Thursday 24 July 2014

MAGIC Snežnik

Edraianthus graminifolius
Yesterday with a friend we went on mount Snežnik (1797 m), which is the highest non-alpine Slovenian peak. It belongs to the Dinaric mountains and its slopes and plateaus are covered with vast forests that extent into Croatia as well. Home of the Brown Bear, Wolf, Lynx and many others. The higher part of the mount is also a paradise for botanists as it holds a mix of different floras, including a lot of alpine elements.
We first walked on the top, passing through Mali Snežnik (1694 m) and enjoying the rich flora on the way up. Multi-coloured carpets of flowers on every step; increasing in biodiversity as you approach the peak. In the late afternoon we descended and spent the evening in the forest.
First a selection of wildflowers... birds (& other wildlife) to follow.
Edelweiss Leontopodium alpinum - the main botanical joy of the day.
Edraianthus graminifolius - a speciality of Mt. Snežnik; quite common around the top, but found only on a few other locations in Slovenia.
Scabiosa silenifolia - also typical for the Snežnik area.
Gentiana lutea ssp. symphyandra
Achillea clavenae
Aster alpinus
Helianthemum nummularium and Achillea clavenae
Heliosperma sp., Campanula cochleariifolia & Achillea clavenae
Floral mix (incl. Pulsatilla alpina, Phyteuma orbiculare ect.) near Snežnik's top.
Parnassia palustris
Floral mix 2: Achillea clavenae & Rhododendron hirsutum.
Floral carpet near the top.
On the bird front the highlight were URAL OWLS Strix uralensis. One was heard in the late afternoon as we were descending from Snežnik's top through the beech woodland. The second was seen in the evening, performing above our heads and showing brilliantly. Both were probably juveniles (told by their calls and behaviour). On the very top of Snežnik I was very glad to spot a juvenile ROCK THRUSH Monticola saxatilis. I'm not sure if it was a bird born in the area (that would be an interesting record) or one that came from somewhere else. Other upland birds included Water Pipit Anthus spinoletta (2), Black Redstart Phoenicurus ochruros, Dunnock Prunella modularis, Lesser Whitethroat Sylvia curruca, Crossbill Loxia curvirostra, Siskin Carduelis spinus and lower down in the forest also Bullfinch Pyrrhula pyrrhula (very showy), Firecrest Regulus ignicapillus, Black Woodpecker Dryocopus martius, Crested Tit Lophophanes cristatus ect.
While we were descending from the top, on the rocky path, my friend and I almost trod on a melanistic ADDER Vipera berus. The animal was sun-bathing on the rocks, just a few centimetres away from where we put our feet! After rising its head a bit and hissing to us, it slowly slipped away under the rocks. As far as I know melanistic adders are not very common, but on Snežnik, this form seems to be commoner than the usual one.
A few metres down the path we also had a Slow-worm Anguis fragilis and later in the beech forest we had an amphibian encounter: two Alpine Salamanders Salamandra atra.
Alpine Salamander Salamandra atra
Other animals seen in the evening included 3 Foxes Vulpes vulpes, a Brown Hare Lepus europaeus and a Beech Marten Martes foina. No luck with the hoped-for Brown Bear...
Below are a few more landscape pics.
Veliki Snežnik (1797 m)
Mali Snežnik (1694 m)
Looking north-east from Mali Snežnik.
On top of Veliki Snežnik, looking east.
Mountain pine Pinus mugo covering much of Snežnik's upper part, from 1400 m upwards.
Looking south from the top. The mountains in the background are in Croatia.
A sinkhole near the top (it was full of snow).
Looking northwards. Two dolines with vegetation inversion are visible.
View from the path, looking westwards. The doline Grda draga is visible on the bottom of the valley and Mt. Nanos is also just visible in the distant haze.