Slovenia-Croatia, Jun 2016

From 25th June, on the morning following our disastrous referendum [nailing colours firmly to the mast], to 2nd July, we joined a group of friends on a mixed wildlife tour organized by Ecotours visiting Slovenia and neighbouring Croatia, I was looking forward to doing something completely different and seeing two new countries. Our group, 10 in all, was made up of a mixed bag of interests including birds, butterflies, reptiles and plants as well as, of course, ourselves seeking dragonflies and damselflies. Being a mixed tour, we were due to visit a variety of habitats only some of which would be odo-friendly, so it was never going to be dragonfly intensive but I was cautiously optimistic.

Once travel days were excluded, we had three days in Slovenia followed by three more in Croatia. To summarize, we found Slovenia to be a delightful country – quite similar in feel to Austria, I thought, but then it was part of the Austro-Hungarian empire – but, while it seemed less interesting touristically, it was Croatia that made the trip worthwhile in relation to our previous Odonata experiences.

Against all odds with my camera GPS failing, I’ve managed to locate the main sites of interest and plotted them on one of my (hopefully) familiar maps.

Lake Bohinj, 26/06/2016 [#1]

We began our trip by spending our first three nights at a very pleasant hotel about 15 minutes walk from the shores of picturesque Lake Bohinj. Day #1 of the wildlife watching itself began around the shores of Lake Bohinj, which is a large lake with little in the way of emergent vegetation, so I wasn’t expecting much. I got excited when we spotted a Darter perched on some lakeside vegetation and our guide suggested it might be a Vagrant Darter/Moustached Darter (Sympetrum vulgatum), which I have yet to see, but, alas, it proved to be a familiar old friend, a Red-veined Darter (Sympetrum fonscolombii).

The lakeside track produced several Blue Featherlegs/While-legged Damselflies (Platycnemis pennipes), which cooperated well enough, and several individuals of what was clearly an Emerald Dragonfly, none of which cooperated in the slightest. These were clearly green so probably not a Downy Emerald (Cordulia aenea) but rather one of the Somatochlora species. Given the habitat and behaviour, I’m inclined towards the Brilliant Emerald (S. metallica).

  • Platycnemis pennipes (Blue Featherleg)
  • Sympetrum fonscolombii (Red-veined Darter)
  • Somatochlora metallica (Brilliant Emerald)

Lake Cerknica, 27-28/06/2016 [#2]

J16_1346 Orthetrum albistylumOr Cerkniško Jezero, in Slovene, is a karst lake “characterized by underground drainage systems with sinkholes and caves”. So there! It is a seasonal lake but we found plenty of water. This may be because there was still quite a bit of water in the sky, too. the Though there are supposedly some 30 species of Odonata recorded here, our first visit was accompanied by poor weather conditions and we found only four. Fortunately, the following day was much improved and our guide was professionally flexible, reacting to his audience’s desires when he could, and we made a brief return visit to get our species count up to a more respectable 11. These included our first non-UK species, a White-tailed Skimmer (Orthetrum abistylum), together with other notables such as a Green-eyed Hawker/Norfolk Hawker (Aeshna isoceles) and a tandem pair of Lesser Emperors (Anax parhenope).

  • Lestes sponsa (Common Spreadwing)
  • Ischnura elegans (Common Bluetail)
  • Enallagma cyathigerum (Common Bluet)
  • Coenagrion puella (Azure Bluet)
  • Erythromma najas (Large Redeye)
  • Platycnemis pennipes (Blue Featherleg)
  • Aeshna isoceles (Green-eyed Hawker)
  • Anax parthenope (Lesser Emperor)
  • Libellula quadrimaculata (Four-spotted Chaser)
  • Orthetrum albistylum (White-tailed Skimmer)
  • Sympetrum sanguineum (Ruddy Darter)

Plitvice Lakes National Park, 29/06/2016 [#3]

Or Plitvička Jezera, as they say locally, was “declared a National Park in 1949”. Unfortunately, that meant it was now a honey pot that was absolutely heaving with thousands of people. Our guide, who was contracted by Ecotours to take us there as part of the itinerary, admitted that it would not have been his choice. It is really a much more touristy destination with scenic lakes and waterfalls than it is a wildlife destination. Most visitors’ idea of wildlife here stopped at Mallard duck. The area is highly developed with vast stretches of boardwalk complete with electric boat rides and road train transportation to get the swarming people around the extensive area. Not our idea of fun and we suggested it would be better removed from the itinerary in future.

