Friday, 15 April 2016

A few days in Slovenia

I left the Alps and drove almost none stop to Slovenia, driving through the Chamonix Tunnel then motorway passing Milan and Venice then just across the border to the small village of Vipava which is in a good location for bird watching in SW Slovenia.
On the way I stopped at services about 50Km west of Milan and recorded my first Italian House Sparrows of the trip. The males lack the grey crown of the House Sparrow we see in Britain.
Italian race of House Sparrow
The change is immediate once you emerge from the Tunnel and they appear to continue through most of northern Italy but the sparrows in Vipava had the grey crowns. I also noted that the Carrion Crows were of the 'hooded' variety from at least Milan so assume they appear also south of the Alps.
Hooded Crow
Slightly unexpectedly I also saw at least 6 Sacred Ibis in fields at the back of the service station. I had been given a location for this feral population of an African species but here they were at the services so no need to go any further!

Sacred Ibis
I had a look around the campsite area on the first evening and noted several Cirl Bunting singing as well as the usual Blackcaps and Black Redstarts that I hear at every stop.
The following morning (Wednesday 13th) I went to Lake Cerknica which is a large shallow winter flood area. There was plenty of water there during my visit with some large reedbeds from which I could hear several Bittern booming.
Lake Cerknica
The lake fringes had plenty of yellow wagtails, most were Ashy-headed (M.f.cinereocapilla) but I did see the odd Black-headed (M.f.feldegg) as well.
Ashy-headed Wagtail - taking off
Great-crested Grebes and Coot were the commonest waterfowl but there were a few male Garganey dotted amongst the reeds. There were very few other migrants other than Blackcaps and Chiffchaff which was disappointing. I tried a similar area nearby at Planina but that was dry. I did record my first Cuckoos of the year though.
The following day I decided on a trip in to Croatia, to the island of Krk from where Rock Partridge have been reported but there is some reasonable habitat for other birds.
Almost the first birds I saw after crossing to the island on a superb bridge were Black-eared Wheatears, these are of the eastern variety again with both pale and dark throated males. There was a lot of calling from the bushes which turned out to be Eastern Subalpine Warblers. These were calling every where and I couldn't guess at the numbers but certainly dozens. Singing Nightingales were also calling and singing in good numbers.
Eastern Subalpine Warbler - male note rusty upper breast and pale belly
Having failed to locate any Rock Partridge in the barren northern part of the island I drove south through a rather thickly vegetated middle to a more open and cultivated south. The area around Baska was good with Griffon Vultures over the cliffs, more Nightingales, my first Turtle Dove of the trip, Whinchat and a pair of Hawfinch which eluded the camera. In the town looking through the sparrows I saw several Spanish Sparrows which is a good record for the area I suspect as they have a very restricted range in Croatia which I don't think includes Krk.
Male Spanish Sparrow this angle also shows the two pale 'tram' lines on the back which aid ID
Back in Vipava in the evening I decided to move on and head in to Bulgaria where I will spend a few days before heading into Greece. I had planned to drive round via Hungary and Rumania but as I will be spending time in both countries later I am going to miss them out for the moment.
I have been struggling a bit with the IT side of things so apologies for any errors in these blogs.


  1. Great pictures as usual Bill,sounds like you're having a great time.

  2. Great pictures as usual Bill,sounds like you're having a great time.

  3. Thanks Hugh - it beats working, that's for sure!