Friday 28 August 2015

Wolf howling

Wolf drawing by Paolo Utmar.
Yesterday evening I took part in the yearly Wolf census in Slovenia, organised by Dinaricum, Slovenia Forest Service and the University of Ljubljana. The aim of this census was to locate a territorial pack of GREY WOLVES Canis lupus by imitating their howling and waiting for response (a bit like this). In different groups we covered a wide area of the Slovenian Karst. Soon after the start of the census, one of the groups located a territorial pack and the mission was already accomplished. Later the rest of us joined the lucky group and under a scenographic bright moon I got to hear my first howling Wolf! Amazing.
For more info about Wolves in Slovenia, I strongly reccomend this video and this site: SloWolf project.

Sunday 23 August 2015

Late summer - Karst and Trnovski gozd

Eryngium amethystinum - a very attractive, late-summer flower, typical of the Karst, where it is quite common. It grows on dry and rocky grasslands, frequently also at the side of roads. The flowers start to develop from the middle of July, but initially they look greenish and colourless. As the summer progresses, they gradually acquire the bright blue colouring. E. alpinum (see here) is a closer relative.
Allium senescens (A. montanum), Slovenian Karst. One of the two typical autumn Allium species. Common on dry Karstic grasslands.
Satureja subspicata ssp. liburnica, Slovenian Karst. One of the two Satureja to be found on the Karst in autumn. This is usually the commoner species and has also a greater altitudinal range than S. montana.
Satureja montana (S. variegata), Slovenian Karst. The white-coloured Satureja which frequently grows nearby S. subspicata. Some intermediate forms (with pinkish flowers) are quite frequent.
Echinops ritro ssp. ruthenicus, southern edge of Trnovski gozd. An odd-looking plant which I've usually found just singly or in small numbers on the Karst. On the high-Karst plateaus like Trnovski gozd instead, it is very abundant in certain areas.
Satureja subspicata & Echinops ritro, southern edge of Trnovski gozd. A classic August scene.
Artemisia nitida in flower on the southern edge of Trnovski gozd. One of the rarest species of this genus in Slovenia. It is a southern-alpine species and most of the known localities in Slovenia are in the alpine mountain range.
Scabiosa graminifolia, southern edge of Trnovski gozd. As the name suggests the leaves are "grass-shaped" - a distinctive feature, thus easily told from other species of the genus Scabiosa. Another quite localised species in Slovenia, with most of its population between Čaven and Nanos.
Centaurea rupestris, southern edge of Trnovski gozd.
Allium sphaerocephalon, southern edge of Trnovski gozd.
Micromeria thymifolia, southern edge of Trnovski gozd. Strongly aromatic plant and closer relative of Satureja, Thymus and Origanum species.
Leontopodium alpinum - found scarcely around mount Kucelj on the southern edge of Trnovski gozd. From its main alpine stronghold it stretches also into the Dinaric mountains (Trnovski gozd, Snežnik, and over to the Balkans).
Carduus defloratus & Buphtalmum salicifolium, southern edge of Trnovski gozd. Two common species covering the dry grasslands of Kucelj from mid to late summer.
Gentiana lutea ssp. symphyandra, southern edge of Trnovski gozd.
Golden Eagle Aquila chrysaetos, southern edge of Trnovski gozd. Two individuals (the local pair?) were seen together.
Although it's late summer and most of the grasslands are now dry and bleak, on the Karst you can still find some late-summer species of flowers which brighten up the meadows. The first four species in the selection above are all typical of this period and are fairly common on the Karst.
The beginning of autumn is also announced by the presence of a good influx of small migrants. Birds like Garden Warbler Sylvia borin, Lesser and Common Whitethroat Sylvia curruca & S. communis, Pied Flycatcher Ficedula hypoleuca, Nightingale Luscinia megarhynchos and Whinchat Saxicola rubetra are common to see these days.
Recently I was also in Trnovski gozd (Trnovo forest), precisely on its southern edge, from where most of the other photos originate.

