Slovakia - Birds and Bears

19th to 26th April, 2003

Principal leader:
Tim Earl

Local leader: Dr Miroslav

Assisted by: Dr Marian Janiga, Dr Stefan Danko, Stefan Pcola, Stefan Matis.


Slovakia - Birds and Bears was a wonderful trip. The bears were magnificent, wild and unapproachable making our fantastic views over two of the three evenings, special indeed.

The High Tatras mountains, seen from the upper cable-car station were extremely impressive, despite the crowds of Easter visitors and resulting lack of birds.

Golden was just one of five eagle species seen on the trip, one mobbed by Buzzard high above us in the Choèske Vrchy mountains and another that evening back at the hotel. Imperial Eagle was seen on the nest, hunting nearby, on a road-side tree and most spectacularly stooping on a colony of Sousliks under Turniansky hrad castle. Lesser-spotted Eagle was seen on a number of occasions once we arrived in eastern Slovakia, while three White-tailed were around the Senne fish ponds. That leaves Short-toed Eagle which, maddeningly, put in only a brief appearance while we were in the Zadielska dolina.

Booming Bitterns, crowds of Cranes, pretty Penduline Tits, rivers of Ruffs, tons of terns, and lovely Little Gulls were the stars in a bewildering bird show at the Senne Ponds.

Woodpeckers featured too with all the Dendrocopos species (pretty black, white and red birds) seen with Wryneck, Green, Grey-headed and Black Woodpeckers too. Only Three-toed Woodpecker on the list of possible species was not seen.

Storks' nests on poles, Purple Heron, Eagle Owl, Collared Flycatcher, Hoopoe, Nutcracker, Hawfinch and Rock Bunting delighted some and the obliging Pygmy Owl was high on our list of great experiences (also high in its tree too).

My thanks go to the group members who formed friendships quickly so that we enjoyed a stress-free, happy birds-and-bears party. Particular thanks to Andy whose mini-master-classes on reptiles and amphibians were particularly interesting, and Barbara whose enthusiasm for plants resulted in the notes below.

Great thanks are due to our guide Mirek Èapek whose knowledge of the birds and plants of Slovakia were terrific. He guided us around the country with patience and enthusiasm.

Drivers Vlado (Schumie) and Tóno were careful and courteous, helping with luggage and putting in many anti-social hours. The hotel staffs, by and large, were attentive and helpful, meals were idiomatic and good, rooms warm and comfortable (sometimes too warm) with good birding in the surrounding areas.

Daily diary

Saturday 19 April

Brown Bear is a combination of huge cuddly toy, acute timidity and awesome power. As we gazed on one of Europe's most endangered mammals it was easy to think that these were semi-tame. But not so, the slightest noise was enough to have them running off.

The group had been split into two search parties, placed in hides, both of which were successful in seeing bears on our first evening in Slovakia. Those in the first hide watched two males which came in to feed on maize and honey put out to supplement their post-hibernation break-fast. The other party saw two well-grown cubs, one of which bore a distinctive scar on its face.

We observed from hides especially built for the purpose, their tiny interiors lined with carpet to muffle the sound of us moving around. Your author's party walked up on a feeding bear - they were coming in early this year - and, tantalisingly, disturbed it as we entered the hide.

The 120kg bear ran off, stopping twice to peer in our direction. We settled down and waited for its return but it had enough contact with people for that evening.

Patience was rewarded when a second, bigger male arrived, ate the honey from the tiny plastic cartons provided and then proceeded to chew maize grains as if they were peanuts on the bar of our local pub.

Again it was we who disturbed it - this time the slightest metallic click of a telescope being removed from its tripod - and the animal lumbered off. But as if to say: "I know you are not truly dangerous," he paused, raised himself on hind legs and proceeded to scratch his back on the trunk of a spruce.

The bears were the climax of a long yet interesting day. We all met within minutes of each other in Heathrow Terminal 2 at the hour of 5am. Bleary-eyed we checked in, had a coffee and boarded the aircraft which left and arrived in Budapest on time.

A rather unexpected Lesser Whitethroat chattered at us as we stepped out of the terminal in the company of Dr Mirek Èapek, our local guide for the week, and into minibuses for the long journey to the High Tatras National Park.

We spotted a few birds on the way - more for fun than in serious birding - although Tree Sparrow at our lunch-stop just inside Slovakia was welcome (as was the excellent sausage soup and local bread). Singing Mistle Thrush and a few Fieldfare greeted us at the Hotel Mier and a Dipper was seen by one group at the bear-site.

We celebrated with local beer and a delicious meal before turning in early. It was a great start to the week.

Sunday 20 April

Bears were the highlight of today's activities too, although the trip up into the High Tatras on a cable-car was a close second and the perfect clear calm warm weather was a bonus.

The two parties swapped hides, arriving earlier than yesterday, but still too late for the 'hollow-log hide' where a small bear was feeding as we arrived. It ran off and was succeeded about 45 minutes later by another, larger male Brown Bear. That animal was disturbed by something behind the hide and shuffled off looking worried. We expected another, bigger bear to take its place but the smaller's activities were all we were to get for the evening.

He had shimmied up the six-foot hollowed log to feed on honey and maize, looking around occasionally and allowing some excellent pictures to be taken.

The second party also saw bears but only after a long wait. So long, in fact, that the window of the hide (installed to prevent sound from getting out) misted up and when opened their scent scared two bears which came in later. Their vigil had other rewards, however. A Red Fox visited the area in front of the hide and was watched digging up worms and insects which it ate.

The day had started with a pre-breakfast walk around the hotel, through deep spruce woods and across meadows which supported a bluish sheen from early wild Crocus. Our first surprise was a House Martin prospecting nest sites on the hotel's balcony in near-freezing conditions.

Coal Tit and Chiffchaff were singing and the woods seemed to have several Song Thrush in song. Ring Ouzel was spotted briefly, the first of several seen during the day. Great Spotted Woodpecker was drumming and few showed themselves. Tree Pipit song alerted us to a couple of males doing their characteristic display flight, launching themselves from low tree-tops. A pair of Willow Tit put in a brief appearance but was seen by only a few of us.

It was on our return to the hotel that things started hotting up - a calling Black Woodpecker got closer to us until Judy and Barbara spotted it flying along, followed by a second bird. Breakfast was a happy and welcome event.

We drove out to the Tatras National Park for the day's main activities, met our guide, Dr Marian Janiga, but ran into crowds of people waiting to catch the cable-car up the mountain. We left them to it and went searching, unsuccessfully, for Three-toed Woodpecker. The walk was super, despite the dipped bird, as we saw Firecrests, two Roe Deer, lots of Camberwell Beauty butterflies and Common Frog spawning in flooded tyre-tracks, gambling the benefits of warm, predator-free water against the risk of the puddles drying out before their tadpoles had turned into froglets.

