TRAVELLING NATURALIST TRIP REPORT
17th - 24th April 2004
Keith Grant (The Travelling Naturalist, UK)
Marketa Stepankova (E-Tours, Czech Republic.)
Saturday 17th April Arrival
Overcast & drizzle
Four of us duly met at 5am at Heathrow Terminal 2 and caught the MALEV flight to Budapest. Bill & Maggie were awaiting us there, having flown directly from the US. Petr and Marketa had taken a wrong turn in Budapest and got caught up in traffic, so with no-one to meet us at the airport, a minor panic was resolved after several international phone-calls! (Note from Jamie: and panic in the office!) What did we do before mobile phones?
After this delay, we were soon on our way north, across the border to the Slovak Republic and on to the Tatras Mountains. Glimpses of various birds en route included Starlings, Buzzards and Kestrels. A Crested Lark and a pair of Stonechats were spotted at a rest stop just inside Slovakia. We arrived at the hotel just before 5pm, just in time to dump our bags, get some warm clothing (there was still snow on the ground) and gather outside. Several Crossbills flew in briefly landing right in front of us, and there were Song Thrushes, Chaffinches and Siskins flying around. We picked up a forest guide and his colleague, and were taken to two hides in the forest. One half of the group found itself watching a Roe Deer whilst the rest of us listened to the bird calls die down, all went quiet and I had just said that we ought to get back when there was a whispered, "It's coming!" One, then two, Brown Bears appeared silently from the forest and over the next 30 minutes or so proceeded to explore the hollow logs for the honey and corn especially put down for them. Eventually, we just had to leave and as we started to move around, they lumbered off up the hill.
Back to the hotel for dinner, and an excellent start to our week in Slovakia.
Sunday 18th April High Tatras
Generally overcast, some drizzle
Some of us gathered at 7am in front of the hotel, immediately finding a nice Ring Ouzel feeding on the grass. A short walk, merely 100 metres or so, took us almost an hour, with views of Coal Tit, Willow Tit, Siskin, and both Mistle and Song Thrushes. A male Black Redstart was singing from the television aerial on the hotel roof. Then a superb Nutcracker landed in a small spruce just in front of us. Both Chiffchaff and Willow Warblers were singing. A Black Woodpecker called from the forest, and by some subtle imitation whistling, we managed to attract two of this often difficult to see species towards us. One flew directly overhead. We then really had to return for breakfast at 8am, ready to leave by 9.
Heading to Tatranská Lomnica, we picked up Marian Janiga, our guide for the day. We did a slow circuit through the forest, initially up quite a steep slope. Purple Crocus and Wood Anemone were excellent, but there were relatively few birds. We then headed for the ski lift to take us up Lomnický ötit. At the top station, a Raven flew across, but otherwise just skiers! Although we were above the tree line, the dwarf scrub still held Dunnocks, a montane species here rather than lowland gardens as in the UK. We returned downhill and stopped for a brief while at the remnants of Tatras peat bog. A nice Yellowhammer perched nearby, then three Lesser Spotted Eagles circled over distant trees. Marian and one of us saw a Fox trot by, but the rest of us were all looking the other way! We then had to return to try our luck for Bears again, where Yiri Mikulec, of E-Tours, was waiting for us. Splitting into two groups and this time swapping hides, one group disturbed a bear as they approached their hide. It unfortunately did not return. The other group found a Dipper in the river as we crossed the log bridge, and we had excellent views of two Brown Bears for half an hour at dusk.
Another excellent finish to the day.
Monday 19th April Chocské vrchy
Mixed sunshine & cloud
The hardy few duly met outside at 6:45 for our pre-breakfast walk. A Firecrest showed briefly along the road, and we had further good views of Ring Ouzels and Nutcrackers. Three Roe Deer were also seen feeding quietly at the forest edge. We had breakfast at 7:45 am so we could be heading for the Chocské Hills by 8:30. We met up with Dusan Karaska who led us up a lovely limestone valley near Valaská Dubová. Our target here was Wallcreeper, but despite a stiff climb up to the foot of some broken cliffs, the birds failed to show. The endemic Pasque-flower, Pulsatilla slavica, and alpine primrose, Primula auricula, were stunning in the bright sunshine. As we climbed, we found two Sand Lizards, Lacerta agilis, and on the way down, a Smooth Snake, Coronella austriaca, a surprising habitat for those used to these species' affinities for sand-dunes and lowland heath in the UK. A pair of Ravens and a male Kestrel played in the updrafts. As we made our way back to the minibus, several Brimstones and Camberwell Beauty butterflies were on the wing. We then drove a short distance to have our picnic lunches on a grassy hillside where Lesser Spotted Eagles were displaying and calling over the forest behind us, and Skylarks, Serin and Yellowhammer were singing in front. After lunch, we walked (though some lucky people drove in Yiri's land-cruiser!) up the hillside and into the forest. Following the contours, we passed a dilapidated old eagle's nest, and then came across a Black Stork sitting on its large stick nest. As she was getting nervous, we all had quick views through the telescopes and quietly retired to leave her in peace.
We bade farewell to Jiri, who had to return home to the Czech Republic, and then drove on about 15 km, stopping to scan a hillside near Oravský Podzámok and quickly found our target Golden Eagles cruising the updrafts. Further Serins were singing nearby and a nice male Pied Flycatcher showed well for some of us. We then tried a quick trip up a narrow lane for Dipper, again some of us seeing the bird before it saw us and disappeared downstream. There were Long-tailed Tits here, and carpets of the pink Common Butterbur, Petasites hybridus. We then had to head back to the hotel, dropping some off here, before the rest of us went on for a final bear-watch. A male, possibly one from the first evening appeared at around 7:30, and stayed for ten minutes or so before disappearing back into the forest.
We have all now seen one of Europe's rarest mammals, the Brown Bear.
Tuesday 20th April Eastwards to Zemplinska Lake
Becoming sunny & warm in lowlands
Our early morning walk was relatively quiet. We did see several Blackbirds and again had excellent views of Ring Ouzel around the hotel. Bullfinch and Crossbills were clinging to the hotel walls, presumably taking minerals from the plaster, and the male Black Redstart showed well as he perched on wooden railings below us. We had packed and were away soon after 8:30. A brief stop at the river bridge below the hotel provided good views of Dipper for everyone and a Grey Wagtail for most.
Our first stop to stretch our legs was a service station near Spisský hrad. Some availed themselves of the shop to purchase chocolates and bottles of certain brands of 'fire-water'! We then spent a few minutes at the castle itself for photographs and to take in the view. Several Kestrels were playing in the updrafts around the castle walls. Moving on, we headed for Michalovce, where we met up with Dr Stefan Danko. We had our picnic lunches in sunshine outside the museum, then spent a little while viewing the bird and mammal exhibits inside. This forms a complete collection of the fauna to be found in the Zemplinska area. He then took us on the short drive to Senne ponds, a wetland nature reserve alongside the fishponds themselves. Here we were almost overwhelmed with birds, notable amongst them being a female Red-footed Falcon and two male Montagu's Harriers circling and drifting north. Several Common Cranes were seen flying around. Amongst the duck species, Garganey were numerous, with Pochard and Shoveler, several Pintail and Gadwall and a single male Ferruginous Duck all vying for our attention. The Black-necked Grebes looked stunning as the sun caught their breeding finery. A Purple Heron skulked in nearby reeds, and we found three rather distant Pygmy Cormorants sitting on fallen branches on the far side of the lake. Good numbers of Night Herons also showed well though rather distantly in the afternoon sunshine. A nice Swallowtail butterfly floated past us as we decided that we really must head back to town to drop Stefan off and to get to our hotel to check in.
Dinner in the hotel overlooking Zemplinska Sirava.
Wednesday 21st April Vihorlat hills and Seèovce areas
Clear, sunny & warm
Our early morning walk took us just down the hotel driveway. We immediately found Hawfinches in the blossoming cherry trees, though these had flown off before everyone managed to get on to them. Serins seemed to be singing everywhere we turned and showed off wonderfully in the early morning sunshine. We were attracted to some Nightingale song emanating from a clump of bushes but this bird stopped as we approached. Another though then started to sing from a group of trees adjacent to a holiday apartment block. This Nightingale really showed itself off, quite happy to sit in the sunshine for all to see, and it even came down on to the top of a wall and embankment and hopped around like a robin. A Lesser Whitethroat was also singing from the top of a Silver Birch tree, and a female Chaffinch was found sitting quietly in its nest in the fork of the tree. We watched a Chiffchaff collecting dried grass for its own nest. When we got back to the hotel, a Serin and Black Redstart were virtually beside each other on the TV aerial on the hotel roof, and these were displaced by a Wryneck, which perched there for all to see through the telescope.
