This was a summer tour around Austria, cleaning up a few birds that Sandra particularly wanted to see, then a 10-day trip to Croatia, along the coast, returning inland. Effectively no information was available to us before we visited Croatia, so we missed a lot; however for the Austrian sites we visited we are indebted to Graham Tebb & Georg Juen for their help!
The weather throughout was generally fine, indeed often too hot - in Croatia we were had shade temperatures of 37°C or more in the middle of the day, which is way too much for useful birding. We had regular, somewhat vicious thunderstorms in the Alps most afternoons, and the weather in eastern Austria was miserable for the couple of days' birding we had there. The time of year was obviously not ideal, but we tried to make the best of it.
Maps of Austria to a good driving scale are available in many petrol stations, also in the Libro stores, which are found in almost every town. You can also find reasonable walking maps here - the Freytag & Berndt Wanderkarten are at 1:50 000 and are OK for both driving and walking. The Ferto-Hansag Nemzeti Park/Neusiedlersee National Park map at 1:60 000 covers some interesting areas in Hungary that are worth a visit, whilst the Austrian maps tend to stop just after the border. The map can be bought in the information centre just before Illmitz: the one to buy is the small paper map with a Great Egret on the cover. Walking routes in the Alps are generally very well marked along the trails and cycle routes are plentiful and well-marked in the lowlands, putting the UK's network and marking system to shame as usual. (But our maps are better!)
Maps of Croatia are harder to get hold of. We found that for birding the only decent ones available at short notice were the series of four maps, again by Freytag & Berndt, which cover Istria, Cres/Lo'inj/Krk/Rab, and the Dalmatian coast in two parts. The scale is 1:100 000, and there seems to be nothing of an equivalent scale for the inland areas. We found these maps to be rather unreliable - some of the roads we drove down were not marked on the maps, sometimes roads marked on the maps didn't exist, and although campsites are marked on the maps, the locations tend to be inaccurate; presumably the sites may not exist for very long. Fortunately there are not a great deal of roads to choose from when driving; though the dirt-track network is reasonably extensive, it is probably safer to walk them than drive them.
Austrians use the Euro obviously, and in Croatia the Kuna is the national currency (about 7.5 Kuna to the Euro, and the 1 Kuna coin has a Nightingale on it). In Austria of course German is the national language, but there are many people who at least have a smattering of English if you get too stuck. In Croatia we found there were many people who spoke English and/or German, often very well indeed, so we had no major communication problems!
We tried to stay in campsites along the way, as the cheapest option. Prices in Austria are generally OK at up to about 36 Euro for the two of us, plus car, plus tent (for 2 nights??). As Sandra lives in Vorarlberg, we were able to stay at her home during the first few days, and with her sister in Innsbruck later. Camping in Croatia is pretty good, although there are not too many places to choose from. Generally the smaller sites are more reasonably priced, (details in the itinerary), and it's far better to get under trees if possible at this time of year, as the temperature is kept a little lower. You tend to have to pay per person per night, plus tent, plus car in both Austria and Croatia, with a 'tourist tax' on top in Croatia (also per night). If you leave your car off-site it makes it somewhat cheaper, but then you have the worry of being broken into. We didn't see or hear of much danger of break-ins, however, and I would guess that acting sensibly about what you leave in the car and where you leave it will keep you safe!
We had our own car for the journey to try and keep costs down. We have hired cars in Austria before, but both being young tends to put the price up drastically (about 109 Euro for a weekend was the best we managed). Fuel is reasonable, at about 80 Euro cents per litre in much of Austria, and about 7 Kuna per litre in Croatia.
3rd June - we visited the Saminatal, a narrow valley running up from Frastanz towards Liechtenstein, where one or two pairs of White-backed Woodpecker breed. Needless to say, we were too late in the year for them to be active, so didn't see them. The valley is mixed conifer and deciduous woodland with a small but rapidly flowing river. Typical woodland species were seen here, the best of which were White-throated Dipper and Grey Wagtail. A nice variety of butterflies were present, including numerous Duke-of-Burgundy Fritillaries and Chequered Skippers. The only dragonfly species, unsurprisingly, was Golden-ringed.
3rd June p.m. (plus 5th, 8th & 10th June) - we spent in the Rhinedelta, where the river Rhine runs into Lake Constance (the Bodensee) between Bregenz and Fußach. The river itself is totally canalised, but the area around has been designated a Local Nature Reserve, or the Austrian equivalent. There are patches of scrubby Willow/Sallow/Poplar woodland, areas of Phragmites reed and a lagoon where a couple of hundred pairs of Common Terns breed. Breeding birds are interesting, with a colony of Great Crested Grebes, plenty of Red-crested Pochard, Great Reed Warblers, Golden Oriole and so on and so forth. An evening roost of Black Kites reaches 70 or so birds through the summer, although our best count was just 35. There is also a very good chance of finding a local or not-so-local rarity. Aside from the Seewinkel in the east, probably the most intensely birded area in Austria. In the few days we were there we had Glossy Ibis, Rosy Starling, Melodious Warbler, Whiskered Tern (both rather rare in Austria) and Short-toed Lark. The best places to look appear to be the two floodbanks of the Rhine itself, the left one, accessed from Fubach, being the more intensely birded. This is where the terns breed, where most of the woodland is, and also has good views into the bay (Fubacherbucht) where marsh terns hang out. The bay is accessible at various points behind Fubach, and the shoreline towards the Swiss border is also worth a look wherever it can be accessed. The right bank is less well birded, but also interesting (email if you want any information about access or birds). Other species we saw here in the few days we visited: Little Bittern, Quail, plenty of Turtle Doves, a flock of 18 Little Stint, Mediterranean Gull, a couple of flocks of Black Tern, the largest was one of 56 birds, lots of breeding Fieldfare, Icterine Warbler and Short-toed Treecreeper.
4th June - Hochtannbergpas area. This is a fairly high alpine area (1680m a.s.l.) just to the northwest of Warth, on the road between Dornbirn and Lech, lying on the borders of Vorarlberg, Germany and the Tirol. The pass itself has some dwarf pine and birch woodland, but lies pretty much on the treeline. The slopes are alpine meadow; places away from the skiing area and too steep for cattle grazing were the most interesting. We didn't catch up with all the species we hoped for - Rock Ptarmigan eluded us, and some of the other alpine birds were seen better elsewhere, but on the whole it seems to be a good site to try, especially if you don't have too much time. We walked up the Widderstein, to the north of the pass in the morning, where we had stunning views of White-winged Snowfinch, Alpine Chough and Alpine Marmot, very poor views of a probable Alpine Accentor and a flyover Rock-thrush. 'A couple of pairs' of Rock-thrush breed on the mountain, but they tend to stop singing early in the morning at this time of year, and 8.30 a.m. seems to have been too late! The afternoon was spent walking up the other side of the pass, to the south, past the skiing area in search of Ptarmigan. We found little else there except for more Snowfinch, a few Northern Wheatear and the ever-present Water Pipits. A midday trip into Warth, the town just east of the pass, produced a couple of singing male Common Rosefinch on the edge of the town, and a handful of Crag Martins breeding at the entrance to the gallery of the road tunnel.
6th June - Bangser Ried. This is an area of wet grassland, meadows, scattered woodlands and arable farmland in the western corner of Vorarlberg, bordering Switzerland and Liechtenstein. The area has a few Corncrakes, as well as Hobby, Common Quail, Golden Oriole and the usual selection of mid-European birds that one would expect.
7th June - Furkajoch area. A slightly higher area than the Hochtannbergpas, at 1720m a.s.l., but with much the same selection of birds. We walked along from the road's bend north of the pass to the Portlahorn (2020m), the Ragazer Blanken (2060m) and the Sünser Spitze (2080m). The Ragazer Blanken and Sünser Spitze are cut off in a dramatic cliff, which has breeding Alpine Accentor, Alpine Chough, Snowfinch, all of which we saw well, and presumably Rock-thrush, which again we failed to see. Ptarmigan should be present, and Black Grouse definitely are - provided you are early enough in the day (before 8 a.m.). The walking is pretty easy, although the Portlahorn and the last 30-40m of the other peaks are steep, but the Portlahorn can be by-passed, and the birds are easily seen from the cliff edges rather than the peaks. Other birds of note we had here were Ring Ouzel (race alpestris), Lesser Whitethroat, Honey-buzzard, Whinchat and Lesser Redpoll.
9th June - Kanisfluh. This is a spectacular mountain at the end of the road between Damüls and Au. We finally caught up properly with Rock-thrush here, with superb views of two displaying males. The open conifer woodland behind the Gasthof provided Spotted Nutcracker, Citril Finch, Crested Tit and Ring Ouzel. We also saw a number of Alpine Ibex and Chamois here, along with plenty of Alpine Salamanders warming up on the road in the early morning. A visit to Warth again with Georg Juen provided a Booted Eagle (for it's second day) and the sub-adult Common Rosefinch again.
11th June - Nordkette/Hafelekar, Innsbruck. A short (25 minute) cable-car ride up the mountain from inside Innsbruck takes you to just over 2000m a.s.l., which is plenty for Alpine birds! We just about scraped into double figures for the top, with a flyover Honey-buzzard being the most unexpected. Snowfinch, Alpine Accentor and Alpine Chough provided great views, the latter hassling us whenever we brought out our sandwiches. There must be Wallcreeper up there, but the amount of cliff is rather daunting, and a couple of hours' watch provided nothing. Views over Innsbruck and to the north are very spectacular. The journey costs 18 Euro, and you must change cars once. The cable car starts from Hungerburg, where there is ample parking. We also found a singing male Common Redstart in the car park.
12th - 14th June - Hohe Tauern. We based ourselves at Wörth, near Rauris, on the north side of the Hohe Tauern. Having seen most of our alpine 'wants' before, we were not too fussed about what we could see here. The area is near a Lammergeier release site, part of the on-going reintroduction of the species into the Alps. The woodlands around are pretty fantastic, looking great for grouse species (Hazel Grouse is in the area for sure, Capercaillie probably), but our searches were frustrated by noisy families and cars going up to the huts (why at 5.30 a.m., I ask myself!!). Sandra found a Wallcreeper opposite the huts up the Krummltal, and we had 4 or so Griffon Vulture there as well, a number of Golden Eagles, criminal views of Snowfinch and stacks of butterflies. The walk up the Krummltal is steep in places, and takes about 1.5 - 2 hours, passing through mixed woodland at first, then open areas with scattered conifers (lots of Ring Ouzels and Lesser Redpoll) and finally into alpine meadows - there's even a glacier at the end of the trail, albeit a small one! Another interesting area was the Rauriser Urwald, a collection of pools of varying sizes in mature Spruce forest. We went to look for dragonflies, so weren't at a good time of day for birds, but grouse there must be, and Nutcracker there is. You can drive up the road to a toll and park in the car park for free, or pay 9 Euro for the privilege of driving a little further! The views from the top are, as ever, spectacular.
