Monday 10 August 2020

Alpine grouse adventure - summer episode

After our very successful spring Alpine grouse adventure, here is the summer episode! At the end of the past week we took advantage of the relatively fresh temperatures (after a recent cold front) and headed to the heart of the Julian Alps for an amazing two-day hike. Our target was the central part of the Triglav National Park, where we hoped to conquer a few mountain tops and look for the elusive and usually difficult-to-see Rock Ptarmigan Lagopus muta. Of course we also wanted to enjoy the usual mixture of alpine wildlife, including the spectacular flower meadows & rocky "gardens". We started on the Pokljuka plateau above Bohinj, passing through Planina Konjščica (1438 m) and then up to Studorski preval (Studor pass, 1892 m). On the first day we also climbed on Veliki Draški vrh (2243 m), then spent the night at Vodnikov dom (the local mountain hut) and climbed to mount Tosc (2275 m) the next day, before returning home. We were very successfull as we found a family of 7 Rock Ptarmigans on Tosc, while we also enjoyed Alpine Accentors Prunella collaris, Alpine Choughs Pyrrhocorax graculus, Ring Ouzels Turdus torquatus, Wheathears Oenanthe oenanthe, Water Pipits Anthus spinoletta, Nutcrackers Nucifraga caryocatactes, Alpine Chamois Rupicapra rupicapra, Marmots Marmota marmota and a Snow Vole Chionomys nivalis. Among butterflies there were several interesting ringlets, including the endemic Lorkovič's Brassy Ringlet Erebia calcaria and Blind Ringlet Erebia pharte, plus the high-altitude Shepherd's Fritillary Boloria pales
For more, enjoy this fabulous (and long!) photo-selection... the best comes at the end ;-)
We started in a nice conifer forest on the Pokljuka plateau.
A noisy family of fledged Nutcrackers Nucifraga caryocatactes greeted us on the way.
Yellow Birdsnest Monotropa hypopytis
A magical forest stream with small waterfalls.
Woolly Thistle Cirsium eriophorum on Planina Konjščica (a mountain pasture).
Cross Gentian Gentiana cruciata
Short-spurred Fragrant Orchid Gymnadenia odoratissima
Sternberg's Pink Dianthus sternbergii
Mountain Thrift Armeria alpina
Blind Ringlet Erebia pharte
Shepherd's Fritillary Boloria pales
Jezerce valley near Studorski preval.
Drinking cold water from a mountain stream is priceless!
Mt. Veliki Draški vrh (2243 m) - our first target.
A little bit of climbing on the way to Veliki Draški vrh.
And there they were... the first Crimped Bellflowers Campanula zoysii. This endemic species of the Southeastern Limestone Alps, also known as Zois' Bellflower, was first discovered in Slovenia and named after Karel Zois (1756-1799). It is one of Slovenia's most famous plants. It grows quite commonly in the Julian Alps, from around 1800 m upwards, usually in rocky crevices.
Edelweiss Leontopodium alpinum was very common along the way.
Rock Hare's-ear Bupleurum petraeum
Dwarf Saussurea Saussurea pygmea
Heart-leaved Saussurea Saussurea discolor
False Orchid Chamorchis alpina was growing quite commonly on Veliki Draški vrh. This rather rare high-altitude species of orchid is very small and likes to grow in the rockiest alpine meadows, especially on mountain ridges.
Climbing the ridge of Veliki Draški vrh...
... on top, with Triglav in the back.
The Krma valley.
View on nearby Mt. Tosc, our target for the next day.
A herd of Alpine Chamois Rupicapra rupicapra on the screes of Mt. Tosc.
Alpine Chough Pyrrhocorax graculus
Black Redstart Phoenicurus ochruros
Some good Ptarmigan habitat.

Mt. Vernar (2225 m) on the edge of Velo polje.
Vodnikov dom na Velem polju.
Evening contemplation of Mt.Triglav with the help of palačinke.
Mt. Triglav (2864 m), Slovenia's highest mountain in the evening light.
Sunset in the mountains.
Triglav's top amongst morning clouds.
Water Pipit Anthus spinoletta feeding its young.
The lovely late-summer bellflower Campanula cespitosa, apparently lacking an English name. Pity.
Fairy's Thimble Campanula cochleariifolia is the commonest bellflower in the mountains.
Crimped Bellflower (Zois' Bellflower) Campanula zoysii, always choosing the best spots to grow.
Yellow Bellflower Campanula thyrsoides
Plume Knapweed Centaurea uniflora ssp. nervosa
Julian Knapweed Centaurea haynaldii ssp. julica
Mountain Cornflower Centaurea montana
A possible Thistle Broomrape Orobanche reticulata (growing near Cirsium erisithales).
Lush mountain hay meadows...
...with some hidden surprises...
Danube Gentian Gentiana pannonica, growing in small numbers and quite scarcely.
Vardjan's Gentian Gentiana lutea ssp. vardjanii
Austrian Hogweed Heracleum austriacum ssp. siifolium
Species-rich hay meadows on the southern slopes of Mt. Tosc.
A look down in the valley towards Bohinj.
Lorkovič's Brassy Ringlet Erebia calcaria - an endemic species of the Southeastern Limestone Alps, only found in the Julian & Carnic Alps and Karavanke. It was the commonest butterfly on the southern slopes of Tosc.
Black Vanilla Orchid Nigritella rhellicani - never seen so many of these in one place!
A look down on Tosc's steep slopes. On the path we found some feathers of Black Grouse Lyrurus tetrix - the habitat around there looked excellent for the species.
Marmot Marmota marmota - very frequently heard, but seldom seen.
Eastern Cinquefoil Potentilla clusiana
Mighty Triglav from Tosc.
Triglav's summit can be very crowded in summer!
Stony landscape on the Tosc plateau.
Sheep on their summer pasture on the very summit of Tosc.
Triglav looks majestic... but better in reality than in photos!
A look towards Veliki Draški vrh (yesterday's summit).
Pink Cinquefoil Potentilla nitida aka the "Triglav flower" featured in the Goldhorn legend.
Sieber's Rampion Phyteuma sieberi
Dolomite Saxifrage Saxifraga squarrosa
Encrusted Saxifrage Saxifraga crustata
Yellow Mountain Saxifrage Saxifraga aizoides
Eastern Saxifrage Saxifraga sedoides
Roseroot Rhodiola rosea
Spiniest Thistle Cirsium spinosissimum
Alpine Toadflax Linaria alpina
And just as we were starting to descend from Tosc...
...we stumbled into a flock of 7 Rock Ptarmigans Lagopus muta feeding in front of us!
One of the 5 Ptarmigan chicks.
Mother Ptarmigan
Part of the flock; adult female on the right.
The adults were always vigilant, sitting on top of rocks and checking the surroundings, while the flock was slowly moving away from us, giving brilliant views as they went. CHECK THE VIDEO HERE.
Rock Ptarmigan summer habitat.
Edelweiss Leontopodium alpinum and the valley below.
A ray of sun reaches the Voje valley near Bohinj.
The descent from Tosc on grouse-rich slopes.
A local "scaregrouse".
Last refreshment in the stream...
...before returning to the valley and the civilized world.