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Written by and photos courtesy of Susie Stockwell – bird team member and author of #itsawildlife blog

Another survey season has kicked off at Operation Wallacea’s Croatia project for 2022. The project undertakes surveys across a wide range of taxa: from reptiles to butterflies and caves to birds to build up a picture of the ecological communities of this area, and how they are changing over time.

Operation Wallacea surveys are a great way to fast-track your field experience by building your skills in survey methods and wildlife identification and helping you find your passion or narrow your niche within the ecology space.

The bird team has hit the ground running, and been out and about with students collecting data on bird assemblages surrounding Krka National Park using mist nets and point counts. As for our first blog post for 2022, we thought we might do a little introduction so you can meet the locals and see the incredible and often-colorful creatures the teams are surveying for.

The juniper scrublands, dry and pastel-colored landscapes that cover the plateaus of this Mediterranean country are home to cryptic characters like the Turtle Dove, the Blackcap, the Cirl Bunting and the Eastern Sub-alpine Warbler. Although they often hide deep inside the spikey juniper bushes as we walk past, many of these birds have bright and vibrant plumage: the Cirl Buntings are startling yellow and the male Sub-alpine Warblers boast bright orange breasts, like a lion’s mane!

Cirl Bunting

Deep in the riverine forests that line the limestone gorges is a completely different crowd of birds. As we walk through the clouds of butterflies along the Krka River we hear the Great Tits whispering beside us and see the outlines of Blackbirds darting off the path further ahead.

The voice of the Nightingale carries through the trees and dominates the soundscape – for such a tiny bird they certainly make themselves heard!


Periodically, the piercing call of Kingfishers can be heard as they speed up and down the river. The hollow song of Golden Orioles high in the canopy makes us feel like we’re in a totally different world – deep in a tropical jungle!


What an incredible place to be spending the next six weeks of the Operation Wallacea field season.


This blog was written by Operation Wallacea bird team member, Susie Stockwell, author of #itsawildlife, a blog and podcast to support young ecologists working their dream job in wildlife conservation. You can read more at: www.itisawildlife.com


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