Monday 25 May 2015

Trnovski gozd, orchids and botanising

Primula carniolica
Today I attended a botanical excursion to Trnovski gozd (Trnovo forest) and its southern edge. It was a great trip with a lot of interesting and rare plants. The area lies in a biogeographic region where different types of flora meet: in one place you can find plants from the Alps, the Mediterranean, the Balkans and central Europe growing together. Below there's a selection of the most interesting of those seen today, mostly representing the Alpine floristic elements.
Primula carniolica - endemic plant of the NW Dinaric mountains (only found in Slovenia).
Anemone trifolia
Pinguicula alpina - frequently sharing the same wet and cold rocky habitats with Primula carniolica.
Clematis alpina
Daphne cneorum: a rare and protected species with a fragrant smell.
Viola biflora
Euphorbia triflora subsp. triflora - the southern edge of Trnovski gozd is the only place where this species is found in Slovenia.
Gentiana clusii
Paederota lutea
Aquilegia nigricans
Veratrum album
Petasites paradoxus
Leontodon incanus
Ranunculus platanifolius
Beech forest with Allium ursinum in the undergrowth.

The botanical day was rounded up with a few very good bird sightings. Among them was this nice female Three-toed Woodpecker Picoides tridactylus; first heard drumming and then watched well for more than half an hour.
Three-toed Woodpecker Picoides tridactylus, female.
Bullfinch Pyrrhula pyrrhula, male.

I was also happy to see that the Lesser Grey Shrikes Lanius minor have returned to the Vipava valley in good numbers: 4-5 individuals were present today and were very vocal (parrot-like calls). In the sky about 10 Red-footed Falcons Falco vespertinus were hunting insects.

Lesser Grey Shrike Lanius minor

And now to the orchids. The wider area of Trieste and part of western Slovenia is a particularly good region for orchids. In the past two weeks I managed to see several different species, some of them are particularly interesting. Let the photographs speak...
Himantoglossum adriaticum - probably the oddest orchid to be found in Europe. A typical Mediterranean species found rarely also in the interior of Slovenia and other European countries. It is common in Istria (Croatia) as well as parts of the Slovenian coast. Note the tongue-shaped labellum, which gave the species name. Photographed near Koper, Slovenia.
Ophrys apifera, Trieste.
Ophrys holosericea, Trieste.
Ophrys insectifera, Mt.Čaven, Slovenia.
Orchis (Anacamptis) coriophora subsp. fragrans, Trieste.
Serapias vomeracea, Trieste.
Anacamptis pyramidalis, Trieste.
Orchis militaris, Slovenian Karst.
Orchis (Neotinea) ustulata, Slovenian Karst.
Neotinea tridentata, Slovenian Karst.
Cephalanthera longifolia, Slovenian Karst.
Limodorum abortivum, Trieste.
Listera ovata, Trieste Karst.
Neottia nidus-avis, Slovenian Karst. A common woodland orchid, lacking chlorophyll and living in simbiosis with a fungi. Note: possible confusion with species of the genus Orobanche (not orchids).

And to round up the post another selection of non-orchid plant species, present at this time of year around the Karst. There's hardly any better time for botany than now...
Iris graminea
Lathyrus venetus
Melittis melissophyllum (left) and Galeobdolon luteum (right).
Dictamnus albus
Ornithogalum sphaerocarpum
Actaea spicata
Thalictrum aquilegiifolium
Onosma javorkae (dalmatica)
Spartium junceum with the city of Trieste in the background.

Tuesday 19 May 2015

Red-footed Falcon invasion

Red-footed fest on the Karst.
In the past week Slovenia has witnessed an invasion of RED-FOOTED FALCONS Falco vespertinus. Large flocks from 100 up to 400 individuals were reported at single localities around the country. The usual, well-known stop-over sites for the species like Ljubljansko barje (Ljubljana marsh) and Cerkniško jezero were of course the main areas of aggregation. In the Friuli lowlands of nearby Italy good numbers of birds were reported, but in smaller flocks than in Slovenia.
Yesterday I got my dose of Red-footed Falcons, paying a visit to a know stop-over site on the Slovenian Karst. Here every May I regularly see small flocks of 5-10 birds. But this year is exceptional: I counted at least 80 birds in different flocks, but at times it was difficult to count them. My estimate is of at least 100 birds. Both sexes were represented, although females seemed more numerous. I don't remember seeing Red-footed Falcons so well and close (not even in the colonies in Hungary!). A large part of the flock was frequently perched on some low trees, allowing great views from the car, down to 15 metres (above).
Meanwhile some Barred Warblers Sylvia nisoria were holding territories in the nearby bushes. I counted 3-4 of them and managed to see a male. Lots of other commoner birds around, including: Hoopoe Upupa epops, Quail Coturnix coturnix, Common Whitethroat Sylvia communis, Cuckoo Cuculus canorus, Grey-headed Woodpecker Picus canus, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos minor, Wood Warbler Phylloscopus sibilatrix, Golden Oriole Oriolus oriolus and tons of Red-backed Shrikes Lanius collurio and Corn Buntings Miliaria calandra. In the past days I've also seen the first returning Honey Buzzards Pernis apivorus on the Karst.
Wood Warbler Phylloscopus sibilatrix
Honey Buzzard Pernis apivorus male