Saturday 25 June 2016

Rollers in Croatia

Roller Coracias garrulus, Mirna valley, Croatia, 21st June 2016.
Black-headed Bunting Emberiza melanocephala, Mirna valley, Croatia, 21st June 2016.
Hoopoe Upupa epops, Mirna valley, Croatia, 21st June 2016.
Bee-eater Merops apiaster, Mirna valley, Croatia, 21st June 2016.

A few days ago I visited a location in nearby Croatia for some "colourful" mediterranean birding. The Mirna river valley in Istria (70 km from Trieste) is an excellent location for some rare breeding birds which can be usually found more abundantly southern down in the Mediterranean region. One of them is the Roller Coracias garrulus. In the past it used to breed in Slovenia as well, but it's now mostly extinct. One or two pairs still breed irregularly from time to time, in the extreme north-east of the country, on the border with Austria (Pannonian population). The Mirna valley hosts (at least) a pair of this gorgeous bird, so there I went. The pair can be watched at a safety distance from a local road. The nest is located high up in an old woodpecker hole on some dead poplars. Male and female were regularly perched on dead branches by the nest-hole and on other outposts, looking for insects.
The valley is also known for its Black-headed Buntings Emberiza melanocephala which breed in the overgrown banks of the river itself and in the nearby fields. This location represents the north-western edge of the species' world distribution. During my visit I had at least 3 different singing males. Of the other colorful birds there were also breeding Bee-eaters Merops apiaster in the riverbanks and several Hoopoes Upupa epops along the road. An additional touch of Mediterranean was provided by some colonies of up to 30 Spanish Sparrows Passer hispaniolensis, nesting in the old farm houses.