Wednesday 12 September 2018

Dinaric mountains & Brown Bears

In the past week or so we turned our attention to birding and wildlife watching in the forests of the Dinaric region in Notranjska. September marks the start of the autumn season and thus an exciting time to explore forest habitats. On one day we escorted a UK couple on a birding trip around the Cerknica lake and Volovja reber plateau. It was an amazing day for birds with a good migration movement and lots of interesting species. Berry bearing bushes, trees and hedges were alive with Willow Warblers Phylloscopus trochilus, Lesser Whitehroats Sylvia curruca, Garden Warblers Sylvia borin, Whinchats Saxicola rubetra, Common Redstarts Phoenicurus phoenicurus, Pied Flycatchers Ficedula hypoleuca, Spotted Flycatchers Muscicapa striata and a beautiful migrant Wryneck Jynx torquilla. In the sky above Volovja reber we spotted a Short-toed Eagle Circaetus gallicus in hunting mode, while on lake Cerknica we were greeted by an adult White-tailed Eagle Haliaeetus albicilla perched on the wet meadows and a quartering Montagu's Harrier Circus pygargus.
Short-toed Eagle Circaetus gallicus

In the mixed forests near lake Cerknica we also flushed a beautiful Ural Owl Strix uralensis that was hunting along a forest road as we drove past. After flying it landed nearby where, although well-camouflaged, we could watch it for more than 20 minutes through the scope. It wasn't even one of our target birds for the day, but nevertheless a lifer for our guests!

Ural Owl Strix uralensis

Later in the week we took some guests for an afternoon bear-watching session at the purpose-built hides in the forests of Loška dolina ( We were rewarded with 2 young male Brown Bears Ursus arctos that performed well in front of the hide for more than an hour in the early afternoon. It's always amazing to watch these wild animals so close and appreciate every fine detail of their plush-like fur!

Brown Bear Ursus arctos

From and around the hides we also enjoyed some woodpeckers: a Middle Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos medius was in the forest around the hides for most of the afternoon and came to feed on some trees in front of us. Later we also heard 2 Black Woodpeckers Dryocopus martius, a Grey-headed Woodpecker Picus canus and a Great Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos major.

Middle Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos medius

One day we also visited the Snežnik plateau and some dry grasslands at the edge of the forest. Mushroom season has just begun and beautiful fungi are beginning to sprout a bit everywhere. In the evening we listened to the first rutting Red Deer Cervus elaphus stags (the rutting peak will follow in a week or two) and to the quintessential "chorus" of hundreds of Edible Dormice Glis glis, feasting on beech mast. Along a forest road we found several Bear droppings, while in an beech stump we found an old White-backed Woodpecker's Dendrocopos leucotos nest-hole. On the way home we also stumbled into a nice Eastern Hedgehog Erinaceus concolor, sadly only the second live hedgehog we see this year.

Mountain pastures on the western edge of the Snežnik plateau.
"Yellowish Leek" Allium ericetorum (syn. A. ochroleucum).
Parasol Mushroom Macrolepiota procera
Russula sp.
Lactarius sp.
Old nesting hole of White-backed Woodpecker Dendrocopos leucotos.
Droppings of Brown Bear Ursus arctos
Eastern Hedgehog Erinaceus concolor