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A Report from

Two days Birding in Serbia, April 2007 ,

Dorothy Harper

I have been to Europe many times, but never on a birding trip, that is, an excursion with experts who know where to go and what to see. This time I was determined to change that, while I was in Belgrade in late April 2007. I was lucky enough to come across Dragan Simic while surfing the net. Dragan is one of Serbia’s top birders, and he agreed to take me out with him for 2 days. He brought along a young man named Marko Rakovic, who proved to be another excellent birder! How lucky for me! I was in good hands.

I was staying in Belgrade, so we had to stick to areas accessible from the city. We left at 8 AM each day, and returned after 7 PM. Long days, but very rewarding. Here is a resume of the tour:

Day 1 
We took off from Zemun, a leafy and pleasant suburb of Belgrade. We made a circular journey, going west towards Obedska Bara Ramsar site, north towards Fruska Gora national park, then east towards Sakule village and fish farm, and finally south back into Belgrade. There are many fish farms in Serbia, usually part of the riparian habitats along the Sava and Danube rivers, as well as many smaller streams and rivers. These farms were formerly state-owned, and now have been bought by locals. They vary in the extent to which they offer habitat for birds (e.g. amount of reeds, riparian forests, etc.). We visited 2 farms today, Zivaca and Sakule. They were very productive, especially Sakule. We saw most of the expected species of waders; grey, purple, squacco and black-crowned night herons, great and little egret, black and white stork and a brief flash of a glossy ibis. Also present were great crested and little grebe, great and pygmy cormorant, and 7 species of duck. Ferruginous duck was a highlight for me. The wetland species were rounded out by common moorhen, common coot, common greenshank, common sandpiper, and the uncommon (to me) black-necked stilt, as well as northern lapwing, whiskered and black tern. White-tailed eagle made an appearance, two young birds clashing in the air, to my delight, and a western marsh harrier as well. All told, we had 34 species at this fish farm.Both Bojcinska forest and Obedska Bara wetland are forested habitats. We drove through these areas, and they proved mildly productive. Black kite and lesser-spotted eagle were highlights in Bojcinska forest. Obedska Bara is an IBA, and a protected bird sanctuary. It is an area on the Sava River, with many different habitats. Strangely, it is also populated by semi-feral domestic pigs. On that day it was not so productive of waders, etc., but a common cuckoo was heard, and Eurasian hoopoe, middle and great spotted woodpecker, European greenfinch and goldfinch were seen. Savi’s warbler, spotted flycatcher and marsh tit were heard.

The water level of the Sibac sewage lagoons was high at the time but green sandpiper, great egret, black-winged stilt, Caspian and common tern turned up, as well as common black-headed gull. Great reed-warbler and common whitethroat showed, and a blackcap was heard. Eurasian hobby, common kestrel and crested lark were also seen. The highlight however, was lots and lots of ruffs, a bird I had never seen before. Not in their fancy breeding dress today, but a lifer nonetheless. These lagoons are the result of a sugar factory nearby, which dumps its remains of processing into piles which compost.

After that, wandering around a small village and its surrounding fields yielded some nice birds, including common quail and pheasant, common stonechat, Eurasian linnet, red-backed shrike and Eurasian blackbird. We were there to check out the imperial eagles, but they didn’t appear.

Day 2 
This day we headed east to Deliblato sands and neigbouring Labudovo okno Ramsar site. We first went through a forested area, from Cardak to Sumarak. There we saw some of the more common European birds, such as European turtle-dove, Eurasian hoopoe (I love hoopoes!), barn swallow, Northern house-martin, wood nuthatch, yellowhammer, chaffinch, European greenfinch and Eurasian blackbird. The tits were represented by long-tailed, great and marsh, some heard, some seen. I got none of those, but I did get a good look at a Eurasian jay. My colleagues heard Eurasian golden-oriole, wryneck and a woodlark. We heard the common chiffchaff, and I learned to recognise its song. A black-billed magpie was also seen.

Marko showed me the area in the Deliblato sands where he has been banding birds, and we did a little bit of banding, a first for me.