Brimstone, Peacock and Small Tortoiseshell joined the butterfly list and Eurasian Treecreeper was added to the birds. A small flock of Willow Warblers sang us out of the wood and into a farm enclosure where Blackbird, Redwing, Fieldfare, Song Thrush and Ring Ouzel were feeding under Silver Birches.

We returned to the cable-car and were soon high in the mountains at 1,751m. Above us were lots of skiers using the slopes while crowds milled around the cable-car complex.

We had a great picnic lunch but searching for Alpine Accentor was fruitless and we returned to the buses to drive back to the hotel for the bear trip.

As we walked into the hotel Ali shouted for a Nutcracker which was perched on a treetop close by giving excellent views to most of us. As we boarded the buses for the evening's bear-watch we piled out again as Mirek pointed out Crested Tit in the nearest fir to the hotel.

It had been another super day.

Monday 21 April

Golden Eagle and Pygmy Owl topped the popularity league when we discussed the day's events over a beer in the evening. Both were seen in the Choèske Vrchy mountains, the eagle mobbing a pair of Common Buzzard, showing its identification features at the same time, while the owl responded to Mirek's imitation of its call, flying to the top of a spruce and calling back. It remained there for some minutes despite the mobbing of Willow and Coal Tits giving us spectacular 'scope views and the opportunity of a few excellent pictures.

An early morning walk gave us good views of Dipper and another opportunity to compare Goldcrest and Firecrest songs. A coffee stop produced a singing Yellowhammer and half-a-dozen chirpy Tree Sparrow.

The start of our walk up into the Choèske Vrchy Mountains was marked by an opportunity to study displaying Tree Pipit - the area had about six males all singing and posing like tenor soloists. The weather was warm and sunny making our walk up a forest track quite delightful.

There were many birds we had already seen and Mirek did his best to provide more by checking owl nest-boxes looking for Tengmalm's (Boreal) Owl and likely holes for nesting Three-toed Woodpecker. The lack of success was of little concern. A Sparrowhawk joined our increasing list of raptors and a neat bit of stalking by Andy gave us the opportunity to study a Common /Viviparous Lizard in the hand.

Lunch was eaten with splendid views as a backdrop, the drumming of a Black Woodpecker, and a male Pied Flycatcher for companyÍ not that it was needed, as a group we were all getting along well.

Your author stopped the bus so that we could watch a day-flying Common Noctule Bat which soon tired of the novelty and roosted in a nearby tree giving great 'scope views.

The journey back to our hotel was broken by a visit to Lake Liptovska Mara, a large reservoir where we saw Goldeneye, Gadwall, Garganey and Goosander, Common Tern and Cormorant, Yellow-legged and Black-headed Gull, Grey Heron and a stunning male Black Redstart.

We all had a break and as the day drew to a close we split into two groups - one went back to Hide 2 to watch bears, the other stayed at the hotel to look for roding Woodcock. It was a bit of a bleak evening, although I am not sure how that can be justified. True, the bear group drew a blank with none appearing in 190 minutes observation.

Two Woodcock flew behind the other group and their calls were heard and recognised by some. A second Golden Eagle was seen, again being mobbed by a Common Buzzard (it's a tough life being a Golden Eagle), and a Nutcracker gave excellent views to those who had not seen one so far. A Tengmalm's Boreal Owl hooted for some minutes and we tried to find it on our way back.

Perhaps the best part of the evening was shared by both groupsÍ the cacophony of calls given by birds about to roost for the night.

It had been another excellent day.

Tuesday 22 April

Eagles and other raptors were the highlights of today's adventure as we drove from the High Tatras to eastern Slovakia. What could have been a long drag became an interesting journey as we stopped for tickets, money, coffee, castles and lunch (in a petrol station!).

The Hotel Mier had a couple of final surprises for us with Wood Warbler, Ring Ouzel, and a calling Cuckoo before we left sharp at 8am. It was sad leaving this quiet spot, marked by two Dipper on the way out. We were soon speeding along, delighted to pass the fantastic communist-era railway station at Svit again. The scenery as we passed the High Tatras was stunning.

A stop in Poprad to buy a ticket and cash travellers' cheques produced two Common Swift and a singing Serin, seen well by those who did not need to get money.

But it was the coffee stop beneath Castle Spissky hrad which really came up trumps. As we stretched after getting out of the bus your author pointed out the first of three Lesser Spotted Eagle cruising past. And over coffee pairs of Siskin and Serin gave good comparison opportunities, while two male Pied Flycatchers gave great views. A Nuthatch was running along the ground and a pair of White Wagtail became romantically inclined.

Stopping at the castle, we were greeted by a number of Yellowhammer, singing Tree Pipit and a pair of Linnets. A Sparrowhawk, Common Buzzard and a harrier used a nearby thermal to gain height and we were able to straighten kinked necks by looking down at Pasque Flower blooming in the sward.

The second half of our journey was broken with a petrol-stop which we used to chomp our picnic lunches but by then new birds seen from the buses were whetting our birding appetites - Marsh and Northern Harrier, Great Grey Shrike and woods sparkling with white Anemonies. Barbara found Pasque Flower, Sempervivum and Cowslips.

After checking in to the Hotel Postar, we set off back to Michalovce to collect eminent ornithologist Dr Stefan Danko from the Zemplin museum. Wood Warblers were singing in the grounds and we became excited at the prospect of visiting the place in the next day or two. Stefan took us out to fields close to Seèovce where a slight nest in a tree was seen to be occupied by a dark bird with a creamy head - an Eastern Imperial Eagle. Nothing much happened for some time as we waited for the bird's mate to take over incubation duties and we had to be content with a supporting cast of Montagu's Harrier, a Common Cuckoo, and several Pied Flycatchers.

Suddenly, Stefan spotted an Imperial Eagle coming in. The bird, which he identified as the female, ventured over the nearby field and then headed off as if hunting. With wings folded and feet extended, it swooped down on what we assumed was prey and returned to settle on the ground close to the nest but behind a hedge. A few minutes later, perhaps after eating her Hamster prey, she settled in a tree and we able to get a little closer for pictures.

As we returned to the buses, well satisfied with our day, we noticed a couple of Yellow Wagtails - a sign that the migration was well under way?

Wednesday 23 April

We all awoke to the sweet songs of Nightingale this morning - a sound which temped some to do a pre-breakfast walk which was rewarded amply. About 20 Hawfinch were watched in the grounds before a Wryneck called from the top of a concrete post and was joined by a second bird. A Nightingale obliged the observers by showing well as he serenaded the world but a Blackcap looked forlorn to be put in the shade when it comes to singing.

