Monday, 14 March 2016

Life on the cliffs

Wallcreeper Tichodroma muraria, Osp cliffs, 11th March 2016 (pics by Sara Cernich). The limestone cliffs of Kraški rob (Karst edge) at Osp are perhaps the most reliable site in Slovenia to see this species in winter. Recently I made a collage video of the Wallcreepers on the Karst - see here (watch in HD - 720p). Also present at the Osp cliffs were the resident Peregrine Falco peregrinus and Blue Rock Thrush Monticola solitarius.
Moehringia tommasinii, Osp cliffs, 11th March 2016. This is an endemic plant of Kraški rob (the Karst edge) between the Glinščica valley/Val Rosandra in Italy and Istarske toplice in NW Croatia. In Slovenia, the most reliable site to see it are the cliffs at Osp.
Primula auricula, Škocjanske jame, 11th March 2016. An alpine species, being a glacial relict on the Karst. Here it is found at only two localities: the sinkholes of Škocjanske jame (Škocjan cave - UNESCO site) and Orlek. In such habitats it grows on north-exposed, vertical limestone cliffs, which are wetter and colder than the surrounding habitat and thus resemble the microclimatic conditions in the alpine region. More about Primula auricula in this post.
Two views of Velika dolina sinkhole at Škocjanske jame, 11th March 2016. The microclimatic conditions in this doline support an amazing mix of alpine and mediterranean flora. On the bottom of Velika dolina (formed by the collapse of a cave's roof) flows the river Reka which here sinks underground and continues its way to the Adriatic sea as an underground river. It reappears 33 km further west, near Devin/Duino (Trieste, NE Italy) as the river Timava (same river, different name). After only 2 km, the Timava meets the sea near the wetland of Lisert. What about the river's origin? The Reka/Timava has its springs on the Snežnik plateau!
Adiantum capillus-veneris, Škocjanske jame, 11th March 2016. At the entrance of one of the caves in Velika dolina grows this amazing species. It is a rare fern with a paleotropic, subtropic and mediterranean range, reaching its northernmost distribution edge in Slovenia. It favours wet and warm limestone rocks. The special microclimate of the caves, guarantee a constant air temperature (above freezing) throughout the year and thus supports this species.
Polypodium interjectum, Škocjanske jame, 11th March 2016. This fern (a relative of P. vulgare) is a typical inhabitant of the Karstic dolines, where it grows quite commonly.
Anemone ranunculoides (top) and Hacquetia epipactis, Škocjanske jame, 11th March 2016. The nemoral flora on the bottom of Velika dolina was at its best, with species like Isopyrum thalictroides, Primula vulgaris, Hepatica nobilis, Cardamine enneaphyllos, Corydalis cava, Lathraea squamaria in great numbers.
Scilla bifolia, Škocjanske jame, 11th March 2016.
Hepatica nobilis, Škocjanske jame, 11th March 2016 (pic by Sara Cernich).
Isopyrum thalictroides, Škocjanske jame, 11th March 2016.
Crag Martin Ptyonoprogne rupestris, Monte Grisa (Trieste, Italy), 14th March 2016. One of the 3 Crag Martins seen flying above the limestone cliffs. Only the third record for the area. On Friday 11th March I also had my first 4 House Martins Delichon urbicum of the year in Trieste.
Euphorbia wulfenii, the Adriatic sea and the town of Trieste (in the back); Monte Grisa (Trieste, Italy), 14th March 2016.
Euphorbia wulfenii, Monte Grisa (Trieste, Italy), 14th March 2016. A common species on the limestone cliffs by the coast of Trieste. This amazing plant, which is in bloom at this time of year, has a balkanic range and reaches it north-westernmost edge of distribution right here near Trieste.
Polypodium australe (P. cambricum), Monte Grisa (Trieste, Italy), 14th March 2016. This is another interesting fern, growing on warm, sunny limestone cliffs of southern Europe, however it is never exposed to full sun. Thus it is found in crevices and crags that remain in shade for most of the day.