After breakfast, we again met up with Stefan Danko who showed us a nice Syrian Woodpecker in the park next to the museum in Michelovce. We then headed north-east into the Vihorlat Hills. We checked three areas of lovely Beech and Hornbeam forest, finding Ural Owls in two nest-boxes and one old disused Buzzard's nest. The owls seemed totally unconcerned as we watched them in the mirrors affixed to the ceilings of the nest-boxes. The bird in the old Buzzard's nest was more difficult as we could only see the top of its head and its long tail behind. These woods are stunningly beautiful, with an excellent ground flora including Wood Anemones, Periwinkle, Solomon's Seal and Violets. We did also get good views of a Wood Warbler, and there were good numbers of Wood White and Orangetip butterflies. We returned partway in the bus, turning into the forest at one point and walking out on to a low ridge where we had lunch. A White-tailed Eagle appeared twice low over the trees but oh so briefly before disappearing again beyond the ridge. Tree Pipits were singing but only landed at rather too great a distance to see well, even though the telescopes.
We then travelled south-west to the area near Zemplinska Sirava where we stopped to walk through another area of woodland. Here, we found pairs of both Middle Spotted and Grey-headed Woodpeckers. After a quick stop for ice-creams and/or coffees, we looked out over the fields to a nest of an Imperial Eagle. The male was incubating and we were watching him when the female appeared and perched on a nearby tree. She preened and stretched her wings for a while before taking off and circling to gain height, drifted right over us, before turning back and gliding over us at great height. We then shifted position slightly and walked out across the fields near a set of electricity pylons. In a nest-box on one pylon we could just make out the top of the head of an incubating Saker Falcon, seemingly unconcerned with the antics of a trio of Kestrels all around her. With no sign of the male, this was very frustrating for those who had not seen this species before! Three Black Storks also appeared and we watched these birds in flight and on the fields.
Finally we headed back through Michelovce, saying our goodbyes to Stefan before returning to the hotel for dinner.
Thursday 22nd April Latorica river valley
Clear, sunny and warm most of the day
Our early morning walk was quite quiet, with just two calling Wrynecks and a distant Nightingale. We were packed and ready to go by 8:30 and headed south-east to pick up our guide for the day, Milos Balla. From his house, we could see a pair of Imperial Eagles at their nest, with a second pair within a kilometre or so. We were heading to explore some of the Latorica flood plain in the far southeast of Slovakia. Scanning various wetland areas, we found Penduline Tit at their nest and watched them collecting fluff from bulrush seed heads. A Savi's Warbler also showed itself very briefly, but a crake calling from the rushes will have to remain unidentified. Marsh Harriers were showing off, to both their mates and to us. A pair of Wrynecks in a semi-flooded copse played hard to get but we did see them as we returned to the bus. Butterflies were not to be outdone with Eastern Bath White, Map and Grizzled Skipper all identified. A lake near a village held good numbers of Black-headed Gulls and Pochards, together with several stunning Red-necked Grebes, and both Whiskered and Black Terns. A Sedge Warbler also showed well through the telescopes. We then moved on to have lunch on a flood prevention embankment, listening to a Bittern booming in the distance and watching several Black Storks and Black Kites flying overhead. Both Tree Pipit and Hawfinch were seen in the tree tops, then a pair of Barred Warblers appeared and showed well in the telescopes.
The time was right for us to taste a selection of the local Tokaj wines, so we headed for Vel'ka Tŕna in the Zemplin Hills, overlooking the border with Hungary. On the way, we stopped at the edge of a village to find ourselves overlooking a large pond with good numbers of nesting Night Herons. We counted around 100 birds but there were undoubtedly many more unseen from the road. There were also several Little Egrets and at least 20 Grey Herons nesting in the taller trees behind. A Grass Snake swam across the pond and we managed to see several Fire-bellied Toads croaking from the water surface. At the winery, we were taken around the underground cellars and were told the basic methods for producing this famous wine. Four bottles later and we were ready to purchase! Our final stop was at a nearby quarry where we found several Northern Wheatears on territory. A careful approach to look over the cliff edge enabled us all to view an adult Eagle Owl with a fluffy nestling in its nesting cavity in the cliff.