Dr Danko joined us again, showing us his superb wildlife exhibits in the Zemplin Museum before we left. The departure was delayed, however, as we watched a female Syrian Woodpecker, several Wood Warblers and a pair of Green Woodpeckers execute 'change-over' at their nest-hole. Three Red Squirrel (all extremely dark brown) each with long ear-tufts, delighted us all as did Pied Flycatcher and Common Swift.

A superb road-side Imperial Eagle, perched close to its nest, was the first of several delays on the way to the Senne fish ponds: White Stork nests were examined and the journey was also broken to watch a flock of Ruff.

But the highlight of the day was seeing the vast array of birds attracted to the fish ponds. Each held its own avian community which depended on the degree of reed-cover and the surrounding vegetation.

The first had feeding Little and Black-headed Gulls, Black and Whiskered Terns, Coot and Moorhens, while flocks of Ruff, the males in a dazzling array of colours, passed overhead. Some had undoubtedly been disturbed by hunting Marsh Harriers and it was while investigating these that your leader found the first of two White-tailed Eagles which gave great views to some of us as they flew over one of the buses.

Spoonbills were found nest-building in a reed-bed while on the other side of the bund were several Black-necked and Great-crested Grebes, Tufted Duck, Pochard and Shoveler, Little and Great White Egret. A Crane flew in to one of the reed-beds to the dismay of some who missed it.

We drove off to investigate some huge flocks of waders on another fish-pond, stopping to admire Wood, Common and Marsh Sandpiper, Red and Greenshank, Ringed and Little Ringed Plover, plus hundreds of Ruff. Huge Carp were wallowing in, and being netted from, a recently drained pond, soon to provide a Friday meal, no doubt.

A stop to investigate a nature reserve at the end of the ponds produced great views of Sand and House Martin, Wigeon, Pintail and Teal, Black-crowned Night-heron (a life bird for Judy who found them) and Yellow-legged Gull. Things were really hotting up when another Crane was located, to the relief of those who had missed the first.

Three species of amphibian - Fire-bellied Toad, Marsh and Edible Frog - were found by Andy and a Large Tortoiseshell butterfly was also identified. Five Muskrats were seen swimming across one of the ponds.

We stopped for lunch and your author pointed out a Penduline Tits' nest, swinging aptly in the breeze, which was visited regularly by its 'Marsh Bandit' builders. Great Reed and Savi's Warblers were giving out their distinctive songs accompanied by the booming of Bittern and the constant cronk-honk of Cranes, as yet unseen.

A third White-tailed Eagle was cleverly found by Claire and Barbara (despite encouragement from the leader for them to watch Black Terns instead) on the other side of a pond and evened the score for those who had missed the earlier birds. It was our fourth species of eagle for this remarkable trip.

Our last stop to watch more waders produced excellent views of Black-tailed Godwit and Avocet when suddenly Amanda drew our attention to 37 Cranes which had been disturbed by two men with guns and were flying off across the nearby marsh.

We retired to a distant petrol station for a well-earned coffee before some people returned to the hotel leaving the other bus to search successfully for a pair of Saker Falcons nesting on an electricity pylon in a specially placed box as part of a scheme to reintroduce the species. Ten Roe Deer were watched chasing around a huge field, somehow reminiscent of the Brown Hares which we had seen near the falcons' pylon a few minutes earlier.

Closer to the hotel, a pair of Eagle Owl and their two off-white chicks nesting in a quarry provided the last of the day's excitement. One bird flew off the cliff face and settled in a tree above its mate and their babies, there to be mobbed by Blackcap, Great Tit and Chiffchaff.

The extraordinary day had finished with 112 speciesÍ we were thrilled.

Thursday 24 April

Beautiful days come in all shapes and sizes but walking through high beech forests close to the Ukrainian border has to produce one of the best. After the frenetic activity of yesterday we strolled (slipped and scrambled) under vast trees, which in a few weeks will form a natural cathedral, listening out for woodpeckers and flycatchers.

Heavy rain overnight had cleared to leave a sullen sky and a few light showers. Hawfinch and Brown Hare were seen on our pre-breakfast walk.

We picked up guide Stefan Pcola in the town of Snina and an hour later, in the beech woods of Have÷ová national natural reserve (part of the Poloniny National Park) were being told about the huge range of wildlife present under this particular canopy of heaven.

If truth be told, we saw little of it. A long walk produced a few bird calls, several stunningly marked Fire Salamander and a brief view of a Pine Marten seen by Tony. Stefan's skilled whistling finally fooled a pair of Grey-headed Woodpeckers which flitted high above our heads allowing telescope views for most of us.

We all saw a Black Woodpecker which was worried by our presence but when another flew over our heads as we waited for the transport, it seemed much more relaxed.

So it was that we settled down for lunch to the songs of Tree Pipit, with Wood White butterflies flitting around and Sand Lizards for company. Two male Montagu's Harriers drifted past above us causing debate on the finer points of raptor identification. This esoteric subject raised its head again later when we stopped to search for Lesser Spotted Eagle and found two close to Snina. Common Buzzard were also in the area and differentiating the two became critical.

But I leap on too far. Our post-lunch trip was to admire not wildlife but a 400-year-old wooden church in Ruský Potok, just five kilometres from the Ukrainian border. The church was built in 1600, according to the inscription over the door, and stood in a rustic village in which time seemed to have stood still. Not only the modern revolution had passed Ruský Potok by, but perhaps the Russian occupation too.

Birds were present, of course, and we enjoyed glimpses of Wryneck, Collared Flycatcher and Marsh Tit before setting off back towards our hotel and relative civilisation. My bus stopped after Ali hollered: 'There's a Hoopoe.' The bird was located and walked obligingly across the road as we watched, raising its crest.

The last stop just outside Snina was close to a known nest of Lesser Spotted Eagle. One was found standing in a field next to a Buzzard, both birds grounded by the afternoon's heavy thunder storm. A second eagle was located on an electricity pole and a number of other Buzzards were sitting on posts and trees. All the birds were wet and bedraggled, their plumage much darkened by the damp. Identification was tricky but after tussling with the problem for some minutes we sorted them out. About 10 well-marked Whinchat were found along with two Northern Wheatear just before we left.

After photographing a well turned out old horse cart pulled by two shires, we returned to the Hotel Postar, stopping to admire the nesting Eagle Owl which some people had missed the day before.

Friday 25 April

Those who had missed Hawfinch were up sharp to check out the birds around the hotel. A stunning Linnet was found feeding with Serin and Tree Sparrow while a pair of Little Ringed Plover nesting on waste ground were unconcerned by passing people. Barbara found a white-headed race Long-tailed Tit, a Lesser Black-backed Gull loafed past, and a male Black Redstart attempted to sing better than Nightingales in the distance.

After paying our respects to the incubating Eagle Owl and popping in to say goodbye to Stefan Danko, we set off to our last night-stop. An hour later we stopped to explore the beautiful square in central Ko÷ice, Slovakia's second city.

