On the 14th of May we at DOPPS - BirdLife Slovenia organised an event about the Capercaillie Tetrao urogallus in the Julian Alps. It was aimed at sensibilizing the wider public about the conservation issues concerning this iconic species, as well as for promoting our ongoing campaign Guardians of Endangered Birds (Capercaillie is one of the campaign's target species). Before the main event and in the early hours of the morning, 51 experienced bird counters checked the presence of Capercaillie on 26 different locations within the Jelovica plateau in the Julian Alps. The species was confirmed on 24 locations, with 19 singing males recorded in total. Combined with other censuses of the species in the area, the estimate of occupied Capercaillie territories for 2022 on Jelovica is 29. For comparison, a similar count in 2011 revealed 49 males on leks. This translates as a 40% decline of the species (in this area alone) in eleven years. A quite sad result that confirms the ongoing decline of this iconic bird in Slovenia, while the causes are still not fully researched.
Nevertheless, I was lucky to confirm (at least) one Capercaillie on my plot. Although I didn't see the bird itself, but only heard it (pics below are from the archive), it was still amazing to wait for dawn in the forest and then be rewarded with the presence of this majestic bird. Later in the morning, after the dawn chorus, I checked my plot carefully to look for signs and found quite a lot of Capercaillie's droppings (cigars) which further confirmed the occupancy of this territory.
|Waiting for dawn in the kingdom of the Capercaillie.
|Capercaillie's habitat on the Jelovica plateau.
|Lekking male Capercaillie Tetrao urogallus (pic from 2021, video).
|Capercaillie's droppings - "cigars".
|Feeding trees of Three-toed Woodpecker Picoides tridactylus.
|Three-toed Woodpecker Picoides tridactylus
|Alpine Salamander Salamandra atra
|Black Slug Arion ater (is it?) feeding on a tasty mushroom.
|Brown Bear's footprint.
|Brown Bear's droppings.
|The rear part of a Brown Bear Ursus arctos running away from me.
|Probably the largest silver fir Abies alba we've ever seen.
|Large amounts of dead wood in the old-growth forest reserve within the park.
|Watching a White-backed Woodpecker in the old-growth forest.
|May greenery in the old-growth forest reserve.
|Collared Flycatcher Ficedula albicollis
|Playback census for woodpeckers in the commercial forest.
|White-backed Woodpecker Dendrocopos leucotos lilfordi
|Three-toed Woodpecker Picoides tridactylus
|Common Treecreeper Certhia familiaris stealing some spider's prey.
|Ural Owl Strix uralensis
|Taking full advantage of local forms of cover in the old-growth forest.
|Moschatel Adoxa moschatellina
|Waldstein's Bittercress Cardamine waldsteinii
|Kitaibel's Bittercress Cardamine kitaibelii (with late April snow).
|Henbane Bell Scopolia carniolica
|Beech Fagus sylvatica - young leaves.
|Sycamore Acer pseudoplatanus - new leaves & flowers.
|Norway Spruce Picea abies - flowers producing huge clouds of pollen in early May.
|Brown Bear Ursus arctos, adult female.
|Brown Bear Ursus arctos - one of the 3 cubs.
|Brown Bear's signs are everywhere on Snežnik!
|Fox Vulpes vulpes
|White-backed Woodpecker Dendrocopos leucotos lilfordi, male collecting food.
|Red Squirrel Sciurus vulgaris
|Mount Snežnik (1796 m) from its eastern slopes.
|Beech trees above 1400 m a.s.l. were still leafless in mid May...
|...while lower down (1300-1400 m a.s.l.) they were just beginning to sprout leaves.
|Blue-eyed Mary Omphalodes verna
|Swarms of tiny flies were covering the skies of the forest in the warm days of mid May.
|Dinaric beech-silver fir forest (Omphalodo-Fagetum) on Snežnik plateau.
|Centenary beech Fagus sylvatica contorted by the wind and snow.
|The beginning of spring life in the mountain beech forests.
|Old-growth forest reserve on Snežnik plateau.
|Limestone grasslands at the edge of the forest on Snežnik's plateau.
|Trieste Gentian Gentiana tergestina, some were still in flower.
|Scanning the horizon for raptors.
|Golden Eagle Aquila chrysaetos
|The vast grasslands are maintained by extensive grazing of sheep.
|A bachelor herd of Red Deer Cervus elaphus grazing the grasslands in the evening.
|Sessile Oak Quercus petraea - fresh leaves & flowers.
|Muddy Ural Owl Strix uralensis after the morning bath.
|Puddle where the Ural Owl had a bath.
|Ural Owl's footprint in the mud.
|Birding in the Karst's oak-beech woodlands is tough in late spring.
|The very common Paeonia officinalis
|The rarer Paeonia daurica (though to be P. mascula), loving shadier places.
|In the wet meadows of Cerkniško jezero.
|Common Rosefinch Carpodacus erythrinus
|Lesser Grey Shrike Lanius minor
|White Stork Ciconia ciconia
|The lake was almost completely dry.
|Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus
|Pochard Aythya ferina
|"Tall Violet" Viola elatior
|Broad-leaved Marsh Orchid Dactylorhiza majalis
Although this post has been already quite long, we've been actually doing a lot more lately. A special chapter of its own are the bird surveys on the Karst's dry limestone grasslands. But that would be too much to add here, so stay tuned for the next post concentrating on the biodiversity of meadows & grasslands! Here's only an appetizer...
|Red-backed Shrike Lanius collurio with spider.