I have just returned from a week on the Adriatic coast of Croatia in the region of Istria. We were on a regular holiday but I did see a few things along the way and the experience has left me keen to return and spend some dedicated time in search of natural history. Croatia is excellent for butterflies and I managed to see a few in the garden of our digs and during an hour and half walk from the village where we stayed. Red Admiral, Painted Lady, Clouded Yellow, Small White and Small Copper were all familiar enough but the local form of Small Heath was rather different to the animal we see in the UK. New species for me were Eastern Bath White, Berger’s Clouded Yellow, Idas Blue and Woodland Grayling. Other species I have previously encountered but not for some years included Scarce Swallowtail, Southern White Admiral, Queen of Spain and Silver-washed Fritillaries. I discovered my only rarity whilst waiting for lunch at a restaurant in Novigrad. A small butterfly on the plants along the edge of the terrace caught my attention and I looked at it through binoculars thinking there was a fair chance of it being something new to me. It had obvious ‘tails’ on the hind wings and the underwing was a marbled pattern of browns and whites with a distinctive darker brown band across the lower wing and a couple of white cells behind its centre. What I could occasionally see of the upper wing was a very faded pale brown with a pale fringe. I looked at the Collins guide and quickly found it only matched Geranium Bronze, a South African species recorded from several European countries (where it arrived in imported plants) including, the guide told me, Italy. I was able to return from the book  to the butterfly and back double checking all the features and was entirely happy with the identification. Since I returned home I have discovered the species was first recorded in Croatia in 2009 and is known from at least twenty localities many of which are in Istria. It is largely confined to the Mediterranean as it will only survive in the warmest of European weather.

Additional invertebrate interest came mostly from our house and garden and included Hummingbird Hawk Moths and a scorpion we found on the wall of the front room one evening after we got in. It appears to be a ‘Small Wood Scorpion’ from the genus Euscorpius but identification to species would be the province of an expert.

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Euscorpius species, Istria.

The scorpion is not the monster to which I refer in the title of this post. That was found by our friend John Nelson when he went out on the porch for a cigarette one night and it has taken me a day to identify it. It appeared to be an enormous orthopteran but I couldn’t imagine any grasshopper that size and it didn’t look like any locust I was able to find on-line. I didn’t originally look up katydids as I thought they occurred exclusively in the tropics but in the end and in desperation I tried and it turns out there are katydids in Europe. Ours appears to be a European Predatory Katydid Saga pedo and one of the largest insects in the Western Palearctic measuring 12cm in length.

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European Predatory Katydid, Istria.

 

Several Common Wall Lizards were resident around the house and birds seen in the garden included European Nightjar, Eurasian Hoopoe and Hawfinch. The only mammals I managed to see were a group of the inshore form of Bottlenose Dolphin on a boat trip to the Brijuni Islands, a Red fox which ran across the road one evening and numerous bats which foraged in the garden but I suspect that spotlighting would have been interesting and it is something I would love to try if I ever manage to get back to Croatia on a trip where natural history is the principal focus.