Friday 27 June 2014

Southern edge of Trnovski gozd - botanic trip

Rhododendron hirsutum in its full glory - widely distributed along the rocky slopes of Čaven, but only 5 or 6 flowering bushes found yesterday.

Hladnikia pastinacifolia (Apiaceae family) a true endemic of Trnovski gozd, found only here and nowhere else in the world! Discovered in 1819 by Franc Hladnik. Note the distinctive leaves (second pic).
Genista holopetala - another specialty of the area, in Slovenia growing only on the southern edge of Trnovski gozd. It has a Balkanic distribution, found mainly on the Velebit mountain range in Croatia.
Scabiosa graminifolia - pretty abundant here.
Lilium carniolicum - found on open grassy slopes. About 10-15 of these yesterday.
Lilium martagon - preferring more shady places than the other two lilies. Common in beech woodland on the margins of roads.
Lilium bulbiferum - the third species of lily seen yesterday.
Gentiana utriculosa
Gentiana lutea - one single plant already in flower (first pic); others still in development, but looking really good anyway!
Iris sibirica ssp. erirrhiza - an endemic subspecies in Slovenia. In contrast with the nominate ssp. growing on wet grounds, this one prefers dry grasslands.
Phyteuma scheuchzeri
Campanula trachelium
Two views from Čaven (southern edge of Trnovski gozd) looking towards the Vipava valley. Mt. Nanos is visible in the distance to the left (highest top).
Grassy-rocky slopes of Čaven, looking towards the Vipava valley and the Karst. The Adriatic sea (Gulf of Trieste) is visible far in the background to the right.
View towards the Trnovo forest
My third ever true botanical visit to Trnovski gozd (Trnovo forest). More precisely the southern edge of the forest (Čaven and Mala Gora - 1034 to 1242 m), which is dominated by open grasslands, steep rocky slopes, cliffs and screes. An area of mix between different floras (Alpine, Balkanic, Submediterranean...) resulting in a large variety of interesting taxa, including several endemics and extremely localised species. No wonder I didn't see any birds... my look was constantly concentrated on the ground. At the end of the day I gathered a pretty long list of species, including several "dreamed of" lifers.
The only true interesting birds were 4 Lesser Grey Shrikes seen in the Vipava valley at the end of the trip.

Tuesday 24 June 2014

Intoxicating botany

Gladiolus illyricus
Dianthus monspessulanus (hyssopifolium)
Legousia speculum-veneris
Filipendula vulgaris
Lathyrus latifolius
Potentilla erecta
Prunella grandiflora
Betonica officinalis
Rhinanthus freynii
Libelloides macaronius - a colorful net-winged insect (Neuroptera), belonging to the family Ascalaphidae (Owlflies). Superficially resembling a dragonfly.
Suffering from heavy botanical intoxication at the moment. This is simply the best time of the year to go around and look for wildflowers, so that's what I've been doing. Above is a selection of the stuff seen this morning on the Slovenian Karst. I have tons of flower pics I could post... but I always try to do a "best selection" of every trip. Today apart from the above I was also quite happy with an unexpeceted White Stork in flight over the fields. This is probably one of the birds breeding around Razdrto or somewhere in the Vipava valley. I don't know any breeding locations on the Karst. Despite the late time of my visit, a Barred Warbler called from a bush and several other birds were singing, including an odd Nightjar, delivering its song at around midday!
Also a few Hoopoes, a Quail, Black Woodpecker and usual summer breeding mix.

Monday 23 June 2014

Week in review

Ortolan Bunting Emberiza hortulana - male carrying food to the nest
Another week spent with the Ortolan Buntings. The birds have become less active and vocal, but there has been increasing activity of both sexes carrying food to the nests. With the help of colour rings I managed to identify two different active pairs in a small area of dry grassland. Some other Ortolans in the surroundings were only heard singing. Up to 5 birds in total - anyway this is a good portion of the Slovenian population.
Meanwhile the pair of Golden Eagles is doing well. A chicken-sized juvenile is now sitting on the nest, while the parents are usually seen cruising around the grasslands, occasionally also sitting on the nearby rocks.
Adult Golden Eagle Aquila chrysaetos perched and in flight
The major highlight on Saturday was a Nose-horned Viper (Vipera ammodytes) on a dry stony wall on the grassland "at the Buntings". It was a quite small individual, so probably still a young. The area is a great place for Nose-horned Vipers which prefer stony and dry places on calcareous grounds. They have a Balkanic distribution and in Slovenia they are found mainly on karstic terrains.
Otherwise lots of Hoopoes (up to 8) which are frequently flushed from the road. Also of note were Hobby (1 mobbing the eagles), Subalpine Warbler (1 singing), Tawny Pipit (2), Turtle Dove, Crossbill and a male Honey Buzzard displaying in the air (wing clapping).
Tragopogon tommasinii
Linum tenuifolium
Today was my first day of weekly bird monitoring (again after a long time) at the Škocjanski zatok nature reserve. The wetland is now in full breeding swing with lots of juveniles around. I counted no less than 66 Black-winged Stilts (about 30 pairs bred this year), 53 Common Terns and lots of Coot chicks.
The most welcome news is that of the breeding of LITTLE TERN in the brackish lagoon. This year the species is breeding again after many years of absence on the site. Today I saw the pair: one bird sitting on the nest, the other fishing nearby.
The tall reeds are now covering much of the freshwater marsh, so viewing is quite difficult. From the depths of the Phragmites stands there are literally tens and tens of singing Great Reed and Reed Warblers as usual in this season. Perhaps the most interesting are Little Bitterns (4 today) giving brief flight views as they fly from one patch of reed to the other. Also a few passage waders in the form of Common and Wood Sandpiper and Lapwing - not really common at this time of year. Breeding birds also include several pairs of Little Ringed Plover and Yellow Wagtail (cinereocapilla) in the lagoon.

Monday 16 June 2014


Centaurea rupestris and Syntomis phegea (moth)
Anthericum ramosum
Allium scorodoprasum
Anacamptis pyramidalis
Dianthus carthusianorum subsp. sanguineus
Jurinea mollis
Prunella laciniata
Teucrium chamaedrys
Teucrium montanum
Carniolan Burnet Zygaena carniolica and Black-veined White Aporia crataegi
Six-spot Burnet Zygaena filipendulae and Z.carniolica (back and below)
Ortolan Bunting Emberiza hortulana
Hoopoe Upupa epops in singing posture
Quite busy time with studies and not much birding, except for the weekly Ortolan Bunting census. Had six singing males last week plus usual local stuff like Golden Eagle, Hoopoe family (5 birds), common grassland birds and a Short-toed Eagle.
I'm taking time to ID and photograph some of the common wildflowers on the Karst. Above is a taste of Karstic grassland at this time of year.