Today we were supposed to be heading into some high ground again but our guide, MIlan, had been keeping his weather-eye on the forecast – well, that’s a good place for it – and suggested a change of plan. The high ground was once again supposed to be attracting weather so we all agreed to switch a couple of days and head for some more settled, lower ground. The lower ground in question was described as a karst lake called Cerkniško jezero. Jezero = lake, in Slovene, so we were heading for Lake Cerkniško, though in English it seems to be more often called Lake Cerknica.
While we’re at it, since Cerkniško contains one of those little š characters [referred to as s-roof], a word or three on Slovene pronunciation. The roof is roughly like putting an h after the letter in English. Thus š is like sh. the roof can feature on c, s, and z. Extrapolating from š makes č quite easy; it’s pronounced ch. Ž is a little more problematic ‘cos we don’t do zh. The town of Žužemberk is a classic example used to trap foreigners, though apparently I passed with flying colours: ž is pronounced like the s in vision. One final wrinkle: a c (with no roof) is like a ts (Germans should have no trouble with that), so Cerkniško is pronounced ts-air-nish-ko. I’m glad we got that cleared up. 😉
What an educational day. Lake Cerkniško is apparently a karst lake. Oh help, here we go again. Never having done geography I had no idea what the hell karst meant; in fact, i thought it might be related to cast as in open cast mining. Not so, Mr. Dumbo. Borrowing from good ol’ Wikipedia, a karst landscape …
… is a landscape formed from the dissolution of soluble rocks such as limestone, dolomite, and gypsum. It is characterized by underground drainage systems with sinkholes and caves.
Lake Cerkniško is a seasonal lake and there was plenty of water left. This shot obviously isn’t the lake itself, it’s one of the rivers connected to it, but it’ll give you an idea of the landscape … and the weather. Whilst it wasn’t actually raining when we arrived, the day was noticeably overcast so not great for hunting Odos. We did find a handful, though in the form of Azure Damselfly (Coenagrion puella), White-legged Damselfly (Platycnemis pennipes) and a few more photographically aware examples of Emerald Damelfly (Lestes sponsa). Milan also used his trapping skills to grab a single Ruddy Darter (Sympetrum sanguineum) in his hand. They were all a tad drowsy. So, nothing I couldn’t readily see in the UK, then.
Birds are, perhaps, a little less susceptible to the vagaries of weather – we regularly have a Blackcap at home that sings in the rain keeping his territory safe – and our birding folks were very happy to hear, though not actually see, a Corncrake at the site. We had also driven past the nest of a family of White Storks en route – we were told it was the only such nest actually on a chimney, as opposed to a platform, in Slovenia [apologies for crap picture] – so perhaps the White Stork (Ciconia ciconia) visiting one of the fields beside our river was associated with that nest.
If we can cope with another learning point, here it is. Actually, there’re two things to point out here. Good ol’ Milan was off doing what he does best, catching reptiles. He has some specially constructed hardware to help with the task. He came back with a Grass Sake (Natrix natrix) in a bag. One lesson is that the way the snake’s eyes looked indicated that this individual was “pre-slough”, i.e. getting ready to shed its skin. The other lesson is that if messed around with too much, the snake lies motionless with its jaw agape (and maybe dislocated?) feigning death, in the hope that its attacker will loose interest and leave it alone. Fear not, this character was perfectly healthy and jumped back to life again (if a snake can be said to jump). Milan replaced it where he found it.
Eventually it was time to move on to our guest house accommodation for a bear watching extravaganza tomorrow. Whilst enjoying a pivo on our balcony, though, I was quite excited to see and snag a photograph of my first Linnet (Carduelis cannabina). Easily pleased, some folks. Linnets are not rare as such but, though we enjoy lots of bird species in our garden at home, Linnets aren’t amongst them and I’ve personally not had a chance to see and snag one before. A decent end to a rather unsettled day, weather-wise.