Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Birding spendid Slovenia - Part 2

After Krakovski Forest, I headed west to the Bloke Plateau for some upland birding. I passed through some magnificent countryside on the way, with some tough climbs but also enough easy rides to make the trip a relaxing one. 

Slovenian countryside at its best.

The rolling hills on the Bloke Plateau were quite a sight, and I thoroughly enjoyed cycling the easy roads between the villages of Nova Vas, Volcje and Radlek. In Ravnik I found my first Eurasian Hoopoe, a paler version of its African cousin. I was also pleased to find a pair of Red-footed Falcons, a species I last saw in the Kalahari Desert in South Africa! Another raptor that added excited was a male Montagu’s Harrier, which showed well as it passed by. Some other nice birds were Tree Pipit, Crested Tit, Bullfinch, Northern Wheatear and Common Crossbill. Skylarks were common and were regularly heard performing their aerial displays high above the grassy meadows.

Woodlands and meadows on the Bloke Plateau in Slovenia.

Eurasian Hoopoe at Bloke Plateau, Slovenia.

The descent from Bloke Plateau brought me to Planina Polje, where I was hoping to add some good wetland birds to my list. On arrival in the area, I noticed that there was a lot of water about. So it was not surprising when I discovered that the main road that traverses the area was submerged! My key birding area for the day was under water! It was raining fairly persistently anyhow so I decided to head on, passing through an impressive thunderstorm and more rain before reaching the town of Postojna.

The road between Laze and Planina flooded!

For the first time since Berlin, I met another touring cyclist as I pulled up to a fuel station in Postojna. Jacob, an American and traveling with a small guitar, was just on his way out of town. Check out his blog at for some interesting stories and photos! After catching up on our latest adventures, Jacob headed off in the direction of Slovenia's capital, while I hoped to reach the Nanos Plateau before sunset. 

Jacob and his bike in Postojna.

The view from below the Nanos plateau suggested the climb to the top would be a long one, and it was. It took two hours to reach the ridge of the plateau, one hairpin bend after the other. The next morning it took a further two hours to reach the very top, which involved much pushing as the inclines where too steep to cycle with my loaded bike. I spent a full day and night on the top, soaking up the incredible view over southern Slovenia. Although the diversity in bird species was not over-whelming at the very top, I got my first views ever of Rock Bunting and Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush. Tree Pipit, Skylark, Raven, and Common Kestrel were easily seen, but I missed on Alpine Accentor which is reputed to inhabit the rocky slopes.

Sunset over Nanos Plateau, looking to the west.
At the top, birding of course.

Tree Pipit at Nanos Plateau.

I made a two-day stop-over in Trieste, Italy, before cycling the coastline of Slovenia. In Trieste I met Niklas, a German touring cyclist. He was also heading in the roughly the same direction as me, Croatia, Greece, Turkey and Iran; I wondered if we would cross paths again. I left Trieste on the Parenzana bike trail, which follows the narrow-gauge railway line that linked the port of Trieste with the tourist destination of Poreč over 100 years ago. 

Trieste (Italy) by night.

The 544 m long Lucan Tunnel on the Parenzana bike trail, Slovenia.

My last birding stop was at the Sečovlje salt works. While I did a late afternoon preliminary scout of the area before camping, two German cyclists caught up with me. They were also looking for a camping spot, so I joined them in their quest. It was not long before we found a spot for our tents, so had a chance to share some traveling stories before parting the next morning. 

The old Sečovlje salt works, now a protected area for birds.

I headed a short distance back to visit the salt works, which was well worth it. I got my first views of Kentish Plover and Red-rumped Swallow, while some European firsts for me included Little Tern, Wood Sandpiper, Little Bittern, Squacco Heron, White-winged Tern and Sandwich Tern. An immature Little Gull was also seen performing its bouncy flight over the shallow waters. Other species included Little Egret, Common Greenshank, Common Tern, Pied Avocet, Common Shelduck, and Yellow Wagtail. A small flock of Dunlin was a surprise, as I had not seen the species since Denmark in December 2012. And so I ended Slovenia on a high note, a country I can highly recommend to anyone wanting to cycle a beautiful and underrated country.

A flock of Common Shelduck resting at the Sečovlje salt works.

Kentish Plover at the Sečovlje salt works, Slovenia.

Wood Sandpiper at the Sečovlje salt works.


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