I had the day off today which left me with two choices: wasting much of a balmy mid-winter afternoon reading about the disastrous train wreck that is the Trump Administration, or taking advantage of the unseasonably sunny conditions and going for a long bike ride through the muddy fields of the Ljubljana Marsh.
I chose the latter and am glad I did because that meant spending an afternoon chasing wildlife in Europe’s southernmost wetlands. I’ve posted about the Ljubljana Moors, or Marsh, several times before, most recently for World Wetlands Day; it’s my favorite nearby go-to for a quick dash –and occasional splash– of nature. The birdlife in the 160 square kilometer Regional Park is diverse, especially so in winter when migratory species winter, or at least spend a bit of time when heading to or from southern climes.
Great White Egret (Ardea alba)
Winter’s also a good time because the corn hasn’t been planted yet –83% of the land is privately owned and much of it farmed sustainably– which means wide expanses of open fields where the area’s abundant Great White Egret (Ardea alba) population can be easily spotted.
Not that they need fully cleared fields. Standing upwards of a meter tall and sporting a wingspan of nearly 170cm, Great White Egrets –velika bela čaplja’ in Slovenian– tend to stand out.
I wish they’d stand still a bit more.
I couldn’t get too close before scaring them off; the fields were too muddy for patient sitting and watching so these shots with my aging and unpredictable 70-300mm zoom, all from considerable distance, will have to do for the first birding of the year.
Roe deer (Capreolus capreolus)
I was more excited about the group of Roe deer (Capreolus capreolus) I watched running, jumping and jogging to and fro. I’d never seen a herd this size. According to one reference, ‘herds of 15 or more’ Roe deer can be seen in open fields in central and eastern Europe; this group was more than twice the size, definitely the bike ride’s most pleasant and unexpected surprise.
They, and several wide and muddy irrigation channels marking the boundaries of fields didn’t let me get too close either, so these too were snapped from a couple hundred meters away. They didn’t seem to mind the egrets coming close.
Ljubljana Moors Regional Park, Slovenia, 17-Feb-2017.