We picked up local guide Stefan Matis, checked in to the Ranè-Sugov Hotel and went off to examine a nearby Souslik colony. These small ground-squirrels are busy little critters, running too and fro like City financiers, gathering nest material for their burrows and chasing each other around. Everything was dropped to dive underground when a Imperial Eagle soared overhead giving us and the Sousliks great views. Peace and order soon returned after the eagle disappeared.

We decided to leave after examining a Lesser-spotted Eagle at some distance. Suddenly pandemonium broke out as the Imperial Eagle returned to the colony in a shallow but rapid stoop out of which he pulled after his would-be meal made it to the safety of its burrow. The eagle flew to a nearby tree where it waited for another opportunity to feed.

We took our opportunity to do the same in the Zadielska dolina limestone canyon (Slovak Karst NP) where a stunning Rock Bunting, Spotted Flycatcher and Grey Wagtail were seen as we ate our picnic lunches. A walk up the canyon was rewarded with good views for some of Short-toed Eagle which soared across as we descended.

Our last stop was in the dolina Teplica, Slovak Karst NP, a beautiful tree-lined valley with many trout-lakes, where we searched for woodpeckers. Middle-spotted Woodpecker was the first we found, giving excellent views. The group walked off with Stefan as Mirek and your author took time fixing my telescope. Leaving us was a mistake as we found a Lesser-spotted Woodpecker drumming close to the path and the group had to return. Sadly, only a few saw it before it flew.

We set off up the valley and through deep beech woods searching for other woodpeckers. Eventually we watched a pair of White-backed Woodpecker and listened to the distinctive drumming. A Black Woodpecker joined the drumming contest but failed to show itself.

We re-located the Lesser-spotted Woodpecker on our return to the bus and an early dinner at the hotel. This left us free to go out bat-spotting with Stefan Matis and his bat-detector.

This was great fun. Daubenton's, Noctule and Pipistrelle bats were all heard, their inaudible sonar relayed by the detector as different clicks, bubbles and gurgling sounds as they flitted over a nearby pond. Common Toads were massing in the ponds, visible by torch-light, the females laying strings of spawn while gripped in the males' passionate embrace. What seemed like the calls of two different pairs of Tawny Owl were heard, making our nocturnal sojourn most worthwhile.

Saturday 26 April

Our journey to Budapest airport was relaxed and uneventful. A Lesser-spotted Eagle was found over a nearby hill at our first rest-stop, Andy pointed out a couple of Peregrine Falcon while we had lunch, and a female Cuckoo responded to the calls of a couple of males with her characteristic bubbling call.

We arrived on time but Mirek had to dash off in order to catch a train home or face an eight-hour wait.

Annotated list of species

H; = seen in Hungary


GREBES Podicipediformes Podicipedidae

1 Little grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis

Senne Ponds, six on 23rd.

2 Red-necked grebe Podiceps grisegena

Senne Ponds, 10 on 23rd.

3 Great crested grebe Podiceps cristatus

Hotel Postar, eight on 22nd, 24th and 25th; Senne Ponds, abundant on 23rd.

4 Black-necked grebe Podiceps nigricollis

Senne Ponds, 30 on 23rd.

CORMORANTS Pelecaniformes Phalacrocoracidae

5 Great cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo

Liptovska Mara, 15 on 21st; Senne Ponds, abundant on 23rd; Hotel Postar, 20 on 25th.

HERONS, EGRETS & BITTERNS Ciconiiformes Ardeidae

6 Grey heron Ardea cinerea

Journey, one on 19th; Liptovska Mara, three on 21st; Senne Ponds, abundant on 23rd; Hotel Postar, two on 25t.

7 Purple heron Ardea purpurea

Senne Ponds, seven on 23rd.

8 Great white egret Ardea alba

Journey, one on 19th; Senne Ponds, abundant on 23rd; Hotel Postar, one on 25th.

9 Little egret Egretta garzetta

Senne Ponds, 25 on 23rd; Hotel Postar, one on 25th.

10 Black-crowned night-heron Nycticorax nycticorax

Senne Ponds, four on 23rd.

11 Great bittern Botaurus stellaris

Senne Ponds, three booming on 23rd.

STORKS Ciconiiformes Ciconiidae

12 Black stork Ciconia nigra

Senne Ponds, four on 23rd; Havesova NNR, Poloniny NP, one on 24th; Zadielska dolina, Slovak Karst NP, one on 25th.

13 White stork Ciconia ciconia

A few nests (up to 30 on 23rd in Eastern Slovakia) and individuals daily.

IBIS & SPOONBILLS Ciconiiformes Threskiornithidae

14 Eurasian spoonbill Platalea leucorodia

Senne Ponds, 30 on 23rd.

SWANS, GEESE & DUCKS Anseriformes Anatidae

15 Mute swan Cygnus olor

Senne Ponds, 10 on 23rd.

16 Greylag goose Anser anser

Senne Ponds, four on 23rd.

17 Common shelduck Tadorna tadorna

Senne Ponds, one on 23rd.

18 Eurasian wigeon Anas penelope

Senne Ponds, 15 on 23rd.

19 Gadwall Anas strepera

Journey, one on 19th; Liptovska Mara, three on 21st; Senne Ponds, 10 on 23rd.

20 Common teal Anas crecca

Senne Ponds, 10 on 23rd.

21 Mallard Anas platyrhynchos

A few daily.

22 Northern pintail Anas acuta

Senne Ponds, four on 23rd.

23 Garganey Anas querquedula

Liptovska Mara, two drakes on 21st; Senne Ponds, common on 23rd.

24 Northern shoveler Anas clypeata

Senne Ponds, 25 on 23rd.

25 Common pochard Aythya ferina

Hotel Postar, 15 on 22nd; Senne Ponds, common on 23rd.

26 Tufted duck Aythya fuligula

Hotel Postar, eight on 22nd; Senne Ponds, common on 23rd.

27 Common goldeneye Bucephala clangula

Liptovska Mara, six on 21st.

28 Common merganser (Goosander) Mergus merganser

Liptovska Mara, three ducks, two drakes on 21st.

HAWKS, EAGLES & KITES Falconiformes Accipitridae

29 White-tailed eagle Haliaeetus albicilla

Senne Ponds, three on 23rd.

30 Short-toed eagle Circaetus gallicus

Zadielska dolina, Slovak Karst NP, one on 25th.

31 Western marsh-harrier Circus aeruginosus

H; journey, three on 19th; journey, one on 22nd; Senne Ponds, abundant on 23rd; journey, one on 25th.

32 Northern (Hen) harrier Circus cyaneus

Journey, one on 22nd.

