Yesterday we had an excellently timed flight (12:55 PM take off) from Stansted lasting about two hours to Ljubljana. A couple of firsts: first flight for me from Stansted and certainly my first time in Slovenia. The timing made our departure from home and the journey to Stansted very civilized. Ljubljana airport is a delight – very quiet – the way things used to be before the planet got too many people with too much money. Whilst this was a mixed wildlife tour organized by Ecotours, I was looking forward to seeing two new countries. We were met by our guide, Milan [Slovenian], and driver, Janos [Hungarian, pronounced Janosh], who took us to our first 3-night stop in a charming hotel close to Lake Bohinj [pronounced Bo-heen – the “j” is silent]. With different native languages, Milan and Janos spoke English to each other. My most important learning point on arrival at our hotel was that pivo is Slovene for beer. A couple were necessary and, bless them, large beers cost 2.60€ whereas a small beers are 2.30€ – a curious pricing policy.
Francine and I had wandered down to get a glimpse of Lake Bohinj yesterday evening but this morning our itinerary took us for a wander along its northern shore in daylight. As you can see from a couple of Francine landscape efforts (notice the fish in the crystal clear water – right), its a delightful location. I was a little surprised to note that Slovenia bore more than a passing resemblance to Austria, until I realized that it borders Austria and was once part of the Austro-Hungarian empire. Duh! Educational, these wildlife tours. 😉
Our group has a good mix of interests, one concentrating on birds, another on butterflies, myself on Odos and Francine had botanical buddies. Milan delighted in telling us that he’d been with a bunch of botanists and managed to cover only about 100m in three hours ‘cos they stopped at every plant for a minute examination. Fortunately we made considerably better progress.
As you can see, Lake Bohinj is big water with little in the way of emergent vegetation so I wasn’t expecting much in the way of Odonata. Excitement was briefly heightened when we spotted a darter in a patch of vegetation a few metres from the lake and Milan suggested it might be a Vagrant Darter/Moustached Darter (Sympetrum vulgatum). That would’ve been a new species for me but it turned out to be a female Red-veined Darter (Sympetrum fonscolonmbii). We also spotted several White-legged Damselflies (Platycnemis pennipes) and, somewhat frustratingly, we were overflown by several bright green dragonflies that were most likely either Brilliant Emeralds (Somatochlora metallica) or Balkan Emeralds (Somatochlora meridionalis), either of which would’ve been a new catch for me but we’ll never know ‘cost they flew tirelessly and never settled.
After lunch organized by Janos around our minibus, the afternoon took us to Pokljuka plateau, a forested karst plateau around between 1100 and 1400 metres altitude. It wasn’t an area for Odos but there were some flower meadows as well as mossy bogs, and these produced a butterfly highlight when one of our group spotted a freshly emerged Clouded Apollo (Parnassius mnemosyne). Being a new species for me, I spent some time with that. 🙂 Notice that the tips of the forewings are translucent.
As well as the meadows containing quite a bit of the relatively rare Golden Hawkesbeard (Crepis aurea), Francine had considerable fun with the flora up here with Bearded Bellflower (Campanula barbata), Small White Orchid (Pseudorchis albida) and White False Helleborine (Veratrum album) being added to her collection.
During our driving around, we’d been intrigued by structures that turned out to be traditional Slovenian hay drying racks. So, despite a number of our throats screaming out for some more Slovenian pivo, on the way down from Pokljuka plateau, we encouraged our tireless driver, Janos, to stop beside some examples containing hay for some photo opportunities. A couple of designs were on offer, from a simple single thickness rack to two racks joined by a roof to double up as a barn. The barn style photo shows the contrasting less romantic modern plastic-wrapped rolls, as well.
All in all, an enjoyable start in an enjoyable country. Now, that pivo …