Thursday 24 August 2017

Nanoščica river with a special butterfly

The Nanoščica river basin is a nice example of an extensive agricultural landscape combined with wet meadows, hedges and woods. A lot of birds and other wildlife, including some rare and endangered species, benefit from such a mosaic landscape. There are several interesting butterflies in Slovenia that are typical for wet meadows and are endangered on an international level. One of them was the target of our recent trip to Nanoščica. We visited and searched several wet meadows in the area, before finding this amazing butterfly...
The Large Copper Lycaena dispar is a very rare butterfly in western Slovenia, confined to wet meadows and overgrown freshwater canals. We found only one specimen, the above male, which was sitting prominently on a very visible spot. Its orange upperwings probably serve as a territorial advertisement for other butterflies, that are also eagerly chased away.
Another butterfly dependent on wet meadows is the Scarce Large Blue Phengaris teleius that is quite frequent along the Nanoščica river. The season is a bit late for this species, but we nevertheless managed to see a few specimen (perched on their feeding plant: Sanguisorba officinalis).
Sooty Copper Lycaena tityrus was another species we found; it inhabits both wet and dry grasslands, as well as forest clearings. It is one of the commonest coppers in Slovenia.
The Tufted Marbled Skipper Carcharodus floccifera is scarce and locally distributed on wet meadows as well as dry grasslands in the Karst. We spotted just one or two of them.
Wet meadows at this time of year are not as colourful as in late spring, but fortunately there are some species that bloom late in the season too. Succisa pratensis is one of them, being a very common late-summer flower, sometimes covering entire meadows.
Gentiana pneumonanthe (marsh gentian) is another example of late-summer flower of wet meadows and acidic soils. It is also a feeding plant for the Alcon Blue Phengaris alcon, another rare butterfly confined to wet meadows.
Geranium palustre
Lycopus europaeus
Viburnum opulus
There are already many Red-backed Shrikes Lanius collurio on migration, although the above individuals were probably the local breeders - several noisy families were still around. The hedges and trees are now coming alive with passerine migrants like Pied Flycatcher Ficedula hypoleuca, Spotted Flycatcher Muscicapa striata, Wood Warbler Phylloscopus sibilatrix, Wryneck Jynx torquilla and others. In a bush by the Nanoščica river we also managed to get nice views of a migrant Grasshopper Warbler Locustella naevia, a bird we are not used to see so frequently.
Mount Nanos gave the name to the Nanoščica river, that flows in the valley under the mountain's eastern slopes (those that are visible in the photos). See this post for more about the Nanoščica river basin and this about Nanos.

Friday 18 August 2017

God save the Queen!

Yesterday we made another incursion into the Julian Alps to pay a tribute to the Queen of the Alps - the Alpine eryngo Eryngium alpinum (or Alpine sea holly). In the vicinity of Mt. Črna prst we came across a breathtaking spectacle: entire slopes covered with patches of silver and blue. We estimated something like 800-1000 specimen; they were everywhere! Not only is Alpine eryngo a very rare species (see here), it is also one of the most beautiful in the European flora. This plant is so unique that you simply cannot be impassible in front of it!
Moreover we also enjoyed at some typical mountain wildlife: we flushed 3 Black Grouse Tetrao tetrix (1 m, 2 f), seen two Alpine Chamois Rupicapra rupicapra, 1 Alpine Marmot Marmota marmota and a Ring Ouzel Turdus torquatus. Other wildflowers were thin on the ground as the season is coming to an end, but the Queen alone was enough to make the trip worth!

Sunday 13 August 2017

The majestic Julian Alps

After a week in the Julian Alps our cameras are full of photographs and our notebooks full of observations. In this long post we will present a mixture of wildlife encountered in different areas of the Julian Alps (including the Triglav National Park) in north-west Slovenia. The first part of our "holidays" was spent in the Gorenjska region, doing some exploration for future trips, while in the second part we attended our yearly biologist's summer camp in the Bavšica valley near Bovec. The photographs follow a (more or less) chronological order and have only short captions, without too much explanation. The selection is long, so we'll let the photos speak...
Gentiana pannonica, Pokljuka plateau (Triglav National Park).

Conifer forest and mount Veliki Draški vrh (2243 m), Pokljuka plateau (Triglav National Park).

Three-toed Woodpecker Picoides tridactylus, Pokljuka plateau (Triglav National Park). 
We stumbled upon this female, as well as another female a few days later in the Vrata valley. Both observations were casual and unexpected.

A steep forest slope in the Vrata valley (Triglav National Park) where Norway spruce Picea abies has been affected by bark beetle (see different infection stages). A prime Three-toed Woodpecker habitat!

Campanula cespitosa, Pokljuka plateau (Triglav National Park).
One of the commonest flowers encountered in the Alps at this time of year.

 Epipactis helleborine, Pokljuka plateau (Triglav National Park).

Gentiana asclepiadea, Blejski Vintgar - Vintgar gorge (Triglav National Park).

Centaurea carniolica, Blejski Vintgar - Vintgar gorge (Triglav National Park).

