4 May 2014

4 May 14 - A Bank Holiday Weekend On The Coast

For over a century, it has been a great British tradition to head to the coast for bank holidays. This year the early May bank holiday was no exception. The difference was I got away to a different coastline, from the one I live on. I had the chance to get away from the UK with old mates from Southampton, Mark Edgeller, Gavin Maclean & Ken Arber, & a Bristol mate, Andy Mears, for a short break to look for Rock Partridge to Cavtat, Croatia (pronounced as Savtat). The trip was based around the excellent report by Ian Merrill of a trip he made in early May 13. We arrived at Gatwick in time for a quick snack to avoid getting a less impressive meal on the plane. This turned into a chance for a more leisurely meal when he heard the Monarch flight was running 2 hours late & we had no hope of getting any food on arrival at Cavtat.

Apart from the Monarch flight being late leaving, everything went smoothly & we arrived about midnight local time at Cavtat: which is the airport for Dubrovnik. We had let our car hire company know we would be arriving late & the guy was still there to sort all the paperwork. Fortunately, it was only a 15 minute drive for us to get from the airport to the accommodation in Cavtat, where another email exchange had meant they were also aware of our late arrival. They kindly bought some basic bread, jam & milk at the local shop, so we would have something for breakfast. The accommodation was the reasonably priced Bacan Serviced Apartments (apartmentsbacan@net.hr) run by Antun & Natasha Bacan. They speak good English, are very helpful & have some good & well equipped self-catering accommodation. My flat had 2 beds, a living room, small kitchen & bathroom for about £38/day. We booked the rooms on line, but Antun said that if any birders wanted to stay, he would be able to offer a discount by booking directly with them. It's about a 10 minute walk down the hill into the town where there was plenty of restaurants serving food. It was too late for anything other than a quick cuppa tea, before a few hours sleep. The alarm went far too early at 05:00 in time for a quick breakfast. It was only a 15 minute drive to the viewpoint on the small road to Velji Do in the hills above Cavtat.
Early morning view of the small town of Cavtat: It is only about 10 or 15 minutes drive from the airport
A close up of Cavtat harbour
The airport was nearly
Looking up the coast towards Dubrovnik
A distant shot of the old walled city of Dubrovnik 
As already mentioned in the Rock Partridge post, within a few minutes of arriving we had seen the Rock Partridge that was calling to greet us. If only all birds were this easy to see. After getting some great views & some grainy photos, we carried on walking along the road to the small village of Velji Do. After an hour or so, I decided to turn back as I was keen to get some better photos of the Rock Partridge. Eventually, the male moved to start calling below the viewpoint, where he sat for about 30 minutes until I eventually left before him. By this time the others had reappeared, so we went back for a final look for the Rock Partridge, but he had finally disappeared.
Rock Partridge: Male. Great views in the end with more photos on the Rock Partridge post
From the prominent viewpoint, whilst waiting for the Rock Partridge to reappear, it was possible to watch a cruise ship head North to explore the coastline, as well as several German charter planes arriving & departing.
The Costa Fascinosa arrives into the channel leading to the coast: I for one wouldn't want to take a Costa cruise after what happened to her sister ship, the Costa Concordia
2 German charter planes arrived in quick succession: If the Germans can fly in at sensible times of day, why can't UK charter companies
Although I was focusing on seeing & photographing the Rock Partridge in the morning, I did get the chance to photograph a few other species.
Subalpine Warbler: Male nest building. Subalpine Warbler has been proposed to be split into 3 species. This is the albistriata subspecies or Eastern Subalpine Warbler
 Rock Nuthatch: The Balkan subspecies is neumayer
Linnet: Female
By late morning, we were all keen to head back to Cavtat for an early lunch. There was a small cafe close to the Bacan apartments which had the advantage of seeing a Red-rumped Swallow whilst eating. Despite being early May, it was probably warmer in the UK than it was in Croatia & soon after a rain shower stopped birding for several hours. Still we needed to catch up on the sleep lost so not bad timing.
The team: Andy Mears, Gav Maclean, Mark Edgeller & Ken Arber (from left to right)