Monday 22 February 2016

Early botany

Helleborus niger - a common (and protected) species in Slovenia, found especially in mountain forests of beech, spruce and fir. Now in full bloom throughout the forests of the Notranjska region (pics from mt. Slivnica and Cerkniško jezero).

Helleborus odorus - a much plainer (and commoner) version of the previous. Also protected in Slovenia, like all the other Helleborus species. This one is usually found in more open habitats, like woodland margins and meadow. Pic from Cerkniško jezero.

Erythronium dens-canis (Dog's-tooth-violet) - a quite common flower found in woodland and forest throughout Slovenia. Found the first flowering specimens of the season today (Slov. Karst).

Hacquetia epipactis (Astrantia epipactis) - a quintessential spring presence in the forests of Slovenia. Named after Balthasar Hacquet (1735-1815) who lived and botanised in Carniola (part of today's Slovenia) and collected this interesting species. Pic taken on the Slovenian Karst, where it is locally common.

Hepatica nobilis - very common early-spring woodland flower.

Ilex aquifolium (Holly) - an uncommon (but well-known) forest species with evergreen leaves and beautiful red berries in winter. Photographed on mt. Slivnica (Notranjska region).

Daphne laureola - one of the six species of this genus in Slovenia. In comparison to the others, it is the only one with small greenish flowers that can go easily unnoticed. It is very poisonous like all other Daphne species.

Tussilago farfara - common early-spring flower, especially on roadside banks, wasteland and gravelly places.

Cardamine enneaphyllos on the bottom of a karstic doline - Orleška draga near Sežana (Slovenian Karst).

Mercurialis perennis in flower (Orleška draga, Sežana).

Pulmonaria officinalis - another very common spring species.

Not only hazels have catkins! These are alder's Alnus glutinosa. Last year's female "cones" are on the same twigs as well.

Looks like I can't wander around the Karst without stumbling on a Middle Spotted Woodepcker Dendrocopos medius. I'm currently co-organizing a systematic census of the species in W Slovenia, to carry on in March.

Thursday 11 February 2016

The Karst in late winter

Recently I've been out just around the Karst (mostly in Slovenia), because of the poor weather. Still, I managed to catch a couple of sunny days. Today I found the above Fox Vulpes vulpes basking in the sun at the woodland edge by a local road. Apparently this individual isn't bothered by the presence of humans. It showed well while sitting, stretching and rolling on the grass, before deciding to walk across a small glade and across the main road.

Middle Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos medius. The pair on the Karst I'm visiting regularly is again quite territorial after the winter break. Today lots of spontaneous calling and "mewing", but the birds were only showing briefly. A Green Woodpecker Picus viridis with its "yaffle" was also announcing that spring is on the way.

Loranthus europaeus - a tree-parasite adorning oaks in winter. The yellow fruits are the only touch of colour in the woodland's canopies at this time of year. This plant grows on the branches of trees and steals nutrients and water to the host. The seeds are dispersed by birds, mostly Mistle Thrushes Turdus viscivorus, which are common in the forests where I took these photos.

Crocus reticulatus. A common species on the Karst, especially on dry, stony grasslands. It is the first flower to appear in late winter on such dry meadows. The very rare Crocus weldenii is also out at the same time. Note the dark striping on the outer side of the petals - the character from where the species got its name.

Helleborus multifidus ssp. istriacus - the commonest flower on the woodland floor at the moment. I saw the first already in December, but now the spring newcomers are popping out literally everywhere.

Galanthus nivalis - snowdrops also out in good numbers.

Flock of Bullfinches Pyrrhula pyrrhula. This year, among the flocks seen on the Slovenian Karst, I have frequently heard the "trumpeting" calls associated with the northern (nominate) subspecies pyrrhula. Other observers have noticed these birds as well.

Corylus avellana - hazel's catkins (male flowers).

Cirl Bunting Emberiza cirlus (male).

A small stream in the forest - full of water due to the recent rainfalls.

Meanwhile on the bird table - Hawfinch Coccothraustes coccothraustes is (in my opinion) the smartest visitor to the garden. This winter there's also a good influx of Siskins Carduelis spinus (behind the Hawfinch in the pic) - a flock of +20 birds is present on a daily basis.