Monday, 15 September 2014

BROWN BEAR (Ursus arctos)

Adult Brown Bear Ursus arctos as seen through binoculars, down to 25 metres
Basically a huge peluche
Nice little claws
In its natural habitat
Last view...
...before saying farewell
Saw the above BROWN BEAR Ursus arctos yesterday in Slovenia's Dinaric forests. Watched it for 50 minutes. A wild animal. A lifer. The biggest European carnivore. Impressive. Amazing. Thrilling.
Also close to the bear a male Black Woodpecker Dryocopus martius, Nutcracker Nucifraga caryocatactes, upland forest bird mix and a Golden Eagle Aquila chrysaetos earlier in the morning. Evening rounded up with a rutting Red Deer Cervus elaphus.
Bear videos: here & here.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Volovja reber & Snežnik forests

Volovja reber
Yesterday I visited Volovja reber with a friend. This is an open hilly area with karstic grasslands near Ilirska Bistrica and is considered a hot-spot for raptors. During our short afternoon stay we saw two Griffon Vultures Gyps fulvus, +10 Buzzards Buteo buteo, 1 Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus on migration, +5 Kestrels Falco tinnunculus, 2 Sparrowhawks Accipiter nisus. The area also holds a breeding pair of Golden and Short-toed Eagle and is a good spot for watching migrating raptors, with several rare species recorded (like Eleonora's Falcon, Lesser Spotted Eagle, Red Kite ect). Around in the open areas were also present several Whinchats Saxicola rubetra and Wheatears Oenanthe oenanthe, a few Tree Pipits Anthus trivialis, a Spotted Flycatcher Muscicapa striata, Woodlarks Lullula arborea and a Black Woodpecker Dryocopus martius which we also saw in flight.
1st winter male Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe
Later in the evening we moved to the Snežnik forests for some owling and a random night visit. The forest was very quiet with just a single Ural Owl Strix uralensis heard calling. At this time of year there should be more activity. Probably not a very good year for owls as we didn't even hear a single Edible Dormouse (usually very common) - the owl's main source of food. The forest in the evening also produced a nice Nutcracker Nucifraga caryocatactes showing well from the top of a spruce. Other birds were the common forest ones like Willow Poecile montanus, Crested Lophophanes cristatus & Coal Tits Periparus ater, Bullfinch Pyrrhula pyrrhula and so on.
Gentianella ciliata
Waiting for the darkness
The main vocal spectacle in the evening was provided by the rutting Red Deers Cervus elaphus, which were heard all over the forest. Out on the grasslands at the forest's edge also some additional 10 Red Deers (females) and a couple of Roe Deers Capreolus capreolus. Here we also found a showy Nightjar Caprimulgus europaeus resting in the middle of the road. Most probably our last Goatsucker this year...
Nightjar Caprimulgus europaeus by Igor Maiorano. First spotted on the road, it then flew off and landed on a rock - even better for photography.

Monday, 8 September 2014

Lesser Kestrel...dead

Lesser Kestrel Falco naumanni. Note the white claws.
Yesterday I was birding with a friend near Divača, while we came across the above "Kestrel". A closer inspection revealed...white claws! It was a juvenile (prob male) Lesser Kestrel Falco naumanni! I was also a bit surprised by the small size of the bird. We also checked the primaries (P10 being quite long) which also confirmed our ID.
Lesser Kestrel used to breed in Slovenia until the 90s, but is now extinct. It only occurs rarely on migration and is considered a vagrant, with something like 6th records in the last 20 or so years. Pity it was a dead bird, anyway it is a very interesting find.

Alive birds in the area included a few migrants in the form of +10 Whinchats Saxicola rubetra, +5 Wheatears Oenanthe oenanthe, 4 Red-backed Shrikes Lanius collurio, 2 Common Whiethroats Sylvia communis, 1 Lesser Whitethroat Sylvia curruca, 3 Stonechats Saxicola torquatus. The most interesting was a juvenile Tawny Pipit Anthus campestris, which has probably fledged in the area.
Later in the afternoon we moved to the grassy slopes of mt. Vremščica (at around 800-900 m) to check for potential Dotterels. Here we only found a nice flock of +25 Linnets Carduelis cannabina drinking from a puddle and +20 Whinchats Saxicola rubetra.
We rounded up the day with a Hobby Falco subbuteo flying low above Bazovica (Trieste) in the evening.

On Friday I also had a quick "Dotterel checking session" on Vremščica (1026 m), which was fruitless. 
On Saturday I went for a stroll on Campo Carri (Italian Karst) which was full with Whinchats Saxicola rubetra and Wheatears Oenanthe oenanthe. A male Goshawk Accipiter gentilis was also a nice addition to the evening walk. In the sky also 3 Common Swifts Apus apus heading south.

Local patch: birds of note in and around the garden in the last couple of days included Crested Tit Lophophanes cristatus (1-2 still present), Coal Tit Periparus ater (2 the 1st of the season), Short-toed Treecreeper Certhia brachydactyla, Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita, first singing Robin Erithacus rubecula of the autumn season and mixed flocks of House Martins Delichon urbicum (+200), Swallows Hirundo rustica and a few Common Swifts Apus apus.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Savi's Warbler

Savi's Warbler Locustella luscinioides
Škocjanski zatok NR: today's morning at the reserve for the weekly monitoring was lightened up by the above SAVI'S WARBLER Locustella luscinioides. Quite showy bird, perched on a bush by the path and even allowing some quick phone-scoping documentation. This is the first Savi's I see properly outside my Hungary trip in 2011 and also my first in Škocjanski zatok. The timing of this observation coincides well with the migration of Locustellas - from the reserve I have two consecutive observations of Grasshopper Warbler at this time of year.
The weather today was excellent for migrants, but the situation was quieter than expected. Nevertheless some birds were more noteworthy than others: Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis (8 in the lagoon - record number?), Little Stint Calidris minuta (1), Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe (3), Whinchat Saxicola rubetra (5) and Meadow Pipit Anthus pratensis (29). Very few waders around (due to high water levels), but 6 Curlews Numenius arquata and 3 Snipes Gallinago gallinago were nice to see on the grass in the freshwater marsh ("winter mode").

