Thursday 27 February 2014

Kokra river

Dipper pin badge - today's most satisfying Dipper
Goosander Mergus merganser male in flight
Helleborus niger - quite common in woodlands
A nice trip today brought me to the Gorenjska region in Slovenia. The focus was primarily to check the river Kokra for breeding Dippers for a future study on the species. Only three birds were seen in the course of the day, although a total of 6 active nests were found (out of 11 nests in total) - mostly under concrete bridges crossing the river. Apart from the Dippers, the most attractive birds of the day were Goosanders - a total of 20 birds seen on the lake of Trboje. This lake and the one at Zbilje were checked and produced a good number of other winter species like 11 Goldeneyes, lots of Tufted Ducks, 1 Pochard, Great Crested and Little Grebes and commoner stuff.

Sunday 23 February 2014

From Pygmy Owl with love

Pygmy Owl Glaucidium passerinum
Trnovski gozd in the snow
Dipper Cinclus cinclus - smart as always
Sunny afternoon in the snow-covered Trnovo forest with a PYGMY OWL above your head. Can you ask for more? I don't think so.
Sorry for the above pics, it's just a documentative phone-binning attempt. Nevertheless a great moment watching a Pygmy Owl sat for 15 minutes on the top of a fir.
Other birds in the forest included the commoner species like Coal and Willow Tit, Crossbill, Bullfinch, Brambling and so on. An unexpected surprise were 3 ROOKS in a field near Ajdovščina. Pretty scarce winter visitors here. Highlights along the Hubelj river included the pair of Dippers still building their nest, 1 Kingfisher and 2 Grey Wagtails. All the three river specialists.

Friday 21 February 2014

Primula auricula

Bear's-ear Primula auricula
This morning, a proper botany-orientated excursion on the Karst. Main target: Bear's-ear Primula auricula. In Slovenia this plant has its stronghold in the Alpine region, but there are also several isolated "island populations" (in glacial refugia), including a handful on the Karst. It usually grows on calcareous soils and thrives on steep vertical limestone cliffs. With a bit of searching (and climbing) I found several flowering plants (above).
Supporting cast on the karstic woodland's floor included the typical early spring wildflowers like: Galathus nivalis (snowdrop), Primula vulgaris (primrose), Helleborus multifidus, Hepatica nobilis, Corydalis cava, Isopyrum thalictroides, Cardamine enneaphyllos and Crocus reticulatus.
Quite a lot of bird activity in the woodlands, consisting mainly of the common species - nothing really extra to report.

Tuesday 18 February 2014

Bearded Tits

Male Bearded Tit Panurus biarmicus - phone-binned!
Škocjanski zatok NR: this afternoon I made a 20 minute stop at the reserve and got rewarded with brilliant views of a pair of BEARDED TITS, feeding at the edge of a reedbed, close to the "double screening". Besides the two birds observed close by, there were at least another two calling deeper in the reedbed. This small flock is wintering in the area and can be sometimes observed quite well from the main circular path. My visits of the reserve have greatly diminished in the last months, so I didn't have the chance to catch up with this little reedbed beauties until today. My last proper Bearded Tits were in Hungary back in 2011, although I heard them in January 2012 at RSPB Minsmere (England).

Friday 14 February 2014

Golden Eagles in the sun

Golden Eagle Aquila chrysaetos, incl. 3 birds together (2nd pic)
View from the Nanos plateau, looking N. On the left side to the back is the Trnovo forest, while in the far back, the snow-covered Julian Alps are visible.
The view from the Nanos edge down into the Vipava valley and Karst
A splendid sunny day, perfectly clear and unusually warm for being February. The best possible idea for today was to go on Mt. Nanos (Slovenia) and enjoy some Golden Eagles while basking in the sun. And so I did. As soon as I arrived on the grassy plateau, first 2 and then 3 GOLDEN EAGLES performed very well while soaring above the Vipava valley. I identified them as 2 subadults and one adult. After the initial show, the birds disappeared very high in the sky. Then, for the rest of the morning, only one bird (an adult) made quite regular appearances above my head and kept me entertained...until about midday, when two birds were seen again together. Almost at the same time I noticed another massive raptor gliding SE above the Nanos ridge: it was a Griffon Vulture. Other raptors included a Sparrowhawk and a few Buzzards, but not much else. Smaller birds of note included Rock Bunting, Siskin, Crossbill and Woodlark (singing). A pair of Ravens was constructing its nest on a cliff ledge on the rocky slope.
Later in the day I made a brief visit to the river Hubelj, not far from the town centre of Ajdovščina, where a pair of DIPPERS was building a nest in a concrete bank.
Later on I also added Great Grey Shrike to the day list (seen perched on a bush) while I was driving back home. Perfect way to round up a pleasant day.

Wednesday 5 February 2014

Wallcreeper memories

Not quite the perfect time for birding, due to a lot of studying, flu and a terrible weather. So here's a small selection of a must-see bird in winter...Wallcreeper. Just in case I don't see it this season, because no winter is complete without a Wallcreeper post on the blog!