33 Montagu's harrier Circus pygargus

Secovce fields, two on 22nd; Senne Ponds, one on 23rd; Kalna Roztoka, Poloniny NP, two males on 24th.

34 Eurasian sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus

Chocske Vrchy mountains, one on 21st; Spissky Castle, one on 22nd; Havesova NNR, Poloniny NP, one on 24th and 25th.

35 Northern goshawk Accipiter gentilis

Chocske Vrchy mountains, one calling on 21st.

36 Eurasian buzzard Buteo buteo

H; a few daily.

37 Lesser spotted eagle Aquila pomarina

Spissky Castle, three on 22nd; Havesova NNR, Poloniny NP, two on 24th; Turniansky hrad, Slovak Karst NP, one on 25th; journey, one on 26th.

38 Imperial eagle Aquila heliaca

Secovce fields, pair seen brilliantly on 22nd; journey to the Senne Ponds, one on 23rd; Turniansky hrad, Slovak Karst NP, one on 25th.

39 Golden eagle Aquila chrysaetos

Chocske Vrchy mountains, one mobbed by Buzzards on 21st; Hotel Mier, one on 21st; Kalna Roztoka, Poloniny NP, two (leader only) on 24th.

FALCONS Falconiformes Falconidae

40 Eurasian kestrel Falco tinnunculus

H; a few daily.

41 Merlin Falco columbarius

One from the bus on 21st.

42 Eurasian hobby Falco subbuteo

Hotel Mier, one on 21st.

43 Saker falcon Falco cherrug

Secovce fields, pair on 23rd.

44 Peregrine falcon Falco peregrinus

Two at the lunch stop on our way home.

PHEASANTS & PARTRIDGES Galliformes Phasianidae

45 Ring-necked pheasant Phasianus colchicus

Journey, two on 19th; journey, seven, Secovce fields, one on 22nd; common on 23rd and 24th.

CRANES Gruiformes Gruidae

46 Common crane Grus grus

Senne Ponds, 36 on 23rd; near Hotel Postar, one on 24th.

RAILS, GALLINULES & COOTS Gruiformes Rallidae

47 Little crake Porzana parva

Senne Ponds, one heard on 23rd.

48 Common moorhen Gallinula chloropus

Senne Ponds, 20 on 23rd.

49 Eurasian coot Fulica atra

H; journey, one on 19th; Senne Ponds, abundant on 23rd.

AVOCETS & STILTS Charadriiformes Recurvirostridae

50 Pied avocet Recurvirostra avosetta

Senne Ponds, three on 23rd.

PLOVERS & LAPWINGS Charadriiformes Charadriidae

51 Northern lapwing Vanellus vanellus

H; journey, 25 on 19th; one on 20th; Chocske Vrchy mountains, one on 21st; journey, 15 on 22nd; Senne Ponds, a few on 23rd and 24th.

52 Greater ringed plover Charadrius hiaticula

Senne Ponds, seven on 23rd.

53 Little ringed plover Charadrius dubius

Senne Ponds, two on 23rd; Hotel Postar, two on 24th and 25th.

SANDPIPERS Charadriiformes Scolopacidae

54 Eurasian woodcock Scolopax rusticola

Hotel Mier, one or two roding on 21st.

55 Black-tailed godwit Limosa limosa

Senne Ponds, eight on 23rd.

56 Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus

Senne Ponds, one on 23rd.

57 Eurasian curlew Numenius arquata

Senne Ponds, two on 23rd.

58 Spotted redshank Tringa erythropus

Senne Ponds, 20 on 23rd.

59 Common redshank Tringa totanus

Senne Ponds, 10 on 23rd.

60 Marsh sandpiper Tringa stagnatilis

Senne Ponds, three on 23rd.

61 Common greenshank Tringa nebularia

Senne Ponds, five on 23rd.

62 Green sandpiper Tringa ochropus

Senne fish ponds, three on 23rd.

63 Wood sandpiper Tringa glareola

Senne Ponds, 15 on 23rd.

64 Common sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos

Senne Ponds, eight on 23rd.

65 Dunlin Calidris alpina

Senne Ponds, four on 23rd.

66 Ruff Philomachus pugnax

Senne Ponds, hundreds (thousands?) on 23rd.

GULLS Charadriiformes Laridae

67 Common (Mew) gull Larus canus

Journey to the Senne Ponds, four on 23rd.

68 Yellow-legged gull Larus cachinnans

Liptovska Mara, one immature on 21st; Senne Ponds, 20 on 23rd.

69 Lesser black-backed gull Larus fuscus

Hotel Postar, one on 25th.

70 Black-headed gull Larus ridibundus

Journey, six on 19th; Liptovska Mara, 50 on 21st; Senne Ponds, abundant on 23rd.

71 Little gull Larus minutus

Senne Ponds, 50 on 23rd.

TERNS Charadriiformes Sternidae

72 Common tern Sterna hirundo

Liptovska Mara, three on 21st.

73 Whiskered tern Chlidonias hybridus

Senne Ponds, 50 on 23rd.

74 Black tern Chlidonias niger

Senne Ponds, 30 on 23rd.

PIGEONS & DOVES Columbiformes Columbidae

75 Rock dove Columba livia

Common in towns daily.

76 Stock dove Columba oenas

Havesova NNR, Poloniny NP, 15 on 24th; dolina Teplica, Slovak Karst NP, one on 25th.

77 Common wood-pigeon Columba palumbus

A few daily, maximum at the Hotel Mier, 40 on 20th.

78 Eurasian collared-dove Streptopelia decaocto

A few daily.

CUCKOOS Cuculiformes Cuculidae

79 Common cuckoo Cuculus canorus

Hotel Mier, one calling, Secovce fields, one posing for ages on 22nd; Senne Ponds, two on 23rd.

OWLS Strigiformes Strigidae

80 Eurasian eagle-owl Bubo bubo

Zemplinska Sirava (Lake), two adults and two chicks on 23rd.

81 Tawny owl Strix aluco

Ranc Sugov Hotel, two calling on 25th.

82 Ural owl Strix uralensis

Havesova NNR, Poloniny NP, one heard on 24th.

83 Eurasian pygmy-owl Glaucidium passerinum

Chocske Vrchy mountains, one on 21st.

84 Tengmalm's (Boreal) owl Aegolius funereus

Hotel Mier, one hooting on the evening of 21st.

SWIFTS Apodiformes Apodidae

85 Common swift Apus apus

Poprad cash-stop, two on 22nd; Michalovce, on 24th; journey, two on 26th.

KINGFISHERS Coraciiformes Alcedinidae

86 Common kingfisher Alcedo atthis

Hotel Postar, one on 25th.

HOOPOES Coraciiformes Upupidae

87 Eurasian hoopoe Upupa epops

Havesova NNR, Poloniny NP, one on 24th.

WOODPECKERS Piciformes Picidae

88 Eurasian wryneck Jynx torquilla

Hotel Postar, two on 23rd.

89 Lesser spotted woodpecker Dendrocopos minor

dolina Teplica, Slovak Karst NP, one on 25th.

90 Middle spotted woodpecker Dendrocopos medius

dolina Teplica, Slovak Karst NP, one on 25th.

91 White-backed woodpecker Dendrocopos leucotos

dolina Teplica, Slovak Karst NP, two on 25th.

92 Great spotted woodpecker Dendrocopos major

Hotel Mier, two on 20th, 21st and 22nd; Chocske Vrchy mountains, three on 21st; journey, one on 22nd; dolina Teplica, Slovak Karst NP, two on 25th.

93 Syrian woodpecker Dendrocopos syriacus

Zemplin Museum, Michalovce, female on 23rd; Secovce fields, 10 on 23rd.

94 Black woodpecker Dryocopus martius

Hotel Mier, two on 20th; Chocske Vrchy mountains, one heard on 21st.

95 Green woodpecker Picus viridis

Zemplin Museum, Michalovce pair at nest-hole on 23rd.

96 Grey-headed woodpecker Picus canus

Havesova NNR, Poloniny NP, two on 24th; dolina Teplica, Slovak Karst NP one heard on 25th.

LARKS Passeriformes Alaudidae

97 Crested lark Galerida cristata

H, journey, one on 19th; one on 26th.

98 Sky lark Alauda arvensis

Journey, one singing on 19th; High Tatras National Park, five on 20th; journey, five on 22nd.

SWALLOWS Passeriformes Hirundinidae

99 Sand martin (Bank swallow) Riparia riparia

High Tatras National Park, one on 20th; Senne Ponds, 20 on 23rd.

100 Barn swallow Hirundo rustica

H; a few daily, hundreds at Senne fish ponds.

101 House martin Delichon urbica

Journey, three on 19th; Hotel Mier two, High Tatras National Park, one on 20th; Hotel Mier, eight prospecting nest sites on 22nd; Senne Ponds, common on 23rd and onwards.

WAGTAILS & PIPITS Passeriformes Motacillidae

102 White wagtail Motacilla alba

H; a few daily.

103 Yellow wagtail Motacilla flava

Secovce fields, two on 22nd; Senne Ponds, 10 on 23rd; Havesova NNR, Poloniny NP, eight on 24th; Turniansky hrad, one on 25th.

104 Grey wagtail Motacilla cinerea

Journey, one on 19th; Hotel Mier, Chocske Vrchy mountains, singles on 21st; Havesova NNR, Poloniny NP, one on 24th; six on 25th.

105 Tree pipit Anthus trivialis

Hotel Mier, two on 20th; Chocske Vrchy mountains, six males displaying on 21st; Spissky Castle, two on 22nd; Havesova NNR, Poloniny NP, two displaying on 24th.

106 Meadow pipit Anthus pratensis

Spissky Castle, one on 22nd.

KINGLETS Passeriformes Regulidae

107 Goldcrest Regulus regulus

High Tatras National Park, common on 20th; Hotel Mier, 15 on 21st.

108 Firecrest Regulus ignicapillus

High Tatras National Park, two on 20th; Hotel Mier, five on 21st.

DIPPERS Passeriformes Cinclidae

109 White-throated dipper Cinclus cinclus

Podbanske, High Tatras NP, one on 19th; Hotel Mier, Rackova dolina one on 20th and 21st, two as we left on 22nd.

WRENS Passeriformes Troglodytidae

110 (Winter) wren Troglodytes troglodytes

Podbanske, one singing on 19th; High Tatras National Park, a few on 20th; Chocske Vrchy mountains, a few on 21st; Havesova NNR, Poloniny NP, six on 24th and 25th.

ACCENTORS Passeriformes Prunellidae

111 Dunnock Prunella modularis

High Tatras National Park, a few on 20th.

THRUSHES Passeriformes Turdidae

112 Ring ouzel Turdus torquatus

Hotel Mier, High Tatras National Park, five on 20th.

113 Eurasian blackbird Turdus merula

H; a few daily.

114 Fieldfare Turdus pilaris

Journey, two on 19th; common daily.

115 Redwing Turdus iliacus

High Tatras National Park, one on 20th.

116 Song thrush Turdus philomelos

Journey, two singing on 19th; High Tatras National Park, several on 20th and 21st; dolina Teplica, Slovak Karst NP, two on 25th.

117 Mistle thrush Turdus viscivorus

Hotel Mier, one singing on 19th; High Tatras National Park, three on 20th; dolina Teplica, Slovak Karst NP, one on 25th.

OLD WORLD WARBLERS Passeriformes Sylviidae

118 Savi's warbler Locustella luscinioides

Senne Ponds, two seen, three heard on 23rd.

119 Sedge warbler Acrocephalus schoenobaenus

Senne Ponds, three seen, two heard on 23rd.

120 Eurasian reed-warbler Acrocephalus scirpaceus

Senne Ponds, one seen, several heard on 23rd.

121 Great reed-warbler Acrocephalus arundinaceus

Senne Ponds, one heard on 23rd.

122 Willow warbler Phylloscopus trochilus

High Tatras National Park, three on 20th; Liptovska Mara, one singing on 21st; common on 22nd; a few on 23rd.

123 Common chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita

Common daily.

124 Wood warbler Phylloscopus sibilatrix

Hotel Mier, one, Zemplin Museum, Michalovce, two on 22nd, four on 23rd; Hotel Postar, five on 24th.

125 Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla

Hotel Postar, three on 22nd; Hotel Postar, two males and a female on 22nd; several on 23rd.

126 Lesser whitethroat Sylvia curruca

H; Budapest airport, one on 19th; several on 23rd, 24th and 25th.

OLD WORLD FLYCATCHERS Passeriformes Muscicapidae

127 Spotted flycatcher Muscicapa striata

Zadielska dolina, Slovak Karst NP, two on 25th.

128 European pied flycatcher Ficedula hypoleuca

Chocske Vrchy mountains, one male on 21st; Spissky Castle, two, Secovce fields, two on 22nd; several on 23rd.

129 Collared flycatcher Ficedula albicollis

Havesova NNR, Poloniny NP, five singing, Rusky Potok, one seen on 24th; dolina Teplica, Slovak Karst NP, two on 25th.

130 European robin Erithacus rubecula

Common daily.

131 Common nightingale Luscinia megarhynchos

Hotel Postar, two singing nightly, elsewhere, six on 23rd; common on 24th onwards.

132 Black redstart Phoenicurus ochruros

H; a few daily.

133 Whinchat Saxicola rubetra

Snina fields, 10 on 24th.

134 Common stonechat Saxicola torquata

H; common daily.

