Thursday, 25 January 2018

Ural Owl in the Karst

Forest birds are not easy to detect, especially in winter. A considerable amount of effort is usually needed to observe secretive birds and exciting encounters are few. But when these happen, the feelings are so overwhelming that all the efforts are quickly repaid. To us, observations of difficult-to-see forest species are certainly the most satisfactory of all! One such case is when we spot a Ural Owl Strix uralensis. Although not a rare bird in Slovenian forests, is nevertheless not easy to observe. Yesterday's encounter with this owl was even more exciting, because we found it not in a classical Dinaric forest of southern Slovenia (where the species is abundant), but in a Karst's woodland, only some 8 km away from Sežana. We flushed the Ural Owl when we were walking along a forest track, but the vegetation was so thick, it was quite hard to locate the bird when it landed. The owl's colours matched perfectly the grey trunks of the surrounding forest. At the end we managed at least to take the above shots and enjoy the perched bird for a while. It was actively hunting and frequently staring at the ground as it's usual for the species. After about 15 minutes we left the bird in peace when it silently flapped away into some distant trees.
The encounter was certainly unexpected, although a few years ago we already observed 2 Ural Owls, some 3 km further to the east. The species doesn't breed in this part of Slovenia and there are only a handful of winter and autumn records for the Karst. But in recent years Ural Owl has been spreading its range westwards. Apart from increasing cases of overwintering, maybe, in a few year's time, we can even expect the first breeding in this area...