Rain clouds were threatening, but as we left, a skein of 17 Common Cranes flew south (presumably to the Hortobagy wetlands in Hungary) and a Little Ringed Plover flew around the quarry. Having dropped Milos back home, we headed for our next hotel near Medzev through some quite heavy showers though these soon cleared.
Friday 23rd April Slovenský Kras
Mainly sunny & warm
Our pre-breakfast walk explored the immediate surroundings of the hotel. The beech woods were alive with bird song, most notable of which was a distant Collared Flycatcher but which remained out of sight! After breakfast , we picked up Stefan Matis, our guide for today. First stop was at Jasov monastery where we walked around the lake. We heard Green, Grey-headed and Middle Spotted Woodpeckers, but after some effort, only managed to see Lesser Spotted Woodpecker. This often quite difficult to see species did give us excellent views, despite us being distracted by Buzzard and Sparrowhawk soaring overhead. There were five Common Sandpipers on the lake. We moved on and stopped briefly near Turniansky Castle where good numbers of Sousliks were visible in the fields. This ground squirrel is one of the most important prey species for the large numbers of raptors in Eastern Slovakia. Our main objective today was the Zádiel Gorge, a superb gorge cutting into the limestone of the Slovenský kras. We walked steadily up the track beside the stream, finding Dipper, Grey Wagtail and Marsh Tit, and watching a Goshawk soaring in the updrafts. We then climbed up though the beech woods, eventually stopping for lunch at the summit, overlooking a superb view down the length of the gorge to Hungary in the distance, though somewhat spoiled by a cement works! Pasque Flowers were largely in seed here, much further on than in the High Tatras earlier in the week, though we did find several good specimens still in full flower. Walking along the rim of the gorge, we came across the remains of a Celtic earthen embankment, then after a brief view of a lone Rock Bunting, we did all manage a good view of a male through the telescope. A female Montagu's Harrier flew overhead as we started our descent back to the car park at the village of Zádiel itself. This was a longer-than-intended walk involving a 9 km trek, climbing some 400m and down again!! Back to the hotel for a well-earned beer or two!
As we gathered for an early dinner, Stefan showed us a Lesser Horseshoe Bat he had just caught whilst checking a small cave nearby. After our main course, we decided to go outside by the lake (just getting dusk), trying Stefan's bat detector. We picked up Common Pipistrelle with the detector and indeed saw several individuals flying over us. A Tawny Owl also started calling above the lake and a second owl flew across the valley right over our heads. Back inside for desert and coffee.
Saturday 24th April Kosice & departure
Mainly sunny & warm
We had a brief pre-breakfast walk from the hotel along a different forest trail. Then, after a leisurely breakfast, we packed the vehicle and headed for Kosice, where we managed an hour or so shopping and exploring the city centre. Headed south, we had to wait for an hour at the border with Hungary, having driven into a 'work to rule' by the border officials complaining about losing their jobs once both countries join the European Community - not good for everyone's nerves! We were now rather tight on time to get to the airport for check-in, not helped by a fallen tree being cleared from across the road at one point!
We arrived at the airport in time for check-in, bade farewell to Marketa and Petr who were driving home to the Czech Republic, and to Bill and Maggie who were staying on in Budapest.
The various species lists below use the following references:
Birds: We use the suggested worldwide English names and systematic order as found in World Bird Species Checklist: with alternate English & scientific names (Wells, M.G., 1998). Commonly used alternates are enclosed in [ ] or separated by / .
Collins Bird Guide (Svensson, L., Grant, P.J., Mullarney, K. & Zetterström, D., 1999)
Butterflies: Collins Field Guide: Butterflies of Britain & Europe (Tolman, T. & Lewington, R., 1997)
Mammals: We use the suggested worldwide English names and systematic order as found in Mammals of the World, A Checklist (Duff, A. & Lawson, A., 2004)
Collins Field Guide: Mammals of Britain & Europe (Macdonald, D. & Barrett, P., 1993)
Amphibians and Reptiles: Collins Field Guide: Reptiles & Amphibians of Britain & Europe [second edition] (Arnold, E.N. & Ovenden, D.W., 2002)
Plants: Collins Pocket Guide: Alpine Flowers of Britain & Europe [second edition] (Grey-Wilson, C. & Blamey, M., 1995)
Little Grebe / Dabchick: Noted on 2 days, 4 at Senne ponds on 20th, en route on 21st.
Red-necked Grebe: 4 in Latorica valley on 22nd.
Great Crested Grebe: 4 at Senne ponds on 20th.
Black-necked/Eared Grebe: 12 at Senne ponds on 20th.
Great Cormorant: Several on 20th.
Pygmy Cormorant: 3 at Senne ponds on 20th.
Grey Heron: Noted on 4 days, en route on 17th, 20th, & 23rd, and a nesting colony in Latorica valley on 22nd.
Purple Heron: 1 at Senne ponds on 20th.
Great [White] Egret: Noted on 3 days, en route on 17th, 6 at Senne ponds on 20th, several in Latorica valley on 22nd.
Little Egret: Noted on 2 days, 2 at Senne ponds on 20th, nesting birds in colony in Latorica valley on 22nd.
Black-crowned Night-heron: Noted on 2 days, c.40 at Senne ponds on 20th, at least 100 at colony in Latorica valley on 22nd.
Great Bittern: Noted on 2 days, heard booming at Senne ponds on 20th, heard booming in Latorica valley on 22nd. Unfortunately, not seen.
Black Stork: Noted on 5 days, 1 on nest in Chocské hills on 19th, 1 at Senne ponds on 20th, 3 in Seèovce area on 21st, 5 at one time plus others in Latorica valley on 22nd, 1 overhead in Slovenský Kras on 23rd.
White Stork: Noted most days, with birds in fields and on nests in most villages.
Eurasian Spoonbill: 8 at Senne ponds on 20th.
Mute Swan: c.12 at Senne ponds on 20th.
Greylag Goose: 5 at Senne ponds on 20th.
Eurasian Wigeon: Several at Senne ponds on 20th.
Gadwall: 2 pairs at Senne ponds on 20th.
Eurasian/Common Teal: Heard calling at Senne ponds on 20th.
Mallard: Noted each day.
Northern Pintail: 4 at Senne ponds on 20th.
Garganey: Noted on 2 days, c40 at Senne ponds on 20th, a pair in Latorica valley on 22nd.
Northern Shoveler: c.15 at Senne ponds on 20th.
Common Pochard: Noted on 2 days, c.20 at Senne ponds on 20th, c.30 in Latorica valley on 22nd.
Tufted Duck: 2 in lake beside road in Chocské hills on 19th.
Ferruginous Duck: A male at Senne ponds on 20th.
White-tailed Eagle: 1 briefly in Vihorlat hills on 21st.
Black Kite: At least 4 in Latorica valley on 22nd.
Montagu's Harrier: Noted on 2 days, 2 males at Senne ponds on 20th, a female overhead in Slovenský Kras on 23rd.
[Eurasian] Marsh Harrier: Noted on 2 days, 5 at Senne ponds on 20th, good views of various pairs in Latorica valley on 22nd.
Northern Goshawk: 1 overhead in Slovenský Kras on 23rd.
Eurasian Sparrowhawk: Noted on 2 days, 1 over our hotel on 19th, 2 overhead in Slovenský Kras on 23rd.
Common Buzzard: Noted each day.
Lesser Spotted Eagle: Noted on 3 days, 3 in High Tatras area on 18th, 2 displaying in Choèske hills on 19th, 2 in Vihorlat hills on 21st.
[Eastern] Imperial Eagle: Noted on 2 days, a pair on nest in Seèovce area on 21st, two pairs in Latorica valley on 22nd.
Golden Eagle: 2 in Chocské hills on 19th.
Common/Eurasian Kestrel: Noted most days.
Red-footed Falcon: A female at Senne ponds on 20th.
Saker Falcon: 1 in nestbox on pylon in Seèovce area on 21st.
Common Pheasant: Noted on 5 days.
Common Crane: Noted on 2 days, c.8 at Senne ponds on 20th, 17 flying south over 'Eagle Owl' quarry on 22nd.
Eurasian/Common Coot: Noted on 5 days.
