Tuesday 13 October 2015

Autumn magic on Snežnik

Brown Bear Ursus arctos (last year's photo) - yesterday evening I surprised one on a forest road on the south-western slopes of the Snežnik plateau. It was a large individual and it clumsily ran away into the forest, so I could follow its movements with a torch for a while. Few things in the natural world are as exciting as seeing a bear!
White-backed Woodpecker Dendrocopos leucotos ssp. lilfordi (male) - heard one calling yesterday in the forests of the Snežnik plateau. In autumn and winter they seem to have quite vast feeding territories and are not easy to find. The Snežnik forests are the stronghold of this rare species in Slovenia.
White-backed and Three-toed Woodpecker habitat on a steep rocky slope on the Snežnik plateau.
The autumn colours of Snežnik's forests were at the very best in the last few days. Impressive variations of red, orange and yellow from beech Fagus sylvatica and sycamore Acer pseudoplatanus, contrasting with the dark greens of silver fir Abies alba and Norway spruce Picea abies.
On Friday I came across this Horn-nosed Viper Vipera ammodytes on a karstic meadow near Sežana. Sept-Oct looks like a good period to see vipers, before they start hibernating.

I've spent the last couple of days on the Snežnik plateau and nearby areas. As mentioned above, yesterday I had a BROWN BEAR Ursus arctos and a White-backed Woodpecker Dendrocopos leucotos. On Saturday me and three other friends were taking part in a bird-race organised by DOPPS (BirdLife Slovenia), where different teams tried to score the greatest number of species seen/heard in a single morning around the town of Ilirska Bistrica (SW Slovenia) and nearby areas (including the Snežnik forests). Our team scored 59 species, while the winning team had 75. Our best bird was a Wallcreeper Tichodroma muraria on some small roadside cliffs in the middle of the Snežnik forests. It's interesting to notice that last year I had one almost in the same area and in the same period. October seems like a good time for migrating Wallcreepers stopping at unusual sites. Most of the other birds recorded during the race were common species, except for a migrant Red-throated Pipit Anthus cervinus we had on a field near Ilirska Bistrica. We also had up to 6-7 Great Grey Shrikes Lanius excubitor, a few Dippers Cinclus cinclus along the river Reka and a few late summer-migrants.

To round up this post, I recommend watching this short video produced by the team from the newly-opened Karst Museum in Postojna. It shows amazing footage of Slovenian caves, cave-dwelling animals, as well as other animals, plants and landscapes of the Notranjska region (including mount Snežnik and its forests at the beginning of the video). Well worth a watch!