What used to be the best month of all, this year is actually a catastrophe. The weather has been rather wintry until a few days ago, with temperatures moving between 6 and 11 degrees for most of the past two or three weeks. Many mountain areas were covered in snow, while lower altitudes were almost constantly battered by the rain. The latter is rather normal at this time of year, but this May we actually had only about one sunny day a week. Due to the low temperatures, many insectivorous summer migrants were struggling to find food, especially those that already started breeding. Exhausted SwallowsHirundo rustica resting on the ground or in other unusual places were common to come across. Now the situation is slightly better with temperatures on the increase, although it looks like the rain will be accompanying us to the very end of May.
Barn SwallowHirundo rustica
Despite the unfavourable weather we managed to carry out some of the fieldwork we had to do and also make the usual stroll or two around the Karst. During one of the few available sunny days we went counting migrating raptors along the ridge of mount Vremščica and observed several interesting species including OspreyPandion haliaetus, WhiteCiconia ciconia and Black StorkCiconia nigra, Short-toed EagleCircaetus gallicus, Honey BuzzardPernis apivorus, Griffon VultureGyps fulvus and Goshawk Accipiter gentilis. Honey Buzzards in particular are streaming back from the south in good numbers and can be observed quite frequently these days (saw them even from home).
Among other welcome sights in the Karst were also Red-backed ShrikeLanius collurio, Spotted FlycatcherMuscipaca striata, Pied FlycatcherFicedula hypoleuca, Wood WarblerPhylloscopus sibilatrix, Icterine WarblerHippolais icterina and the shy but colourful Golden OrioleOriolus oriolus - the real star of the woodland at the moment.
Golden OrioleOriolus oriolus (male)
Male Red-backed ShrikeLanius collurio - singing and eating a Field Cricket Gryllus campestris (watch the video).
After the cold spell, butterflies and other invertebrates are slowly "coming back to life". Among the most interesting species we observed were: Chequered BlueScolitantides orion (scarce species in Slovenia, mostly found in the west of the country), Southern White AdmiralLimenitis reducta and Duke of BurgundyHamearis lucina. From May onwards it is usually good to take a closer look at fresh log piles at woodland edges, which usually host the chunky Beech Longhorn BeetleMorimus funereus - we found our first two of the season the other day.
Chequered BlueScolitantides orion
Duke of BurgundyHamearis lucina
Southern White AdmiralLimenitis reducta
Large Wall BrownLasiommata maera
Dalmatian AlgyroidesAlgyroides nigropunctatus
Fortunately, regardless of the weather, there are countless orchids and other wildflowers to enjoy at this time of year. The star of the moment in broadleaved karstic woodlands is certainly the impressive Wild PeonyPaeonia officinalis, while the meadows will be soon reaching the climax in orchid variety.
Wild PeonyPaeonia officinalis
"Slender-leaved Asparagus" Asparagus tenuifolius
Lily of the ValleyConvallaria majalis
Military OrchidOrchis militaris
Burnt-tip OrchidNeotinea ustulata
Three-toothed OrchidNeotinea tridentata
Lady OrchidOrchis purpurea
Mountain Pasqueflower Pulsatilla montana (both in flower and in seed)
Javorka's Golden DropOnosma javorkae (O. dalmatica/O.echioides)
Drypis spinosa subsp. jacquiniana
Meanwhile it's breeding time in Škocjanski zatok NR, where we are carrying out the usual spring monitorings of birds. Purple HeronArdea purpurea seems to be breeding again this year, while the ducklings of the local Greylag GeeseAnser anser are doing well. The brackish lagoon is full of breeding Common TernsSterna hirundo (something between 70-100 pairs) and Little TernsSternula albifrons (about 5-10 pairs), while from the beginning of May we've been regularly seeing returning Little BitternsIxobrychus minutus too. Among the most interesting species observed recently we certainly need to mention a TurnstoneArenaria interpres in the lagoon (on the 7th of May), which was a new species for the reserve (the 254th species)! Other locally interesting birds included Grey Plover Pluvialis squatarola (2 in breeding plumage) & Red-footed FalconFalco vespertinus (1 male). The reedbeds are now resounding with the songs of breeding Great Reed WarblersAcrocephalus arundinaceus (up to 39 singing males) and Reed WarblersAcrocephalus scirpaceus (47 counted), as well as migrant MarshAcrocephalus palustris and Sedge WarblersAcrocephalus schoenobaenus. All in all, an excellent time to learn how to identify Acros by their songs!