Tuesday 30 April 2019

Spring Bear & other wildlife

The busiest season in our year has just began with fieldworks, trips, guidings ect. We spend most of our time outdoors, gathering a rather large amount of sightings & photos... not always easy to squeeze in a single blog post! Here's another one of our "summary posts" covering different areas of Slovenia and including the Karst, Notranjska and Škocjanski zatok. This time we'll start with the most interesting recent observation.
Last Sunday we've been lucky to spot our first Brown Bear Ursus arctos of the year, while escorting a mixed group of UK and Swedish birdwatchers around the forests of Notranjska. The young Bear was spotted and watched from the car, as we were driving on a forest road. It gave excellent and prolonged views as it is frequently the case with young and curious Bears. It was a lifer for all of our guests and needles to say, a great addition to the already interesting bird list of the day. 
Brown Bear Ursus arctos

Despite the terrible weather (rain showers and wind), we've been able to see some interesting birds. In the Javorniki-Snežnik forest complex we were lucky to observe a female White-backed Woodpecker Dendrocopos leucotos and two different Ural Owls Strix uralensis. We watched one of the latter being chased by a Buzzard Buteo buteo as it was peacefully waiting for its meal at the side of a forest glade. Other good birds in the forest included Grey-headed Woodpecker Picus canus, many singing Cuckoos Cuculus canorus, Willow Tit Poecile montanus and Firecrest Regulus ignicapillus
Later we moved to the shores of lake Cerknica where the highlight were at least 15 Red-footed Falcons Falco vespertinus hunting in the wet meadows, along with a Hobby Falco subbuteo and 2 Montagu's Harriers Circus pygargus. Other birds of note on the lake included Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus, Wood Sandpiper Tringa glereola, Greenshank Tringa nebularia, Lapwing Vanellus vanellus, White Stork Ciconia ciconia, Whinchat Saxicola rubetra, Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe, Common Whitethroat Sylvia communis, Sedge Warbler Acrocephalus schoenobaenus, Garden Warbler Sylvia borin and the first Red-backed Shrike Lanius collurio of the season.
Red-footed Falcon Falco vespertinus

An interesting appearence in beech forests at this time of year is the impressive Tau Emperor Aglia tau. This large moth can be most easily observed on sunny days along forest roads, as it flutters restlessly around, without stopping. While we visited the forests of the Nanos plateau last week, we counted at least 10 of these moths in a relatively short stretch of road and managed to catch one with the butterfly net. On Nanos, interesting was also the observation of an immature Golden Eagle Aquila chrysaetos, gliding along the plateau's edge around mount Suhi vrh (the higher "cousin" of mt Nanos).
Tau Emperor Aglia tau
Mt. Nanos (left) and mount Suhi vrh (right) above the Nanoščica river valley.

Meanwhile we've been also around our usual circuits in the Karst, enjoying the ever increasing species of orchids and other plants in flower on the meadows and in the forest. On the bird front we spent quite a lot of time following a pair of Black Storks Ciconia nigra and trying to find out their nesting site to confirm the breeding - so far unsuccessfully, but the hunt continues...
Raptor migration is evident in the skies as we also observed 2 Griffon Vultures Gyps fulvus migrating SE as well as 4 Montagu's Harriers Circus pygargus and a Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus above some open meadows. The first returning Golden Orioles Oriolus oriolus can be now heard in broadleaved woodlands and are somehow easier to spot at this time of year as some of the trees are still leaf-less (oaks in particular).
Apart from hearing the pleasing songs of Cuckoos Cuculus canorus, Hoopoes Upupa epops and Wrynecks Jynx torquilla, we are also very happy about the presence of a male Common Redstart Phoenicurus phoenicurus holding territory in the gardens around our house. It is a widespread breeding bird across Slovenia, but slightly more localised in the Karst where maybe every second village has one or two pairs. Among interesting invertebrates seen recently was also our first Scopoli's Longhorn Beetle Cerambyx scopolii in our garden. Southern Festoon Zerynthia polyxena also occasionally makes an appearence in the garden, while it is more commonly encountered on dry meadows.
Hoopoe Upupa epops
Griffon Vulture Gyps fulvus
Whinchat Saxicola rubetra
Wryneck Jynx torquilla
Nightingale Luscinia megarhynchos
Montagu's Harrier Circus pygargus (with Hooded Crow Corvus corone cornix)
Common Redstart Phoenicurus phoenicurus & Whinchat Saxicola rubetra
Golden Oriole Oriolus oriolus
Three-toothed Orchid Neotinea tridentata
Early-purple Orchid Orchis mascula
Heart-leaved Globularia Globularia cordifolia
Karstic flower meadow in late April.
Wild Peony Paeonia officinalis
Lush green Karst woodland.
Scopoli's Longhorn Beetle Cerambyx scopolii

Last week was rather lively at Škocjanski zatok NR too. A beautiful Osprey Pandion haliaetus fishing in the freshwater marsh in front of the visitor's center was certainly the highlight. However other good observations were made, including: Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus, Squacco Heron Ardeola ralloides, Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis, Curlew Sandpiper Calidris ferruginea, Little Stint Calidris minutus and Zitting Cisticola Cisticola juncidis. Successfull nesting of the Greylag Geese Anser anser was confirmed (for the second consecutive year) when a pair with 6 ducklings was observed. 
Today the first returning Little Terns Sternula albifrons were observed in the lagoon, along with about 80 Common Terns Sterna hirundo, while a Grasshopper Warbler Locustella naevia was singing in the bushes along the reserve's trail.
Osprey Pandion haliaetus
Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus
Greylag Goose Anser anser