Tuesday 13 March 2018

"Uu-h" - it's spring!

Early March is the best time of the year to catch up with Eagle Owls Bubo bubo as the males are very vocal and easily detected. The species is considered rare in Slovenia, with about 100-150 known breeding localities. Most of the sites are found in the karstic region of western Slovenia, while smaller numbers also live in northern and eastern Slovenia. The breeding habitat is usually represented by limestone cliffs with a southerly exposition, rocky slopes and quarries. During the last 20 years DOPPS - BirdLife Slovenia has been organising a traditional spring census of Eagle Owls in the Karst, aimed at counting as many singing males as possible. In one single evening, up to 100 or more people, divided in groups, check the owl's presence at around 40 locations across the Karst. The count is made at dusk, when the volunteers wait quietly for the very characteristic "uu-h", uttered by the male Eagle Owl. Last weekend we attended the census and were lucky to confirm the presence of the owl at our site...

The male Eagle Owl was holding a territory in a quarry and was singing in full view on the top of a pine. Later also its female joined with the singing, but for a short time. The whole singing is usually quite short, lasting only some minutes or maybe half an hour. On the census evening only 9 other sites had singing Eagle Owls.

A few days later we were again watching a male Eagle Owl at dusk, this time at the Karst edge. This bird was even more showy than the previous as it sang in full view for no less than 45 minutes. The light was fading fast, so taking proper photos was very tricky. In the second photo (above) note the white throat-patch, visible when the bird sings and puffs its throat feathers. 

Apart from Eagle Owls, in the previous days we also enjoyed some early-spring birdwatching at the Ć kocjanski zatok Nature Reserve (above), seeing among other things, our year's first Swallows Hirundo rustica and an Alpine Swift Apus melba. A noisy flock of Common Cranes Grus grus passed high above our heds, while other interesting birds included Garganey Anas querquedula, Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius, Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus, Ruff Philomachus pugnax, Crested Tit Lophophanes cristatus (new species for the site!) and a Ferruginous Duck Aythya nyroca x Pochard Aythya ferina hybrid. The above drake Shoveler Anas clypeata was feeding a few meters in front of a hide.

Warmer temperatures are slowly melting the snow-covered woodland floor and vernal flowers are starting to emerge at large. Some woodlands in the Karst are already carpeted with colourful blooms. Here are some that we found recently...

Hepatica Hepatica nobilis (with Primrose Primula vulgaris in the lower pic)

Snowdrop Galanthus nivalis

Hacquetia epipactis

Alpine Squill Scilla bifolia

Isopyrum thalictroides

Wood Anemone Anemome nemorosa

Lungwort Pulmonaria officinalis

Spring Crocus Crocus vernus

Crocus reticulatus

Honey Bee Apis mellifera collecting nectar on willow Salix flowers.