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Wednesday, 17 September 2008

To Bosnia from 30th August to 7th September

At the end of August I did another of my brief spells of working abroad as a tour guide for a Hungarian company. This entailed taking a group over to Budapest, Hungary, and then taking a special train through Hungary and Croatia to Bosnia where a week was spent looking at railways (mainly industrial) before returning to Budapest via Croatia again. This particular tour left me with very little free time to look for birds and other wildlife, but I found that birds in Bosnia were a little thin on the ground to say the least, leading one other birder on the tour to speculate that maybe the wildlife had all been eaten by desperate people during the war.

One aspect that was rather limiting, as far as birding is concerned, was the warning that one should not stray from roads and made-up paths because of residual land-mines. Our local guide reckoned that there were still in excess of 5 million land-mines in Bosnia.

On arrival in Budapest I had a free afternoon and asked a local colleague if he had any recommendations for a nice countrified place for me to go and find some birds. He told me of a lake at the end of a tram line where he had seen many "big birds". In the event, this turned out to be little more than an elongated duck pond with water that stank, but which was lined with fishermen who seemed to be taking their catches home for tea. Other than some (dubious) Mallards, I saw only Tree Sparrows ! However, the insect life proved to be relatively interesting - a trend that continued throughout the tour. There were, however, a few treats in store birdwise during the tour.

These are the insects from Saturday 30th August:-

Great Banded Grayling

Beetles on wild hop plant

Bee mimicking a Hornet

The following day we took the train through Croatia to Bosnia. En-route we saw a few birds, including two flocks of Great Egrets. Some of my photos (one of which is below) showed two darker birds which I had not spotted when taking the photos. Suggestions from 'Birdguides' have included Glossy Ibis, Black Stork, Purple Heron - and a joker who suggested Black Heron and then Black Egret !!!!

A visit to the railway of a coal mine (entirely worked by steam engines) at Bukinje, Bosnia, on 1st September resulted in several insects, a lizard, and a Black Redstart (not successfully photographed) being seen.

Unidentified moth at Bukinje

Cricket at Bukinje

Probable Green Lizard (juvenile) at Bukinje

We then moved on to the railway complex at Banovici (again using steam engines).

Large Skipper at Banovici

Black Redstart at Banovici

The next morning (2nd September), after an early breakfast, I had a stroll round the undeveloped land round our hotel. This was not without some concerns for safety. However, I did see Whinchat and Stonechat (shown below) both of which were wrongly positioned for the sun - but I was not going to leave the path to try and go round them !!!

Whinchat (juvenile)


Later in the day, I stopped to photograph a Hooded Crow (below) which was on a railway platform (huge numbers of Hooded Crow seen during the trip).

We overnighted in Zenica at a hotel next to the river, owned by the local steelworks. I took an early breakfast so that I could have a walk by the river. The river was full of junk, but a 'local' stopped me to tell me how, now that the river was clean, there were "so much birds". I must say that I was surprised to find several Little Grebe, and even a Kingfisher (as well as numerous Mallards), so I supect that the water was relatively clean.

After breakfast, we went to the Zenica steel works for a visit (they still use steam engines). Here I saw several Whinchats from the bus. As we left the bus, a Kestrel flew off the tall building beside the bus and headed out of sight, but on a decending path. I found this in the top of a low tree and took the safety shots before working my way round the other side of a building to take some closer shots from the other side which were with better light.

Wood White at Zenica Steel Works

Kestrel at Zenica Steel works
By now, our local guide had realised my interest in birds, and pointed out this Whinchat to me when we arrived at Kakanj.

Whinchat at Kakanj

The following day (4th September) I photographed this Common Buzzard in Rajlovac railway goods yard.

Common Buzzard at Rajlovac
That evening I took a tram out of the centre of Sarajevo and then took a taxi to Vrelo Bosna (the source of the Bosna river). This is a beautiful park, and I discovered where some of the birds in Bosnia had gone to. Here I had my first ever sighting of a Grey-headed Woodpecker - I confess to thinking it was a Green, until I had a closer look at the photos that I had taken in the dark evening shadows.

Marsh Tit at Vrelo Bosna (near Sarajevo)

Grey-Headed Woodpecker at Vrelo Bosna

The following day (5th September) we took our train to Ploce in Croatia (on the coast) for a short visit. No interesting birds were seen, but I did photograph a grasshopper and a dragonfly.
Grasshopper at Ploce (Croatia)

Dragonfly at Ploce

The return to Bosnia, and then to Zagreb (Croatia), with a run to Budapest from Zagreb on 7th September did not yield anything very exciting. In summary, I do not recommend going to Bosnia for 'independent' birding.

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