Wednesday 30 December 2020

Our special 2020 - year review

These cold, short and wildlife-poor winter days are perfect for looking back at the glories of the past year that is just coming to an end. Despite all the ups and downs of this crazy Anthropocene, surprisingly, even in 2020 we managed to fully enjoy our time spent in Nature and live many memorable moments in the company of some memorable wildlife! We consider ourselves very lucky to live in an extraordinary area (SW Slovenia) that supports one of the highest levels of biodiversity in the whole of Europe. The fantastic nature around our home in the Karst of Sežana proved invaluable, especially during the lockdowns. Although in recent years we use to spend a lot of time locally, this year we did so even more, discovering amazing places and wildlife right on our doorsteps. Some of it is featured also in this post. As every year, we've been contributing our observations to the Slovenian Bird Atlas database. This year however, among all the birders in Slovenia, Domen has managed to record and submit the highest number of species for the country - that is 247 species. It is not a very high count if we compare it with some nearby countries, but almost no twitching was involved (and we went through two lockdowns). Most of the species were seen during low to mid-intensity routine birding in our usual circuits around western Slovenia, with a few exceptions of trips to the Alps in the north of the country. Of course working at Škocjanski zatok Nature Reserve helped considerably in achieving this result. The number gives an overall idea of the bird diversity that one can encounter in the area throughout a calendar year, without putting much effort into finding rarities, vagrants or difficult species. We guess that with a bit of dedication, an additional 10-15 species could be added, especially by birding in eastern Slovenia more often.
If we'd need to pick one of the many field highlights of 2020, the prize would probably go to the Alpine grouse adventure, when we visited a Black Grouse lek in the Julian Alps, enjoying also Capercaillie, Pygmy & Tengmalm's Owl, Lesser Redpolls, Golden Eagle and an amazing display of alpine flora. Worth of mention is also the second Alpine grouse adventure (summer episode) when we went looking for Ptarmigans, while the close encounter with this Brown Bear in autumn also delivered an absurd dose of excitement! Of course we shouldn't forget also our amazing find of the first leucistic wild Ural Owl for science. 
The many other memorable moments of 2020 are arranged below in a chronological selection. As this will take some time, make yourself comfortable and start scrolling!

Snow Bunting Plectrophenax nivalis, Mt. Slavnik, January.
Descend from Slavnik with Mt. Snežnik in the distance, January.
Bittern Botaurus stellaris, Škocjanski zatok, January.
Smew Mergellus albellus, Cerkniško jezero, March.
Crane Grus grus, Cerkniško jezero, March.
Stoat Mustela erminea, Cerkniško jezero, March. Video.
Little Crake Zapornia parva, Škocjanski zatok, March.
Spotted Crake Porzana porzana, Škocjanski zatok, March.
Italian Crested Newt Triturus carnifex & Smooth Newt Lissotriton vulgaris, Škocjanski zatok, March.
Dipper Cinclus cinclus nest-building on the river Reka (Škocjanske jame), March.
Ural Owl Strix uralensis, Krakovski gozd, March. We discovered the first case of leucism for this species in the wild (blog). Scientific paper to be published soon.
Snake's-head Fritillary Fritillaria meleagris, Krakovski gozd, March.
Broad-leaved Anemone Anemone hortensis, Dragonja valley, March.
Nettle-tree Butterfly Libythea celtis, Karst, March.
Middle Spotted Woodpecker Leiopicus medius, Karst, March. More territorial pairs were discovered during our yearly spring census across new areas of the Karst.
Dog's-tooth Violet Erythronium dens-canis, Karst, March.
Hawfinch Coccothraustes coccothraustes in the garden, March. Video.
Dotterel Charadrius morinellus, Divača's airfield, March.
Southern Festoon Zerynthia polyxena, Karst, April.
Henbane Bell Scopolia carniolica, Planinsko polje, April.
Black Stork Ciconia nigra, Karst (above) & Cerkniško jezero (below), April. In spring and summer we continued to follow the two breeding pairs we know to be nesting in western Slovenia (blog).
Crane Grus grus, Škocjanski zatok, April.
Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia, Škocjanski zatok, April.
Bird monitoring (with Black-winged Stilt) at Škocjanski zatok, April.