Northern Lapwing: Noted on 3 days.
Little [Ringed] Plover: 1 in 'Eagle Owl' quarry on 22nd.
Common Sandpiper: 5 at Jasov lake on 23rd.
Ruff: Several hundred very distantly at Senne ponds on 20th.
Yellow-legged Gull: Several at Senne ponds on 20th.
Black-headed Gull: Noted on 2 days, at Senne ponds on 20th, small breeding colony on 22nd.
Whiskered Tern: Noted on 2 days, an adult in breeding plumage at Senne ponds on 20th, 2 further adults in Latorica valley on 22nd.
Black Tern: 4 in breeding plumage in Latorica valley on 22nd.
Rock Dove / Feral Pigeon: Noted most days.
[Common] Wood Pigeon: Noted most days.
Eurasian Collared Dove: Noted on 5 days, around human habitation.
Common Cuckoo: Noted on 4 days, both heard and seen.
Eurasian Eagle Owl: An adult plus one chick in a quarry on 22nd.
Tawny Owl: 2 heard & seen near hotel on 23rd.
Ural Owl: 3, all on nests, in Vihorlat hills area on 21st.
Eurasian Hoopoe: Heard distantly in Slovenský Kras on 23rd.
Eurasian Wryneck: Noted on 2 days, 1 on hotel aerial on 21st, two plus others heard around hotel on 22nd.
Lesser Spotted Woodpecker: 1 seen well, plus others heard, in Jasov & Slovenský Kras areas on 23rd.
Middle Spotted Woodpecker: Noted on 2 days, a pair in Se èovce area on 21st, heard in Jasov area on 23rd.
Syrian Woodpecker: Noted on 2 days, 1 in museum park in Michelovce on 21st, 1 in Latorica valley on 22nd.
Great Spotted Woodpecker: Noted most days.
Black Woodpecker: Noted on 2 days, 1 near hotel on 18th, 1 seen briefly in Slovenský Kras on 23rd.
Green Woodpecker: Noted on 2 days, heard near hotel on 18th, heard in Slovenský Kras on 23rd.
Grey-headed Woodpecker: Noted on 2 days, a pair in Seèovce area on 21st, heard in Slovenský Kras on 23rd.
Crested Lark: Noted on 2 days, 2 en route on 17th, heard at border crossing on 24th.
[Eurasian/Common] Sky Lark: Noted most days.
Barn Swallow: Noted each day.
[Common] House Martin: Noted most days.
Yellow Wagtail: Noted on 3 days, good views of this meadow-land species. This is the continental European race known as Blue-headed Wagtail, Motacilla flava flava.
Grey Wagtail: Noted on 4 days.
White Wagtail: Noted each day.
Meadow Pipit: Several in High Tatras on 18th.
Tree Pipit: Noted on 3 days, heard singing in Chocské hills on 19th, 2 singing distantly in Vihorlat hills on 21st, singing in Latorica valley on 22nd.
White-throated Dipper: Noted on 4 days, 1 near the bear hide on 18th, 1 briefly in Chocské hills on 19th, 1 as we left the hotel on 20th, excellent views in gorge in Slovenský Kras on 23rd.
[Winter] Wren: Noted on 2 days, in High Tatras area on 18th, & Slovenský Kras on 23rd.
Dunnock / Hedge Accentor: Noted on 4 days, generally a montane species here, rather than the common garden bird we are used to in the UK.
Ring Ouzel: Noted on 3 days, excellent views around the hotel, 18th - 20th.
Common Blackbird: Noted most days.
Fieldfare: Several seen en route on 24th.
Song Thrush: Noted each day.
Mistle Thrush: Noted on 5 days.
European Robin: Noted most days.
Common/Rufous Nightingale: Noted on 2 days, with excellent views of one (& others heard) around the hotel on 21st & 22nd.
Black Redstart: Noted most days.
Common Stonechat: Noted on 2 days, a pair en route on 17th, a pair in Latorica valley on 22nd.
Northern Wheatear: 3 in quarry on 22nd.
Savi's Warbler: Noted on 2 days, heard singing at Senne ponds on 20th, two heard & one seen in Latorica valley on 22nd.
Sedge Warbler: Noted on 2 days, heard singing at Senne ponds on 20th, one seen well in Latorica valley on 22nd.
