There’s that warning phrase again, National Park.
Paklenica National Park covers the area of torrent flows of Velika Paklenica and Mala Paklenica, and their distinctive canyons carved vertically into the south slopes of Velebit Mountains and the broader surrounding area.
As we were gathering by our minibus prior to heading for the warning phrase, Milan had been up to his usual tricks capturing creatures. He arrived with a species of Glass Lizard which he’d found basking to warm up in the morning sun over the road. Looking more like a snake, this is actually a legless lizard, like a large cousin of our native Slow Worm. Legless it may be but penis-less it ain’t; it’s got two. This is called a hemipenis and is normal in snakes and lizards, a.k.a. squamata. There, now don’t say I don’t try to educate you. 😉 Here’s Francine admiring both which have become erectile with excitement – well, OK, with nervous reaction to being handled.
The distinctive canyons for which we headed today were a magnet for a very particular type of public, the rock climbing public, which I suppose might be referred to as the Joe Brown Public. The lower part of the canyon was strewn with them, along with their ropes and carabiners. Whilst I’ve never really seen the enjoyment of crawling around in potholes underground, I can entirely understand the desire to climb. There is, after all, a decent vista on offer after the adrenaline rush. Apart from anything else, seeing someone clinging to an apparently impossible surface is decidedly impressive. We even saw 2/3-year-old children, roped and helmeted, fearlessly getting in on the act with (presumably) their parents. Great!
National Park; another entrance fee; Milan paid; we parked to begin our walk up the canyon. I wasn’t expecting to see any Odonata going up a canyon but the bird life began well with Alpine Swifts (Apus melba) peeping way above our heads. The Alpine swift is noticeably larger than our summer visitor and has some white on it. Francine and I had first seen mixed groups of swifts wheeling around together in Corfu.
Butterfly action was good. too, with well-posed specimens of both Small Skipper () and Essex Skipper () – well-posed, that is, to demonstrate the difference between the two, the Essex Skipper having a dark underside to its antennae, as though they’ve been pressed onto an ink pad. With butterflies on what was a very pleasant walk, I was quite content. Cicadas were chirping constantly, too, and I never tire of hearing those.
There were several reptiles and amphibians which slowed our upward progress, too – after all, that’ was why we were there – for those with a herpetological interest. The most impressive of these, which also delayed several passers by, most of whom displayed the expected scared reaction to a snake, especially a poisonous one, was a Horn-nosed Viper (Vipera ammodytes). I think this picture will demonstrate where it gets its name from. 😉
On the way up we paused at a cafe and Francine did spot a dragonfly cruising above the inevitable stream in the floor of the canyon, but it wasn’t hanging around and we could only guess at some species of Goldenring (there would be two possibilities, here).
Once at our top – you can go further given more time – there was another cafe where we paused for lunch. Lunch entertainment included spotting a Glis glis [Edible Doormouse] in the cafe’s barn but it soon hid. Waiting in futile hope of its reappearance, I was swiftly and briefly flown around by a large, distinctively marked butterfly – I’d seen the topside markings quite clearly – which turned out to be a Two-tailed Pasha (Charaxes jasius) but sadly that, too, pulled off a very swift disappearing act. As a very decent consolation prize, a Woodland Grayling (Hipparchia fagi), only my second encounter with one, did pose on a bright white piece of climbing rope, making exposure something of a challenge. Bless post-processing!
Being a canny chap, Milan wanted to pause by the lower reaches of the river flowing from the canyon so his Odo-nutter could check for dragonflies, not that I was unhappy with my butterfly haul. Find a stream we did and there was at least one species of Odo in residence; we spotted a couple of Southern Skimmers (Orthetrum brunneum). The only down side was that I had to remove my walking boots and socks and hobble across the stony-bottomed river to get a decent shot. Worth it, though. Our river stop was especially worthwhile ‘cos we found another couple of excellent butterflies including Southern Comma (Polygonia egea), which eluded my camera, Meleager’s Blue (Meleageria daphnis), with its distinctively scalloped hind-wing, and the diminutive and utterly enchanting Little Tiger Blue (Tarucus balkanicus), which, given its very limited distribution, must’ve been our star find, here.
Some of these national parks aren’t so bad, after all.