Birding the oak-beech forests of the Karst.
Ural Owl Strix uralensis, Karst, April. In spring we carried out an acoustic census and found 3-4 birds in the wooded hills on the eastern part of the Karst (blog).
Collared Flycatcher Ficedula albicollis, Karst, April.
Fire Salamander Salamandra salamandra, Karst, April.
Hidden corners of the wild Karst, April.
Lockdown birding in the Sežana municipality - watching Short-toed Eagles, April.
Short-toed Eagle Circaetus gallicus, Karst, April. Throughout spring we were witnessing regular interactions between our two local pairs.

Our favourite dolina during the April leafing.
Slender-leaved Fritillary Fritillaria orientalis, Karst, April.
Rock Bunting Emberiza cia, Karst, April.
Black-eared Wheatear Oenanthe hispanica, Karst, April. A rarity we came across during our regular farmland bird monitorings (blog).
Dalmatian Wall Lizard Podarcis melisellensis, Karst, April.
Dalmatian Algyroides Algyroides nigropunctatus, Karst, April.
European Green Lizard Lacerta viridis, Karst, April.

Wryneck Jynx torquilla, Karst, April.
Common Redstart Phoenicurus phoenicurus, Karst, April. This year we were extremely happy to have at least two different singing males around our home.
Rock Thrush Monticola saxatilis, Karst edge, May. A rare breeding bird along the Karst edge and an unexpected find (blog).
Blue Rock Thrush Monticola solitarius, Karst edge, May.
Ophrys sulcata, Karst edge, May.
Lady Orchid Orchis purpurea, Karst edge, May.
Tommasini's Sandwort Moeringhia tommasinii, Karst edge, May. Endemic species of the Karst around the Northern Adriatic.
Ortolan Bunting census at the Karst edge in May.
Roe Deer Capreolus capreolus, Karst edge, May.
Carniolan Primrose Primula carniolica, Mt. Slivnica, May. Slovenian endemic species found in the Dinaric mountains.
Trumpet Gentian Gentiana clusii, Trnovski gozd, May.
Bear's-ear Primula auricula, Trnovski gozd, May.
Birding the southern edge of Trnovski gozd in May.
Relaxing above the Vipava valley, May (blog).
Wild Peony Paeonia mascula, Karst, May.
Military Orchis militaris & Burnt-tip Orchid Neotinea ustulata, Karst, May.
Limodorum Limodorum abortivum, Karst, May.
Field Cricket Gryllus campestris in the garden, May. Video.
Badger Meles meles behind our house, May.
Red-rumped Swallow Cecropis daurica, Karst, May. This year a pair nested near Divača which represents the northernmost breeding site of this very rare breeder in Slovenia.
Black Woodpecker Dryocopus martius, Karst, May.
Beech Longhorn Beetle Morimus funereus, Karst, May.
Black Grouse Lyrurus tetrix, Julian Alps, May. A fantastic two-day trip to a Black Grouse lek, with singing Capercaillie, Pygmy and Tengmalm's Owl along the way during the night-time ascent (blog).
Lesser Redpoll Carduelis cabaret, Julian Alps, May.
Alpine Newt Ichthyosaura alpestris, Julian Alps, May.
Spring birding in Redpoll heaven (blog).
Idyllic alpine pastures in the Triglav National Park, May.
Traditional hay meadow in the Karst, June.
Dittany Dictamnus albus, Karst, June.
Barred Warbler Sylvia nisoria, Karst, June.
Giant Peacock Moth Saturnia pyri, Karst, June.
Peregrine Falco peregrinus, Karst edge, May.
Catching & satellite-tagging a pair of Peregrines (same individual as in the previous pic) on the Karst edge, May (blog).
Lesser Grey Shrike census in the Vipava valley, May.
Lesser Grey Shrike Lanius minor, Vipava valley, June. Probably the last breeding pair in this area and a near-extinct species in Slovenia (blog).
Red-footed Falcon Falco vespertinus, Karst, May.
Bee-eater Merops apiaster, Landscape Park Strunjan, June. First confirmed breeding of the species in the park.
