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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.
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
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.
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 6°C fall in temperature) in 40 minutes!
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.