135 Northern wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe

Snina fields, three on 24th.

LONG-TAILED TITS Passeriformes Aegithalidae

136 Long-tailed tit Aegithalos caudatus

Journey, three on 19th; Hotel Postar, one white-headed race on 24th and 25th.

TITMICE Passeriformes Paridae

137 Marsh tit Poecile palustris

Rusky Potok, pair on 24th; dolina Teplica, Slovak Karst NP, two on 25th.

138 Willow tit Poecile montanus

Hotel Mier, two on 20th and 22nd; Chocske Vrchy mountains, two mobbing Pygmy Owl on 21st; Havesova NNR, Poloniny NP, two on 24th.

139 Coal tit Periparus ater

Hotel Mier, two on 20th and 22nd; Chocske Vrchy mountains, two mobbing Pygmy Owl on 21st; Havesova NNR, Poloniny NP, one on 24th; dolina Teplica, Slovak Karst NP, one on 25th.

140 Crested tit Lophophanes cristatus

Hotel Mier, two on 20th, one on 21st and 22nd; Chocske Vrchy mountains, two on 21st.

141 Great tit Parus major

H; a few daily.

142 Blue tit Cyanistes caeruleus

Lucky, one on 21st.

NUTHATCHES Passeriformes Sittidae

143 Eurasian nuthatch Sitta europaea

High Tatras National Park, one on 20th; Chocske Vrchy mountains, four on 21st; Spissky Castle, one on 22nd; Havesova NNR, Poloniny NP, eight on 24th; six on 25th.

CREEPERS Passeriformes Certhiidae

144 Eurasian treecreeper Certhia familiaris

A few daily.

PENDULINE TITS Passeriformes Remizidae

145 Eurasian penduline-tit Remiz pendulinus

Senne Ponds, six, including a pair at their recently-built nest, on 23rd.

SHRIKES Passeriformes Laniidae

146 Northern shrike Lanius excubitor

Journey, one on 22nd.

CROWS & JAYS Passeriformes Corvidae

147 Eurasian jay Garrulus glandarius

A few daily.

148 Black-billed magpie Pica pica

Common daily.

149 Eurasian nutcracker Nucifraga caryocatactes

Hotel Mier, singles on 20th and 21st (2).

150 Eurasian jackdaw Corvus monedula

Journey, 25 on 19th; a few daily.

151 Rook Corvus frugilegus

Common daily.

152 Carrion crow Corvus (corone) cornix

A few Hooded Crows daily.

153 Common raven Corvus corax

Journey, one on 19th; journey, six on 22nd; Havesova NNR, Poloniny NP, six on 24th; Zadielska dolina, Slovak Karst NP, two, four elsewhere, on 25th.

STARLINGS Passeriformes Sturnidae

154 European starling Sturnus vulgaris

Common daily.

OLD WORLD SPARROWS Passeriformes Passeridae

155 House sparrow Passer domesticus

Common daily.

156 Eurasian tree sparrow Passer montanus

Common, seen every day.

FINCHES Passeriformes Fringillidae

157 Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs

Common daily.

158 European greenfinch Carduelis chloris

Journey, one on 19th; Chocske Vrchy mountains, three on 21st; Spissky Castle, two on 22nd; Hotel Postar, a few on 24th and 25th.

159 Eurasian siskin Carduelis spinus

Spissky Castle, pair on 22nd.

160 European goldfinch Carduelis carduelis

A few daily.

161 Eurasian linnet Carduelis cannabina

Spissky Castle, pair on 22nd; Hotel Postar, two, Zadielska dolina, Slovak Karst NP, two on 25th.

162 European serin Serinus serinus

H; journey, several singing in towns on 19th and 22nd; Spissky Castle, pair on 22nd; Hotel Postar, one on 24th; Zadielska dolina, Slovak Karst NP, two on 25th.

163 Eurasian bullfinch Pyrrhula pyrrhula

Hotel Mier, two on 20th and 21st; Chocske Vrchy mountains, two on 21st; Hotel Postar, pair on 24th.

164 Hawfinch Coccothraustes coccothraustes

Hotel Postar, 20, Zemplin Museum, Michalovce, five on 23rd; Hotel Postar, 25 on 24th and 25th, Slovak Karst NP, 12 on 25th.

TRUE BUNTINGS Passeriformes Emberizidae

165 Yellowhammer Emberiza citrinella

H, Liptovska Mara, one singing on 21st; Spissky Castle, six on 22nd; common on 24th; Turniansky hrad, one on 25th.

166 Rock bunting Emberiza cia

Zadielska dolina, Slovak Karst NP, two on 25th.

167 Reed bunting Emberiza schoeniclus

Senne Ponds, eight on 23rd.

168 Corn bunting Emberiza calandra

Senne Ponds, two on 23rd.


RABBITS & HARES Lagomorpha Leporidae

1 European rabbit Oryctolagus cuniculus

One at the Senne Ponds on 23rd.

2 European hare Lepus europaeus

Common daily.

SQUIRRELS Rodentia Scuridae

3 Eurasian red squirrel Sciurus vulgaris

Journey: one dead on the road; Hotel Mier, one on 21st; Zemplin Museum, Michalovce, three on 23rd.

4 European ground squirrel (souslik) Spermophilus citellus

Turniansky hrad, Slovak Karst NP, 25 or more on 25th; Budapest airport, three up on their hind legs waving us goodbye on 26th.

MICE, RATS, VOLES & GERBILS Rodentia Muridae

5 Muskrat Ondatra zibethicus

Senne fish ponds, five on 23rd.

DOGS & FOXES Carnivora Canidae

6 Red fox Vulpes vulpes

Journey: one dead on the road 19th and 22nd; hide 1, Podbanske, High Tatras NP, one feeding on bear food on 20th.

BEARS Carnivora Ursidae

7 Brown bear Ursus arctos

Podbanske, High Tatras NP, two males in hide 1, two well-grown cubs hide 2 on 19th; one small,one large bear at hide 1, one small bear and a larger one at hide 2 on 20th.

OTTERS, WEASELS & BADGERS Carnivora Mustelidae

8 European pine marten Martes martes

Havesova NNR, Poloniny NP, one on 24th.

VESPER BATS Chiroptera Vespertilionidae

9 Daubenton's bat Myotis daubentoni

Detected at the Ranc Sugov Hotel on 25th.

10 Common pipistrelle Pipistrellus pipistrellus

Detected at the Ranc Sugov Hotel on 25th.

11 Common noctule Nyctalus noctula

Ivachnova, one flying in daylight and then roosting in a tree on 21st;

DEER Artiodactyla Cervidae

12 Red deer Cervus elaphus

Podbanske, High Tatras NP, 25 on 19th; six on 20th;

13 Western roe deer Capreolus capreolus

Podbanske, High Tatras NP: one on 19th; Secovce fields, 10 on 23rd; Ranc Sugov Hotel, two on 25th.


