Wednesday 31 December 2014

MAGIC 2014 - the review

BROWN BEAR Ursus arctos - the absolute highlight of 2014.

DIPPER Cinclus cinclus at Planinska jama on the 1st of January.

Singing male EAGLE OWL Bubo bubo in January, on the outskirts of Trieste.

Three GOLDEN EAGLES Aquila chrysaetos together on mount Nanos in February. It was another good season with the eagles on the grassy slopes of Nanos; observed several times throughout winter, spring and summer.

BEARDED TIT Panurus biarmicus (male) at Škocjanski zatok nature reserve (February).

Primula auricula on the Slovenian Karst (February).

DIPPER Cinclus cinclus on the Hubelj river in Ajdovščina (February). This bird was nesting nearby.

PYGMY OWL Glaucidium passerinum in Trnovski gozd (February). Special!

GOOSANDERS Mergus merganser on the river Vipava in March. Good numbers of these birds were also seen on the Trboje lake in northern Slovenia, in February.

 Scilla bifolia (top) and Hacquetia epipactis (bottom) - two typical early spring flowers in Slovenia.

One of the two WHITE-BACKED WOODPECKERS Dendrocopos leucotos lilfordi seen on a March day in the Snežnik forests.

Helleborus niger - Snežnik forest, March.

A showy COMMON CRANE Grus grus in April at Škocjanski zatok. Another 5 birds were seen from Koper's town centre in March.

One of the three BLACK-EARED WHEATEARS Oenanthe hispanica I found at Campo Carri (Trieste) at the beginning of April. The same day I also had a PALLID HARRIER Circus macrourus, a RING OUZEL Turdus torquatus and a GRIFFON VULTURE Gyps fulvus. Best migration day of the year.

One of the several THREE-TOED WOODPECKERS Picoides tridactylus I had in April in the Snežnik forests. Nearby there was a singing URAL OWL Strix uralensis and later on Cerkniško jezero I've also found a breeding-plumaged RED-NECKED GREBE Podiceps grisegena and an adult WHITE-TAILED EAGLE Haliaeetus albicilla.

Omphalodes verna - Snežnik forest, April.

From left to right: Orchis morio, Pulsatilla montana and Alyssum montanum on the Slovenian Karst (April).

RED-FOOTED FALCON Falco vespertinus near Divača in April.

Fritillaria orientalis - Divača, April.

Arabis scopoliana - Nanos, May.

Daphne alpina & Iris illyrica - Nanos, May.

Primula carniolica (a Slovene endemic) in Trnovski gozd in May. The same day also produced a THREE-TOED WOODPECKER Picoides tridactylus, a pair of GOLDEN EAGLES Aquila chrysaetos and a reptile-lifer: AESCULAPIAN SNAKE Zamenis longissimus.

Primula auricula - Kucelj (Southern edge of Trnovski gozd), May.

Beech woodland in Trnovski gozd (May).
CORY'S SHEARWATER Calonectris diomedea from Miramare in May. During the same seawatch I also had YELKOUAN SHEARWATERS Puffinus yelkouan and two GANNETS Morus bassanus.

Lek of the CAPERCAILLIE Tetrao urogallus on the Pokljuka plateau (Triglav National Park), where I heard a singing male in May.

 PYGMY OWL Glaucidium passerinum - Pokljuka (Triglav National Park), May.

LESSER GREY SHRIKE Lanius minor on Kraški rob in May. This, along with a WOODCHAT SHRIKE Lanius senator, was one of the 3 shrike species seen together on the same day.

OLM Proteus anguinus in Planinska jama (Planina cave) during a university field trip in May. An endemic of the Dinaric mountains. Pic by Martin Senič.

13 BLACK STORKS Ciconia nigra (14 in tot.) and a WHITE-TAILED EAGLE Haliaeetus albicilla soaring together at Cerkniško jezero in May - university field trip. Pic by Martin Senič.
During our stay at Cerkniško jezero we could hear daily one or two singing BITTERNS Botaurus stellaris and several CORNCRAKES Crex crex.

WALLCREEPER Tichodroma muraria in the Trenta valley (Triglav National Park) in May, during the last day of university field trip. Pic by Martin Senič.
In the river Soča we also saw the endemic MARBLED TROUTS Salmo marmoratus and DIPPERS Cinclus cinclus were on every rock!

 Pinguicula alpina - Vršič pass (Triglav National Park), May.

 Soldanella alpina - Vršič pass (Triglav National Park), May.

A visit to the Juliana Alpine Botanical Garden in the Trenta valley (Triglav National Park) in May was also one of the year's highlights. Above Cypripedium calceolus, a species I need to see in the wild next year!

ORTOLAN BUNTING Emberiza hortulana on Kraški rob in June. Throughout spring I surveyed the species for my university thesis. Only 7-8 singing males were active in the area where the last "vital" population in Slovenia remains.

ROCK THRUSH Monticola saxatilis on mount Nanos, where two males were holding territories in May and June.

Lilium carniolicum - Nanos, June.

