Participants: Mark Hows, James Hunter, Sean Cole, David Gray, Simon West and Roy FrostComments
Photos with this report (click to enlarge)
See more images at Mark's site
I joined James Hunter, Sean Cole, David Gray, Simon West and Roy Frost for a few days in Slovenia mainly to see the Olms but hopefully catch up with a few other herps and birds. We flew in two groups the Southern one from Stansted the Northern one from Birmingham.
Sunday 10th April
The southern crew landed well before the Northern crew so we headed out of the airport to some scrubland nearby until they arrived. We quickly found a few butterflies both scarce and common swallowtail of note. A brown hare was flushed, a probable common wall lizard a dead mole and a very quick western whip snake were all seen during our wander as well as plenty of other things. We joined the others to get the hire cars but there was no record of our booking and it took an age to finally get some cars out of them. We were finally off and drove about 1.5 hours to our hotel, getting a bit lost on the way. A few common toads were seen on the way on the way but the highlight was a wildcat seen crossing the road in front of the Northern crews car, they saw a second cat as well. A giant pizza and a couple of beers later and it was off to bed as we had an early start.
Monday 11th April
A mega early start and we headed up Mt Stol for a morning searching for Rock Partridges, we had a selection of nice birds several rock buntings were of note. But the highlight was a Ring Ouzel ssp alpestris which was a real stunner, but no rock partridges. A few red deer were on the hillside as was an Alpine Chamois which showed well but distantly. We never made it to the top as the road was blocked by a rock fall. It was then off to a small town for refreshments a flock of hirundines contained a few crag martins. Next was an alpine area for alpine birds but halfway up the road was blocked by snow so we walked up the road for a bit, but it was very quiet only a few common birds and a common lizards for our efforts but the views were amazing. A quick stop at a bridge across a river produced a few crag martins and a black redstart. It was then onto some woodland with a natural spring lake near our Hotel in the town of Kranjska Gora in search of Hazelhen but no luck. After checking in to the hotel and the biggest meal I have seen, and we finished the day off with a search for a few owls but with no luck.
Tuesday 12th April
At dawn we revisited the small woodland near Kranjska Gora but there was no sign of hazelhen and not a great deal else either. Another woodland stop was equally as productive but we did add a few crested tits to the list. A small pool at the site had common toads egg laying, we could not stay long as today was the main event, apart from a short lakeside stop for a black throated diver we headed directly to Postojna for our trip into the caves. After dressing up like members of the YMCA we headed down into the caves, cave spiders were quickly located and a group of roosting bats were probably lesser horseshoe going on their size. After a bit of a walk in we located our first olm. After a bit of organizing we all got into a small boat and headed off for a bit of a paddle deeper into the cave. We left some of the crew on an island as we paddled deeper and finally got good views of plenty of olm's at least a dozen and I even managed a few pics. After a while we picked up the others and went to a pool where we located a few more olm's and some white cave fish. One last stop before heading back into daylight was the silent cave where the walls glistened with bacteria that looked silver and gold. We made a brief stop at a lake with a couple of nice Grey headed wagtails but the weather was turning windy and rain was in the air. We headed to our rather charming hotel for yet another massive meal and then in torrential rain we headed to the Bela Krajina area where we visited a small pool covered by a tent in a garden, hardly the appropriate for Europe's rarest amphibian. The pool is the only opening to an underground water system. Here we quickly found three of the incredibly rare black olm. Also present was a Italian crested newt, the olm's showed really well for 45 mins before we headed back to the hotel bar for a few beers to celebrate a top day.
Wednesday 13th April
A more leisurely start and after a good breakfast we headed to the west of the country to meet up with some local herpers. We were soon in the field and herping they were a bit puzzled by our interest in butterflies and other insects but left us to it and were quickly finding herps. First off was an agile frog, a good selection of butterflies were found and a few orchids. The first lizards started to be located and on a cliff face we had a couple of Italian wall lizards and then the real star a Dalmatian Algyroides whose underneath is amazingly coloured. Next stop was more of a grass land site again with good orchids and butterflies. We had some excellent lizards including a particularly confiding Italian wall lizard. But the highlight was a cracking western green lizard which eluded a couple of us before James caught it. Next stop was small stream to look for pond turtles, the habitat was very marginal but Tomaz caught two adult males very quickly and we had good views before putting them back. They were excellent almost the highlight of the trip. Our final stop was in the North of the country where on a rocky hillside we searched in vain for Horned Nosed vipers, the weather had just turned too cold for them. The day was not over we checked out a pond nearby which held both common newt and Italian crested newt, James went in to investigate further. A couple of hawfinches visited to drink while we were there.
Thursday 14th April
With poor weather predicted at the viper site we instead visited a wetland area just in Italy, here we did not expect much but it was quite productive with a good selection of butterflies and a few dragons and damselflies. First we had some good views of a black woodpecker and brief views of bearded tits, the weather was just good enough to find a western whip snake as we headed to the car an excellent end to an excellent trip.
Birds - 51 species
Ring Ouzel ssp alpestris
Great Spotted Woodpecker
Great Crested Grebe
Mammals - 6 species
Chamois Wood Mouse
Lesser Horseshoe Bat
Dead Bank Vole
Dead Red Squirrel (Black Form)