The thunderstorms that failed to appear...
Today was supposed to be thundery and wet, but we escaped it.
Just as well, as we split the group, with Rob feeling intrepid and heading off on the big loop along the border with Slovakia, all alone through the forest.
Francis, Cherry and I pootled along the road towards Olchoviec at a very leisurely pace.
One of the many things I like about being here is that you never know what you’re going to see, but you always know that there’ll be something new.
Just stepping out of the Old School is great, with fieldfares, spotted flycatchers, woodpeckers and even golden orioles quite likely.
So, Rob headed up the valley towards Huta Polanska and we headed along the other valley towards Olchoviec.
Before we’d done more than 100m along the road, we’d seen yellowhammer and stonechat, as well as a roe doe up near the forest.
As we approached the ford, I spied some buzzards in the distance above the forest and then, suddenly, two bigger birds appeared with them.
They were eagles and our first thought was the common lesser spotted eagle, but these were obviously something else. Much bigger, dwarfing the buzzards that occasionally mobbed them, these were the kings of the air, golden eagles.
To see one is a treat and we do see them on many of our trips, but to see two together is a rare pleasure and we watched them for several minutes as they soared above the forest and meadow, sometimes closer and sometimes disappearing beyond the treetops.
Eventually, the eagles drifted away, leaving the buzzards to thermal alone and we continued along the road, stopping frequently to watch red-backed shrikes, some feeding their young with crickets, and then stonechats, while listening to yellowhammers singing their “little bit of bread and no cheeeeeeese”.
Sadly, yellowhammers are a rare sight in many areas of the UK now, having once been common in much of our countryside, another victim of the loss of habitat and therefore food, largely caused by intensified farming.
We saw a family flock of greenfinches, with five youngsters, white wagtails and lots of butterflies, including the later form of the map butterfly, brimstones, lots of skippers and wood whites.
Further on, we visited the beaver pool that we found last week and watched and photographed broad-bodied chaser dragonflies, fritillaries and short-tailed blues, among others.
Leaving Cherry in the meadow, Francis and I went in search of sand lizards, where last year we saw several, but we were out of luck, but the abundant butterflies, moths and other insects made up for it.
I saw my first ever holly blue, as well as some stunning beetles and a rose chafer. Later we saw what may have been another serin, but the black redstarts weren’t at the bridge as they were last week.
When we crossed the bridge into Olchoviec, Francis spotted a beautiful creature at the side of the road in a muddy patch, presumably getting salts from the mud. It was a stunning swallowtail, the first one I’ve been able to see clearly and photograph. You can see the photos and video below.
We went into the church yard, as usual, for lunch and saw that there were hornets nesting in the roof of the church.
We saw and photographed the Ilex (or was it sloe?) hairstreak and a black beetle that was living in the rotting tree stump. The great spotted woodpecker was there, as usual, and showed itself well and we heard a green woodpecker in the distance.
Rob appeared, striding down the path past the church, and we eventually managed to catch his attention so that he could join us.
After photographing some ‘humbugs’, first spotted by my daughter Caitlin a few years ago, we headed back to where Cherry was busy photographing butterflies.
Then it was an uneventful walk back to Polany, with yellowhammers, greenfinches and a white stork eating a young snake marking our way ‘home’.
Then Rob, Francis and I went across to the ‘beaver area’ to put a couple of trail cameras out on the beaver runs.
After a very filling dinner, Rob went out with the thermal imager to watch the beavers and Francis and Cherry soon joined him.
When we were walking back from Olchoviec, Francis told me a tale of a ring-tone someone had on their phone that made him think there was a golden oriole behind him. I then played my recording of the corncrake I stalked last week, that was on my phone. When Francis & Cherry were watching the beavers, they heard a corncrake behind them but thought it was me playing silly buggers.
They came in and told me and I assured them I hadn’t been outside but they didn’t believe me! Anyway, as I was snuggling up in bed, I heard the corncrake in the field outside. I’m still not sure they believe it wasn’t me.
That’s it for today and tomorrow we'll be going to ‘Carpathian Troy’ to see the reconstructed mediaeval village and probably some black redstarts.