Local patch: today the skies were literally full of House Martins Delichon urbicum (+500) with a couple of Swallows Hirundo rustica mixed among them. Also a few Common Swifts Apus apus and at least 20 Alpine Swifts Apus melba. Something like 1000 birds or more in the sky. The strong overcast conditions and a bit of fog kept the birds around for most of the day.
Ooh, the wonders of migration!

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Cerkniško jezero & Planinsko polje

Today, back from business work in Ljubljana I stopped at Cerkniško jezero. Full of water and lots of birds, although nothing really rare. Especially lots of migrants: House Martin Delichon urbicum & Swallow Hirundo rustica (+1000 in mixed flocks), Sand Martin Riparia riparia (1), Hobby Falco subbuteo (11), Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus (5), Black Tern Chlidonias niger (3 juvs), Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe (17), Whinchat Saxicola rubetra (+15), Red-backed Shrike Lanius collurio (7), Bee-eater Merops apiaster (5 heaing SE; 1st time I see them here), Tree Pipit Anthus trivialis, Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava, Spotted Flycatcher Muscicapa striata (1), Garganey Anas querquedula (3), Pochard Aythya ferina (7). Also a small mixed flock of 4 Snipes Gallinago gallinago and 1 Dunlin Calidris alpina (flying NW). Of the residents: Black Woodpecker Dryocopus martius, Goshawk Accipiter gentilis (1), Yellowhammer Emberiza citrinella (1), Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus (1), Reed Bunting Emberiza schoeniclus (2), Kingfisher Alcedo atthis (2).
Gentiana pneumonanthe
Mentha aquatica
Succisa pratensis
Colchicum autumnale
Also obligatory stop at Planinsko polje for the Dipper Cinclus cinclus and Crag Martins Ptyonoprogne rupestris (3) nearby.
Dipper Cinclus cinclus

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Heading back to Africa

Adult male Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe in autumn plumage.
1st winter Wheatear O. oenanthe
Spring-looking adult male Wheatear O. oenanthe
Collaborative Wryneck Jynx torquilla hopping on the path...
...not so collaborative Wryneck.
Hoopoe Upupa epops
Short-toed Eagle Circaetus gallicus (note dangling legs).
Honey Buzzard Pernis apivorus
Yesterday I've been out on the Karst for most of the day. Plenty of migrants around, although not in big numbers. First did a late-morning raptor session on the Italian Karst, then transfered to the Slovenian side for some more passerines. Birds of note included: Short-toed Eagle Circaetus gallicus (1), Honey Buzzard Pernis apivorus (4 - migrants), Alpine Swift Apus melba (70), Common Swift Apus apus (+4), Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe (4), Whinchat Saxicola rubetra (+10), Pied Flycatcher Ficedula hypoleuca (1), Wryneck Jynx torquilla (1), Lesser Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos minor (1 male), Red-backed Shrike Lanius collurio (3), Hoopoe Upupa epops (1), Tree Pipit Anthus trivialis (good passage), Garden Warbler Sylvia borin (1), Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita, Woodlark Lullua arborea (20), Raven Corvus corax (5), Rock Bunting Emberiza cia (1).

Friday, 29 August 2014

Poldanovec - Trnovski gozd

Mt. Poldanovec
Pleasant day spent hiking in the Trnovo forest: on mount Poldanovec (morning) and mount Kucelj (evening). Poldanovec (1299 m) is one of the highest tops in Trnovski gozd and its northern rocky slopes mark the end of the plateau. Thus it hosts an interesting array of alpine plants. Saw a couple of them although the main flowering season it's a bit over.
Campanula cespitosa
Euphrasia salisburgensis
Salix sp. (maybe retusa?) on top of mt. Poldanovec
Leontopodium alpinum growing out of a rock hanging over a steep ravine.
View from the top of Poldanovec down into the Trebuša valley, with the Julian Alps in the background.
On the top. The green cushion on the rocks are the leaves of Dryas octopetala, a typically alpine plant.
View on mt. Krn through the beech woodland.
Epipactis helleborine
Gentiana asclepiadea - very common in the forest.
Larch Larix decidua - the Poldanovec area is the southernmost native location for the species outside the Alpine region.
Birds were few - highlight being two calling Nutcrackers Nucifraga caryocatactes. Pied Flycatchers Ficedula hyploeuca and Tree Pipits Anthus trivialis were the most obvious migrants, along with a fly-by Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus and a Whinchat Saxicola rubetra. Forest species included Eurasian Treecreeper Certhia familiaris, Crested Tit Lophophanes cristatus, both Willow Poecile montanus & Marsh Tit P. palustris, Firecrest Regulus ignicapillus, Bullfinch Pyrrhula pyrrhula, Crossbill Loxia curvirostra and Black Woodpecker Dryocopus martius.
Euphrasia liburnica on Mala Lazna - one of the two locations where this species grows in Slovenia.
Allium ericetorum on mt. Kucelj.
View from mt. Kucelj towards the Nanos plateau. The top of mount Nanos is on the right, while far back on the left, mt. Snežnik is also visible (volcano shape). In the valley, the town of Vipava with its extensive limestone cliffs. 
Sunset on Kucelj with its distinctive shadow over the southern edge of Trnovski gozd.
Last pic before going home...
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