15th June - Seewinkel. We've been based in Vienna for the past year, so this was meant to be a farewell visit to some of the sites we like best. In the end the weather was pretty foul until mid-afternoon, so we merely trundled round a few lakes on a cold, wet and windy day to see what we could see. The best birding was in Hungary, on the Mexicopuzta - cross the border at Pamhagen, on the southeast corner of the Seewinkel, then drive into Fert'd, turn right, then right again (signed towards Sarrod). Follow the main road through, past the end of the houses, across a railway line, then eventually across a small canal. The car park is immediately after the canal, on the left. Walk back over the canal, turn right (towards lake Neusiedl) and keep going for about 1km, until you reach a small hut with a viewing platform beside. We had Ferruginous Duck, Purple Heron, 23 Spoonbill, an adult White-tailed Eagle,Marsh Sandpiper and a number of Black Terns here, and this is just about the quietest time of year The Seewinkel is worth a general explore anyway - different days, even different times of day bring different pools to the fore - just mooch around! The Zick Lacke (Illmitz), Ober- and Unterstinkersees and the Zicksee St Andrä are worth a look almost any time, although the Lange Lacke is best in the early morning and late evening, before and after the heat haze. Lange Lacke always seems to be windy, and the towers are no earthly use at all for birding in any sort of wind (great work there WWF!).
16th June was a visit to a site just outside Vienna where we had been told White-backed Woodpecker was still active. Having spent hours looking in the early spring with no luck, we were pleased to have one last chance! As soon as we arrived, J. had a brief view of one male in the upper reaches of a tree, only for the bird to promptly disappear, never to be seen again. We also had Black Woodpecker and Collared Flycatcher here.
19th June - we drove from Vienna down to a Roller site in southern Steiermark first, and then crossed into Slovenia at Mureck, travelling south to Mureck and then joining the main road to Zagreb just south of Ptuj. (There is a toll on the motorway between the border of Slovenia and Maribor, but it is only 80 Euro cents, and is payable in Euro as well). The motorway south to Zagreb and then east towards the coast was a joy to drive on (almost!), with very little traffic and most of it pretty well behaved. A small toll of 10 Kuna was paid for the privilege of driving on the motorway towards Zagreb. It takes about 5 hours to get from Vienna to Zagreb down the motorway, traffic permitting. The first site we visited was the fishpond area within the gallery forest of Crna Mlaka, some 30km southwest of Zagreb. To reach this site, you leave the motorway at the Jastrebarsko exit; pay your toll for the section from Zagreb (about 7 Kuna) and then turn immediately left. The tarmac runs out after literally 20m, and then it's trundle along a rough-ish gravel road for about 5km. The road runs through superb gallery forest, and had we been there earlier in the year it would no doubt have been packed full with interesting passerines singing. They were presumably still there, but no longer singing. The reserve is signposted, with some rough & ready boards by the roadside, so is not too easy to miss. We were lucky enough to see a Pine Marten sauntering across a joining road just on the last bend before the car park. There is a reasonable amount of parking outside the reserve, although it is also possible to get the car in (about 20 Kuna). We had no need of the car though, and walked around quite happily - it's as flat as a very flat thing.
Birds here were pretty good: 400+ Ferruginous Duck, a number of White-tailed Eagles, Black & White Storks, Grey, Black-crowned Night & Squacco Herons, Little and Great Egrets, and about 3-400 Whiskered Terns. Various dragonflies, butterflies and the loudest green frog chorus I've ever heard were a good background cast. Passerines were represented by Marsh, Sedge, Reed, Great Reed, Savi's and River Warblers, a female flavaYellow Wagtail, Common Nightingales and Tree Sparrows. We spent the night in the car here, for want of anywhere better, visiting the site again early the next morning, and then driving on towards the coast.
20th June. After leaving Crna Mlaka, we headed to Karlovac (7 Kuna motorway toll again) then along a small road through Josipdol to Senj, level with the southern end of the island Krk. This brought us through a lot of fantastic looking low intensity farmland and scattered woodlands, over the northern end of the Velebit Mountains to the coast. As soon as you cross the Velebits, you're in the Mediterranean zone. We ended up travelling further than we wished again, getting to Novalja, on the island Pag before we found a campsite.
Birds of interest on the journey were typical for the Mediterranean, with Blue Rock-thrush, Sardinian Warbler and Black-headed Bunting heading the cast. On Pag we wandered around the road south in the evening, picking up Woodchat and Red-backed Shrikes, Tawny Pipit and Crested Larks. We camped just on the edge of Novalja, at Stra'ko, which was fine, shady, well located but expensive at 250 Kuna for two nights' stay. The island is grazed quite well with sheep, and the dominant plant seems to be Sage, so the sheep should taste very good! Lots of drystone walls, with sparse vegetation growing in the fields, Juniper bushes growing everywhere that they can.
21st June was spent on Pag, driving down to Kolan and walking along a path up the valley towards Pag (the town). By starting birding before 6 a.m. we managed to see much more than we would have had we started at a more 'civilised' hour. The scrub along the valley side and the tiny fields on the valley floor were most productive, with Orphean, Sardinian and Subalpine Warblers, Spanish Sparrows, 'real' Rock Dove, Bee-eater, a hunting Short-toed Eagle, Woodchat and Red-backed Shrikes lots of Cirl Buntings and a Hermann's Tortoise.
