Tuesday 24 August 2021

UnBEARable forest desires

In late summer the call of the Dinaric forests becomes irresistible and it is not unusual that we find ourselves on the Snežnik plateau on a weekly basis, or even more often so! This time Domen took Paul & Davide on a trip to the extensive and well preserved forests on the plateau's interior (check Paul's tweets for more "live from the field" action). The aim was to explore new areas of almost-primeval forest and to see some of the typical wildlife inhabiting these mountains. Among birds the most prominent species were again migrants, the commonest being Wood Warblers Phylloscopus sibilatrix (heard/seen tens of them), followed by Pied Ficedula hypoleuca and Spotted Flycatchers Muscicapa striata, while overhead were flocks of migrating House Martins Delichon urbicum and a few Honey Buzzards Pernis apivorus. Of the resident birds the most interesting were a couple of Ural Owls Strix uralensis found along the way, including a pair showing in a conifer stand, but not well enough for photography. Woodpeckers (Three-toed & White-back), the main targets of the trip, this time where nowhere to be found, also probably because of the wind, making locating birds difficult. Nevertheless we enjoyed thoroughfully in the sight of some really nice natural-looking forests.

Dry limestone meadows on the NW edge of the Snežnik plateau, with Mt. Vremščica towering in the distance.
Mt. Snežnik and its extensive forests.
Enjoying some views on a marvellous and wild dolina.
Wild dolinas are Domen's favourite.
Beech forest on a steep limestone slope.
Overlooking another dolina with Pinus mugo on the bottom.
Dead wood in the primeval forest.
Tinder Fungus Fomes fomentarius, an omnipresent element of beech forests (pics by Davide Scridel).
Rotting beech with Artist's Bracket Ganoderma applanatum.
One of the several karstic sinkholes, with snow on the bottom, creating a special microclimate for alpine plants...
"Little Alpine Catchfly" Heliosperma pusillum, an alpine species found on Snežnik's summit and on the bottom of dolinas.
Alpine Yellow Violet Viola biflora, another alpine element.
Alpine Honeysuckle Lonicera alpigena, need to say more?
Willow Gentian Gentiana asclepiadea now in full bloom.
Spotted Flycatcher Muscicapa striata
Buzzard Buteo buteo
A very happy boy...
...just found his trophy!
Red Deer Cervus elaphus - part of a herd of 12 grazing on a meadow.
Roe Deer Capreolus capreolus
Signs of bears are all around. Here a dismembered rotten trunk...
...some claw marks...
...and some bear's droppings.


Given the abundant signs of the presence of Brown Bears Ursus arctos, we decided it was good to try our luck on a "bear hunt", staying out for the night and making the most of the twilight hours, the time when large mammals are most active. Sat quietly waiting for the sunset at the edge of the forest, we were very soon treated to the exciting apparition of a male bear, walking in full view about 250 metres away from us. The bear didn't linger much and moved on decisively into the forest, in the opposite direction from where it came. Only about 25 minutes later, a second bear, this time a young female arrived on the meadow galloping, then came to a halt, sat down for a moment, scratched a bit and continued her way. Despite both bears making only a quick appearence, we had some of the best views of these majestic animals so far, still in good light and well before twilight. What an excellent way to round up an amazing day spent in the forest!

Male Brown Bear Ursus arctos
A more relaxed female Brown Bear Ursus arctos
Paul has managed to record this short video of the two bears.
A summer moon rising above the Gulf of Kvarner and illuminating the bay of Rijeka (HR).
Only a few days to the full moon.
The boys going to bed...
...while Touty tweets under the moonlight. Goodnight, to the next adventure!