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A Report from

Istria, North Croatia, August 1st– 13th, 2012,

Chris Stott


Having booked a family holiday to Porec I found it extremely difficult to find any information on birding sites in this region of Croatia. This, plus the fact that most of any birding opportunities I might have would be limited and incidental due to family commitments, led to low expectations of finding anything of note during the fortnight there.  In the event, I was pleasantly surprised by both the relative availability of birds and by several good sites that I managed to locate within a 30-40 minute drive from Porec.


I was based just south of Porec at the Hotel Laguna Mediteran, which is part of a large resort complex of hotels and apartments situated on the coast.  I can recommend this hotel for comfort, service and value for money.

I hired a car for five days (Quickcar offered the best rate at 30 kunas a day), and this enabled me to travel further afield to three good locations.  All of my birding occurred early morning, between 6am and 9am, and so provided a mere snapshot of what was available.  Without doubt more visits and more time per visit would have yielded a wider range of species, so what follows is merely a sample of what’s on offer at this time of year.

I found that many species were very elusive, and wouldn’t suffer close approach.  The temptation with limited time is to keep moving, but I discovered that a better strategy, certainly when in any kind of woodland, was to find some bird activity and then simply to watch and wait – the birds eventually emerged and showed relatively well.

Birding sites

a)     Hotel grounds and surroundings

This proved surprisingly productive on early morning walks, before the area became inevitably swamped with holiday makers.  The grounds consisted of parkland with plenty of trees (conifers and deciduous) and open spaces between car parks, activity areas etc.  I found that after about 10 am most birds retreated to hidden areas, probably as a result of a combination of disturbance and heat.  Habitats beyond the grounds consisted mainly of olive groves, cereal crops, further woodland and a small golf course with some waste ground.

b)    Woodland north of Motovun

A 30 minute drive to an area of mixed woodland along the River Mirna just north of Motovun (near the village of Gradinje) proved to be very quiet early morning, but clearly had potential for woodpeckers.  A little further along the road at Istarske toplice resort there were some cliffs and a quarry which provided a greater variety of more easily seen species.

c)     Antenal

This is an area of salt marsh, lagoon and reedbeds situated where the River Mirna meets the sea, on the road between Porec and Novigrad.  The main access is via a road running along the river channel that bisects the two lagoons.  The north lagoon can be viewed well from this road, and it is possible to walk along both its southern and eastern sides.  The south lagoon cannot be walked around, but limited views can be obtained from a car park off the main road at its southern end.  If you’re prepared to scramble up a small rock face you can get an even better vantage point overlooking the whole of this section of the site.  While a scope isn’t essential (I didn’t have one), it would definitely be beneficial. 

This site has good potential for herons, egrets, raptors, terns, ducks and waders.

d)     Palud

A small gem of a site, and unique in Istria as being the only bird reserve in the area – it even has a hide!  This is a small wetland of reeds and brackish water that is fed from springs and the sea, and so doesn’t completely dry up in the summer – even in 2012, which was one of the driest and hottest on record.  It is signposted on the road from Bale to Rovinj, from which you then have to follow a series of (4 or 5) small white signs with raptor silhouettes along a complex of tracks.  Just be aware that when you get to the sea, you have to turn left – this is not obvious!  However, well worth the effort to reach, as there are informative wildlife boards and a small hide giving good views over the mud and water.  From my all too brief visit it was obviously the best spot I found for waders, and on another day I would expect to have seen more in the way of herons and raptors.  Strongly recommended.

Other wildlife

If the birds aren’t showing, there are always butterflies to enjoy.  I’m no expert, but it’s hard to miss such delights as scarce swallowtail, silver-washed and spotted fritillary, southern white admiral, woodland grayling, and a complete confusion of blues.  I also found a stunning Jersey tiger moth in the natural woodland by the hotel.

The hotel grounds held red and black squirrels.

While the Mirna woodlands were quiet for birds, I was thrilled here by good views of a family of wild boar and two roe deer.

A coypu was on the River Mirna by the reedbeds at Antenal.

