thrush, Spanish Sparrow and Little and Scops Owls.
BIOKOVA NATURE PARK
One day, from our base near Trogir, we will drive south of Split to the Biokovo reserve. The slither of land between sea and mountain that is the Dalmatian Coast becomes even narrower here. As we turn inland we will ascend to around 6000 feet to the heart of this limestone mountain reserve. Forest gives way to mountain pasture and boulder strewn meadows, and ultimately scree and cliffs. We will drive well above the tree line and there may still be patches of snow in May. Near Veti Jure, the highest peak of the range, we should find Alpine Accentors which can be surprisingly tame. Ravens and Black Redstart may also be found at this altitude. We will scan the peaks and hillsides around us for Chamois and Mouflon, though their whereabouts are unpredictable. Golden and Short-toed Eagle are both possible here too.
PAKLENICA AND PAG ISLAND
After four nights in Trogir we will head north to Paklenica for the final three nights. On the way we will visit Lake Vrana, the largest freshwater body in Croatia. This is a stronghold for Pygmy Cormorant and several pairs of Purple Heron and Little Egret nest here too. This is the only regular site on the Croatian coast for Great White Egret, though it is still a rare breeder. Great Reed, Reed and Sedge Warblers are all to be found singing in the emergent vegetation. Black-necked, Little and Great Crested Grebe all breed here too. Ferruginous Duck and Garganey are among the many species that pass through on migration in early May. Black-headed Wagtail is fairly common throughout the meadow and pasture areas of Croatia and may be found here.
After seven wonderful days and nights on the Dalmatian coast we will head back to Split in good time for our afternoon flight home.
CLIMATE AND PACE
Warm, sunny weather is the norm, although rain is possible. It will be cooler in the mountains. Breakfast will be taken at about 7.30am most mornings. Basic fitness is all that is required. Full days will be spent in the field and reasonable length walks will be undertaken regularly. There may be some uphill walking, but at a sensible pace.
ACCOMMODATION AND FOOD
Full board accommodation is provided, with four nights at the Hotel Sveti Kriz, near Trogir and three nights at the Hotel Rajna in Starigrad Paklenica. All accommodation is of a very good standard and has en suite facilities. Packed lunches will be taken every day.
PRICE INCLUDES Ö..
All birdwatching excursions with expert leader and local guide, full-board accommodation (starting with dinner on 2nd and ending with a lunch on 9th), soft drinks at meal times, bottled water throughout, reserve entrance fees, local transport by minibus, international flights and airport taxes.
WHAT IS NOT INCLUDED
Travel insurance. Personal items, alcoholic drinks, laundry.
Return flights from Manchester to Split using the scheduled services of Jet2 Airlines. The outbound flight leaves mid-morning, with the return touching down late afternoon. If you wish to fly direct from a different airport we may be able to accommodate you if we can get suitable flights. Please call for details.
Here are a few landscape pictures taken by Andy.
..and a few of the birds likely to be seen...
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