Friday 7 August 2015

Krn, Mangrtsko sedlo and Trenta

My summer "alpine holidays" continue. Recently I spent a nice few days in different parts of the Soča valley in western Slovenia. First I was on mount Krn (2245 m) for two days, where I enjoyed beautiful sceneries, a rich flora and some interesting wildlife. Common birds above the treeline were Alpine Accentors Prunella collaris and Alpine Choughs Pyrrhocorax graculus, along with Water Pipits Anthus spinoletta and Wheatears Oenanthe oenanthe. Lower down on the pastures also Red-backed Shrike Lanius collurio, Yellowhammer Emberiza citrinella, Rock Bunting Emberiza cia and Lesser Whitethroat Sylvia curruca. I was luckier on the mammal front with a nice Weasel Mustela erminea hopping a few metres in front of me and two handsome Alpine Ibexes Capra ibex. Marmots Marmota marmota were quite common.
I also visited the Mangart plateau (Mangrtsko sedlo) where the highlight were a pair of SNOWFINCHES Montifringilla nivalis feeding their young in a cliff crevice. It was good to see this species again on Mangart, after some years' absence. Snowfinch is not an easy bird to see in the Slovenian Alps and every encounter is exciting. An unexpected sight was a male Cuckoo Cuculus canorus resting on some rocks well above the treeline, on Mangart's alpine pastures. A few Alpine Swifts Apus melba were also interesting, accompanying the already mentioned and quite common Alpine Accentors, Water Pipits, Wheatears and so on. The river Soča delivered the obligatory Dippers Cinclus cinclus which rounded up a nice three-day tour. Now, enjoy the photos!
Snowfinch Montifringilla nivalis with food for the young (which were waiting on a rocky ledge in a vertical cliff), Mangrtsko sedlo.
Alpine Accentor Prunella collaris - very common both on Krn and the Mangart plateau.
Gentiana cruciata was quite common on the south-facing slopes of Krn, around Planina Kuhinja.
Potentilla nitida, Krn.
Alyssum ovirense - a typical dweller of rocky places. Along with Arabis alpina, one of the few flowers to be found on the very top of Krn.
Aconitum angustifolium was one of the commonest species to be seen on Krn's south-facing slopes.
Geranium argenteum was maybe the commonest flower at all on Krn. Especially abundant towards the top of the mountain in a mixed habitat of grass and rocks.
Campanula zoysii (left) and Saxifraga squarrosa (right). Both quite common on rocks.
Rich alpine wildflower mix between Krn and Rdeči rob. Including: Geranium argenteum, Campanula scheuchzeri, Achillea clavenae, Trifolium sp., Taraxacum/Hieracium sp. ect. Vast grassy areas looked like this.
Papaver alpinum ssp. victoris - an endemic subspecies of the Bohinj-Krn Alps (southern Julian Alps).
Armeria alpina - common on rocky screes, but most were already in seed, Krn.
Alpine Ibex Capra ibex. Two different individuals; above Jezero v Lužnici, Krn.
Aquilegia bertolonii - found about 10 of these on a rocky scree above Jezero v Lužnici, Krn.
Crepis kerneri, Krn.
Saxifraga squarrosa and sign, Krn.
Saxifraga sedoides, Krn.
Saxifraga stellaris, Mangrtsko sedlo.
Saxifraga aizoides in two different stages of bloom. This was a very common species both on Krn and Mangart. Other species of Saxifraga occasionally still in flower included S. crustata, S. paniculata and S. hostii. The already mentioned S. squarrosa was the most prominent.
Rhodiola rosea, Krn.
The Krn mountain chain, from the southern slopes. Krn is the last summit to the left. The second from the left is mount Batognica, one of the main battle fields of the Soča front in World War I.
Krn's rocky summit with the characteristic "slide" shape of its southern part.
Krnsko jezero, looking nortwards from Krn's top. This is the largest and deepest high-alpine lake in Slovenia.
Sheep and mt. Vrh nad Peski, east of Krn.
Jezero v Lužnici - a small alpine lake in the Krn mountain chain.
Rdeči rob, with its reddish rocky formation is one of the main geological attractions in the Julian Alps. Viewed from Krn's top, looking eastwards.
Sunrise from Krn's summit - a great experience! In the first three pics, the highest top is mount Triglav (2864 m, Slovenia's highest mountain). The Krn lake is also visible. The two highest mountain tops in the last pics are Mangart (left) and Jalovec (right).
The most beautiful river on Earth - the Soča in the Trenta valley.
Dippers Cinclus cinclus enjoy the emeral river too!