|Snowy summit of mount Snežnik (1796 metres a.s.l.).
|Mountain beech forest on rugged limestone terrain.
|White-backed Woodpecker Dendrocopos leucotos lilfordi - male.
|White-backed Woodpecker Dendrocopos leucotos lilfordi - female.
|The beginning of something extraordinary.
|Fresh wood chips on the ground often reveal the site of a new nesting cavity.
|Standing dead beech trees - perfect nesting habitats for woodpeckers.
White-backed Woodpecker Dendrocopos leucotos lilfordi - male drumming
|An isolated dead silver fir Abies alba in the beech forest reveals a...
|...male Three-toed Woodpecker Picoides tridactylus.
|Willow Tit Poecile montanus
|Red Deer Cervus elaphus
|Roe Deer Capreolus capreolus hiding in the forest during the day...
|...and descending to the valleys to feed in the fields at twilight.
Meanwhile, lower down in the "classical" Karst, we have been censusing another forest specialist for the purposes of our ongoing study - the Middle Spotted Woodpecker Leiopicus medius. In our study area (roughly 10 km2) of mature oak woodland we counted 13-14 territories - a relatively good density considering the rarity of the species, until a decade ago. On every census point we also recorded a nice variety of other picids, confirming that these woods offer some excellent habitat to primary and secondary cavity nesters. Grey-headed Picus canus & Great Spotted Woodpeckers Dendrocopos major were particularly common, while slightly less common was the presence of Lesser Spotted Dryobates minor, Green Picus viridis and Black Woodpeckers Dryocopus martius. The mature oak-beech woodlands are now alive also with the songs of common songbirds, including Song Thrushes Turdus philomelos, now present back en masse. Among the other species it's always interesting to note the simultaneous presence of both Short-toed Certhia brachydactyla and Eurasian Treecreeper Certhia familiaris, the latter being scarcer and preferring cooler beech stands. Also nice was a brief encounter with one of our local Ural Owls Strix uralensis, hunting along a forest road. Despite the great drought (the last weak rain was sometime in early February), the woodland nemoral flora is emerging at last. Especially nice to see are carpets of Dog's-tooth Violet Erythronium dens-canis & Hacquetia Hacquetia epipactis in densities difficult to find elsewhere in Slovenia.
|Middle Spotted Woodpecker Leiopicus medius
|Habitat of Middle Spotted Woodpecker on the eastern edge of the Karst.
|Habitat tree - an old oak Quercus petraea with multiple cavities of Middle Spotted Woodpecker.
|Black Woodpecker Dryocopus martius - male.
|Tinder Fungus Fomes fomentarius on beech Fagus sylvatica.
|Dog's-tooth Violet Erythronium dens-canis (in early morning shade & midday sunshine).
|Hacquetia Hacquetia epipactis
|Hepatica Hepatica nobilis & Primrose Primula vulgaris
In March we also made short visits to the wider area of Škocjanske jame (Škocjan caves) and the river Reka. Due to the persistent drought, the water levels of the river were worryingly low. We wanted to check on the breeding progress of Dippers Cinclus cinclus (1-2 pairs along this stretch of river) but the birds were nowhere to be found in their usual territories. They probably moved upstream where water levels might be a little more suitable. However we were amazed to find a pair of migrant Green Sandpipers Tringa ochropus on the river instead, while the local Grey Wagtails Motacilla cinerea were also around in good numbers. One evening, as we were listening for a local pair of Eagle Owls Bubo bubo we also heard several Night Herons Nycticorax nycticorax migrating above the river. The rich, deep soil in the Reka river valley also offers excellent conditions for a varied nemoral flora that was in full bloom at the time of our visits.
|Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea
|Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus stopping on the river Reka during migration.
|Song Thrush Turdus philomelos
|Alpine Squill Scilla bifolia visited by Honeybee Apis mellifera
|Yellow Star-of-Betlehem Gagea lutea
|Toothwort Lathraea squamaria
|Rue-leaved Isopyrum Isopyrum thalictroides
|Solid-tubered Corydalis Corydalis solida
|Bulbous Corydalis Corydalis cava (bulbosa)
|White Violet Viola alba
|Scarce Swallowtail Iphiclides podalirius
|Small Tortoiseshell Aglais urticae
|Black Woodpecker Dryocopus martius - male
|Grey-headed Woodpecker Picus canus - female
|Alluvial forest with pedunculate oak Quercus robur and alder Alnus glutinosa.
|Spring Snowflake Leucojum vernum
|Snake's-head Fritillary Fritillaria meleagris