Wednesday 22 April 2015

My sub-Mediterranean patch

A few days ago I took a nice, long walk around the wooded area of my local patch. It is very didactic to see, especially in spring, how the vegetation (and animals too) changes between different locations within one area. The area lies on the south-facing slope that descends from the Karstic plateau to the sea, a few kilometres north-west of Trieste. The climate is sub-Mediterranean and it is reflected on the vegetation. Most of the woodland lies on flysch soils, rich in water, that in turn support a quite rich and lush vegetation at this time of year. I noticed that few other places are so much green and "lushy" in these weeks. The wood's predominant trees are oaks and similar warmth-loving species: Quercus petraea, Fraxinus ornus, Quercus pubescens and Ostrya carpinifolia. Here and there I also noticed a few Quercus cerris.
Fraxinus ornus in flower
Quercus pubescens (male flowers)
Quercus petraea
Of the most interesting bird species, I found a nice male Pied Flycatcher Ficedula hypoleuca and heard two Wood Warblers Phylloscopus sibilatrix. Both species are typical migrants that I encounter in this kind of habitat. Common breeding species in the oak woodland include Green Picus viridis and Great Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos major, Hawfinch Coccothraustes coccothraustes, Nuthatch Sitta europaea, Marsh Tit Poecile palustris and Short-toed Treecreeper Certhia brachydactyla. Lesser Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos minor probably also breeds here.
Pied Flycatcher Ficedula hypoleuca
Hawfinch Coccothraustes coccothraustes
Oak woodland
One of the most interesting plant species I found is Cistus salviifolius. I realised it grows in my patch just a few months ago and the other day I found some specimens in flower. This is one of the few locations where the species grows in the area of Trieste and it represents the northern limit of its distribution. Cistus (family Cistaceae) is a typical genus of the Mediterranean region and C. salviifolius is the only member of this genus to be present here.
Cistus salviifolius
A small woodland clearing where C.salvifolius grows (bushy plant with dark green leaves on the ground)
Another interesting species of this region is Carpinus orientalis. As the name suggests it has an oriental distribution, from south-east Europe to the Middle East. In some places around Trieste there are entire woods made up of these and other termophilic trees.
Carpinus orientalis
Most of the wildflowers have now already finished with their blooming, as the trees have put their leaves on. Here and there you can still find something more colorful, like the species below.
Genista pilosa/decumbens
Euphorbia verrucosa
Thymus sp.
As I mentioned, most of the area is on flysch soil. However there's also a transitional part where limestone (calcareous) terrain is present and here the vegetation changes abruptly. From a rich and green oak woodland you find yourself on an open rocky grassland, with sparse bushes that are typically Mediterranean like Pistacia terebinthus and Paliurus spina-christii. The flowers here haven't reached their blooming climax yet (they will do so in May/June), but some are nevertheless prominent.
Iris illyrica
Polygala nicaaensis
Prunus mahaleb
Warbler prime habitat (Coronilla emerus ssp. emeroides in flower)
The above bushes are a perfect habitat for Mediterranean Sylvias. Indeed both Subalpine Sylvia cantillans and Sardinian Warblers S. melanocephala breed in the area and the other day I had 2 of the former and one of the latter.
Subalpine Warbler Sylvia cantillans
To add some additional Med atmosphere to the area, a nice RED-RUMPED SWALLOW Cercopis daurica (3rd record for the patch) was present in a mixed flock of 30 House Martins Delichon urbicum and 15 Common Swifts Apus apus. Within a larger flock of hirundines I also managed to pick out a few Sand Martins Riparia riparia and some Alpine Swifts Apus melba.
The Red-rumped Swallow kept me entertained while the Subalpine Warbler was not showing, so I even managed to take some shots.
Red-rumped Swallow Cercopis daurica
Apart from that I was also happy with a singing Hoopoe Upupa epops. All in all a very interesting selection of species for the patch standards.
Two days ago I also had my first Short-toed Eagle Circaetus gallicus and Tawny Pipit Anthus campestris of the year.

To round up the post, a short selection of some specialties of the Glinščica/Val Rosandra valley, fresh from today. All three are plants typical of steep limestone screes.
Biscutella laevigata
Festuca spectabilis ssp. carniolica (B. laevigata on the left)
Drypis spinosa ssp. jacquiniana (green "bush") with B. laevigata
Male Blue Rock Thrush Monticola solitarius