Friday 30 May 2014

A week in MAGIC Slovenia

I spent most of the current week in Slovenia for university field work. Despite the bad weather (except yesterday) it was a good couple of days, stuffed with excellent wildlife sightings and a very long list of plants.
Three days were spent on the Cerknica lake, where botany was once again the main focus. The absolute highlight here was seeing a flock of 14 BLACK STORKS soaring above the lake together with an adult WHITE-TAILED EAGLE. I've never seen such a numerous flock of Black Storks and I presume it's a quite rare sight in Slovenia.
Black Storks Ciconia nigra & White-tailed Eagle Haliaeetus albicilla (bottom right) - a documentative, phone-binning shot.
A night trip around the lake to listen to CORNCRAKES (4-5 singing males) also produced a booming BITTERN, which was very cool to hear. Other commoner birds seen during our stay included: Hobby, Tree Pipit, Black Woodpecker, Yellowhammer, Cuckoo, Golden Oriole, Wryneck, Quail, Yellow and Grey Wagtail, Sedge and Marsh Warbler, Common Whitethroat, Garden Warbler, Fieldfare, White Stork.
A speleological visit to the interior of Planinska jama (Planina's cave) gave us the opportunity to see in the wild the most charismatic of all Dinaric endemisms and the largest cave-dwelling vertebrate: the OLM (Proteus anguinus). Out of the cave, a nice Dipper was seen on the river Unica.
Iris pseudacorus
Wet meadow with Lychnis flos-cuculi
Orchis palustris
Morimus funereus - a large beetle from the Cerabycidae family
Yesterday we visited the Triglav National Park, more precisely the Trenta valley. A female WALLCREEPER was the most unexpected and thrilling sight of the day. It remained on view for several minutes, performing on the cliffs overlooking a large waterfall.
Wallcreeper Tichodroma muraria - pic by Martin Senič
At least 3 Dippers were seen along the emerald-coloured river Soča, where also the rare and localised Marble Trout (Salmo marmoratus) was seen. 

River Soča's source - this year with an exceptional amount of water
Western Bonelli's Warblers were commonly heard and seen in the wooded areas, while Crag Martins were flying overhead and several Common Redstarts were singing in the small villages. Here I also saw my first Spotted Flycatchers of the year. The upland slopes of the Vršič pass held also a Ring Ouzel, several Dunnocks, Bullfinches and a Lesser Whitethroat. Three Alpine Ibexes (Capra ibex) added a bit of characteristic alpine atmosphere to the day, as did the hundreds of interesting wildflowers around the valley and on the Vršič pass. Quite interesting was the visit to the Juliana Alpine Botanical Garden where some rare and exciting plants are cultivated (for example the Cypripedium calceolus below).
Soldanella alpina
Soldanella minima
Pinguicula alpina
Rhodothamnus chamaecistus
Primula auricula
Phyteuma orbiculare
Paederota lutea
Viola biflora
Cypripedium calceolus in the Juliana Alpine Botanical Garden
View on the mountains from the Trenta valley
View from the Vršič pass
Vršič pass (1611 m)
As usual for a good day, a singing Tawny Owl at night was the perfect way to round up the trip.