Monday 21 September 2020

Finding the perfect Ural Owl

Another weekend in the Notranjska region, this time taking a friend around on a classical autumn trip of lake Cerknica and the Javorniki mountains. The main protagonist of the day was a showy Ural Owl Strix uralensis that we found in the mixed mountain forests of the Javorniki. We had excellent scope views for a good half an hour, whilst the owl was resting on a fir, looking completely calm and relaxed, although it had clearly seen us. It was one of those long-lasting and satisfying encounters when you can really appreciate all the details in the plumage of this beautiful and charismatic bird. Ural Owl is a widespread bird in the forests of Slovenia and high population densities are reached in the Dinaric mountains in the southern part of the country. However, even if the species is partly diurnal, finding one is far from easy. Fortunately we have a good feel for it...

Spot the owl...
... there it is, with its typical long-tailed silhouette.
Known as the "Goshawk-owl" in German (because of its long tail).

Ural Owl Strix uralensis
A short video "behind the scenes", taking you into the field with us (view also here).

Typical Ural Owl habitat in the Javorniki mountains.
Mt. Sne┼żnik from its NW side.


Although the plan was to rove around the forest for most of the day and maximise the chances of bear encounters, we couldn't skip a visit to nearby lake Cerknica. Taking a nice stroll down the western shore of the lake, we watched good numbers of common waterbirds and migrant waders. However the greatest show was performed by rutting Red Deer Cervus elaphus on the lake's floodplain: two stags with huge antlers were chasing females all across the lake. We all agreed they were the most beautiful stags we've ever seen! Unfortunately the great distance didn't allow us to take any good photos, but only phone-scoping documentation. We waited for dusk in the Javorniki, listening to more rutting Red Deer all around us. When night descended squeaking Edible Dormice Glis glis (Ural Owl's favourite prey!) joined the unusual chorus. The evening was rounded up perfectly, when driving back home through the forest, we spotted a Hazel Dormouse Muscardinus avellanarius crossing the road. As we pulled off in time we managed to take a closer look at this tiny and difficult-to-see dormouse. Although widespread in Slovenia, this species is not as common as the Edible Dormouse. For us it was actually only the second time we ever met with this interesting little rodent.

Scanning over lake Cerknica.
Red Deer Cervus elaphus stag on lake Cerknica's floodplain.
Hazel Dormouse Muscardinus avellanarius, Javorniki Mts.