We undertook two excursions into Slovenia, to Lake Bled and the caves at Postoijna, which provided a number of additional species – these are included below.

Birds seen:



Little grebe

2 present at Palud.

Black-necked grebe

One on Lake Bled, Slovenia.


One at Antenal.


Regular on rocks around the coast.

Little egret

Common and fairly numerous at Antenal and Palud.

Great white egret

One present at Antenal.

Grey heron

At least 12 at Antenal.

Purple heron

One flew in to the reedbeds at Antenal.

White stork

Several groups of 3-6 in fields by motorway in Slovenia.

Mute swan

One on Lake Bled.


Common on all waters and on the sea.


10 present at Antenal – flew off south.


Seen at Palud and over woods at Antenal.


Heard calling from woods near hotel.


Many seen in Slovenia, but only one in Istria.


Over hotel, and two at quarry, Istarske toplice.


One hunting early morning over Antenal lagoons.


Common in corn fields around Porec.

Black-winged stilt

4 present at Palud.

Little ringed plover

A juvenile present at Palud.

Grey plover

A summer plumaged adult at Palud.

Broad-billed sandpiper

2 present at Palud.


5 together at Antenal.


3 seen at Antenal.


 2 present at Palud.

Green sandpiper

2 at Palud, and at least 2 in ditches at Antenal.

Wood sandpiper

10+ at Palud.

Common sandpiper

Numerous at Palud, Antenal and along the coast.

Black-headed gull

Small numbers at Antenal, and 70+ in a bay near hotel.

Yellow-legged gull

2000+ in bay near hotel, and large numbers at Porec tip.

Black tern

A juvenile on the north lagoon at Antenal.

Feral pigeon

Common and widespread, including in corn fields.


Just one calling from woods at Antenal.

Collared dove

Common and widespread.

Turtle dove

Noted near Porec, at Palud and Istarske toplice.

Little owl

Heard in hotel grounds.

Common swift

Seen twice over hotel early morning.

Alpine swift

Colony of 70+ at cliffs, Istarske toplice.


Noted in hotel grounds and surrounding farmland


Small groups seen near hotel and at Gradinje.

Green woodpecker

Commonplace in hotel grounds.

Grey-headed woodpecker

One present in small wood near hotel.

Great spotted woodpecker

Commonplace in all wooded areas.

Middle-spotted woodpecker

One probable seen in hotel grounds.

Lesser spotted woodpecker

Seen in woods near Gradinje.  Also two at Lipice, Slovenia.


One seen briefly in hotel grounds.


Common and widespread.

House martin

Common and widespread.

Grey wagtail

One along river at Postoijne, Slovenia.

White wagtail

Common and widespread.


Common in woods near Gradinje.

Black redstart

A male collecting food along river at Postoijne, Slovenia.


One noted at Istarske toplice.


Common and widespread.

Blue rock thrush

A juvenile male near quarry at Istarske toplice.


Hard to see, but present in woods around Porec.


In hotel grounds and woods near Gradinje.

Wood warbler

Commonplace in all wooded areas.

Melodious warbler

Several present in hotel grounds.

Spotted flycatcher

Several family groups easily encountered in hotel grounds and wooded areas.

Pied flycatcher

In hotel grounds, local woods and woods at Gradinje.

Long-tailed tit

A party of 10+ in hotel grounds.

Blue tit

Commonplace and widespread.

Great tit

Commonplace and widespread.


Seen in Slovenia at Bled and Postoijna.

Red-backed shrike

Encountered in parkland near hotel and at Istarske toplice.


Commonplace and widespread.


Commonplace and widespread (although not as much as jay!).

Hooded crow

Commonplace and widespread.


Regularly seen flying over in small flocks.

Golden oriole

Family party easily seen in hotel grounds.

House sparrow

Commonplace and widespread.


Regular in hotel grounds.


Regular in hotel grounds.


Regular in hotel grounds and farmland.


Noted in Porec and surrounding parklands.


Family parties regular in hotel grounds.

Corn bunting

One seen with goldfinches at Antenal.

Cirl bunting

At Antenal, Gradinje and Istarske toplice.


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