The Avian Empire of Lonjsko Polje Nature Park
Today, birds are some of the most endangered species on our planet. Lonjsko Polje Nature Park with 250 recorded bird species (134 of them nesting here) is one of the most important areas for birds in Croatia, and indeed in 1989 was designated an IBA – Important Bird Area. In European and indeed in world terms, such a large concentration of birds on a relatively small area of 506 square kilometres gives a good picture how rich the avian fauna is. Lonjsko Polje is an important site for the nesting, overwintering and habitation of numbers of bird species.
- 113 of the bird species that live here are endangered at a national level
- 79 species are threatened at the European level
- 227 species are protected by the Croatian Nature Protection Law
- 133 species are protected by international conventions (those of Berne and Bonn and the Wild Birds Directive)
For bird watchers in the Park, the following species are of particular interest:
Great Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo)
Pygmy Cormorant (Phalacrocorax pygmeus)
Black Stork (Ciconia nigra)
White Stork (Ciconia ciconia)
Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea)
Squacco Heron (Ardeola ralloides)
Purple Heron (Ardea purpurea)
Great Egret (Egretta alba)
Little Egret (Egretta garzetta)
Great Bittern (Botaurus stellaris)
Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax)
Common Spoonbill (Platalea leucorodia)
Ferruginous Duck (Aythya nyroca)
Sea Eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla)
Lesser Spotted Eagle (Aquila pomarina)
Black Kite (Milvus migrans)
River Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis)
Middle Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos medius)
Grey-headed Woodpecker (Picus canus)
Lesser Grey Shrike (Lanius minor)
Isabelline Shrike (Lanius isabellinus)
Whinchat (Saxicola rubetra)
Collared Flycatcher (Ficedula albicollis)
Hoopoe (Upupa epops)
Whiskered Tern (Chlidonias hybrida)
Corncrake (Crex crex)
We would like to recommend the following observation sites in Lonjsko Polje Nature Park for bird watching fans:
• the first European Stork Village, Čigoč
• the entrance into the retention at Kratečko and Mužilovčica
• the Tišina-Mužilovčica backwater
• Osekovsko polje
• Repušničko polje
• Poganovo polje
• Sloboština Fishpond
• the Krapje Đol and Rakita Ornithological Reserves
• the course of the Sava River
If visitors intend to go around an ornithological reserve or any other location for bird watching, they must first report to the duty officer in the Info Centre of the Park – at Krapje or Čigoč – where they will get instructions about the way in which these sites can be visited.
Ornithological Reserves – Specially Protected Oases
Krapje Đol Ornithological Reserve – Special Reserve (zoological – ornithological)
In 1963, Krapje Đol, which is close by the village of Drenov Bok, was proclaimed an ornithological reserve. It is protected in the category of special nature reserve and it occupies an area of about 25 ha.
The area of Krapje Đol is marshy, and overgrown with luxuriant and diverse marsh vegetation. We will mention by name just a few of the communities of the species the reed (Phragmites australis), the bulrush (Typha latifolia), the wood club-rush (Scirpus sylvaticus), the bur-reed (Sparganium erectum) and the common club-rush (Schoenplectus lactustris).
Because of the wetland terrain, and the luxuriance of the vegetation, in Krapje Đol there is a mixed colony of water birds that nest together: the Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax), the Squacco Heron (Ardeola ralloides), the Small Egret (Egretta garzetta), the Great Egret (Egretta alba), the Purple Heron (Ardea purpurea) and, in particular, the Spoonbill (Platalea leucorodia).
Until quite recently Krapje Đol was the nesting place of the only spoonbill colony in Croatia. In recent years some 90 to 140 pairs have nested here. This vigorous nesting activity pushes the value of the site up from the regional to the international level, for 10% of the entire European spoonbill population nests here.
In the past this reserve was almost completely destroyed by negligence and inattentiveness. For the purposes of agriculture, the land around the ornithological site was drained. The drainage channels dried out the whole of the surrounding area, and the result was that nesting stopped. The site was rehabilitated with financial support from the Frankfurt-based Zoologische Gesellschaft. A channel was dug through from the Sava, which let water into Krapje Đol, and in 1991 the birds started nesting again.
Keen bird watchers can get to Krapje Đol along the path called the Borderers’ Trail.
The Rakita Ornithological Reserve
Rakita was declared a special ornithological reserve in 1969; it is in the Lonjsko Polje retention area near the village of Mužilovčica. This wetland area is important because a large number of birds either stay or nest here. The following are regular nesters: the Great Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus arundinaceus), Eurasian Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus scirpaceus), the Marsh Warbler (Acrocephalus palustris), the Sedge Warbler (Acrocephalus schoenobeanus), the River Warbler (Locustella fluviatilis), and the Reed Bunting (Emberiza schoeniclus). When the waters are deep, the following will nest here: the Mallard (Aras platyrhynchos), the Ferruginous Duck (Aythya nyroca), the Eurasian Coot (Falica atra), and the Common Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus).
Rakita Ornithological Reserve is also an important feeding place for herons and egrets, storks and many other wading birds, raptors, particularly in the periods of drought when the Lonjsko Polje retention area is dry. For this reason we can find the following birds feeding here: the White Stork (Ciconia ciconia), Black Stork (Ciconia nigra), Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea), Purple Heron (Ardea purpurea), Little Egret (Egretta garzetta), Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax) and the Spoonbill (Platalea leucorodia).
If visitors intend to go around an ornithological reserve or any other location for bird watching, they must first report to the duty officer in the Info Centre of the Park – at Krapje or Čigoć – where they will get instructions about the way in which these sites can be visited.
World Bird-Watching Day
In the area of Lonjsko Polje Nature Park in the first weekend in October, the traditional marking of international World Bird-Watching Day is organised. The aim is to promote and encourage love of nature and to educate the public about the need to protect birds and bird habitats. Every year, in a campaign organised by Bird Life International and headed by the national coordinator, the Croatian Association for the Protection of Birds and Nature, Rangers of Lonjsko Polje Nature Park, assisted by members of ornithological societies, volunteers from secondary school, students and Junior Rangers, count the birds (at the end of January and the beginning of October).
European Bird Watching Day every year regularly includes hundreds of actions at various spots all around the continent, and is a part of the World Bird Festival. The birds are counted (as are those taking part) and the results are reported to the European Coordinator by the national coordinators from Gibraltar to Iceland, from the Urals to the Black Sea. In the last few years, more than 50,000 people have been involved and have counted about three million birds during a single weekend.
Croatia has taken part in this joint counting operation since 1993, every year, with an increasing number of participants, of birds counted, of species and individuals. The coordinator of the count is Tibor Mikuska of Kopački Rit (091 1750 859; firstname.lastname@example.org).
Collins Pocket Guide to the Birds of Croatia and Europe
To be able to recognise individual bird species better in nature, you can buy a copy of the Collins Pocket Guide to the Birds of Croatia and Europe in the park’s Info Centre.