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 😉
We all went out into the national park today to set up some camera traps. There is a dusting of snow up in the mountains – enough to detect animal tracks. The foresters reported wolf tracks to Tomas only minutes ago by text message. Whilst in the national park, we placed a camera trap next to a fresh carcass of a red deer we found in the middle of a forestry road – killed by a pack of wolves. At the next turn of the road we found a huge track that must have been made by a massive bear.
All very exciting. We look forward to you helping us to find out more.
Hello everyone and welcome to the first entry of the 2014 Slovakia diary. We’re Peter Schuette, your expedition leader, and Astrid Callomon, your assistant expedition leader. At the moment we are busy preparing the paperwork and all the little things that need to be done before we head off to Slovakia in six days. On Sunday we will meet Dr. Matthias Hammer, Biosphere Expeditions’ executive director to pack up all the gear and then drive to Vienna go collect three Land Rovers kindly provided by Land Rover Austria for the expedition. Then we’ll also meet Tomas, our scientist, to drive on to base in the Velka Fatra. Tomas was there for a recce two weeks ago – no snow, but temperatures are dropping, so keep your fingers crossed for some good tracking conditions.
If you want to ‘meet’ Tomas before you actually meet him, have a look at this
Peter is here
Astrid is our new kid on the block, expedition leader in training and assistant leader to Peter, so no videos of her yet (but we will soon fix this). More about her is on www.biosphere-expeditions.org/about > “Staff”.
Peter’s mobile number will be xxxx (to be confirmed once it’s switched on an working by next Tuesday). Astrid’s number should be xxx. Remember that both are for emergency purposes only (such as missing assembly).
We’ll be back with updates as we pack up and leave. We hope your preparations are going well too. Safe travels and see you in Slovakia!
Tomas has sent in some more results of our camera traps.
First from the wolf carcass camera where this year’s expedition found a dead deer (probably killed by a single wolf). Apparently there were a lot of pictures of foxes and pine martens, but in the middle of March a really big bear also started to check the carcass.
The other pictures are from traps placed on the ridge close to lake Blatne.There is a really nice example of a wolf hunting with first deer and two minutes later a wolf passing the trap. With your help we have found that this location is very good for camera-trapping wolves.