We then drove further on towards Pag, via Ko'ljun and back to Novalja. The road to Ko'ljun from the main road is tarmac, but then crossing eastwards over the island to the lagoons and the town of Pag is the usual dirt track. These tracks are generally in good condition, but there are odd bits where the underside of your car is liable to get swiped if you're not careful - not a good idea in the middle of nowhere! The road and lagoons were by now very quiet, with a beautiful male Montagu's Harrier hunting by the road and another Short-toed Eagle being the pick of the bunch, along with the ever-present Tawny Pipits and Crested Larks. In the cool of the evening we drove back from Novalja towards the ferry link with the mainland and checked the scrubby patches on the edge of the village of Caska. Here we had Melodious, Sardinian and Eastern Olivaceous Warblers, Black-headed and Cirl Buntings, and a few more Spanish Sparrows.
22nd June we travelled down the main road to Zadar, stopping for several families of melanoleucaBlack-eared Wheatears and a Little Owl on the way, then further south to 'ibenik, and then a little further still to a campsite called 'Ante & Toni', at Sparadici on the south side of the Greba'tica bay. The site is quite small, but very reasonably priced (135 Kuna for 3 nights), again on the edge of the beach, but of course the ground was rather stony! We travelled down to Primo'ten on two of the evenings to eat - a very pretty town with some superb restaurants, but somewhat pricey. The area around here is full of rather well matured maquis-type vegetation, lots of small trees, broken limestone in between and no paths, so the birding is all pretty much roadside stuff. Again, the time of year was our problem - too hot for midday birding, too late for much activity anyway.
23rd June we explored the area of pinewood running along the hillside south of Sparadici, finding only a few Alpine Swifts and a Short-toed Eagle, then gave up and stayed on the beach.
24th June - an early morning drive to Split, and a search along the 'Mala'ka' ridge, just northeast of the city. Frustratingly we found a Rock Nuthatch nest, but no sign of the birds - presumably an old nest. The ridge is very, very definitely an early morning thing: by the time we reached the hut it was midday, and not only blazing hot, but also full of locals grilling lamb over open fires. The only birds of interest we found were melanoleucaBlack-eared Wheatear and Cirl Bunting. Driving back over the ridge and inland to Sparadici provided a distant Lesser Grey Shrike - the only one of the trip, Blue Rock-thrush and Black-headed Bunting.
25th June we travelled to Split in the early morning again, then took the ferry to Vis, about 2 hours offshore. The ferry terminal is very complicated, so we parked outside and walked through to get tickets. The ticket office is at the far end of the port, but the staff were all very helpful with directions and information. A car and two passengers cost 293 Kuna, and we were just in time to get a ticket for the first sailing at 9 a.m. There are generally 2 boats per day, except for Tuesdays, for some reason, one going in the mid-morning, one in the late afternoon. Returning ferries are at 5.30 a.m. and usually one other trip around midday, although the times again vary. Best to check at the offices! The trip across gave us cracking views of Cory's Shearwater, and a couple of distant Bottle-nosed Dolphins. Vis itself is tiny, a roughly square island approximately 10 km by 8. There are two small towns (Vis and Komiza) and a few tiny villages, and as most of the coastline is rocky there are not too many beach-lovers away from the main town. We were told that Vis is a reliable Eleonora's Falcon site, and we eventually watched 14 or so of these smart falcons hunting insects (apparently) low over the car in the evening. Again we slept in the car - no campsites - and managed a short seawatch in the evening for a few more Cory's, and one Yelkouan Shearwater. Other species of interest on Vis were Sardinian Warbler, Blue Rock-thrush, Alpine & Pallid Swifts, again some apparently 'real' Rock Doves and most bizarrely a Pheasant!
26th June was spent returning to Split, and as our car appeared to be dying on us, back to the north. We returned inland along the E71, and the lack of campsites and the contrast to the coast were both rather startling! The coast is very Mediterranean, lots of maquis scrub, open rocky areas and pinewoods, as well as plenty of developed and developing towns, usually fairly tourist-friendly. By contrast, inland we found ourselves passing through village after village of collapsed houses, missing a roof and perhaps a couple of walls in many cases. There seemed to be a couple of inhabited houses in each village still, but the rest were ruined - presumably still a memento of the wars in the region. The worst areas were where the road ran closest to Bosnia, and as we travelled north it became marginally less depressing (but presumably the ruins offer good breeding places for owls?!). We reached the Plitvice Lakes national park before we found somewhere to camp. This is another 'tourist attraction' area, and so the camping was more expensive - at about 120 Kuna/night. There seem to be only 2 campsites here as well, so prices are likely to be much the same whichever. There are, however, a huge number of bed & breakfast-type rooms advertised by houses both on the roadside and in surrounding villages.
27th June we drove to the north entrance of Plitvice Lakes NP and paid about 20 Kuna to get in. Entry is not allowed before 7.30 a.m., so by this time the birds are quiet, but the place was still very worthwhile visiting. Yes there were hundreds of tourists later in the day, but at 7.30 it was still very quiet and cool enough to walk comfortably. There are a number of trails around these lakes, which vary in size up to several kilometres long. Most are very small, and run into one another over tufa limestone deposits, creating very fine waterfalls. The dragonflies were great: Green-eyed Hooktail, Norfolk Hawker, lots of Beautiful and some Banded Demoiselles, White-legged, Blue-tailed and Large Red Damsels, etc. etc. Birds were normal for a mixed woodland in Europe: Marsh & Willow Tit, Hawfinch and a couple of Wood Warblers still singing. There must be a good woodpecker population present (we heard Black nearby), as there is plenty of dead wood standing, some with holes that looked like the work of White-backed.
Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis: heard calling in the reeds of the Rhinedelta, in the Seewinkel, and very common indeed at Crna Mlaka. One pair was also seen on the lake at the top of the Hochtannbergpass.
Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus: Very common both at the Rhinedelta and Crna Mlaka.
Cory's Shearwater Calonectris diomedea: up to 20 seen from the ferry to and from Vis, along with 4 mooching round the island from Rt Polivalo, near Rukavac, in the evening.
Yelkouan Shearwater Puffinus yelkouan: just one seen from Vis at Rt Polivalo on an evening seawatch.
Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo sinensis: a reasonable sized colony is present at the Rhinedelta, and up to 80 at Crna Mlaka. Small numbers also seen along the Croatian coast, particularly round the islands
European Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis desmarestii: one seen from Novalja, Pag, and several seen around Vis.
Little Bittern Ixobrychus minutus: a pair seen in the evening of the 3rd at the Rhinedelta, also 3 seen each day at Crna Mlaka.
Black-crowned Night-heron Nycticorax nycticorax: 11 seen in the evening of the 19th at Crna Mlaka, and 27 the next morning.
Squacco Heron Ardeola ralloides: 2 around the small fishponds at Crna Mlaka on the 19th.
Little Egret Egretta garzetta: 4 at the Mexicopuzta (Hungary) on the 15th, and up to 19 at Crna Mlaka.
Great Egret Ardea alba: 10 around the Seewinkel on the 15th, 4-5 at Crna Mlaka.
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea: Common around Vorarlberg, the Seewinkel, and at Crna Mlaka, and 4 at Plitvice Lakes.
Black Stork Ciconia nigra: up to 12 at Crna Mlaka.
White Stork Ciconia ciconia: odd birds seen here and there - three in Vorarlberg, a nest on the roadside in Slovenia, one at Crna Mlaka.
Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus: one adult on the Rhinedelta on the 8th.
Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia: 23 resting at the Mexicopuzta on the 15th.
Mute Swan Cygnus olor: common at the Rhinedelta, also in the Seewinkel and at Crna Mlaka.
Greylag Goose Anser anser: common in the Seewinkel.
Common Shelduck Tadorna tadorna: one at the Oberstinkersee on the 15th.
Mallard Anas platyrhynchos: common in most wet areas.
Gadwall Anas strepera: up to 20 seen at the Rhinedelta, one pair seen at Crna Mlaka on the 19th.
Northern Shoveler Anas clypeata: common in the Seewinkel.
Common Teal Anas crecca: small numbers present in the Seewinkel at the Mexicopuzta.
Garganey Anas querquedula: quite common around the Seewinkel.
Red-crested Pochard Netta rufina: up to 400 around the Rhinedelta, also rather common in the Seewinkel, especially at the Mexicopuzta and round Lake Neusiedl itself.
Common Pochard Aythya ferina: one female at the Rhinedelta, up to 60 at Crna Mlaka.
Ferruginous Duck Aythya nyroca: one female (possibly a hybrid) at the Mexicopuzta on the 15th, around 400 at Crna Mlaka - in fact the commonest duck there!
Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula: up to 15 at the Rhinedelta, plus a pair at Crna Mlaka.
Common Eider Somateria mollissima: one immature male still hanging round at the Rhinedelta.
Goosander Mergus merganser: up to 40 at the Rhinedelta; part of the flock of moulting adults that summer here.
Griffon Vulture Gyps fulvus: up to 4 at the Krummltal (Hohe Tauern).
White-tailed Eagle Haliaeetus albicilla: one adult at the Mexicopuzta on the 15th, up to 3 at Crna Mlaka.
Golden Eagle Aquila chrysaetos: Three soaring at Warth on the 9th, then three subadults and one adult seen at the Krummltal.
Short-toed Eagle Circaetus gallicus: three seen in Croatia - two on Pag, one at Sparadici.
Booted Eagle Hieraaetus pennatus: one immature (apparently 2nd yr.) dark phase at Warth, Vorarlberg on the 9th.
Black Kite Milvus migrans: we saw up to 35 coming to roost at the Rhinedelta. There were also a number of birds around Crna Mlaka, including some very recently fledged juveniles.
Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus: very common around the Seewinkel.
Montagu's Harrier Circus pygargus: one stunning male hunting on Pag, near the town of Pag on the 21st.
Common Buzzard Buteo buteo: common through Austria and inland Croatia.
European Honey-buzzard Pernis apivorus: only two seen, both at 2000m+ in the Alps.
Eurasian Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus: odd birds seen down the Croatian coast.
Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus: fairly common throughout, although less frequent along the coast of Croatia.
Eurasian Hobby Falco subbuteo: singles seen at the Bangser Ried on the 6th and at Wörth on the 13th.
Eleonora's Falcon Falco eleonorae: one flock of 14-16 birds floating around by Podstra'je, in the south-eastern corner of Vis, also 2-3 at Ravno, on the south-western corner.
Black Grouse Tetrao tetrix: up to 12 males lekking around the Furkajochpas.
Common Quail Coturnix coturnix: one singing behind the Fubacherbucht on the 5th, one singing at the Mexicopuzta on the 15th and one 'somewhere on the Dalmatian coast' on the 22nd.
Common Pheasant Phasianus colchicus: only three seen in the Seewinkel and one on Vis.
Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus: heard occasionally at the Rhinedelta, seen in large numbers at Crna Mlaka.
Common Coot Fulica atra: common through Austria and at Crna Mlaka.
Pied Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta: common in the Seewinkel.
Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus: 48 seen in the Seewinkel on the 15th; quite a successful breeding season!
Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius: a couple of pairs holding territory on the Rhinedams, also plenty hanging around the Seewinkel.
Kentish Plover Charadrius alexandrinus: seen regularly in the Seewinkel.
Northern Lapwing Vanellus vanellus: very common in the Seewinkel, otherwise singles seen around the lowlands of Vorarlberg and at Crna Mlaka.
Little Stint Calidris minutus: a flock of 18 in full breeding plumage on the right Rhinedam on the 8th.
Wood Sandpiper Tringa glareola: one or two present on the Mexicopuzta on the 15th.
Common Redshank Tringa totanus: common in the Seewinkel, 6 at the lagoons just south of the town of Pag.
Spotted Redshank Tringa erythropus: up to 50 in full breeding plumage in the Seewinkel.
Marsh Sandpiper Tringa stagnatilis: one adult picking around the Mexicopuzta on the 15th.
Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa limosa: common through the Seewinkel.
Eurasian Curlew Numenius arquata: 13 on recently cut fields behind the Fußacherbucht on the 5th.
Ruff Philomachus pugnax: one injured female at the lagoon on the Rhinedelta on the 5th.
Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundis: breeding colonies on the Rhinedelta and at the Seewinkel, but also a handful of non-breeders on Pag and a juvenile at Plitvice Lakes.
Common Gull Larus canus: one pair of adults hanging around the Black-headed Gull colony on the Rhinedelta.
Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus: 2-3 first summer birds seen at the Rhinedelta but only one adult seen at the Seewinkel on the 15th!
Yellow-legged Gull Larus cachinnans michahellis: a small number of michahellis hanging around the Rhinedelta included one ringed on the French/German border. There were also a number (again michahellis) in the Seewinkel, and plenty scattered along the Croatian coast.
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis: four fishing distantly just to the south of Novalja on the evening of the 20th.
Common Tern Sterna hirundo: a large breeding colony is present on the Rhinedelta, a few breeding birds also found in the Seewinkel, and up to 10 were feeding at Crna Mlaka.
Black Tern Chlidonias niger: odd flocks were feeding in the Fußacherbucht on most visits, peaking at 58 on the 5th. We also found 5+ at the Mexicopuzta, 4+ on fishponds by Zagreb and 2 at Crna Mlaka.
Whiskered Tern Chlidonias hybridus: one at the Rhinedelta on the 8th, then around 3-400 at Crna Mlaka.
Rock Dove Columba livia: apparent 'real' Rock doves were seen on the coast of Croatia on Pag and Vis, although there were also feral birds present on the same islands.
Stock Dove Columba oenas: odd birds seen through the lower areas of Austria.
Wood Pigeon Columba palumbus: fairly common through Austria.
Collared Dove Streptopelia decaocto: common through Austria and Croatia, especially near towns and villages.
Turtle Dove Streptopelia turtur: common through Austria and Croatia, although generally away from houses.
Common Cuckoo Cuculus canorus: common throughout.
Little Owl Athene noctua: one on a barn roof just south of the town Pag.
Eurasian Nightjar Caprimulgus europaeus: up to 3 heard churring and one seen hunting at St Egyden, south of Vienna.
Common Swift Apus apus: common everywhere.
Pallid Swift Apus pallidus: a number feeding around the coast with Common Swift on Vis, probably some around Primo'ten, although we had no binoculars at the time.
Alpine Swift Apus melba: fairly common along the Croatian coast, we saw them mostly in the evening and early morning feeding at lower levels.
Hoopoe Upupa epops: one feeding happily on a horse paddock near the Mexicopuzta.
Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis: one heard at Crna Mlaka on the 19th.
European Bee-eater Merops apiaster: seen down the coast of Croatia, we found they were generally associated with wet areas.
European Roller Coracius garrulus: a pair in south Steiermark on the way through to Croatia.
Black Woodpecker Dryocopus martius: one heard near Vienna on the 16th, one at Plitvice Lakes on the 27th.
Great Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos major: found everywhere.
White-backed Woodpecker Dendrocopos leucotos: one male seen briefly near Vienna on the 16th.
Skylark Alauda arvensis: common inland in Croatia, through eastern Austria and in the low areas of Vorarlberg.
Crested Lark Galerida cristata: very common down the Croatian coast wherever there was agriculture to clear the maquis.
Short-toed Lark Calandrella brachydactyla: one found on the left Rhinedam on the morning of the 10th.
Sand Martin Riparia riparia: just one seen at the Rhinedelta on the evening of the 3rd.
Crag Martin Ptyonoprogne rupestris: a small colony at the entrance to the road tunnel just west of Warth, Vorarlberg, as well as a few birds around the Krummltal on the first cliffs after the path leaves the woods.
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica: common throughout.
House Martin Delichon urbica: common throughout.
Tawny Pipit Anthus campestris: common down the coast of Croatia wherever there is open scrubby vegetation.
Tree Pipit Anthus trivialis: one singing still at the Bangser Ried on the 6th.
Water Pipit Anthus spinoletta: pretty mush ubiquitous above the trees in the Alps.
White Wagtail Motacilla alba alba: common throughout Austria and inland in Croatia.
Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava flava: odd singles seen at the Rhinedelta and in the Seewinkel. One female in Croatia (at Crna Mlaka) turned out to be flava rather than feldegg.
Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea: common through the Alps.
Winter Wren Troglodytes troglodytes: common through the Alps.
White-throated Dipper Cinclus cinclus: 2+ seen up the Saminatal, one juvenile seen up the Krummltal.
Dunnock Prunella modularis: common through the Alps.
