Monday 11 April 2016

Spring in the forest & beyond

Three-toed Woodpecker Picoides tridactylus, Javorniki Mts, 10th April 2016. Male (above) and female (last pic) during a census of the species for DOPPS (BirdLife Slovenia). Due to forestry works (extensive tree cutting and removing of dead trees), I only had two birds in what could have been an excellent habitat, supporting many more individuals. The forest itself has good conifer stands for Three-toed, but in some areas, most of the standing dead trees have been removed recently, for example where in the past I observed this bird (the other day there was none). A short collage video of the species here.
Part of the lake Cerknica (Cerkniško jezero) with Javorniki mountains in the back, 10th April 2016. The lake was absolutely stuffed with birds (waders, ducks, herons...) including such goodies as: White-tailed Eagle Haliaeetus albicilla (2), Crane Grus grus (2 resting), Bittern Botaurus stellaris (2 "booming"), Ferruginous Duck Aythya nyroca (16), Pygmy Cormorant Phalacrocorax pygmeus (2), Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus (18), Garganey Anas querquedula and many more.
Crane Grus grus, Cerkniško jezero, 10th April 2016. The two birds (sub-ad and young) resting on the wet meadows in the middle of the "lake". Most of the passage of this species is already over (peak in the first half of March), but single birds or small numbers are still to be seen at times.
Fritillaria orientalis, Karst near Trieste (NE Italy), 7th April 2016. This species is a close relative of F. meleagris (see below and previous posts), but is found on dry karstic meadows. Overall quite scarce and growing in small numbers, not abundantly like F. meleagris on some meadows. In Slovenia it is confined to the Karst region, in the west and south-west of the country.
Comparison between Fritillaria orientalis (left) and F. meleagris (right). The two species differ well enough ecologically: the first is found on dry meadows and shrubland, while the second on wet meadows and wet forests. They differ also morphologically: F. orientalis is smaller and has a brown-red and yellow-green flower which is slightly mottled. F. meleagris instead has a larger, purple-brown flower with white mottling. Another difference visible in the photo is in the leaves: opposite in F. orientalis, alternate in F. meleagris.
Gentiana verna ssp. tergestina, Slovenian Karst, 5th April 2016. An endemic subspecies of the Karst (found both in Slovenia and Italy), named after the town of Trieste. Once a common flower on dry meadows, now increasingly rare.
Wryneck Jynx torquilla, Slovenian Karst, 5th April 2016. Most of the local breeders on the Karst have now returned from Africa and are holding territories, especially in vineyards, orchards and gardens. Cuckoos Cuculus canorus and Hoopoes Upupa epops are also back and it's not difficult to hear this nice spring trio on the same day.
Short-toed Eagle Circaetus gallicus, Slovenian Karst, 5th April 2016.
Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe (male), Slovenian Karst, 5th April 2016. First of the year.
Callophrys rubi on Juniperus communis, Slovenian Karst, 11th April 2016.
Acer monspessulanum, Slovenian Karst, 5th April 2016. A common species on dry stony terrain. The first tree to push out the leaves on the Karst.

An excellent time of year for being outside - actually the best! Every day brings something new and the woodlands (especially those along the coast) are exploding with greenery.
New returning summer migrants I recorded during the last week included: Wryneck Jynx torquilla, Cuckoo Cuculus canorus, Hoopoe Upupa epops, Scops Owl Otus scops, Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe, Swift Apus apus, Nightingale Luscinia megarhynchos, Sedge Warbler Acrocephalus schoenobaenus and Alpine Swift Apus melba. More to come in the next weeks!