Monday 6 April 2020

Spring sightings in the Karst around Sežana

Short-toed Eagle Circaetus gallicus - part of a group of 5 flying together.
Black Stork Ciconia nigra
Woodlark Lullula arborea feeding its chicks.
Cirl Bunting Emberiza cirlus
Southern Festoon Zerynthia polyxena
Kranjšek stream - a tributary of the river Raša, on the eastern edge of the Karst.
Fire Salamander Salamandra salamandra - larva
Dingy Skipper Erynnis tages & Holly Blue Celastrina argiolus sucking minerals.
Large Tortoiseshell Nymphalis polychloros
Dalmatian Algyroides Algyroides nigropunctatus
Mountain Pasqueflower Pulsatilla montana
Hacquetia Hacquetia epipactis
Common Twayblade Listera ovata
Beech Fagus sylvatica
Spring Sedge Carex caryophyllea
Fingered Sedge Carex digitata
Glaucous Sedge Carex flacca
Municipality of Sežana (in red border).

In the last days, due to current restrictions, we've been mostly confined to the Karst of the Sežana municipality (where we live) for leisure activities. After all it is not that bad, since we spend most of our "free" outdoor time right here anyway. Birding and botanising is done around home in the meadows, forests and hills some 5 to 20 minutes drive away. The municipality is relatively big and quite diverse in terms of habitats. We consider ourselves very privileged to live in an area of extensive rural landscape interspersed with woodland, hosting some excellent top-quality birds such as Short-toed Eagle Circaetus gallicus, Black Stork Ciconia nigra, 7 species of woodpeckers, Eagle Owl Bubo bubo, Hoopoe Upupa epops and many others. The highlight these days was finally observing the local Black Stork Ciconia nigra at the eastern edge of the Karst, close to the Vipava valley, where the species most probably breeds. This mysterious and shy bird is a rare breeder in Slovenia, more widespread in the floodplain forests of the east. In western Slovenia its breeding hasn't been confirmed yet although we think there are at least two pairs. Further investigation is currently under way. Short-toed Eagle Circaetus gallicus is another rare breeding bird in Slovenia, mostly confined to the Karst (SW Slovenia). A few days ago we observed no less than 5 birds together in an area where a pair breeds. This probably involved individuals still on migration. Among summer migrants the first Common Swifts Apus apus have been observed last week, while during the last census we confirmed another 4 new territories of Middle Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos medius.
On the butterfly front the highlight of the moment is certainly the Southern Festoon Zerynthia polyxena, a beautiful and rare butterfly, living on overgrowing meadows and woodland edges. Actually the proper habitat for this species in the Karst is quite abundant (as it is its larval feeding plant, birthwort Aristolochia lutea/pallida), hence this butterfly can be quite abundant locally. 
As you may have noticed, this year we've also taken a particular interest in sedges!