Lilium martagon - Trnovski gozd, June.

Lilium bulbiferum - Mala Gora (Southern edge of Trnovski gozd), June. All three species of lily were seen in the same area on the same day.

Hladnikia pastinacifolia - Čaven (Southern edge of Trnovski gozd), June. An endemic of Trnovski gozd.

Genista holopetala - Čaven (Southern edge of Trnovski gozd), June. A rare plant in Slovenia.

Scolymus hispanicus, Savudrija (Istria), July. A bit of Mediterranean atmosphere was provided during the short trips to Croatia: first with a BLACK-HEADED BUNTING Emberiza melanocephala and then with a pair of breeding OLIVACEOUS WARBLERS Iduna (Hippolais) pallida in Istria. Plus of course the long list of interesting plants and Istrian endemics seen during my university field trips.

Dawn on Breginjski Stol with mt. Krn in the distance (July). Falling asleep (and waking up) with the sheep's bells tinkling and singing Skylarks is priceless.

One of the 3 singing ROCK PARTRIDGES Alectoris graeca on Breginjski Stol in July. In the dawn chorus were also involved up to 7 CORNCRAKES Crex crex and visual delight was provided by a family of ROCK THRUSHES Monticola saxatilis.

Rhododendron hirsutum on Breginjski Stol, with mt. Kanin in the back (July).

Centaurea rupestris on Karstic stony grassland at the breeding site of the Ortolan Buntings. In this habitat in summer I also had a NOSE-HORNED VIPER Vipera ammodytes which was one of the non-bird highlights of the year.

Part of the Kanin mountain range where in July I saw some typical Alpine birds like SNOWFINCH Montifringilla nivalis, ALPINE ACCENTOR Prunella collaris, ALPINE CHOUGH Pyrrhocorax graculus and RING OUZEL Turdus torquatus.

Pulsatilla alpina on Bela Peč/Bila pec in the Kanin mountain range (July).

Centaurea alpina on the Slovenian Karst (July) - one of the rarest plants in Slovenia.

Edraianthus graminifolius - mt. Snežnik, July.

Leontopodium alpinum - mt. Snežnik, July.

July botanical mix on mount Snežnik. During this trip me and my friend came across a melanistic ADDER Vipera berus, a ROCK THRUSH Monticola saxatilis and two URAL OWLS Strix uralensis.

 ALPINE SALAMANDER Salamandra atra - mt. Snežnik, July.

CORNCRAKE Crex crex - a showy bird on Cerkniško jezero in July.

Rhododendron hirsutum with mount Mangart in the background. The trip to the Mangart plateau in August produced a long list of plant lifers, a WALLCREEPER Tichodroma muraria and other typical Alpine birds.

Nigritella rhellicani - Mangart plateau, August.

Potentilla nitida - Mangart plateau, August.

 SHORT-TOED EAGLE Circaetus gallicus near Divača in August.

Allium carinatum - Divača, August.

Campanula cespitosa - mt. Poldanovec (Trnovski gozd), August.

Pair of GOLDEN EAGLES Aquila chrysaetos on mt. Nanos in August.

 BROWN BEAR Ursus arctos in Ribnica-Kočevje forest district (September) - the absolute highlight of the year.

The MIDDLE SPOTTED WOODPECKER Dendrocopos medius I found on the Italian Karst in September. Pic by Igor Maiorano.

One of the two URAL OWLS Strix uralensis I found on the Slovenian Karst in September. The behaviour of the two individuals suggests a pair breeding in the area. Nearby, in the same woodland I also found some fresh footprints of Brown Bear Ursus arctos.

My first YELLOW-BROWED WARBLER Phylloscopus inornatus at Isola della Cona NR in October.

MIDDLE SPOTTED WOODPECKER Dendrocopos medius in the Snežnik forests in October.

 THREE-TOED WOODPECKER Picoides tridactylus - the first is from Trnovski gozd (November), the second from the Snežnik forests (December).
In 2014 I had about 10-13 different Three-toeds; amazingly all were females. Target for next year: to find a male!

WHITE-BACKED WOODPECKER Dendrocopos leucotos lilfordi (male and female) - the star bird species of the year (along with Three-toed). In autumn I had 4 different White-backs in the Snežnik forests. Lower pic by Martin Senič.

URAL OWL Strix uralensis - in 2014 I had several close, daytime encounters with this species in the Snežnik forests. Both pics above are from November.

SNOW BUNTING Plectrophenax nivalis in my local patch at Miramare in December. A new addition to the patch list and a local rarity. New species for the patch in 2014 also included SLAVONIAN GREBE Podiceps auritus, LITTLE GULL Larus minutus and BLACK TERN Chlidonias niger. Local patch check-list now stands at 163 species.

SARDINIAN WARBLER Sylvia melanocephala (male) visiting the garden in December.

2014 - so far the best wildlife year of my life. Thanks to all my friends who shared those special moments with me. But above all I'd like to thank my dear "best field assistant" to whom I dedicate this post.