Willow Warbler: Noted on 3 days, around the hotels on 18th, 20th, & 23rd.
Common/Eurasian Chiffchaff: Noted each day.
Wood Warbler: Noted on 2 days, good views of one in Secovce area on 21st, also noted in Slovenský Kras on 23rd.
Blackcap: Noted on 5 days.
Lesser Whitethroat: Noted on 4 days.
Barred Warbler: Two seen well in Latorica valley on 22nd.
Firecrest: 1 (KG only) near hotel on 19th.
Goldcrest: Noted on 2 days, 18th & 19th.
[European] Pied Flycatcher: A male in Chocské hills on 19th.
Collared Flycatcher: Heard briefly near hotel and also near Jasov on 23rd; unfortunately not seen.
Long-tailed Tit: Noted on 3 days, heard in Chocské hills on 19th, several in Latorica valley on 22nd, nice views of this white-headed race in Slovenský Kras on 23rd.
[Eurasian] Penduline tit: A pair at a nest & collecting bulrush fluff in Latorica valley on 22nd.
Marsh Tit: 1 seen well in Slovenský Kras on 23rd.
Willow Tit: Several in High Tatras area on 18th.
Coal Tit: Noted on 5 days.
Crested Tit: Several nice views near our hotel on 18th.
Great Tit: Noted most days.
Blue Tit: Noted on 4 days.
Eurasian Nuthatch: Noted on 3 days.
Eurasian Treecreeper: Noted on 3 days.
Eurasian Jay: Noted on 5 days.
Black-billed/Eurasian Magpie: Noted most days.
Spotted/Eurasian Nutcracker: Noted on 3 days around the hotel on 18th - 20th, excellent views!
Western/Eurasian Jackdaw: Noted on 4 days.
Rook: Noted on 4 days.
Hooded Crow: Noted on 3 days, remarkably few.
Common Raven: Noted on 4 days, 2 in High Tatras on 18th, a pair in Chocské hills on 19th, several in Latorica valley on 22nd, 2 in Slovenský Kras on 23rd.
Common Starling: Noted most days.
Yellowhammer: Noted on 5 days.
Rock Bunting: A nice male in Slovenský Kras on 23rd, and several other brief views.
[Common] Reed Bunting: 1 at Senne ponds on 20th.
Corn Bunting: Noted on 2 days, several on 20th, several on wires in Latorica valley on 22nd.
Common/European Chaffinch: Noted each day.
European Serin: Noted on 4 days, with birds singing and displaying vigorously.
European Greenfinch: Noted on 3 days.
Eurasian Siskin: Noted on 4 days, on 17th - 20th.
European Goldfinch: Noted most days.
Common Linnet: Noted on 4 days.
Common/Red Crossbill: Noted on 4 days, 17th - 20th, excellent views around the hotel in particular.
Common/Eurasian Bullfinch: Noted on 2 days, nice views around the hotel on 18th & 20th.
Hawfinch: Noted on 4 days, 20th - 23rd, nice views around the hotel in particular.
House Sparrow: Noted on 4 days, remarkably few.
[Eurasian] Tree Sparrow: Noted on 4 days, several at Senne ponds on 20th, Vihorlat hills & Seèovce area on 21st, Latorica valley on 22nd, Slovenský Kras on 23rd.
Lesser Horseshoe Bat: One in the hand on 23rd.
Common Pipistrelle: Seen around the hotel on 23rd.
Red Fox: One on 18th.
Brown Bear: Noted on 3 days, 2 on 17th, 2 plus 1 on 18th, 1 male on 19th.
Wild Boar: 'Ground works' noted on 19th.
[Western] Roe Deer: Noted most days.
Red Squirrel: Noted on 4 days, usually a deep brown in colour.
European Souslik: An extensive colony under Turnianský Castle on 23rd.
Brown Hare: Noted on 3 days, 1 near hotel & 2 en route on 20th, 2 in Seèovce area on 21st, 1 en route in Latorica valley on 22nd.
AMPHIBIANS & REPTILES:
Fire-bellied Toad: Noted on 2 days, heard in hundreds at Senne ponds on 20th, rather fewer in Latorica valley on 22nd.
Common Toad: A pair mating in the middle of the hotel car park on 19th. Removed to a safer position!
