Tuesday 26 August 2014

Evening with the Urals

Ural Owl Strix uralensis sat nicely on a tree.
The perfect place to wait for dusk - in Brown Bear's kingdom.
Another evening spent in the Dinaric forests of Snežnik's plateau. On a large forest glade, me and my friend were treated to the spectacle of a hunting URAL OWL Strix uralensis. It was just around sunset time so there was still a good light. The bird suddenly flew out of the forest and landed on a spruce at the edge of the glade, from where it made regular flights (and plunges) over the open areas of grass. We watched it doing so for about 10 minutes, before it silently disappeared back in the forest. The light was good for watching, but of course not enough for good photos, hence the bad quality of the images. Nearby we had a second bird calling - a female which was somewhere on a spruce, but invisible to us. Earlier in the evening, while we were driving through the forest, we also saw a flying Ural Owl from the car. The night was otherwise very silent with no singing (or calling) birds recorded, although a rutting Red Deer Cervus elaphus was heard.
While driving back home we also had a Tawny Owl Strix aluco on some roadside pines, but most interesting was the encounter with a BADGER Meles meles running at the side of the road and then squeezing itself under a fence. This was by the way my third ever (alive) Badger.

On Sunday I had some business work in Monfalcone, so I went to check the Lisert wetland for two hours or so. The brackish marsh held an adult WHOOPER SWAN Cygnus cygnus - which is a long-staying individual of unknown origin. It bears no rings and earlier this summer it was recorded in several other nearby wetlands, so it is capable of flying. Moreover its shy behaviour suggests a wild origin. Anyway a summering record of a Whooper Swan is very odd, as these birds are quite rare in winter as well.
The area also held a few migrants in the form of a nice Wryneck Jynx torquilla, 3 Pied Flycatchers Ficedula hypoleuca, a Wood Warbler Phylloscopus sibilatrix, Sedge Warbler Acrocephalus schoenobaenus, a Hobby Falco subbuteo and a flock of noisy Bee-eaters Merops apiaster (+20) mobbing a Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus. A Water Rail Rallus aquaticus singing from the reedbed was also cool to hear after a long time. The buoys at sea held the usual flocks of Common Eiders Somateria mollissima (17) and several Sandwich Terns Sterna sandvicensis.
On the botany front, I couldn't miss the speciality of the area - Cephalaria leucantha (aka "Scabiosa trenta") which grows quite commonly along the rocky coast from Trieste to Monfalcone, especially at the side of the main road near the latter. See here why this plant is so interesting.
Cephalaria leucantha - Julius Kugy's legendary plant.