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!
Idyllic alpine pastures in the Triglav National Park, May.
Traditional hay meadow in the Karst, June.
DittanyDictamnus albus, Karst, June.
Barred WarblerSylvia nisoria, Karst, June.
Giant Peacock MothSaturnia pyri, Karst, June.
PeregrineFalco 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 ShrikeLanius minor, Vipava valley, June. Probably the last breeding pair in this area and a near-extinct species in Slovenia (blog).
Red-footed FalconFalco vespertinus, Karst, May.
Bee-eaterMerops apiaster, Landscape Park Strunjan, June. First confirmed breeding of the species in the park.
Rose-coloured StarlingPastor 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 TernSterna hirundo chick, Škocjanski zatok, June.
AvocetRecurvirostra avosetta, Škocjanski zatok, June. Three pairs nested in the lagoon this year, but only one fledged juveniles.
Kentish PloverCharadrius alexandrinus, Škocjanski zatok, June. A new breeding bird at the site, after an absence of 12 years; 2-3 pairs nested this year.
Little BitternIxobrychus minutus, Škocjanski zatok, June.
Little Ringed PloverCharadrius dubius nesting on gravel by a railway track near Škocjanski zatok, June.
European Pond TerrapinEmys orbicularis, Škocjanski zatok, June. One of the 55 specimen recorded at the reserve.
Ortolan Bunting habitat on the Karst edge, June.
Ortolan BuntingEmberiza 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).
Marsh HelleborineEpipactis helleborine, Vipava valley, June.
Breeding habitat of Baillon's CrakeZapornia 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.