Thursday 10 March 2016

Karst, Notranjska and coast

Wallcreeper Tichodroma muraria on the cliffs of Glinščica/Val Rosandra nature reserve, near Trieste (Italy); 2nd March 2016. A wintering species on the Karst, choosing limestone cliffs exposed to the south.
Eagle Owl Bubo bubo, Trieste (old pic). Last Friday (4th March) I took part at the yearly Eagle Owl census in western Slovenia, organised by DOPPS - BirdLife Slovenia. Although I had two singing birds (male and female) at my census point, many other locations were without it. This year the census revealed a decrease in the occupied territories on the Karst, compared to last year. The greatest threat to Eagle Owls in Slovenia is electrocution of adult birds on medium and low voltage pylons and wires. Sport climbing on cliffs where the owls breed is also a major source of disturbance.
Lathraea squamaria, Nanoščica river basin, Notranjska, 4th March 2016. Lacking chlorophyll, this plant is a parasite on the roots of different trees: Alnus sp., Corylus avellana, Fagus sylvatica, Ulmus sp., Populus sp.
Gagea pusilla, Komen, Slovenian Karst; 6th March 2016. A closer relative of Gagea lutea (the much commoner, woodland flower). G. pusilla has a south-east and east European distribution. It is found quite rarely on the Slovenian and Italian Karst, where it grows on dry karstic grassland. It is thus endangered by the abandonment of grazing. The above specimen belongs to one of the few known populations in Slovenia. In the photo a Crocus reticulatus is also visible.
The first Badger Meles meles of my trail camera, captured at the end of February on the Slovenian Karst.
Leucojum vernum (spring snowflake) - small part of a stunning white carpet at the Nanoščica river basin near Postojna; 4th March 2016. A species we are not used to see in the wild on the Karst, but which is common in the nearby Notranjska and other regions in continental Slovenia. It is the greater cousin of Galanthus nivalis - the snowdrop.
Crocus vernus ssp. albiflorus, Nanoščica river basin, Postojna; 4th March 2016. This is the slightly smaller relative of Crocus vernus ssp. vernus. The main difference is that albiflorus has usually only white petals, whereas vernus has both white and purple.
Taxus baccata, Strane, Postojna; 4th March 2016. The above yew is one of the oldest trees in Slovenia, with an estimated age of 540 years. Close to the large one grows a younger specimen (approx. 220 years old). Yews have male and female flowers on separate trees, but the younger yew in Strane is the only known yew in Slovenia to have both sexes on one tree. Male flowers are those in the second photo.
A look from the Nanoščica river basin southwards to the snow-covered peak of Snežnik.
Birding from the new visitor center at Škocjanski zatok; 8th March 2016. While drinking coffee at the table we were enjoying the year's first Swallow Hirundo rustica and a small flock of Ruffs Philomacus pugnax.
Symphytum bulbosum growing (wildly) in a garden on the outskirts of Trieste; 9th March 2016. A Mediterranean species which is apparently commoner than thought in the Trieste area. It is mainly found in anthropic habitats on the flysch coast. In Slovenia it was found in similar habitats, especially around the towns of Koper, Izola and Portorož. Overall not a well-known species in our area, also due to the similarity with the much commoner Symphytum tuberosum.