Sunday 23 June 2019

Up in the Alps

This weekend we made a small one-day excursion into the Julian Alps above Bohinj. It was a nice sunny day and we enjoyed some hiking among alpine flowers, birds and butterflies on an altitude of around 1600 meters. In the mountains, June is an excellent time to observe birds as spring is in full swing, unlike lower down in lowland regions where the breeding season is coming to an end. Most species are still territorial and quite prominent. Ring Ouzels Turdus torquatus were busy feeding their chicks and provided the best attraction. This beautiful thrush is a widespread breeder in the Slovenian Alps, living in the belt of the upper tree limit where stands of mountain pine Pinus mugo are interspersed with alpine meadows. However we don't get to enjoy this bird very often as we usually visit the Alps later in the season, when adults don't sing anymore and there are only fledged juveniles around. Among other species there were also commoner birds like Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe, Crossbill Loxia curvirostra, Siskin Carduelis spinus, but also Common Phoenicurus phoenicurus & Black Redstart Phoenicurus ochruros and many Dunnocks Prunella modularis, the latter a typical inhabitant of mountain pine stands in Slovenia.
Butterflies were mostly represented by large numbers of Painted Lady Vanessa cardui and Small Tortoiseshell Aglais urticae, while we also observed some rather late Orange Tips Anthocharis cardamines. However we were most happy when we found several Dewy Ringlets Erebia pandrose, a locally common species in the Julian and Kamnik-Savinja Alps, but new to us. This interesting butterfly lives primarily in the arctic tundra of the boreal belt, while in central and southern Europe it only survives as an ice age relict in the higher mountain chains. It is one of the first ringlets Erebia sp. to occur in the Alps in this season. Hopefully more Ringlets will be added during our next trips to the mountains this summer!
Ring Ouzel Turdus torquatus
Juvenile Crossbills Loxia curvirostra taking a bath with a Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs.
Dewy Ringlet Erebia pandrose
Trumpet Gentian Gentiana clusii
Alpine Pasque Flower Pulsatilla alpina
Hybrid Buttercup Ranunculus hybridus
Flesh-pink Lousewort Pedicularis rostratospicata
Yellow Veronica Paederota lutea
Mountain Avens Dryas octopetala
Globeflower Trollius europaeus
Three-leaved Anemone Anemone trifolia
Alpine Clematis Clematis alpina
Red Helleborine Cephalanthera rubra
Mount Triglav (2864 m, Slovenia's highest summit) in the distance.

Thursday 20 June 2019

Slowly into summer

This time a rather short post featuring a mix of wildlife, mostly from the Karst and the coast, seen during the past week or so. We were mostly busy carrying out the last censuses of the season, including the survey of breeding Lesser Grey Shrikes Lanius minor in the Vipava valley. Sadly this year only one pair of this rare shrike seems to be nesting in the area. The meadows in the Karst are now reaching the climax with butterfly variety, so hopefully more on that subject in a separate post. During the weekend we made a visit to mount Sabotin (609 m) near the border town of Gorica, where we helped co-guiding a butterfly walk. We enjoyed several butterfly species as well as some interesting karstic mountain flowers we don't see very often. A few days ago we also heard Golden Jackals Canis aureus howling not far from Sežana - an increasingly common animal in western Slovenia.
Adriatic Lizard Orchid Himantoglossum adriaticum - it sprouted a few days ago in our garden in the Karst, on a patch of unmown meadow. One of the three Natura 2000 orchid species in Slovenia!
Spiked Bellflower Campanula spicata, Mt. Sabotin near Gorica.
Horned Rampion Phyteuma scheuchzeri, Mt. Sabotin near Gorica.
Carniolan Vetch Astragalus carniolicus, Mt. Sabotin near Gorica.
Black Broom Lembotropis nigricans, Mt. Sabotin near Gorica.
Lesser Spotted Fritillary Melitaea trivia, Mt. Sabotin near Gorica.
Pyramidal Orchid Anacamptis pyramidalis, Mt. Sabotin near Gorica.
Blue-spot Hairstreak Satyrium spini, Mt. Sabotin near Gorica.
Nine-spotted Burnet Syntomis (Amata) phegea, Mt. Sabotin near Gorica.
Fringed Pink Dianthus monspessulanus, Mt. Sabotin near Gorica.
Hairy Melic Melica ciliata, Mt. Sabotin near Gorica.
Feather Grass Stipa eriocaulis, Mt. Sabotin near Gorica.
Large Wall Brown Lasiommata maera, Mt. Sabotin near Gorica.
Rock Bunting Emberiza cia, Mt. Sabotin near Gorica.
South-west view from mount Sabotin down to the border town of Gorica. The left part of the town is Nova Gorica in Slovenia, while the right part is Gorizia in Italy. The river Isonzo/Soča flows just right of Gorizia.
The northern slopes of mount Sabotin with the emerald river Soča in the valley below (in Slovenia).
European Green Lizard Lacerta viridis, Karst near Sežana.
Twin-spot Fritillary Brenthis hecate, Karst near Sežana. 
One of the most abundant fritillaries at the moment.
Pochard Aythya ferina with chicks at Škocjanski zatok Nature Reserve.
Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta, Škocjanski zatok NR. 
One of two birds present at the reserve this spring.
Common Tern Sterna hirundo, Škocjanski zatok NR. 
The breeding colony numbers about 70-100 pairs and also includes about 10 pairs of Little Tern Sternula albifrons.
Small Copper Lycaena phlaeas, Škocjanski zatok NR.
Wild Leek Allium ampeloprasum, Škocjanski zatok NR.
Lime Hawk-moth Mimas tiliae, Škocjanski zatok NR. 
One of the +90 species of moths caught on the moth-trap in one evening, including many rare ones for Slovenia, confined to Mediterranean brackish habitats.
Lappet Moth Gastropacha quercifolia, Škocjanski zatok NR. 
This species mimics a dry oak leaf!
Vapourer Orgyia antiqua, Škocjanski zatok NR.
Lesser Grey Shrike Lanius minor sitting on the nest in the Vipava valley. 
Perhaps the species' only active nest in Slovenia this year.
Banded Demoiselle Calopteryx splendens, Vivapa valley.