Fossils and Lost Lake of Pag Island

Needles to say, Pag is my everlasting fascination. I am still scratching the surface and always learning of new places, historic details, unusual spots… Only recently I took more time to research  Crnike beach. This particular beach is a site of great importance for its 20 milion years old layers from Miocene and it is a location where several fossils have been found.

How old is this? Let’s put it this way: the Dinaric alps and Velebit mountain did not exist at that time!

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So, one October afternoon, we went for a drive. Pag is a miracle from crossing the bridge and especially driving along this quite poor road to Crnike. The location got its name after Crnika oak (Evergreen oak) which are abundant in the nearby protected crnika forest. This is a typical oak of the Mediterranean region of Croatia but very few true forests are left to this day.

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Crnike is not the easiest beach to reach and it consists of several smaller beaches. The coastline is steep but there are several carved trails and steps. But every effort is rewarded by the spectacular shapes!

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The beach was first explored in the 1900s as the Austrian (Croatia was a part of Austro -Hungarian empire at the time) paleontologists and scientists discovered layers of coal that they thought may be worth exploiting. The layers were not abundant but the scientists discovered  lots of various fossils of snails, seashells, plants, leaves… There is enough evidence to prove that this part of Pag was part of a large lake and that there was once a big forest at this very location. The very location that is now quite barren like the rest of the island. According to the scientists, this part of Croatia looked pretty much like Florida today with lots of lush vegetation and marshes.

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The beach is quite pretty when there are no people. The rock formations and various layers are quite visible and, in many parts, spectacular.

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From the nearby hills, numerous streams of fresh water flow to the sea and 23609802498_ec01e5402c_k

I was more interested in real life than past.

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New researches are being conducted at this region and numerous evidences of past life are coming to the sunlight. The remains of ancient boar, elephants, rhinoceros, … are all present at this location and, in 2001, a Chinese paleontologist – as part of a research group – even found a tooth of a crocodile! There are also layers of volcanic ash proving that Adriatic was a region of volcanic activity.

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In general, coal remains of ancient forest can still be seen but, the entire location is truly fascinating. A very different beach destination!

 

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European bee-eater in Croatia

There are quite a few lovely birds living year round (or in different seasons) in our region. The most beautiful – and most colorful of all European birds – European bee-eater (Merops Apiaster)  lives in numerous colonies near our coast. One such colony is found in the heart of Ravni Kotari region and is well known for it’s size and importance.

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European bee-eater resting

The colony is fairly strong and numbers over 30 couples. The number of bee-eaters grows stronger year after year in Croatia but it is still a protected species with about 900 USD fines for each bird killed… The bee-eaters can do a lot of damage to bee colonies so beekeepers try to keep their beehives away. Apparently, one bee-eater can eat up to 250 bees a day and they first remove the sting by beating the bee against the hard surface. Besides bees, that are usually only 1% of their diet, bee-eaters also feed on wasps, dragonflies and numerous other winged insects. According to some reports, they feed on bees mostly during cloudy days…

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Successful hunt

European bee-eaters are a migratory species and spend April to October nesting in Europe and rest of the year they spend in tropical Africa.

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Art by Aracana

Their nests are located in the sandy, easy to dig soil. The birds dig a long tunnel, in which they lay 5 -8- white eggs around the beginning of June. Both male and female care for the eggs for about three weeks.

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Nests (holes) of bee-eaters

The colony in Ravni kotari has dug hundreds of holes in the sandy soil but most of them are not in use. I still have to return before the end of their summer to see how strong the colony got over the summer. Pčelarica – how the bird is called locally – is one of the most beautiful birds and pure pleasure to photograph.

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Birds usually have only one partner during their lives

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The wonderful and bucolic settings of Ravni Kotari are a perfect home for this wonderful bird!

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European Green Lizard

The general opinion is that Europe has no exotic fauna nor exciting wildlife but that is only partially true. Wherever a true lover of nature looks, he or she can find exciting animals. In Mediterranean countries, besides sea life,  the coastal landscape hides several interesting animals and one of the most beautiful ones is definitely European green lizard (Lacerta viridis). There are three very similar species living in Croatia and all three are protected: Lacerta bilineata (Daudin, 1802), Lacerta trilineata (Bedriaga), 1886) and Lacerta viridis (Laurenti,1768)

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The local name is zelembać. This beautiful lizard is easily recognized and cannot be mistaken for a different lizard in this area as it looks almost fluorescent!  It is easy to differentiate Balkan green lizard and European green lizard – European green lizard has blue throats while the Balkan one has yellow. Biggest differences are noticeable when the animals are young as all the various colors and stripes are visible at that stage of their lives.

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Young Balkan green lizard

Zelembać is a large lizard that can grow up to 16 cm (cc 6,3 ”) but the tail can be twice as long! It is usually seen enjoying sunshine on rocks or lawns, or hiding in the bushes. Or running across the road. It is not a very shy lizard but it does usually stay hidden and will not allow one to approach it too close. Natural predators are birds of pray but also cats. Zelembać is very useful in the fields feeding on snails, bugs, small lizards but also mice.

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The females nest about 6 – 20 eggs in really humid and hot places and the lizards mature at the age of two. There can be up to 200 lizards living on one hectare!
The males are easily differentiated from females for the vivid blue color of their throats but they are also bigger and with bigger heads.

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Although not critically endangered, all three species are protected – the fine is 400 Euros for killing one. There is no real reason for doing so as this is a very useful animal in all habitats.