Common Frog: Noted on 2 days, several on road on 18th & 19th.
Marsh Frog: Heard in Latorica valley on 22nd.
Edible Frog: 2 at Senne ponds on 20th.
Pool Frog: Several in puddles near the quarry on 22nd.
Common Wall Lizard: 1 in Slovenský Kras on 23rd.
Sand Lizard: 2 in Chocské hills on 19th.
Smooth Snake: 1 in Chocské hills on 19th.
Grass Snake: 1 swimming in the heronry pool (plus a small dead one) in Latorica valley on 22nd.
Common Swallowtail: Noted on 3 days, at Senne ponds on 20th, Latorica valley on 22nd, Slovenský Kras on 23rd.
Scarce Swallowtail: Noted on 2 days, Latorica valley on 22nd, Slovenský Kras on 23rd.
Small White: Noted on 4 days.
Eastern Bath White: Noted in Latorica valley on 22nd.
Orange-tip: Noted on 4 days, 20th - 23rd.
Brimstone: Noted on 5 days, Chocské hills on 19th, en route on 20th, Vihorlat hills & Seèovce area on 21st, Latorica valley on 22nd, Slovenský Kras on 23rd.
Wood White: Noted on 2 days, Vihorlat hills on 21st, Latorica valley on 22nd.
Camberwell Beauty: Noted on 2 days, Chocské hills on 19th, around the hotel on 20th.
Peacock: Noted on 3 days.
Painted Lady: Noted on 2 days, at Senne ponds on 20th, Slovenský Kras on 23rd.
Small Tortoiseshell: Noted in Seèovce area on 21st.
Comma: Noted on 2 days, around the hotel on 18th, Slovenský Kras on 23rd.
Map butterfly: Noted only in Latorica valley on 22nd.
Grizzled Skipper: Noted only in Latorica valley on 22nd.
Roman Snail: Many around hotel on 23rd.
30 Mistletoe Viscum album
30 Asarabacca Asarum europaeum
44 Greater Stitchwort Stellaria holostea
56 Marsh Marigold Caltha palustris
58 Wood Anemone Anemone nemorosa
58 Yellow Anemone Anemone ranunculoides
60 Pasque-flower Pulsatilla slavica
62 Pheasant's-eye Adonis vernalis
72 Bulbous Corydalis Corydalis cava
82 Cuckoo-flower / Lady's Smock Cardamine pratensis
96 Houseleek Sempervivum sp.
136 Blackthorn / Sloe Prunus spinosa
136 Wild Cherry Prunus avium
156 Wood-sorrel Oxalis acetosella
174 Mezereon Daphne mezereon
180 Heartsease Viola tricolour
202 Primrose Primula vulgaris
202 Oxlip Primula elatior
204 Alpine Primrose Primula auricular
220 Lesser Periwinkle Vinca minor
224 Mountain Lungwort Pulmonaria mollis
298 Coltsfoot Tussilago farfara
298 White Butterbur Petasites albus
298 [Common] Butterbur Petasites hybridus
332 Solomon's Seal Polygonatum sp.
332 Lily-of-the-Valley Convallaria majalis
336 Purple Crocus Crocus vernus
It is always nigh-on impossible to pick out particular highlights from a trip like this. As ever, their success depends upon the pleasure of the company, and this year was no exception. Many great birds, butterflies and plants were seen, with each of us taking away our own memories: the really splendid array of eagles, Lesser Spotted, Imperial, Golden & White-tailed Eagles; Senne Ponds with its crowds of ducks and other waterbirds; woodpeckers featured too with Wryneck, Lesser-spotted, Middle-spotted, Great-spotted, Syrian, Grey-headed, Green and Black Woodpeckers all seen during the week; the Eagle Owl with its chick in the quarry; the very approachable Night Heron colony. I'm sure there are many other memories which I haven't mentioned. Of course, pride of place must go to that rarest of Europe's great mammals, the Brown Bear, which featured during all three of the evenings we waited for them. Finally, I would like to award all of you my 'Mountain Goat badge' for courage in the face of steep hills!!
Well done to all of you who made this trip the success it was. I would like to thank everybody for their very good humour and excellent company, and hope to see you all on another trip, sometime in the not-too-distant future.
Keith Grant, April 2004