1 Swallowtail Papilio machaon

One on 22nd.

2 Scarce swallowtail Iphiclides podalirus

One on 25th.

3 Large white Pieris brassicae

Singles on 22nd and 25th.

4 Green-veined white Artogeia napi

Seen on three days with 30 on 23rd and 12 on 25th.

5 Orange-tip Anthocharis cardamines

Six on 23rd, three on 25th.

6 Brimstone Goneptryx rhamni

Seen daily with 20 on 21st.

7 Wood white Leptidea sinapis

Seen twice with 10 on 24th and six on 25th.

8 Holly blue Celastrina argiolus

One on 25th.

9 Camberwell beauty Nymphalis antiopa

Seen three times: 10 on 20th.

10 Peacock Inachis io

Seen daily, maximum 10 on 21st and 23rd.

11 Painted lady Cynthia cardui

Singles on 20th and 24th.

12 Small tortoiseshell Aglais urticae

Two on 20th and 21st, one on 22nd.

13 Large tortoiseshell Nymphalis polychloros

Single on 22nd, two each on 23rd and 24th.

14 Comma Polygonia c-album

Two on 21st.

15 Speckled wood Pararge aegeria

One on 23rd.

16 Map butterfly Araschinia levana

One on 25th.


1 Green chafer One on 25th.

2 Fire bug Pyrrhocoris apterus

Many on 25th.

3 Oil beetle Meloe sp.

Several on 24th.

4 Snail Helix sp.

Scores of huge snails in Eastern Slovakia and around Ranè ńugov Hotel.

5 Brandling worm Several of these dramatic red and yellow striped worms (common in UK compost heaps) were found under logs in the beech forests.


1 Fire salamander Salamandra salamandra

Five in the beech forest on 24th.

2 Fire-bellied toad Bombina bombina

Four in the Senne Ponds on 23rd.

3 Common frog Rana temporaria

Frogs spawning, and spawn, seen in tyre-ruts and still water on several days. A group sounded like Raven's calling on 21st.

4 Marsh frog Rana ridibunda

Scores on 23rd.

5 Edible / Pool frog Rana esculenta / lessonae

One on 23rd.

6 Common toad Bufo bufo

Ranc Sugov Hotel, 50 mating pairs in pools around the hotel on 25th.

7 Alpine newt Triturus alpestris

One found in a large flooded car-tyre rut on 20th. This species is often kept in captivity in Britain to circumvent animal protection laws.

8 Sand Lizard Lacerta agilis

Two males and a juvenile on 24th.

9 Common viviparous lizard Lacerta vivipara

Two adults and two babies (live-born in this species) on 21st.



By Barbara Boize

Spring was late this year in the High Tatras with snow still lying in many places near the hotel as well as on the tops. Wild flowers were scarce with the notable exception of purple crocus (Crocus heuffelianus). This was abundant in damp snow-free meadows near the hotel in the Raèková dolina. Most of the flowers were various shades of purple but a few were white. Also plentiful was white butterbur (Petasites albus). In the Luèanska dolina in the Choèské Vrchy mountains we found scattered plants of Daphne mezereum although, sadly, we were too early for lady's slipper orchid (Cypripedium calceolus).

We made a photo stop at Spi÷sky hrad (castle) and walked a short distance to an excellent viewpoint on Tuesday. What we did not expect to see were large patches of pasque flower (Pulsatilla slavica) looking stunning in the bright sunshine. These proved as irresistible to photographers as the castle. There were many other small flowers growing on the limestone rocks but they defeated attempts at identification.

The next day the overwhelming number and variety of birds at the Senné fishponds nearly caused flowers to be neglected but spring snowflake (Leucojum vernum) was spotted growing on the banks of the ponds.

Turniansky Hrad sits at the top of the hill where we saw an imperial eagle checking out the suslik colony. This hill is the only known site of an endemic species of Onosma tornense (golden drop, Boraginaceae).

In most places that we visited woodland flowers were in leaf or, at best, showing only occasional blooms, but the spring flora was at its best in the ňugovská dolina which is further south and at a lower altitude. Marsh marigold (Caltha palustris) grew along the streams with butterbur (P. hybridus) and white butterbur. The woodland floor was carpeted with (white) wood anemone (Anemone nemorosa), yellow anemone (Anemone ranunculoides) and (purple) [Dentaria bulbifera]. The alternate-leaved golden saxifrage (Chrysoplenium alternifolium) grew in plentifully in damper places.

Everywhere wild cherries (Prunus avium) and blackthorn/sloe (Prunus spinosa) brightened up the hills and roadsides. The other notable feature in the south was the number of poplars parasitised by mistletoe (Viscum album). Because the trees were more or less leafless the huge balls of mistletoe were very conspicuous, with some trees being host to a considerable number of plants.

Notes from previous tours:

[Nos. on right refer to Grey-Wilson & Blamey, Collins Pocket Guide, Alpine Flowers of Britain and Europe]

Aristolochiaceae: Asarum europaeum Asarabacca 30.7

Caryophyllaceae: Stellaria holostea Greater Stitchwort 44.1

Ranunculaceae: Caltha palustris Marsh Marigold 56.3

Anemone nemorosa Wood Anemone 58.3

Adonis vernalis Yellow Pheasant's-eye 62.5a

Ranunculus auricomus Goldilocks Buttercup 66.9

Papaveraceae: Chelidonium majus Greater Celandine 74.7

Cruciferae: Cardamine (=Dentaria) pentaphyllos Five-leaflet Bittercress 80.4a

Cardamine pratensis Cuckoo Flower / Lady's Smock 82.1

Rosaceae: Rosa canina Dog Rose 122.2

Fragaria vesca Wild Strawberry 130.6

Euphorbiaceae: Euphorbia cyparissias Cypress Spurge 162.7

Mercurialis perennis Dog's Mercury 162.9

Thymelaeaceae: Daphne mezereum Mezereon 174.1

Violaceae: Viola tricolor Heartsease 180.10

Primulaceae: Primula vulgaris Primrose 202.1

Primula elatior Oxlip 202.2

Boraginaceae: Pulmonaria montana Mountain Lungwort 224.7

Labiatae: Ajuga reptans Common Bugle 230.2

Lamium purpureum Red Deadnettle 234.3

Lamiastrum galeobdolon Yellow Archangel 234.5

Compositae: Tussilago farfara Coltsfoot 298.1

Petasites albus White Butterbur 298.3

Petasites hybridus Butterbur 298.3b

Liliaceae: Polygonatum sp. Solomon's Seal 332

Iridaceae: Crocus vernus Purple Crocus 336.2

Tim Earl

Principal Leader

© The Travelling Naturalist 2003