Friday 15 September 2017

Golden Eagles vs Chamois

A few days ago we had a relaxed raptor-watching session on the grassy plateau of mount Nanos in western Slovenia. Our primary target was checking the local Golden Eagles Aquila chrysaetos and catching up with some migrants. We succeeded with both. We spotted a family of eagles quite soon as their juvenile was calling loudly. Three birds, male, female and this year's juvenile were together in the sky, flying quite close to our position and giving excellent views. Later as we continued to watch the eagles, the juvenile left their parents and drifted towards a distant rocky hill. We almost thought it will land on a rock, but instead it stopped in mid air a few meters from the ground; underneath there was an angry Alpine Chamois Rupicapra rupicapra, trying to defy the attack. The Chamois was obviously too big for the eagle and the latter then landed on a nearby tree. After a motionless face to face of several minutes between the two animals, the eagle's parents joined in and the aerial attacks resumed. The Chamois was proudly defending its position and actually scaring off the eagles several times. Perhaps it was trying to defend something we couldn't see... its young hidden in the grass? The dispute went on for several minutes, after the three eagles decided to abandon their target. 
It was an amazing scene... one that we would expect to see only in documentaries! Fortunately we managed to film it, so have a look below (sorry for the shaking and bad quality, but this is pure documentation). If the video doesn't open, watch it here.
After the "attack" we observed the three eagles several more times, but other raptors kept us also entertained. The migrant's highlight was an Osprey Pandion haliaetus, drifting in a straight direction from north-east to south-west, heading towards the sea. The same direction was held also by several migrating Marsh Harriers Circus aeruginosus (6 in total), a Honey Buzzard Pernis apivorus and 3 Common Buzzards Buteo buteo. Two Griffon Vultures Gyps fulvus were instead flying north-westwards, to the Alps. On Nanos' rocky summit we also had a fleeting enconuter with a juvenile Rock Thrush Monticola saxatilis, while earlier in the day we observed a Short-toed Eagle Circaetus gallicus, perched on a pylon by the motorway.
After the intese rainfalls of the previous days, fungi sprouted all around. The above is the edible Parasol Mushroom Macrolepiota procera, seen commonly on meadows in autumn.
On the botanical front, Satureja subspicata ssp. liburnica is now the most prominent plant of dry karstic meadows in mountainous areas. The similar, but white-fowered Winter Savory Satureja montana is typical of lower altitudes (despite the name!).
Our raptor watching position on Nanos' edge, with the Karst and Gulf of Trieste in the distance. From Nanos one can have the best landscape panorama in the whole of Slovenia. Most of western Slovenia, northwest Croatia and northeast Italy is visible in clear and windy weather.