Tuesday 24 September 2013

Biocamp in Slovenia

Mt.Slavnik - 1028 m (photo by Neža Gregorič)
Here I am, back home and blogging, after the last couple of days spent in Slovenia on a biology camp of university students. I was leading the birdwatching group which was rather successful in finding almost all the main targets and a few goodies as well.
I'll start with the "big day" spent at Cerkniško jezero (Cerknica lake) where we saw an adult WHITE-TAILED EAGLE, along with several other raptors like Peregrine (2), Hobby, a female Hen Harrier (first of the season), Marsh Harrier, and commoner ones. The water bodies held a mixed flock of 6 Wigeons, 11 Pintails, Teals and Mallards. In the evening we listened to 3 singing URAL OWLS in the forests above the lake and glimpsed one in flight too. Somewhere down by the lake a Tawny Owl was also singing and several rutting Red Deers were also heard. An overflying Night Heron (calling) above the forest was a bit unusual to hear.
A must-stop along the river Unica on Planinsko polje produced the hoped-for DIPPER - actually 3 handsome birds performing well on the fast flowing stream. Here's a short video of a bird feeding underwater. In the same area also 2 Kingfishers and several Grey Wagtails were also seen.
Dippers on the river Unica
Another day was spent on the Karst on the outskirts of Trieste, where we visited some woodland habitats and heathland-grassland. Woodland produced a few woodpecker species including a nice Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, while a raptor-watch session on "Campo Carri" delivered a Short-toed Eagle, 7 GRIFFON VULTURES (migrating SE), a Peregrine, a juvenile female Goshwak, several Sparrowhawks and Common Buzzards. In the afternoon we had a walk in the Glinščica valley where we saw Blue Rock Thrush. Interesting was the presence of +30 Jackdaws in the industrial area of Bagnoli/Boljunec - a scarce bird in Trieste.
Lesser Spotted Woodpecker male (by Neža Gregorič)

A day was spent walking the grassy hillsides above Rakitovec and enjoying the sun, as well as some raptors. The main target here was Rock Partridge, which we missed, but we managed to see a GOLDEN EAGLE and the season's first Meadow Pipits flying overhead.
And of course no trip is complete without a visit to wetlands. On one day we worked the Slovene coast from Škocjanski zatok NR to the Sečovlje saltpans. Škocjanski zatok produced Hobby, a migrant White Stork, Marsh Harrier, 2 Common Terns and an eclipse plumaged Red-breasted Merganser in the lagoon, plus other commoner waterbirds. On the Sečovlje saltpans we were successful in finding at least 5 Kentish Plovers, a real speciality of this area.
White Stork following a tractor in the freshwater marsh
Hobby over Škocjanski zatok (by Neža Gregorič)
Throughout all the trips we also saw common migrants and other local birds on a daily basis - things like Whinchat, Stonechat, Wheatear, Tree Pipit, Swallow + House Martin (sometimes in huge flocks), Grey Wagtail, Alpine Swift (+100 on the coast), Marsh Harrier, Garden Warbler, Lesser Whitethroat, Spotted Flycatcher, Black and Common Redstart, Red-backed Shrike, Skylark and Woodlark, Yellow Wagtail, Hawfinch, Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Rock Bunting, Raven, Jay and others were all fairly common.
Whinchat in Škocjanski zatok (by Neža Gregorič)
Wheatear on Cerkniško jezero (by Neža Gregorič)