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Montenegro - 18th September - 2nd October 2011 (1 Viewer)

Stuart Darbyshire

45th generation Northern
We have recently returned from a trip to Montenegro which consisted of 2 weeks stopping in the lovely town of Petrovac on the Balkan coast. Although this was predominantly a relaxing holiday as my wife's not a birder, I did manage to get some birding in every day and hired a car to visit the 2 most interesting sites within relatively easy reach of Petrovac, Ulcinj Saltpans and Lake Skadar.

Apart from these 2 sites, the daily birding consisted of morning or evening trips to the nearby Buljarica area which can be reached on foot from Petrovac via a lit footpath in approximately half an hour, although the best sites are the far side of the beach so another half an hours walk. In reality it would be far easier to do via a car if available as the heat can make the steep climbs rather strenuous.

The main area of reed bed and wetland is rather frustrating as although you know the birds are there, it’s one of those sites that are very difficult to view so actually very few water birds were seen throughout my visits. There are farm tracks that venture towards the wetland, but there were hunters shooting on most days (they were also using tape lures on at least 2 occasions) so I didn’t venture in. The best areas I found were the fields on the far side, and rear of the wetland which held many migrants, particularly an area with many fig trees, as well as the surrounding mountains for raptors etc.

Highlights from this area included – Common Quail (several birds flushed), Night Heron, Little Egret, White Stork (3 flying southwest along the mountains 26/09), Short-toed Eagle, accipiter sp. (2 birds seen together brief and distant, mobbing ravens on 01/10 showed characteristics of Levant Sparrowhawk, but views not conclusive and perhaps a little late?) Buzzard, Eleonora’s Falcon, Alpine Swift (many large flocks including 500+ after a storm on the 20/09), Kingfisher, Syrian Woodpecker (lifer for me and some excellent close views to get the diagnostic face pattern), Wryneck, Yellow Wagtail, Redstart, Whinchat, Stonechat, Cetti’s Warbler, Great Reed Warbler, Subalpine Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Lesser Whitethroat, Common Whitethroat, Blackcap (most common passerine – 40+ on several occasions), Pied Flycatcher, Sombre Tit, Red-backed Shrike, Raven, Hawfinch, Cirl Bunting, Rock Bunting (a single male on 26/09)

We hired a car on the 21st and 22nd September and visited the following 2 sites.

Ulcinj Saltpans – Wednesday 21st September

About an hours easy drive from Petrovac, I eventually found the round to the “Salinas” southwest of the town of Ulcinj. Once at the gates of the salt works I had rather an interesting time requesting to be let in to view the birds. The staff were very helpful in the end, but a lack of any common language and requests having to be made to several people meant it took about half an hour to be allowed in. We paid a 5 Euro each entrance fee and were then allowed to drive our hire car into the access roads of the pans which saved what would have been a very long and hot walk. This site is amazing and a visit is essential to understand the sheer size of the place. I am sure that if the site was well watched (we didn’t see any other birders here or anywhere else, and given the effort to get in, I concluded they can’t get many visitors), many WP rarities would be found here. We saw 2 hides, and ended up parking our car near the 2nd one and then walked to view the various areas.

Hi-lights here included – Wigeon, Black-necked Grebe, Pygmy Cormorant (lifer for me despite having been to several sites that hold them previously – I have now seen thousands!), Dalmatian Pelican (a total of 39 birds, 34 in one large flock which gave amazing views from the 2nd hide and a smaller flock of 5 seen flying in later – another lifer for me and bird of the holiday), Great White Egret, Spoonbill, Greater Flamingo (c 20 birds seen), Goshawk, Stone Curlew, LRP & RP, Grey Plover, Little Stint, Curlew Sand, Dunlin, Spotted Red, Marsh Sand (5 birds present), Greenshank, Black Tern.

Lake Skadar and surrounds – Thursday 22nd September

This truly is a huge site and the whole area has spectacular scenery and some interesting roads! We drove straight to Virpazar where we took a 2-hour boat trip at a cost of 20 Euro each (chartering a boat on your own and specifically asking to visit the best bird areas would probably be more fruitful). After that we drove southwest along the coast of the lake towards the Albanian border. At the end of the lake, the road rises to give amazing views of the surrounding countryside.

Hi-lights here included – Ferruginous Duck, (lots of) Great Crested and Little Grebes, Pygmy Cormorant (many birds, especially from the viewpoint near the Albanian border), Night Heron, Short-toed Eagle, Goshawk, Black Tern, Rock Nuthatch, Rock Bunting.

All in all, considering that the holiday was mainly for a relax after a rather stressful house move, a few decent birds were seen and I would definitely love to go back to Ulcinj one day. A total of 96 species over the 2 weeks.
 

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cheshirebirder

Well-known member
Hi, Stuart. Was interested in your report since myself and my (then) young family holidayed in Petrovac in August 1990. It was still Yugoslavia in those days - I think the war there started the next year.
I birded around the area too and remember Buljarica marsh. Was tricky birding there because the beach was packed with nudists ! Also went to Lake Skadar and had lifers in Pygmy cormorant and Syrian woodpecker. Was offered a boat trip to look for the pelicans,but was told they were near the Albanian border - declined the offer 'cos in those days you didn't risk going into Albania !
What was Petrovac like? We really enjoyed the resort and wondered what it was like nowadays. Shops were pretty empty of wares back then in the communist regime ,apart from tourist tat.
regards, Bill.
 

Stuart Darbyshire

45th generation Northern
Hi Bill,

Petrovac is still really nice - some really nice restaurants, and the beaches and sea were fantastic. A really clean place with lots of young lads employed as street cleaners who keep it spotless, we were really impressed. Good value for money on food and drink as well, so all in all we had a great holiday. There were very few Brits there - the tourists were mainly locals or Russian.

We went through Budva on the journey from the airport and that looks like there's a lot of development going on there with the typical "brit" type bars etc springing up so we were glad we'd chosen Petrovac.

No nudists on the beach thankfully while we were there, just a few hunters!!!

It's funny at Skadar, because all the boat trips etc use images of Pelican (mostly White in error) to promote them, but then there standard trips don't seem to see them regulary (a good thing to reduce disturbance). As we'd already seen them, I was just quite happy to take in the bits we did visit - I imagine it is fantastic in winter for waterfowl.

I found it very difficult to find any info on the country birdwise prior to going so that's why I posted this on here, even though the report is quite sparse. The saltpans at Ulcinj are certainly one of the most exciting places I have visited. Waders are my favourite birds and that site has huge potential.

Kind regards, and thanks for reading the report.

Stuart
 

dalat

...
I found it very difficult to find any info on the country birdwise prior to going so that's why I posted this on here

Well done, thanks a lot! I experienced the same for nearby Kosovo, just nothing to be found on the internet. That whole region, northern Albania, Montenegro, Kosovo etc. looks great and I definitely will explore that more in the time to come...

No nudists on the beach thankfully while we were there, just a few hunters!!!

I personally prefer nudists to hunters ;)

Florian
 

Stuart Darbyshire

45th generation Northern
Well done, thanks a lot! I experienced the same for nearby Kosovo, just nothing to be found on the internet. That whole region, northern Albania, Montenegro, Kosovo etc. looks great and I definitely will explore that more in the time to come...



I personally prefer nudists to hunters ;)

Florian

depends on the nudists!!!! ;)

Yep - would have liked to go inland to the mountain region - Durmitor and Tara Canyon - they look excellent
 
Another birder in Montenegro!

I too was in Montenegro in October (17-28th). We had a great time and did lots of walks from a walking guide in German that I managed to find (available on amazon.de). Highlight was Rock Partridge in Orjen National Park near the Bosnian border (at the tree line); we also (inadvertently and by chance) flushed an Eagle Owl on the same walk. At Skadar we saw (literally) thousands of Pygmy Cormorant but no pelicans either.