Rose-coloured Starling Pastor roseus, Škocjanski zatok, June. 2020 has seen another big invasion of the species to Slovenia and much of Europe. At least 14 birds were roosting regularly at Škocjanski zatok within a large flock of Common Starlings Sturnus vulgaris.
Common Tern Sterna hirundo chick, Škocjanski zatok, June.
Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta, Škocjanski zatok, June. Three pairs nested in the lagoon this year, but only one fledged juveniles.
Kentish Plover Charadrius alexandrinus, Škocjanski zatok, June. A new breeding bird at the site, after an absence of 12 years; 2-3 pairs nested this year.
Little Bittern Ixobrychus minutus, Škocjanski zatok, June.
Turtle Dove Streptopelia turtur, Škocjanski zatok, June.
Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius nesting on gravel by a railway track near Škocjanski zatok, June.
European Pond Terrapin Emys orbicularis, Škocjanski zatok, June. One of the 55 specimen recorded at the reserve.
Ortolan Bunting habitat on the Karst edge, June.
Ortolan Bunting Emberiza hortulana, Karst edge, June. This year we counted 7 birds (sadly the total for the whole of Slovenia), among which a pair was bringing food to the nest. The species is on the brink of extinction in Slovenia (blog).
Tawny Pipit Anthus campestris, Karst edge, June.
Black-veined White Aporia crataegi, Karst edge, June.
Geranium Argus Aricia eumedon, Mt. Nanos, June.
Clouded Apollo Parnassius mnemosyne, Mt. Nanos, June.
Rock Thrush Monticola saxatilis, Mt. Nanos, June. A regular, yearly appointment with this colourful species on our favourite mountain (blog).
Carniolan Lily Lilium carniolicum, Mt. Nanos, June.
Grass-leaved Iris Iris graminea, Mt. Nanos, June.
South-western slopes of Mt. Nanos, June.
False Ringlet Coenonympha oedippus, Karst, June.
Owlfly Libelloides macaronius, Karst, June.
Favourite summer pastime, Karst, June.
Marsh Helleborine Epipactis helleborine, Vipava valley, June.
Breeding habitat of Baillon's Crake Zapornia pusilla at Cerkniško jezero, June. We heard two singing birds, while up to 15 were censused this year on the lake. The species remains one of the rarest and most mysterious breeding birds in Slovenia.
Martuljek group, Julian Alps, June.
Lower Martuljek waterfall, June.
Joining the initiative Za naravo ob Savo on the river Sava, June.
Rock Soapwort Saponaria ocymoides, Julian Alps, June.
Rhaetian Poppy Papaver alpinum ssp. rhaeticum, Julian Alps, June.
Rusty-leaved Alpenrose Rhododendron ferrugineum, Julian Alps, June.
Agarikon Laricifomes officinalis, Julian Alps, June.
Alpine Heath Coenonympha gardetta, Julian Alps, June.
Ringlet Aphantopus hyperantus, Iška river, July.
Large Chequered Skipper Heteropterus morpheus in the garden, July.
Goat Moth Cossus cossus in the garden (moth trap), July.
Oak Hawk-moth Marumba quercus in the garden (moth trap), July. This species was a regular catch in the moth trap, with up to 3 together in one night.
 Bombus haematurus in the garden, July.
On a botanical trip to Mt. Snežnik, July (blog).
Sub-alpine meadow with Edraianthus graminifolius, Mt. Snežnik, July.
Red Vanilla Orchid Nigritella miniata, Mt. Snežnik, July.
Carniolan Lily Lilium carniolicum ("classic" & yellow variants), Mt. Snežnik, July.
Mouse Garlic Allium angulosum, Petelinjsko jezero, July.
Solitary Clematis Clematis integrifolia, Petelinjsko jezero, July.
Dry meadows in the Karst & Mt. Nanos, July.
Short-toed Eagle Circaetus gallicus, Škocjanski zatok, July.
Queen of the Alps Eryngium alpinum, Mt. Porezen, July (blog).
Danube Gentian Gentiana pannonica, Mt. Porezen, July.
Scarce Copper Lycaena virgaureae, Mt. Porezen, July.
Cinnabar Moth Tyria jacobaeae, Škocjanski zatok, July.
Mediterranean Shag Phalacrocorax aristotelis ssp. desmarestii, Landscape Park Strunjan, July.