J16_1599 Somatochlora meridionalisHaving said that, given all that crystal clear fresh water, there were damselflies and dragonflies present in good numbers, though, with the hundreds of pairs of feet constantly tromping past you on the boardwalk, photographing them well was a constant challenge. I have to say that I’m glad I went there, though, because it snagged me a great new prize in the form of my very first Balkan Emerald (Somatochlora meridionalis). Not only was it there, but it was perched, as well. Incredible! The other species of note here was the Small Pincertail (Onychogomphus forcipatus).

  • Calopteryx splendens (Banded Demoiselle)
  • Calopteryx virgo (Beautiful Demoiselle)
  • Enallagma cyathigerum (Common Bluet)
  • Platycnemis pennipes (Blue Featherleg)
  • Aeshna isoceles (Green-eyed Hawker)
  • Anax imperator (Blue Emperor)
  • Onychogomphus forcipatus (Small Pincertail)
  • Somatochlora meridionalis (Balkan Emerald)

Paklenica National Park, 30/06/2016 [#4]

J16_1737 Orthetrum brunneumPaklenica is a mountain park accessed via a canyon and is more of a birding and reptile venue, when it comes to wildlife. Actually, it seems to be mainly a rock climbing venue. It was a very pleasant walk, too. I wouldn’t normally have bothered to include it here but on the way back down we did stop by the river that flows out of the canyon and found a couple of Southern Skimmers (Orthetrum brunneum), so it was worth a line or two. Actually, on the way up the canyon, we had a brief glimpse of a large dragonfly, which was probably a Goldenring  cruising above the river but, there being two kinds here (C. boltonii and C. bidentata), sans photograph we don’t know which it might have been. So, just one confirmed sighting.

  • Orthetrum brunneum (Southern Skimmer)

Jezero Velo Blato, Pag Island, 01/07/2016 [#5]

On our final day of wildlife hunting, we crossed onto Pag Island, a long, thin strip of land close to the Croatian coast. It proved to be quite rocky and all but tree free, other than some impressively ancient olive trees. A first stop at some meadows with fresh water netted us two damselfly species but the first stop of any significance was at Jezero Velo Blato, which seems to translate as Lake Big Mud.

J16_1829 Lindenia tetraphyllaJ16_1842 Selysiothemis nigra femaleLake Big Mud is an apt description and the big mud in question was overlooked by a bird hide. On the track down towards the mud I briefly saw a large Odo but soon lost it in the confusion of tall grass stems and dry stone wall joints. As others headed to the hide, Carol and I started skirting the mud. A board advertised the presence of Black Pennants (Selysiothemis nigra), which would be a new species for me, so I was on high alert. It was while we were looking for these that what was probably the biggest prize appeared. A large, grey-ish dragon settled on the ground and posed. This was what I glimpsed but lost on the way in. It was a wonderful male Bladetail (Lindenia tetraphyla). Soon afterwards we added our second prize of a Black Pennant, though only the female of the species.

J16_1806 Crocothemis erythraeaThe other noteworthy find here was an elderly olive-form female Broad Scarlet/Scarlet Darter (Crocothemis erythraea).

Despite a modest species count, with two exciting lifers, Lake Big Mud was the star of the trip.

  • Ischnura elegans (Common Bluetail)
  • Orthetrum cancellatum (Black-tailed Skimmer)
  • Lindenia tetraphylla (Bladetail)
  • Sympetrum striolatum (Common Darter)
  • Crocothemis erythraea (Broad Scarlet)
  • Selysiothemis nigra (Black Pennant)

Unnamed lake, 01/07/2016 [#6]

J16_1907 Crocothemis erythraeaWe weren’t quite done yet after Lake Big Mud; we made a further stop at a small lake beside the road for lunch. This little place was buzzing with activity, particularly with Broad Scarlets/Scarlet Darters (Crocothemis erythraea) but also, less excitingly being one of the home team, with Black-tailed Skimmers (Orthetrum cancellatum). Once again, the other instance being Jezero Velo Blato, we saw a very interesting female colour form Broad Scarlet, an androchrome bright red female.

J16_1957 Lestes macrostigmaThe most noteworthy resident of this little lake, though, was only our second ever encounter with the wonderful Dark Spreadwing (Lestes macrostigma), though we found only a single male, curiously. Still, very nice to have found one of our own without being guided to them. 😉

  • Lestes macrostigma (Dark Spreadwing)
  • Ischnura elegans (Common Bluetail)
  • Erythromma viridulum (Small Redeye)
  • Orthetrum cancellatum (Black-tailed Skimmer)
  • Crocothemis erythraea (Broad Scarlet)
  • Selysiothemis nigra (Black Pennant)
Posted in 2016, Croatia, Slovenia, Trip reports

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