If anyone would like more details do get in touch. I agree with all the other posts that this is a wonderful area for birding and totally underwatched. We too saw not one other birder (or indeed one other walker on any of our walks!).

William Oliver
 

pratincol

Well-known member
We cruised into Kotor a wonderful scenic historic town.
There are resident Alpine Chough as you walk north out of the town to the left high up in the mountains.
 

jimbob

Well-known member
Thanks for sharing Stuart. Always interesting to learn of somewhere new, birding and culture. I visited Estonia earlier this year and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Plenty of wp rarities waiting to be found out east.
Cheers,
Jim.
 

Stuart Darbyshire

45th generation Northern
Thanks for sharing Stuart. Always interesting to learn of somewhere new, birding and culture. I visited Estonia earlier this year and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Plenty of wp rarities waiting to be found out east.
Cheers,
Jim.

Thanks Jim - just had a look on your Blog ref the Estonia Trip.

Sounds excellent, a real nice range of species
 

Carles Oliver

Well-known member
Uffff.... I was in Montenegro in 2004, I saw many Pygmy Cormorant and Pelicans just from the car in the Albanian-Montenegro border control !!! It was frustrating 'cause I spent three hours in and around the car and I couldn't use my bynocles because of the Albanian military that were there.
When I finally left the border was too dark to have nice views of them... and I always wanted to come back there and have a nice birding day!!!

Thanks Stuart
 

MontenegroBirder

Undiscovered Montenegro Birdwatching Tours
Stuart, thanks for your detailed post and info. It's a real challenge finding decent info on Montenegro's birds, which is something I'm trying to address having just started to offer birdwatching holidays based at Lake Skadar and including a visit to the Ulcinj Saltpans (very sadly threatened by development - there's a petition on the Centre for Protection and Research of Birds of Montenegro website - http://www.birdwatchingmn.org

I just got the Avibase Bird Links to the World website to create a page for Montenegro last week which is separate from Serbia - a country Montenegro gained independence from more than five years ago!!

http://avibase.bsc-eoc.org/links/links.jsp?page=l_eur_me

I'm really happy to hear you had a great time here. Although Brits, my husband and I actually live in Virpazar so it's a shame we didn't bump into you.

For what it's worth, I'll contribute a few more birding facts about Montenegro, specifically on Lake Skadar...

Ornithological research shows that Lake Skadar and the Ulcinj Saltpans are one of Europe’s top five sites for wintering birds. Home to the rare Dalmatian pelican and the world's second largest colony of pygmy cormorant, more than one million birds fly over Lake Skadar and its connected Bojana Delta during spring and winter migration, with around 150,000 wintering on the lake itself. The quality and quantity of avifauna (more than 280 species in all) compares to Romania’s Danube Delta, Spain’s Guadalquivir and France’s Camargue, , yet few amateur birders have any idea this small Mediterranean country has more to offer than sun and sea.

At any time of year, come here and you will see wetland life in all its glory, from glossy ibis and squacco heron to bitterns, grebes, egrets, terns and more.

Dalmatian Pelican are relatively few in number and threatened. Visits during breeding season must be carefully managed due to the risk of causing disturbance.

Some more info on Lake Skadar's birds is available at the link below.

/http://www.fatbirder.com/links_geo/europe/montenegro_lake_skadar.html
 
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Stuart Darbyshire

45th generation Northern
Thanks for the post - I will sign the petition (once I've translated the page!) as the loss of that area would by awful!

What a nice place to live - a lovely little town in an amazing setting.

Good luck with the new business!
 

chowchilla

Maderator.
This brings back memories: I had a holiday in Petrovac in '88; got my birding info from the 'Ornitholidays' Guide 'Lets Look at Montenegro' ('75; reprinted '86), which was very useful and highlighted al the sites you mentioned. That's how I knew about the marsh at Buljarica, plus I got to Lake Skadar as well.

Sounds like you did better than me for birds though. Glad to hear that Petrovac hasn't been ruined; it's a beautiful part of the med and fantastic for birds.:t:
 

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