Bee-eater Merops apiaster, Landscape Park Strunjan, August. One of several juveniles fledged this year from at least two different pairs; a new breeding site for the species (blog).
Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus, Landscape Park Strunjan, July.
Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus, Landscape Park Strunjan, July.
Osprey Pandion haliaetus, Škocjanski zatok, August.
A rare and natural view of Mt. Triglav, where the clouds have obscured human presence (the mountain hut, the tower on the top and all the people walking on the crest).
Hike to Veliki Draški Vrh (2243 m) in the Julian Alps, August.
Ptarmigan Lagopus muta, Julian Alps, August. Stumbled into this family party during a highly enjoyable 2-day hiking trip in the heart of Triglav National Park (blog).
Zois' (Crimped) Bellflower Campanula zoysii, Julian Alps, August. Endemic of the Southeastern Limestone Alps and a quintessential presence in the Julian Alps.
False Orchid Chamorchis alpina, Julian Alps, August.
Canoeing & wild swimming in lake Cerknica, August (blog).
Brown Bear Ursus arctos, Javorniki Mts., August. A female with two cubs came out of the forest to feed on a glade in the evening (blog).
Brown Bear Ursus arctos, Mt. Snežnik, August. Close encounter with a young along a forest road.
Roe Deer Capreolus capreolus, Mt. Snežnik, August.
Short-toed Eagle Circaetus gallicus on Mt. Vremščica with Mt. Triglav in the distance, September.
Hoopoe Upupa epops, Landscape Park Strunjan, September.
Sara at work...
... & Domen at work.
Whinchat Saxicola rubetra, Cerkniško jezero, September.
Testing the new hide at Cerkniško jezero with Touty, September.
Beech Fagus sylvatica, Mt. Snežnik, September. 2020 brought an abundant crop of beech mast to the Slovenian forests, supporting the diet of a wide variety of animals.
Red Deer Cervus elaphus, Mt. Snežnik, September.
Three-toed Woodpecker Picoides tridactylus, Mt. Snežnik, September.
Cep Boletus edulis, Pokljuka plateau, September.
Red Squirrel Sciurus vulgaris, Pokljuka plateau, September.
Three-toed Woodpecker Picoides tridactylus, Pokljuka plateau, September.
Watching a Ural Owl Strix uralensis in the Dinaric forests, September (blog).
Common Dormouse Muscardinus avellanarius, Javorniki Mts., September.
Šumik waterfall on the Pohorje plateau, September.
Fly Agaric Amanita muscaria, Pohorje plateau, September.
Yellow-browed Warbler Phylloscopus inornatus in the garden, October. A self-found rarity is always exciting, especially if it's only the second non-mist-netted YBW in Slovenia (blog).
Fir Coral Tooth Fungus Hericium alpestre, Kočevski rog, October.
Birding with friends in the primeval forest of Kočevski rog, October.
Yelkouan Shearwater Puffinus yelkouan, Gulf of Trieste, October.
Gannet Morus bassanus, Gulf of Trieste, October (blog).
Birding in the Dinaric forests of Mt. Snežnik, during the Global Bird Weekend in October.
White-backed Woodpecker Dendrocopos leucotos, Mt. Snežnik, October (blog).
Brown Bear Ursus arctos, Mt. Snežnik, October (blog).
Happy faces of someone who just saw a bear.
Ural Owl Strix uralensis, Mt. Snežnik, November.
Three-toed Woodpecker Picoides tridactylus, Mt. Snežnik, November. Video.
Brambling Fringilla montifringilla, Mt. Snežnik, November.
Autumn hiking on the Snežnik plateau, October.
In the wildest corners of the Snežnik mountain range, October.
Golden Jackal Canis aureus, Karst near Sežana, November (blog).
Middle Spotted Woodpecker Leiopicus medius, Karst near Sežana, November.
Sunny autumn in the Karst's oak forests, November.
Camouflaged Ural Owl Strix uralensis, Karst, November. Video.
Enjoying a sunset in the Javorniki Mts., November.
Black-throated Diver Gavia arctica, Landscape Park Strunjan, December.
Wishing you a wildlife-rich 2021! Domen & Sara.