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A Report from birdtours.co.uk

SLOVENIA Birding Around Lake Bled - 12th - 19th August 1998,

John Cantelo

As is obvious from the title this is not meant to be a comprehensive guide to birdwatching in this attractive 'new' country, but rather a guide to what might be seen in the area around Lake Bled on what was primarily a family holiday. Hopefully others in similar circumstances to my own (i.e. on a package tour with family and without a car) will be able to build upon these notes. I have supplemented my own comments with notes kindly passed on to me by a birder who stayed in the area a week before me and some information from local sources. These notes have been placed in brackets.

General:

I found the locals very pleasant & helpful. Many locals have a basic command of English, but just a little Slovene ('please', 'thank you', etc.) was much appreciated. I stayed at Hotel Mlino (in Mlino just outside Bled) and would recommend it. As a sticky cake addict I would also recommend '(mon Franci' (look for the 'Brown Bear' sign ) just beyond the bus station. As a general rule of thumb things seemed two thirds of UK prices. £1 = 260-270 sit

Transport:

Buses generally provide a more regular, cheaper, and sometimes quicker, means of transport than trains. Bled is well served by reasonably priced buses (all prices quoted are for singles: £1 = c265 sit).

Bled to Bohinj - services run from the bus station from c7:30 am to c8.30 PM and take about 40-45 minutes to reach the Hotel Zlatorog at far end of Lake Bohinj. Single - c500 sit.

Bled to Ljubljana (via Lesce Bled) - buses also leave at about half past the hour and run for a similar time through the day (c80 minutes; 830 sit).

Lesce Bled to Kranjska Gora (via Jesenice) - This bus leaves Lesce Bled train station at 40 minutes past each hour just as the Bled/Ljubljiana pulls in opposite - if you're lucky. The journey to Kranjska Gora takes c50 mins (single c450sit)

Cycles - these may be hired 1500 sit per day

Car hire - presumably available and doubtless very useful if you drive!

Cable cars / chair lifts are a vital means to get up on the 'high tops' without terminal exhaustion, but loads of hikers have just the same idea so get there early!

Bohinj - get off the bus at the campsite at the far end of Lake Bohinj and walk up to the cablecar to Ski Hotel Vogel. This runs half hourly from 7:30 am to c6:30 p.m. Return 1000 sit, single 700 sit. From the top of the cablecar a chairlift takes you up to Postaja Orlova Glava at c1600m (Return 700 sit, single 350 sit). There is a chairlift from here that goes higher still but it wasn't running when I was there. Check times down - it seemed to stop at c4:00 when I was there. Note that there are several restaurants not far from the cablecar.

Kranjska Gora - to the north of the town a chairlift (in two parts) runs up to Dom na Vitrancu (1555m) where a path follows the ridge to Ciprnik (1746m). I think it runs from c8:00 am to c4:00 pm with a long break around mid-day, but check details locally. Cost c900 sit.

Maps: excellent maps (1: 25,000 & 1:50,000) are readily available locally in Tourist Office and numerous shops. If you intend to walk in the mountains / woods the 1:25,000 maps are invaluable since they show way marked paths.

Books: 'Slovenia' - Lonely Planet £8.95 - an excellent general guide.

'Collins Gem - Slovene Phrase Finder' - £3.50

'Walking in the Julian Alps' Cicerone Press £8.99 - very useful book suggesting many walks of varying lengths. It was my wife who wanted to take the walk on p114 which gave me Three-toed Woodpecker.

