Monday 3 February 2020

A taste of early spring

Middle Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos medius, Karst.
Dipper Cinclus cinclus, Vipava valley.
Fire Salamander Salamandra salamandra, Vipava valley.
Elf Cup Sarcoscypha austriaca/coccinea, Vipava valley.
Istrian Hellebore Helleborus multifidus ssp. istriacus, Karst.
Yellow-berried Mistletoe Loranthus europaeus, Karst.
A forest stream in the hills of the Vipava valley.

In the past two weeks the weather has been quite wet and foggy and not particularly cold. So far we are having a quite "weak" and untypical winter. We haven't been much in the field, only locally in the Karst and Vipava valley, checking some territories and doing explorations for the coming spring. Therefore nothing particularly exciting to report, although we still enjoyed some good species. As we took a few walks along our local watercourses like the river Reka (near Škocjanske jame) and the tributaries of the Vipava, we had multiple chances to observe Dippers Cinclus cinclus (yet again!). We were particularly happy to find a courting pair on a small forest stream in the Vipava valley, where we didn't quite expect to find the species. In another stream we observed several of the endemic Marbled Trouts Salmo marmoratus, including a really huge specimen (like this one we had some years ago). In the Karst we also had multiple encounters with Middle Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos medius, including two birds at new sites. Soon the Middle Spot fever will begin, as we'll be again surveying the species and looking for new territories in western Slovenia. Yesterday we also heard the first "singing" Black Woodpecker Dryocopus martius announcing the start of the woodpecker breeding season! With colleagues from BirdLife Slovenia we also started to check the breeding territories of Eagle Owls Bubo bubo, but with scarce success, usually due to bad weather. However, almost every time we waited for dusk, we saw a Woodcock Scolopax rusticola, a common bird on migration in late autumn, but seldom seen due to its nocturnal habits. This winter Woodcocks seem commoner than usual, probably because of mild temperatures in the Karst (they usually move further south when sub-zero temperatures hit).
Due to mild temperatures (around 10 degrees C) yesterday we also observed the first Fire Salamanders Salamandra salamandra of the season in a wet forest by a stream.