Monday 30 December 2019

The very best of Wild Slovenia in 2019

As tradition demands, in the last blog post of the year we shall go through the highlights of 2019. In recent years these "reviews" have become rather long and actually some sort of "calendars" rather than concise summaries. Therefore we apologise for the length of the post, but at least we are sure you can follow the changing seasons while scrolling down the photos. This year we enriched the post with several short videos, so make sure you watch those too! As usual most of our field work has been concentrated in Slovenia, especially in the Karst, Notranjska and the coast (Škocjanski zatok Nature Reserve). However it would be a pity to omit from the post the few trips we made abroad and some occasional daily trips to Italy and Croatia which brought us several interesting species.
So here we go - this is our 2019 calendar. Enjoy!
Snowfall in the garden, Karst, January.

 Wallcreeper Tichodroma muraria, Karst edge, January.

Trip to Extrematura (Spain) in January.

Brambling Fringilla montifringilla, Zasavje, January. 
This huge flock of 5 million birds was gathering in an area of 5-10 ha to roost 
and made the news all over Europe. It was a spectacle not to be missed!
Bittern Botaurus stellaris, Škocjanski zatok, February.

Golden Jackal Canis aureus, Karst, February. 
A close daylight encounter with a group of 4 animals.
Winter Aconite Eranthis hyemalis, Kozjansko Regional Park, February. 
Rare species in Slovenia with only a handful of locations.
Dark Purple Hellebore Helleborus atrorubens, Kozjansko Regional Park, February.
Feeding signs of Beaver Castor fiber, Kozjansko Regional Park, February.

Black Woodpecker Dryocopus martius, Karst, February.

Middle Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos medius, Karst, March. 
Another productive year for this species' census in western Slovenia. 
We discovered many new territories in the Karst and the Brkini hills. 
Some transects had unexpected high densities of birds.

Moor Frog Rana arvalis, Ljubljansko barje, March. 
The dream of a lifetime was seeing these frogs in their beautiful 
courtship colour. This spectacle lasts for only a few days every spring.
Nettle-tree Butterfly Libythea celtis, Karst, March.
Little Crake Porzana parva, Škocjanski zatok, March.
Greater Pasqueflower Pulsatilla grandis, Mt. Boč, March. 
A very rare and endangered plant in Slovenia, found only at a handful of sites.
Henbane Bell Scopolia carniolica, Mt. Boč, March. 
One of Slovenia's most iconic and famous plants.
Pallas's Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus proregulus, Karst edge, March. 
We were very pleased to have found this "second for Slovenia" all by ourselves.
Ural Owl Strix uralensis, Brkini hills, March. 
A rare sight in this area that might suggest a possible breeding. 
This year we also made repeated observation in the Karst, 
where the species has not yet been confirmed as a breeding bird.
Short-toed Eagle Circaetus gallicus, Karst, April.
Wallcreeper Tichodroma muraria, Karst edge, April.
Southern Comma Polygonia egea, Karst edge, April. 
A rare butterfly in Slovenia, typical of rocky thermophilous places.
White-backed Woodpecker Dendrocopos leucotos, Javorniki Mts., April. 
One of 9 territorial birds found in our lucky transect during a census.
Southern Festoon Zerinthia polyxena, Karst, April. 
A beautiful but rather scarce early-spring butterfly in Slovenia.
Pale-flowered Orchid Orchis pallens, Karst, April.
Lady Orchid Orchis purpurea, Istria, April.
Green-underside Blue Glaucopsyche alexis, Istria, April.
Nightingale Luscinia megarhynchos, Istria, April.
Spring carpet on dry grassland, Karst, April.
Roman Hyacinth Bellevalia romana, Istria, April. 
A rare plant of the sub-Mediterranean zone of Slovenia.
Monitoring a pair of Black Storks Ciconia nigra in the 
hills west of Pivka in April.
Brown Bear Ursus arctos, Javorniki Mts., April.   
This tame young bear allowed great views whilst we were 
guiding a group of ornithologists on a tour in the forest.
Tau Emperor Aglia tau, Mt. Nanos, April. 
A very abundant moth in beech forests in early spring.
Scopoli's Longhorn Beetle Cerambyx scopolii, Karst, April.
Osprey Pandion haliaetus, Škocjanski zatok, April. 
Best "from the office" sighting of the year.
Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus, Škocjanski zatok, May.
Woodchat Shrike Lanius senator, Cerkniško jezero, May. 
A rare spring migrant in continental Slovenia.

Three-toed Woodpecker Picoides tridactylus, Javorniki Mts., May. 
A drumming female observed during a guided tour with English guests.
Ural Owl Strix uralensis (dark morph), Javorniki Mts., May. 
This bird was mobbed by a pair of White-backed Woodpeckers 
nesting nearby (see below).

White-backed Woodpecker Dendrocopos leucotos, Javorniki Mts., May. 
After a long search, Sara managed to find the nest of this rare and 
endangered woodpecker. We followed the breeding 
progress until the chicks fledged successfully.
Ural Owl Strix uralensis, Javorniki Mts., May. 
Great close encounter with a bold male, hunting along a forest road.
Bank Vole Clethrionomys glareolus, Javorniki Mts., May.
Red Belt Conk Fomitopsis pinicola, Javorniki Mts., May.
Golden Oriole Oriolus oriolus, Karst, May.
Chequered Blue Scolitantides orion, Karst, May.
Dalmatian Algyroides Algyroides nigropunctatus, Karst, May.
Wild Peony Paeonia officinalis, Karst, May.
Burnt-tip Orchid Neotinea ustulata, Karst, May.
Black-headed Bunting Emberiza melanocephala, Vipava valley, May. 
A rare and irregular spring "overshooter" to Slovenia.
Black Stork Ciconia nigra, Vipava valley, May.  
This adult was fishing in a village stream, not far away from its nesting territory. 
A rare breeding bird in Slovenia and always a pleasure to see up close.
Hoopoe Upupa epops, Karst, May.
Caspian Tern Hydroprogne caspia, Škocjanski zatok, May. 
A rare migrant in SW Slovenia.
Great Grey Owl Strix nebulosa & Aquatic Warbler Acrocephalus paludicola.

Amethyst Meadow Squill Scilla litardierei, Planinsko polje, June. 
A very rare and localised plant in Slovenia.
Carniolan Lily Lilium carniolicum, Mt. Vremščica, June.
Purple-shot Copper Lycaena alciphron, Karst, June. 
A rare species occurring on extensive flower-rich meadows.
Purple-edged Copper Lycaena hippothoe, Cerkniško jezero, June.
Fly Orchid Ophrys insectifera, Mt. Snežnik, June.
Coralroot Orchid Corallorhiza trifida, Mt. Snežnik, June.
Short-toed Eagle Circaetus gallicus, Karst, June. 
In summer we've been regularly following the breeding of our local pair.
Ural Owl Strix uralensis, Javorniki Mts., June. 
 One of 2-3 fledged chicks in a territory we've been monitoring in spring.
Yellow Daylily Hemerocallis lilioasphodelus, Iška river, June.
Lady's Slipper Cypripedium calceolus, Kamnik Alps, June.  
Enjoyed them in great numbers in the Alps, as well as 
in small numbers on mount Snežnik, where the species is very rare.
Adriatic Lizard Orchid Himantoglossum adriaticum, Karst, June. 
This rare Natura 2000 species sprouted in a patch of uncut grass in our garden.
European Green Lizard Lacerta viridis, Karst, June.
Lesser Grey Shrike Lanius minor, Vipava valley, June. 
The adult sitting in the nest is just visible in the photo. 
Sadly this was the only nest in the Vipava valley and one of only 
three in the whole of Slovenia this year.
Ring Ouzel Turdus torquatus, Julian Alps, June.
Dewy Ringlet Erebia pandrose, Julian Alps, June.
Trumpet Gentian Gentiana clusii, Julian Alps, June.
Selfie in the Julian Alps, June.
Poplar Admiral Limenitis populi, Snežnik forests, June. 
 A rare and localised butterfly in Slovenia, on the wings for just 
about two weeks every summer.
Catching butterflies in the meadows of the Snežnik plateau, June.
Justin's Bellflower Campanula justiniana, Planinsko polje, June.  
An endemic species of the Dinaric mountains, 
from central Slovenia to NW Croatia.
Apollo Parnassius apollo, Trnovski gozd, July. 
Rare butterfly of sunny mountain pastures in western Slovenia.
Styrian Ringlet Erebia stirius, Trnovski gozd, July.
Great Sooty Satyr Satyrus ferula, Trnovski gozd, July.
Alpine Longhorn Beetle Rosalia alpina, Trenta valley, July. 
In recent summers this became our most sought-after species. 
This year we managed to find up to 8 beetles in one day, 
which apparently coincided with the peak of their emergence.
Domen enjoying a close encounter with his year's absolute highlight!
Creeping Lady's-tresses Goodyera repens, Trenta valley, July.
Great Capricorn Beetle Cerambyx cerdo, Karst, July.
Spanish Sparrow Passer hispaniolensis, Vipava valley, July. 
We found this rare Mediterranean species outside of its usual range 
of occurrence along the Slovenian coast.
Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta, Škocjanski zatok, July. 
The first breeding of the species at Škocjanski zatok Nature Reserve.
Summer wildlife trip in the Northern Velebit National Park in Croatia
Highlights included Brown Bear Ursus arctos and an amazing array of flowers.
Common Glider Neptis sappho, Vipava valley, August.
Meleager's Blue Polyommatus daphnis, Trnovski gozd, August.
Purple Emperor Apatura iris, Trnovski gozd, August.
Map Butterfly Araschnia levana, Ljubljansko barje, August.
Musk Beetle Aromia moschata, Ljubljansko barje, August.
Snorkeling the Adriatic in the company of a 
Mediterranean Jellyfish Cotylorhiza tubercolata in August.
Mediterranean Jellyfish Cotylorhiza tubercolata, Gulf of Trieste, August. 
Large numbers of these attractive (and harmless) species were around this summer.
Sergeant Major Abudefduf saxatilis, Gulf of Trieste, August. 
Cracking discovery this summer, when we came across the first 
Sergean Major for the Gulf of Trieste, as well as the Adriatic sea.
Although an alien species from tropical seas, it was still a major satisfaction! 
Swimming a few centimeters away from a Bluefin Tuna Thunnus thynnus 
was also a major snorkeling highlight this summer!
Dalmatian Blenny Lipophrys dalmatinus, Gulf of Trieste, August.
Sphinx Blenny Aidablennius sphynx, Gulf of Trieste, August.
Greater Weever Trachinus draco, Gulf of Trieste, August.
White-backed Woodpecker Dendrocopos leucotos, Snežnik, August.
Autumn Lady's-tresses Spiranthes spiralis, Karst, September.
Cuckoo Cuculus canorus, Karst, September.
Urban birding in the "wildest" part of Škocjanski zatok NR.
Spotted Crake Porzana porzana, Škocjanski zatok, September.
Little Crake Porzana parva, Škocjanski zatok, September.
Broad-billed Sandpiper Limicola falcinellus, Škocjanski zatok, September. 
The second record for the reserve and an almost annual rarity in Slovenia.
Bluethroat Luscinia svecica, Škocjanski zatok, September. 
An easily seen species in early autumn at this nature reserve.
Convolvulus Hawk-moth Agrius convolvuli, Karst, September.
Brown Bear Ursus arctos, Snežnik, September. 
Exciting evening encounter on a forest glade in the Snežnik forests.
Ural Owl Strix uralensis (dark morph), forests of Kočevje, September. 
An unexpected autumn encounter with this rare melanistic morph 
which represents about 10% of the Slovenian Ural Owl population.
Caesar's Mushroom Amanita caesarea, Brkini hills, September.
"Holy birding" in the Kozjansko Regional Park 
during DOPPS' annual "bird race".
Autumn colours in Trnovski gozd, October.
Wallcreeper Tichodroma muraria, Trnovski gozd, October.
Middle Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos medius, Karst, October.
Panther Cap Amanita pantherina & Sweet Chestnut Castanea sativa, Karst, October.
Parasol Mushroom Macrolepiota procera & Wendy, Karst, October.
Autumn selfie in the local patch, Karst, October.

Three-toed Woodpecker Picoides tridactylus, Trnovski gozd, October. 
One of two observed during several occasions in a beautiful 
patch of dying spruce forest within a forest reserve. 

Mount Mali Golak on a foggy October morning...
...and Veliki Golak a week after.
On the top of Veliki Golak (1480 m), Trnovski gozd, October.
Rock Bunting Emberiza cia, Trnovski gozd, October.
Northern Bullfinch Pyrrhula pyrrhula ssp. pyrrhula, Škocjanski zatok, October. 
A new species for the reserve. Northern or Trumpeting Bullfinches from northern Europe 
were frequently heard and seen this autumn, mostly in the Karst, but also on the coast.
Narrow-necked Cave Beetle Leptodirus hochenwartii, Notranjska, November. 
The first described cave beetle in the world and an endemic species of the Dinaric Karst.
Jack Snipe Lymnocryptes minimus, Škocjanski zatok, November. 
A regular autumn and winter visitor to the reserve, 
but always very difficult to observe.
Common Crane Grus grus, Karst, December. 
Part of a flock of around 1000 birds that passed above our house 
during their autumn migration to the Mediterranean.
Merlin Falco columbarius, Istria (Croatia), December.
Scat of Wolf Canis lupus, mount Snežnik, December.
The snowy mountain - Snežnik, December.
Brown Shrike Lanius cristatus, Osoppo (Udine - Italy), December. 
The second record for Italy, just about 30 km west from the Slovenian border.
Slavonian Grebe Podiceps auritus, Gulf of Trieste, December.
We started with snow and we'll finish with snow. 
See you next year!