Bird List

  1. Grey Heron - seen once Bohinj Lake
  2. Mute Swan - a few birds always present on the lake
  3. Mallard - always on the lake with birds apparently flying between here and Bohinj.
  4. Honey Buzzard - one over Ski Hotel Vogel cablecar. Daily over Stra (a Hill behind Mlino) 1-7/8
  5. Goshawk - seen three times over Stra
  6. Sparrowhawk - 4 birds seen in Bohinj and Kranjska Gora
  7. Buzzard - the most common raptor esp. in areas of mixed farm & woodland; up to 15 per day.
  8. Kestrel - moderately frequent in farmland areas, but less so in the mountains - seen most days
  9. Peregrine - seen four times
  10. Pheasant - seen once
  11. Woodcock - roding over Stra
  12. Black-headed Gull - Lake Bled 15/8
  13. Yellow-legged Gull - seen on the river near Kranj
  14. Hazel Hen - described by locals as 'secretive'; found in woodland above Bohinj and in Pokljuka plateau
  15. Black Grouse - as Hazel Hen
  16. Capercaille - as Hazel Hen
  17. Feral Dove - common in towns
  18. Woodpigeon- scarce seen once en route to Ljubljana
  19. Collared Dove - only seen a few times in larger towns
  20. Tengmalm's Owl - Pokljuka apparently holds good numbers of this species
  21. Tawny Owl - heard calling from Stra
  22. Swift - 6 seen near Bled 14/8
  23. Green Woodpecker - seen near Bled 2/8, 4/8 & 7/8
  24. Black Woodpecker - heard near Bled 3/8 & 5/8; signs of typical Black Woodpecker 'demolition work' noted in superb habitat around Bohinj
  25. Great-spotted Woodpecker - heard daily at Bled & Mlino
  26. Three-toed Woodpecker - a stunning male performed brilliantly (down to 3m) on Ciprnik north of Kranjska Gora 15/8. See notes. Pokljuka holds the bulk of the Slovenian population, but they're very quiet & elusive
  27. Wryneck - one Mlino 14/8
  28. House Martin - common around Bled
  29. Swallow - very common around Bled.
  30. Water Pipit - common on the slopes of Rodica
  31. Grey Wagtail - regularly seen on the river behind Mlino & Bled
  32. White Wagtail - very common
  33. Wren - apparently scarce only heard near Bohinj
  34. Alpine Accentor - seen on Rodica & Vogel above Bohinj , but quite elusive
  35. Robin - common around Ljubljana Zoo, but otherwise very scarce - Bohinj
  36. Black Redstart - a common bird in towns and around Ski Hotel Vogel
  37. Redstart - found once near Radovljica
  38. Wheatear - 3 seen on Rodica
  39. Ring Ousel - 2-3 birds en route to Rodica
  40. Blackbird - fairly common
  41. Song Thrush - seen daily but elusive
  42. Blackcap - very common
  43. Chiffchaff - very common right up to the treeline.
  44. Goldcrest - very common
  45. Spotted Flycatcher - extremely common
  46. Blue Tit - common
  47. Coal Tit - common
  48. Great Tit - common
  49. Marsh Tit - possibly the commonest tit around Bled
  50. Willow Tit - appears to replace Marsh Tit above c800m
  51. Crested Tit - common in mountain pine woods, but often silent and coaxed into action by 'pishing'
  52. Long-tailed Tit
  53. Nuthatch - very common
  54. Red-backed Shrike - common in farmland around Bled
  55. Jay - few seen around Bled & Bohinj
  56. Magpie - fairly common in farmed areas
  57. Nutcracker - seen above Ribcev Laz (Bohinj)
  58. Alpine Chough - 15+ seen on Rodica at 1600m+
  59. Raven - 10+ seen on Rodica
  60. Hooded Crow - very common on farmland at lower elevations
  61. Starling
  62. House Sparrow - common
  63. Tree Sparrow - behind Mlino and common at Ljubljana Zoo
  64. Chaffinch - common
  65. Serin - heard once in Bled
  66. Greenfinch - common
  67. Goldfinch - common
  68. Linnet - on Vogel
  69. Crossbill - two birds on Vitranc and a couple near Bohinj
  70. Bullfinch - found once near Bled
  71. Hawfinch - seen several times flying over the road at several sites
  72. Yellowhammer - seen four times in Bohinj and near Bled

NOTES:

Three-toed Woodpecker site.

Take the chairlift up to Dom na Vitrancu (from the northern edge of Kranjska Gora) and follow the path along the ridge. After 15 - 20 minutes you reach the first peak, Vitranc, where there is an open space and a number of bare dead trees. It was here that birds reacted strongly to my whistling. The path plunges down and then rises sharply again towards Ciprnik. After about 10 minutes walking the path levels off a little. There are massive 'old growth' pines here some of which a dead or dying. The woodpecker was feeding on these. I'd imagine it could be seen anywhere along the ridge. I picked it up by its soft tapping. The guide book claims that the 'tree ... canopy is home to many ... woodpeckers that seem undisturbed by passing walkers.' I found the bird and watched it down to 10m. On our return my non-birding wife & daughter found it at c3m! It was the only woodpecker we saw .....

Vogel - Rodica - Crna Prst Area.

Well marked paths criss-cross the area and the really fit might try to walk the full length of the ridge to Crna Prst. A whole day on the summit area could certainly pay dividends, but take sensible precautions (waterproof, etc., etc.). When I was there the weather changed from a clear blue sky to a fearsome electrical storm (with 6C fall in temperature) in 40 minutes!

Pokljuka

Without a car (unless you're fit & hire a cycle) this area appears to be out of reach. Presumably for this very reason it tends to be less disturbed than the areas around Bohinj. It seems to be a key habitat for Hazel Hen, Three-toed Woodpecker, Black Woodpecker, Tengmalm's & Pygmy Owl, etc.

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