Alpine Accentor Prunella collaris: one 'probable' on the Widderstein on the 4th, around 4 on the cliffs between the Ragazer Blanken and Sünser Spitze, common around the Nordkette.
Robin Erithacus rubecula: common in the woods around the Alps.
Common Nightingale Luscinia megarhynchos: pretty much silent by this time of year, but birds were still singing at Crna Mlaka and in the Seewinkel. A small number were also seen in the scrub on Pag.
Common Redstart Phoenicurus phoenicurus: one male watched singing in the car park at the base of the Nordkettenbahn.
Black Redstart Phoenicurus ochrurus: common throughout Austria.
Northern Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe: fairly common in the Alps.
(Eastern) Black-eared Wheatear Oenanthe hispanica melanoleuca: scattered birds were seen along the Croatian coastline, the best being a group of 3 families by the bridge from Pag to the mainland.
Whinchat Saxicola rubetra: two males singing still in the Alps, plus one seen near Innsbruck.
Stonechat Saxicola torquata: fairly common in the lower areas of Austria, a few pairs were also seen at Crna Mlaka and Plitvice lakes.
Rufous-tailed Rock-thrush Monticola saxatilis: one flyover male at the Widderstein didn't really provide 'tickable views', but a couple of songflighting males at the Kanisfluh did!
Blue Rock-thrush Monticola solitarius: seen regularly down the Croatian coast.
Ring Ouzel Turdus torquatus alpestris: common in the birch scrub and scattered pines of the Alps, particularly up the Krummltal.
Blackbird Turdus merula: common everywhere.
Song Thrush Turdus philomelos: common in the woods and forests through Austria and Croatia.
Mistle Thrush Turdus viscivorus: fairly common through the forests of the Alps.
Fieldfare Turdus pilaris: common in Vorarlberg, especially round the Rhinedelta.
Grasshopper Warbler Locustella naevia: one still singing at the Bangser Ried on the 6th.
Savi's Warbler Locustella luscinioides: up to 6 still singing at Crna Mlaka.
River Warbler Locustella fluviatilis: 3 singing in the early morning of the 20th at Crna Mlaka.
Sedge Warbler Acrocephalus schoenobaenus: common in the Seewinkel and at Crna Mlaka.
Reed Warbler Acrocephalus scirpaceus: common at the Rhinedelta, where Sedge is almost absent, also common through the Seewinkel and Crna Mlaka.
Great Reed Warbler Acrocephalus arundinaceus common in the wet areas throughout.
Marsh Warbler Acrocephalus palustris: up to 12 singing at the Bangser Ried on the 6th, some singing in the scrub at Crna Mlaka.
Icterine Warbler Hippolais icterina: at least 2 around the Rhinedelta on the 5th, one probable seen briefly at Crna Mlaka on the 19th.
Melodious Warbler Hippolais polyglotta: one of the pair at the Rhinedelta seen on the 5th, another 2 seen on Pag on the 21st.
Eastern Olivaceous Warbler Hippolais pallida: one seen well on Pag, near Novalja in the evening of the 21st.
Garden Warbler Sylvia borin: very common in the scrubby woodlands of the Rhinedelta.
Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla: common everywhere except the coast of Croatia.
Orphean Warbler Sylvia hortensis: 3 seen on Pag near Kolan in the early morning.
Lesser Whitethroat Sylvia curruca: occasional birds seen in the Alps, generally near the treeline
Common Whitethroat Sylvia communis: just one seen in Croatia. We didn't look hard enough!
Sardinian Warbler Sylvia melanocephala: scattered down the coast of Croatia, particularly common on the islands.
Subalpine Warbler Sylvia cantillans: odd birds seen along the Croatian coast.
Willow Warbler Phylloscopus trochilus: common through the Alps.
Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita: common through the Alps and inland Croatia.
Wood Warbler Phylloscopus sibilatrix: still two singing at Plitvice Lakes on the 27th.
Goldcrest Regulus regulus: fairly common in the Alps.
Spotted Flycatcher Muscicapa striata: seen irregularly in the lowlands of Austria and inland Croatia.
Collared Flycatcher Ficedula albicollis: two calling near Vienna on the 16th.
Great Tit Parus major: common everywhere.
Coal Tit Parus ater: common through the Alps.
Blue Tit Parus caeruleus: common in Austria, also seen in small numbers at Crna Mlaka and Plitvice Lakes.
Crested Tit Parus cristatus: fairly common through the Alps and in lower areas of Vorarlberg.
Marsh Tit Parus palustris: seen irregularly in Vorarlberg and at Plitvice Lakes.
Willow Tit Parus montanus: two at Plitvice Lakes on the 27th.
Long-tailed Tit Aegithalos caudatus: a few seen feeding through the woodlands of the Rhinedelta.
Eurasian Nuthatch Sitta europaea: one in the trees on the left Rhinedam, a couple at the Bangser Ried on the 6th and one calling at Plitvice Lakes.
Wallcreeper Tichodroma muraria: one on rocks opposite the huts up the Krummltal on the 12th.
Eurasian Treecreeper Certhia familiaris: single birds seen at the Rauriser Urwald, in the Hohe Tauern, and in the Vienna woods on the 16th.
Short-toed Treecreeper Certhia brachydactyla: just one seen, at Plitvice Lakes on the 27th.
Red-backed Shrike Lanius collurio: fairly common throughout Austria and Croatia.
Woodchat Shrike Lanius senator: common down the Croatian coast, especially on the islands.
Lesser Grey Shrike Lanius minor: just one seen near Split on the 24th.
Eurasian Magpie Pica pica: common throughout, except the Croatian coast.
Eurasian Jay Garrulus glandarius: common through the Alps, although rarely more than one bird at a time.
Spotted Nutcracker Nucifraga caryocatactes: odd birds seen throughout the Alps, generally singles, although 5-7 seen at the Kanisfluh on the 9th.
Alpine Chough Pyrrhocorax graculus: they'll find you in the Alps.
Hooded Crow Corvus cornix: common through the Seewinkel and all of Croatia.
Carrion Crow Corvus corone: common through most of Austria west of Vienna.
Common Raven Corvus corax: common through the Alps, as well as on the Croatian coast.
Common Starling Sturnus vulgaris: common throughout.
Rosy Starling Sturnus roseus: one adult came in to roost with the Common Starlings at the Rhinedelta on the 3rd.
Golden Oriole Oriolus oriolus: fairly common everywhere except the higher forests in the Alps.
House Sparrow Passer domesticus: common everywhere.
Spanish Sparrow Passer hispaniolensis: fairly common down the coast of Croatia, especially on Pag.
Tree Sparrow Passer montanus: common inland in Croatia and all through Austria.
White-winged Snowfinch Montifringilla nivalis: seems to be common, albeit widely spread in the highest areas of the Alps - we found them wherever there was snow and rocky areas together.
Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs: common everywhere.
Common Linnet Carduelis cannabina: common in lower-lying areas, but also present in small numbers high up in the Alps.
Lesser Redpoll Carduelis cabaret: common in the higher areas of the Alps, especially in dwarf pine and birch scrub.
Eurasian Goldfinch Carduelis carduelis: common everywhere.
Greenfinch Carduelis chloris: common everywhere.
European Siskin Carduelis spinus: common in the Alps.
Citril Finch Serinus citrinella: one at the Kanisfluh sitting on telephone wires by the Gasthof.
European Serin Serinus serinus: common throughout eastern Austria, lower areas of Vorarlberg and Croatia.
Eurasian Bullfinch Pyrrhula pyrrhula: seen occasionally in the forests around Vorarlberg.
Hawfinch Coccothraustes coccothraustes: not many seen at this quiet time, although a few were flying around at Crna Mlaka.
Common Rosefinch Carpodacus erythrinus: 2 males singing in Warth (one adult, one subadult).
Reed Bunting Emberiza schoeniclus: common breeding bird around the Rhinedelta and the Seewinkel. One seen at Crna Mlaka on the 19th.
Ortolan Emberiza hortulana: 2 males seen at a site near Innsbruck.
Yellowhammer Emberiza citrinella: common throughout Austria and inland Croatia.
Cirl Bunting Emberiza cirlus: quite common down the coast of Croatia, but replaced inland by Yellowhammer.
Black-headed Bunting Emberiza melanocephala: rather common down the Croatian coast.
Corn Bunting Miliaria calandrella: common through eastern Austria and the drier areas of the west, also quite common inland in Croatia.
188 species in total.
Other species of interest:
Mammals: Alpine Marmot, Muskrat (Rhinedelta), Fox, Red Deer, Roe Deer, Alpine Chamois, Alpine Ibex (Kanisfluh), Pine Marten (Crna Mlaka), probably Savi's Pipistrelle (Pag), Stoat (Pag), Bottle-nosed Dolphin (ferry to Vis).
Herps: Alpine Salamander, Yellow-bellied Toad, Fire-bellied Toad, Common Frog, Sand Lizard (Rhinedelta), Hermann's Tortoise (Pag), Balkan Green Lizard (Plitvice), Italian (Pag) & Dalmatian Wall-lizards (Greba'tica).
Butterflies included: Swallowtail, Scarce Swallowtail, Large, Small, Green-veined & Mountain Green-veined Whites, Orange Tip, Cleopatra, Wood White, Ilex & Blue-spot Hairstreaks, Little, Holly, Idas, Mazarine, Common, Chalk-hill and Meleager's Blues, Duke-of-Burgundy Fritillary, Southern White Admiral, Large & Small Tortoiseshells, Peacock, Red Admiral, Painted Lady, Map, Cardinal, Queen-of-Spain, Lesser Marbled, Pearl-bordered, Small Pearl-bordered, False Heath & Marsh Fritillaries, Marbled White, Balkan Marbled White, Woodland Grayling, Grayling, Great Sooty Satyr, Mountain Ringlet, Meadow Brown, Gatekeeper, Ringlet, Pearly Heath, Speckled Wood, Wall Brown, Large Wall Brown, Grizzled, Chequered, Marbled, Lulworth, Essex and Large Skippers!
We found Croatia was a fine place for a holiday, although relatively expensive in parts. The birds earlier on in spring should be better, and looking at the EBBC atlas there should be Rock Partridge, Rock Nuthatch, Calandra and Short-toed Larks, a good range of owls, including Ural, all the woodpeckers, Lesser Spotted Eagle and Sombre Tit as well. We were hampered by making a last-minute decision to go there, and by not having found any information about where to go when we arrived. The coast further south towards Serbia looks very interesting, but is a very long drive from Vienna! We met a few birders from Switzerland and Germany around the Rhinedelta area, and the usual hordes of tourists in the Seewinkel, but saw no-one birding throughout Croatia (bliss!). As far as Austrian specialities went, having spent the past year in the country we didn't make much effort to see special birds (Great Bustard, Collared & Red-breasted Flycatcher, Saker, Imperial Eagle, crakes, Moustached, Barred, River Warblers, etc. etc.) as we needed to concentrate on Alpine birds. April-mid May would be a much more successful time, so we shall perhaps try then next time!