Friday 19 July 2019

Summer birding & beetle hunting

Summer is slowly gaining its heating power again, after a relatively cold and windy period. Due to rain showers and cold temperatures (sometimes barely above 20 degrees C) it hasn't been that good for butterflies. Fortunately new generations of Lepidopteras are emerging just now and numbers as well as variety are again slowly on the rise. Recently we've been slightly luckier with birds. In the Vipava valley we observed a male Spanish Sparrow Passer hispaniolensis holding territory, among a group of Tree P. montanus and Italian Sparrows P. italiae. We didn't find any sure signs of breeding, but if the bird is indeed nesting in the area, this would represent only the second ever nesting for this Mediterranean species in Slovenia. The only other nesting was reported from Slovenian Istria, in the extreme south-west, where the species is still occasionally recorded on passage. The nearest breeding colonies of Spanish Sparrow to Slovenia are in nearby Croatia, some 12 km from the south-western border.
Spanish Sparrow Passer hispaniolensis

In the Vipava valley we also observed again a Black Stork Ciconia nigra, not far from the place we saw it in spring and where its presumed nesting territory is. Unfortunately this year we hadn't time to investigate more, but next season we'd like to track down more precisely where this pair nests and confirm the breeding. A juvenile fledged Hoopoe Upupa epops was nearby and showing well, whilst feeding on a gravel road a few meters from us. A few butterflies and plants were interesting to see, but not in the usual numbers and variety one would expect in mid summer.
Black Stork Ciconia nigra
Hoopoe Upupa epops
Weaver's Fritillary Boloria (Clossiana) dia
Liburnian Pink Dianthus balbisii subsp. liburnicus

In the Karst we've been mainly entertained by our local pair of Short-toed Eagles Circaetus gallicus, while on the invertebrate front we were after the typical large beetles of oak woodlands. Apart from the many Stag Beetles Lucanus cervus we see almost on a daily basis in our garden, we've been also pleased to find again, on the same tree like every year, the rarer Great Capricorn Beetle Cerambyx cerdo. This beetle needs decaying oak wood and is found in areas where older oaks are present. It is widespread across Slovenia, but rather rare overall. The most impressive thing about this species is the size: the one we saw measured about 7-8 cm (excluding the extremely long antennae). Finally we also saw a Beech Longhorn Beetle Morimus funereus, which although common, is always a pleasant find. All the above mentioned beetles (as well as the Rosalia Longicorn) are red-listed and Natura 2000 species.
One evening, while checking the breeding success of a pair of Eagle Owls Bubo bubo (no confirmed breeding this year) we heard a group of Golden Jackals Canis aureus howling at the church bells of the nearby village - a quite common behaviour in the Karst.
Great Capricorn Beetle Cerambyx cerdo
Stag Beetle Lucanus cervus (male above, female below)
Beech Longhorn Beetle Morimus funereus

In the last posts we haven't mentioned Škocjanski zatok Nature Reserve much, although we've been monitoring birds there on a regular basis. Among the most exciting recent news is the nesting of a new species for the reserve: the Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta. In June, during breeding birds monitorings, a nest with 4 eggs was found in the brackish lagoon, while in the past two weeks we've been observing two adults escorting 3 fledged juveniles. The lagoon is very lively at this stage as the breeding colonies of terns and other waders are full of hungry juveniles. Among species nesting in good numbers are Common Tern Sterna hirundo, Little Tern Sternula albifrons, Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus, Redshank Tringa totanus and Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius.
In this season we are also following the movements of Little Bitterns Ixobrychus minutus breeding at the reserve and we are regularly observing 3-4 different pairs. The summer-autumn wader passage has already began and birds like Wood Sandpiper Tringa glareola, Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos, Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus, Curlew Numenius arquata and Snipe Gallinago gallinago are already back after their late-spring absence. Other interesting birds observed recently (in the past week) at the reserve include: Short-toed Eagle Circaetus gallicus (with a snake!), Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia (up to 8), Black Tern Chlidonias niger (1 juv), Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis (1), Zitting Cisticola Cisticola juncidis (1-2 on a daily basis), Alpine Swift Apus melba, Purple Heron Ardea purpurea (1 nesting pair) and Pygmy Cormorant Phalacrocorax pygmeus (up to 8). More updated sightings on the reserve's Facebook page.
Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta
Common Tern Sterna hirundo
Little Bittern Ixobrychus minutus
Freshwater marsh at Škocjanski zatok NR.
Water Rail Rallus aquaticus (juvenile).
Short-toed Eagle Circaetus gallicus
Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia