We couldn’t have picked better weather, making our time outdoors exploring the wetlands even more enjoyable! The day started at 10:30 where we all met and introduced ourselves, often talking about which expeditions we’d been on with Biosphere Expeditions and when we hoped our next one would be.
At 11: 00 we watched the Asian short-clawed otters get fed, they keep a male and a female and are hoping to breed them. This is always very entertaining, particularly for the children that came along. We also heard a talk by one of the keepers about their feeding habits, distribution in Asia and breeding cycles.
From there, a volunteer ranger talked us through a map of the wetlands, its history and some key species that we could potentially see, which was all great to learn about! We did a 1 1/2 hour guided tour, stopping at points of interest and regularly keeping an eye out for the wildlife that was there. Particular highlights were the peacock tower with many viewing areas on different levels, the bat house and learning about the environmental sustainability of the centre.
After enjoying the wetlands under the sun and a good walk and talk, it was definitely time for lunch. Most of us headed over to The Red Lion pub (highly recommended!) for a bite to eat and to continue catching up with old friends and making new ones! Keep an eye out for the next planned event with the Friends of Biosphere Expeditions, which will be happening soon!
For 2014 the Slovakia expedition has come to an end. We have had a great time and it was sad to see slot two leave on the train to Bratislava on Saturday morning.
After heavy rain during the middle of last week, we were rewarded with fresh snow and sunshine on Thursday and Friday. No more bear sightings, but Jade was able to take a photo of a wild boar just crosssing the track – Tomas, the wildlife photographer, went green with envy :-)!
All in all we covered a very impressive total of 476 km of walked transects! Slot 1 covered 228 km and 41 cells, slot 2 covered 248 km and 61 cells. Over the two weeks we collected lots of different kinds of samples of wolf, lynx, bear and wildcat! Our phototrapping yielded good results too and we were able to reach, during this expedition, areas we have not been to before.
We would like to thank everyone for the genuine effort they have put in. Remember that without you, none of these data would be collected and no reports would get written up (we will let you know when the report is published in due course). You could have gone on a skiiing holiday or lazed around on the beach somewhere, but instead you chose to help Tomas and friends with his efforts – thank you for this.
Thank you also to our local friends and helpers Franitsek and others, as well as Swarovski Optik and Land Rover Austria for their support of the expedition. It is great to have all of us pulling together in support of nature and wildlife in this beautiful part of Europe.
Group two has arrived safely, was briefed and met with a light dusting of snow in the valley (and more higher up in the mountains). It made for great conditions on our first group survey. It even gave our team member from Australia, Angie, the chance to make her first ever snow man!
The snow was so fresh that many of the mountain inhabitants hadn’t had a chance to walk out in to it yet! Still, we found badger tracks and some bear prints that were so fresh, they were still warm when the group spotted 😉
In their smaller groups, the team put in a valiant effort on day two. We surveyed more than 62 kilometres – a record distance for one day for this Slovakia expedition and in driving cold rain too! Many tracks of bears, wolf, lynx and wildcat were recorded.
On day three we had extremely cold rain in 1 degree C. When we started, we did so with low expectations as the remaining snow had melted and washed away. But there are still enough north-facing slopes left, so we could find lot of tracks and scats again!
On Saturday we waved goodbye to the first group of champion trackers. What a week!
We were all a little apprehensive at the beginning of the week. The low snow levels lead us to believe that tracks would be less apparent, oh how wrong we were…. The findings were incredible. Almost 230 km were surveyed in the past five days, a huge area covered. We have found many bear, wolf and lynx tracks, as well as a wildcat track, two bear sightings and bear and lynx camera trap shots. We have also discovered the presence of two possible new wolf packs in the Veka Fatra National Park…! All these pieces of information are invaluable to the project, and therefore the protection of these wonderful wild creatures.
Katie, Dave and Sonny made it to the summit of mountain Klak and Linda, Louise and Martyn walked an incredible transect of more than 22 kilometres! Back at base our fantastic host Frantisek had prepared a birthday cake for Jeroen, which we promptly ate up. Happy birthday!
A huge thanks to team one, courageous, valiant and committed to the cause!
In the past couple of days, the team of 14 have broken into four smaller groups and surveyed side valleys, ridges and summits; In total we have surveyed 114.1 kilometres of the Velka Fatra National Park.
Several separate lynx tracks, bear tracks (the warm weather means bears are not hibernating), wolf tracks, and many golden eagles sightings.
One group have discovered a bear’s den. Tomas (our scat and track pro scientist) was disappointed that rather than venturing in to count how many bears were in the den, take some pictures, collect some scat samples and perhaps stay for a cuddle, the group pushed on, rather quickly…. Probably keen to get to cafe ‘Pod Lipami’ for hot chocolate delights.
The group have made great progress and are in good spirits. The data collected has already been incredibly valuable to the project.
Yesterday everybody arrived safely in Slovakia and we immedialety started the introductory talks and briefings on safety and science;
followed by training on the equipment this morning. We then went out as one team to get used to the terrain and learn about ‘the tracking techniques’.
Without much snow (it’s thawing at the moment) we walked almost 14 kilometres and found lots of stuff: Tracks of three lynxes, tracks of a wolf pack and two single wolves, tracks of two bears, a bear scat, two wolf scats, a bagder track, and a so far unkwown badger den, also, tracks of a haselgrouse, sightings of a herd of red deer and two golden eagles.
First results of our camera traps include photos of a fox and a pine marten on our deer carcass.
Since we started working in Slovakia, this has been without a doubt the day with most findings 😉