We went on to the Dubovac wetland. There we spotted many of the wetland birds from the previous day, plus a common kingfisher and large flocks of sand-martins preparing to nest in a loes bluff. Labudovo okno wetland yielded common redshank, wood sandpiper, Eurasian skylark and white wagtail.

Northern wheatear, tree and tawny pipit were also added to our list in the Mali Pesak and Hatarica pasturelands. During the journey we added some raptors, Eurasian hobby (which I missed for the second time), booted eagle (a great find for me!) and common buzzard. A common swift was also seen, as well as many other species.

Then back to Belgrade, where the bee-eaters had not yet arrived, alas.

We saw some of Serbia’s mammals during our 2-day journey. Marko was able to photograph a lovely tree frog (Hilla arborea) in the Bojcinska forest, and a roe deer (Capreolus capreolus) made an appearance there as well. Two red foxes (Vulpes vulpes) were seen at Obedska Bara. European sousliks (Spermophilus cittelus or ground squirrel) were seen at Labudovo Okno and especially at the Hatarice, where one hare (Lepus europaeus) was seen too.

I have not written a formal birding report before, and I was not taking detailed notes, so I cannot give more information on the sites we visited. If you are interested, Dragan can pass those details along ( He also has the scientific names of the species we found. A good account of a longer birding trip, with descriptions of the topography and some cultural notes about Serbia can be found in Mike Unwin’s account of his 9-day birding trip in 2004 ( Dragan and Marko were most amiable and knowledgeable birders, and I enjoyed my time with them immensely. I would definitely recommend birding in Serbia, and I hope to go again sometime.

Dragan and Marko counted 101 species seen or heard in the 2 days. This is a very good count, since I was too late for most land and waterfowl migrants, and too early for some breeding species. By my calculations I saw 81 of those species, with 18 life species for me! 5 of them were also N. American species, but that leaves13 lifers, a record I cannot surpass for a long time I think! I had bee-eaters on my list of most wanted suspects; Dragan emailed me 2 or 3 days after I left, with news that they had arrived in the city. He has also sent me photos of glossy ibis and Dalmatian and white pelican, also missed by days.

Oh well, next time.

Species List for the trip:

Latin English Serbian
Tachybaptus ruficollis Little Grebe Mali gnjurac
Podiceps grisegena Red-necked Grebe Riđovrati gnjurac
Podiceps cristatus Great Crested Grebe Ćubasti gnjurac
Phalacrocorax pygmeus Pygmy Cormorant Mali vranac
Phalacrocorax carbo Great Cormorant Veliki vranac
Egretta garzetta Little Egret Mala bela čaplja
Ardea cinerea Grey Heron Siva čaplja
Ardea purpurea Purple Heron Crvena čaplja
Casmerodius albus Great Egret Velika bela čaplja
Ardeola ralloides Squacco Heron Žuta čaplja
Nycticorax nycticorax Black-crowned Night-heron Gak
Ciconia nigra Black Stork Crna roda
Ciconia ciconia White Stork Bela roda
Plegadis falcinellus Glossy Ibis Ražanj
Anas strepera Gadwall Čegrtuša
Anas penelope Eurasian Wigeon Zviždara
Anas platyrhynchos Mallard Gluvara
Anas clypeata Northern Shoveler Plovka kašikara
Anas querquedula Garganey Grogotovac
Aythya ferina Common Pochard Riđoglava patka
Aythya nyroca Ferruginous Duck Patka njorka
Milvus migrans Black Kite Crna lunja
Haliaeetus albicilla White-tailed Eagle Belorepan
Circus aeruginosus Western Marsh-harrier Eja močvarica
Buteo buteo Common Buzzard Mišar
Aquila pomarina Lesser Spotted Eagle Orao kliktaš
Hieraaetus pennatus Booted Eagle Patuljasti orao
Falco tinnunculus Common Kestrel Vetruška
Falco subbuteo Eurasian Hobby Lastavičar
Perdix perdix Grey Partridge Jarebica
Coturnix coturnix Common Quail Prepelica
Phasianus colchicus Common Pheasant Fazan
Gallinula chloropus Common Moorhen Barska kokica
Fulica atra Common Coot Liska
Vanellus vanellus Northern Lapwing Vivak
Tringa totanus Common Redshank Crvenonogi sprudnik
Tringa nebularia Common Greenshank Krivokljuni sprudnik
Tringa ochropus Green Sandpiper Sprudnik pijukavac
Tringa glareola Wood Sandpiper Sprudnik migavac
Tringa hypoleucos Common Sandpiper Polojka
Philomachus pugnax Ruff Sprudnik ubojica
Himantopus himantopus Black-winged Stilt Vlastelica
Larus ridibundus Common Black-headed Gull Obični galeb
Sterna caspia Caspian Tern Velika čigra
Sterna hirundo Common Tern Obična čigra
Chlidonias hybridus Whiskered Tern Belobrka čigra
Chlidonias niger Black Tern Crna čigra
Columba palumbus Common Wood-pigeon Golub grivnaš
Streptopelia turtur European Turtle-dove Grlica
Streptopelia decaocto Eurasian Collared-dove Gugutka
Cuculus canorus Common Cuckoo Obična kukavica
Apus apus Common Swift Crna čiopa
Alcedo atthis Common Kingfisher Vodomar
Upupa epops Eurasian Hoopoe Pupavac
Jynx torquilla Eurasian Wryneck Vijoglava
Dendrocopos medius Middle Spotted Woodpecker Srednji detlić
Dendrocopos major Great Spotted Woodpecker Veliki detlić
Galerida cristata Crested Lark Ćubasta ševa
Lullula arborea Wood Lark Šumska ševa
Alauda arvensis Eurasian Skylark Poljska ševa
Riparia riparia Sand Martin Bregunica
Hirundo rustica Barn Swallow Seoska lasta
Delichon urbica Northern House-martin Gradska lasta
Motacilla alba White Wagtail Bela pliska
Motacilla flava Yellow Wagtail Žuta pliska
Anthus campestris Tawny Pipit Stepska trepteljka
Anthus trivialis Tree Pipit Šumska trepteljka
Lanius collurio Red-backed Shrike Rusi svračak
Turdus merula Eurasian Blackbird Obični kos
Erithacus rubecula European Robin Crvendać
Luscinia megarhynchos Common Nightingale Mali slavuj
Phoenicurus phoenicurus Common Redstart Obična crvenrepka
Saxicola torquata Common Stonechat Crnoglava travarka
Oenanthe oenanthe Northern Wheatear Obična beloguza
Locustella luscinioides Savi's Warbler Obični cvrčić
Acrocephalus arundinaceus Great Reed-warbler Veliki trstenjak
Phylloscopus collybita Common Chiffchaff Obični zviždak
Sylvia atricapilla Blackcap Crnoglava grmuša
Sylvia communis Common Whitethroat Obična grmuša
Muscicapa striata Spotted Flycatcher Siva muharica
Aegithalos caudatus Long-tailed Tit Dugorepa senica
Parus palustris Marsh Tit Siva senica
Parus major Great Tit Velika senica
Sitta europaea Wood Nuthatch Brgljez
Emberiza citrinella Yellowhammer Strnadica žutovoljka
Miliaria calandra Corn Bunting Velika strnadica
Fringilla coelebs Chaffinch Zeba
Carduelis chloris European Greenfinch Zelentarka
Carduelis carduelis European Goldfinch Češljugar
Carduelis cannabina Eurasian Linnet Konopljarka
Coccothraustes coccothraustes Hawfinch Batokljun
Passer domesticus House Sparrow Vrabac pokućar
Passer montanus Eurasian Tree Sparrow Poljski vrabac
Sturnus vulgaris Common Starling Čvorak
Oriolus oriolus Eurasian Golden-oriole Vuga
Garrulus glandarius Eurasian Jay Sojka
Pica pica Black-billed Magpie Svraka
Corvus monedula Eurasian Jackdaw Čavka
Corvus frugilegus Rook Gačac
Corvus corone Hooded Crow Vrana
Corvus corax Common Raven Gavran

Dorothy Harper

Ontario, Canada


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