View from mount Slatnik (1600 m) to the west over mounts Šavnik, Kobla and Črna prst (south of Bohinj).

Dianthus barbatus, Mt. Slatnik.

Scorzonera rosea, Mt. Slatnik.

Queen of the Alps Eryngium alpinum in a steep ravine on mount Šavnik (1574 m).
About 10 specimen of this very rare flower were in bloom at the site. Unfortunately it was impossible to get closer, hence the record shots.

Water Ringlet Erebia pronoe, Mt. Slatnik. 
This was the commonest ringlet species encountered in the Alps.

Campanula thyrsoides, Mt. Slatnik and Bohinjsko sedlo.

Linum viscosum, Mt. Slatnik.

Centaurea haynaldii ssp. julica, Mt. Šavnik.
Endemic of the Southeastern Alps.
Streptopus amplexifolius, Mt. Slatnik.

Crossbill Loxia curvirostra, Mt. Slatnik.

Mt. Šavnik (1574 m) and the Triglav mountain range in the back.

The impressive Peričnik waterfall in the Vrata valley (Triglav National Park). With its 52 meters it's one of the most famous waterfalls in Slovenia.

Mount Triglav (2864 m) is Slovenia's highest peak and its northern wall, standing 1000 m tall, is the most impressive cliff in the Julian Alps. Both pics were taken in the Vrata valley (Triglav National Park).

Triglavska Bistrica, a very cold mountain stream originating under Triglav's northern wall and flowing through the Vrata valley (Triglav National Park).

Dipper Cinclus cinclus, Radovna river (Triglav National Park).

 Majestic mountain views above the Vrata valley (Triglav National Park).

Chalk-hill Blue Lysandra (Polyommatus) coridon, Vrata valley and Montasio plateau. 
The commonest buttefly in the Alps at the moment.

 Large Ringlet Erebia euryale, Pokljuka plateau (Triglav National Park).

Mount Mangrt (2679 m) in the western Julian Alps, on the border with Italy.

Leontopodium alpinum, Mt. Mangrt (Triglav National Park).

Campanula zoysii, Mt. Mangrt (Triglav National Park).

Papaver alpinum ssp. ernesti-mayeri, Mt. Mangrt (Triglav National Park). 
Endemic poppy of the Julian Alps.

Physoplexis comosa, Mt. Mangrt (Triglav National Park).

Campanula cochlearifoliia & Saxifraga squarrosa, Mt. Mangrt (Triglav National Park).

Potentilla nitida, Mt. Mangrt (Triglav National Park).

Omalotheca hoppeana (Gnaphalium hoppeanum), Mt. Mangrt (Triglav National Park).

Bupleurum petraeum, Mt. Mangrt (Triglav National Park).

Shepherd's Fritillary Boloria pales, Mt. Mangrt (Triglav National Park).

 Alpine Swift Apus melba, Mt. Mangrt (Triglav National Park).
Other Alpine birds observed on Mangrt were Snowfinch Montifringilla nivalis, Alpine Chough Pyrrhocorax graculus, Alpine Accentor Prunella collaris, Rock Thrush Monticola saxatilis and Water Pipit Anthus spinoletta.

Altopiano del Montasio (Planina pod Montažem) in north-east Italy, close to the border with Slovenia.

Alpine Marmot Marmota marmota, Altopiano del Montasio (NE Italy).
We saw tens of these on Montasio, as well as on Mt. Mangrt and elsewhere near Bohinj.

Alpine Ibex Capra ibex, Altopiano del Montasio (NE Italy).
This fabulous male allowed excellent and close views, whilst feeding on a scree slope. A bachelor group of +20 males was also seen on a distant mountain slope as well as several females with lambs.

Linaria alpina, Altopiano del Montasio (NE Italy).

Golden Eagle Aquila chrysaetos, Altopiano del Montasio (NE Italy).
Two individuals were observed.

Rock Thrush Monticola saxatilis (immature), Altopiano del Montasio (NE Italy).

Alpine Chough Pyrrhocorax graculus, Altopiano del Montasio (NE Italy).

Cuckoo Cuculus canorus, Altopiano del Montasio (NE Italy).
This adult male stopped during migration on a steep rocky slope.

Epipactis atrorubens, Altopiano del Montasio (NE Italy).

View from Altopiano del Montasio to the Kanin mountain range, on the border between Italy and Slovenia.

Tolminka valley (Triglav National Park) in the mountains above Tolmin.

Carlina vulgaris, Tolminka valley (Triglav National Park).

Morimus funereus, Tolminka valley (Triglav National Park).

Dryad Minois dryas, Tolminka valley (Triglav National Park).

Adder Vipera berus, Trenta valley (Triglav National Park).

Peacock Butterfly Inachis io, Trenta valley (Triglav National Park).

Jersey Tiger Euplagia quadripunctaria & Silver-washed Fritillary Argynnis paphia, Trenta valley (Triglav National Park). Both species were frequently encountered, usually feeding on Eupatorium cannabinum (as above).

Soča river in the Trenta valley (Triglav National Park).

Dipper Cinclus cinclus (juvenile), Trenta valley (Triglav National Park).