Thursday 9 November 2017

Long weekend in Notranjska

Last weekend Paul Tout and I (Domen) helped to organise and accompanied a small birdwatching tour with 7 participants in the Notranjska region (central Slovenia). Late autumn is a tough time to look for birds in the Dinairc area, but nevertheless we managed to carry out everything smoothly and managed to see some interesting species. Weather was fortunately on our side (cloudy, but mostly windless) although some target species proved elusive or didn't actually show up. Below are the trip's highlights in a short report; we didn't take many pics (hence the poor selection!). Enjoy!
Lake Cerknica was half-full, but the bodies of water didn't attract many waterbirds. The only flock of ducks present contained some Pochards Aythya ferina, Tufted Ducks Aythya fuligula, Teals Anas crecca and Wigeons Anas penelope. The great attraction on the lake, was one of our target birds: White-tailed Eagle Haliaeetus albicilla. We saw a total of 3 individuals (2 ads and 1 imm) in two different days. Other birds around the lake included several Great Grey Shrikes Lanius excubitor (up to 6 in a day), Hen Harriers Circus cyaneus, 2 Peregrines Falco peregrinus, 1 Penduline Tit Remiz pendulinus and a few other commoner birds.
As the situation on the lake was calm, we spent quite a lot of time in the Snežnik and Javorniki forests. Despite our bad luck with the rare woodpeckers, we managed to observe a superb Ural Owl Strix uralensis that proved to be the real highlight of the trip. The bird allowed excellent views and the participants could enjoy it for at least half an hour. For most of them this was a lifer. 
The forests of Snežnik and Javorniki were quite silent, but hosted some of the common woodland species such as Crested Tit Lophophanes cristatus, Willow Tit Poecile montanus, Crossbill Loxia curvirostra, Bullfinch Pyrrhula pyrrhula. Of the winter visitors we had several Redwings Turdus iliacus and Bramblings Fringilla montifringilla on a daily basis.
Among woodpeckers we recorded two male Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers Dendrocopos minor (above) and several Grey-headed Woodpeckers Picus canus. Both species were highly appreciated by the participants. On a few ocasions we also heard a Black Woodpecker Dryocopus martius.
This showy Red Squirrel Sciurus vulgaris was feeding on a spruce cone above our heads in the Snežnik forests. Of the other mammals we also frequently encountered Red Deer Cervus elaphus and Roe Deer Capreolus capreolus, especially in the evenings along forest roads. Some Brown Bears Ursus arctos are still around as we also found some fresh droppings on the forest road.
Along the river Unica on Planinsko polje we encountered this smart Dipper Cinclus cinclus. Winter is a time of high territoriality for Dippers and the above individual (most probably a male) was already singing from its favourite rocks.
The last day of our trip we also visited the spectacular Predjama castle near Postojna. The Renaissance castle was built at the entrance of a large cave. On the high limestone cliffs we looked for a very special bird...
The Wallcreeper Tichodroma muraria is a regular winter visitor to the castle's wall and cliffs, as well as similar cliffs in the Karst area. We watched the above individual for most of the morning, so the group had excellent views of this rarely-seen bird - a pefrect way to round up the trip!
Hopefully we will repeat this short tour in early spring, to catch up with interesting species like Wallcreeper, Ural Owl, Three-toed and White-backed Woodpecker and others. For info write to: