In September 2017 Sorby Members Carol Hobart and Rob Foster were in eastern Slovakia on a British Mycological Society meeting. Bob Croxton and Maureen Lee were on one of their regular visits to western Slovakia to visit family, but spent 4 nights in the same area as the Sorby/BMS members.
We all stayed in the village of Kaluza on the northern shore of the Zemplinska Reservoir about 70 Km east of the regional capital of Kosice close to the Ukraine border.
Zemplinska Reservoir Eastern Slovakia (Bob Croxton)
Bob and Maureen explored the area in search of birds and general wildlife. For the time of year things were fairly quiet with no signs of visible migration, which was hoped for. The reservoir was poor for birds just Great Crested Grebe, Mallard, Black-headed and Yellow Legged Gull. A visit to a small lake in the wooded hills called Morské oko was productive when a flock of 22 Black-necked Grebes were found loafing in the middle of the lake. Rob and Carol had Fire Salamander here. Highlights of the flat farmland to the south of the Zemplinska Reservoir were a number of Great Grey Shrikes which at this time of year seem to prefer overhead lines over arable farmland. Despite farming as intensive as it comes Tree Sparrows are still common. A dead tree next to Bob and Maureen’s apartment had Hawfinches most days. A day was spent exploring valleys and woodlands in the far NE corner of Slovakia next to the Ukraine and Polish border. The area was alive with border police trying to catch illegal migrants entering the EU, but they let us all go on our way after checks. Again fairly quiet Bob and Maureen had 3 Foxes in one valley, two giant Goat Moth caterpillars on a track were a surprise and a new bird for Bob was a brief view of a Nutcracker flying over.
Fire Salamander (Rob Foster)
Black-necked Grebe – Morské oko (Bob Croxton)
Goat Moth Caterpillar – Nova Sedica (Bob Croxton)
Bob and Maureen spent their last full day at the Senné Fishponds. This site is regarded as the best wetland for birds in Slovakia. According to Gerard Gorman’s guide to Eastern Europe access was difficult in the early 2000s. We arrived and parked at the remote entrance to the commercial fishponds. A footpath sign stated the reserve part of the fishponds was a 45-minute walk in a vague direction. Entering the fishpond gate sent a caged dog into a frenzy, a guy came out of a building and we were gestured to leave. He pointed to a rough track on the other side of a dyke to access the reserve. This we walked on for nearly an hour past rundown farm building, a field full of cattle, over a rickety wooden bridge until we came across a reserve sign and a viewing tower in the distance. The sole bird of interest on the trek was a Purple Heron flushed from the dyke. The only way around the reserve was a deeply rutted track full of puddles, so we only went to the first viewing tower. There was several species of common duck among the many Greylag Geese a long way away. A ringtail Hen harrier made an interesting sight while it spent a long time harassing two Magpies in some scrub. A juvenile Marsh Harrier came close to the tower and two White-tailed Eagles were disturbing the geese in the distance. Find of the day was while having our sandwiches Bob noted some bat droppings on the floor of the observation tower, looking up a bat appeared at a hole. Form the photo I have presumed it to be one of the Pipistelle species. We found why the track was so rutted when a man with binoculars on a quad bike passed by, he waved at us, and we guessed he was a warden! We were the only people on the reserve that day and our opinion was that it gets very few visitors. This seems a shame as it holds many more bird species than any British reserve and access is appalling by the standards of most of the top reserves in Britain, Europe and the USA. Bob and Maureen then spent the next 5 nights in western Slovakia.
Senne Fishponds (Bob Croxton)
Bat – Senne Fish Ponds (Bob Croxton)
Great Grey Shrike (Bob Croxton)
False Earth Star not actually related to the true earth stars of the genus Geastrum; it is called the Barometer Earth Star- Astaeus hygrometricus. It apparently opens and closes the arms of the star over itself according to the humidity and hence according to the weather; covering the gleba in dry conditions and exposing it in humid conditions more conducive to the distribution of its spores. (Rob Foster)
Black Cricket Gryllidae turniansky (Rob Foster)
Carabus Beetle Carabus coriaceus? (Rob Foster)
Carol Hobart and Rob Foster, two members the Sorby Fungus Group, by coincidence, were also in Slovakia. They were on a British Mycological Society overseas foray. This was hosted by Slovomir Adamcik of the Slovak Acaemy of Sciences. They were being bussed everyday to the best fungal sites in Slovakia – many of them Beech forests so pristine as to be listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Here, ancient forest fungi species, all but extinct in the UK , were sometimes common: for instance the UK Red Booklet tooth fungus Hericium erinaceus was often to be seen on fallen logs. Slovakia being on the western edge of the European Steppes, they were also being taken to some of the most promising grassland fungi sites.
Carol with her interest in hypogeous fungi, raking amongst the roots of the trees, found several truffles which may prove to be new records for Slovakia. Rob, with his interest in grassland fungi, was intrigued by Slavomir’s technique of rooting amongst long grass, revealing typically species of Clavulinopsis (Fairy Clubs), Ramariopsis (slender Coral Fungi), and rarely recorded fungi of the genus Hodophilus. Many of these fungi species, when investigated using DNA analysis, are proving to be new-to-science.
The Slovaks are keen mushroom collectors, and the visit from the British Mycological Society caused much interest. It featured on TV and the national newspapers. Carol became quite a celebrity and was recognised by several locals she met during our visit.
Contributed by Carol and Rob
Hodophilyus species (Rob Foster)
Ramariopsis species (Rob Foster)
The visit by British mycologists brought interest from the local tourist agency and media, Sorby member Carol Hobart made an appearance on Slovak television. The following link shows the BMS members in action.
Carol Hobart on Slovak TV (Bob Croxton)
Below is a unaltered translation from the Slovak website into English using Google Translate
A group of English biologists cannot plant nature in north eastern Slovakia. They travelled hundreds of miles to explore the presence of rare mushrooms. They have found true uniqueness, including an unknown type of non-eaten truffle. They will continue to explore their catches in the laboratories
A group of 13 Englishmen most enchanted by Carpathian beech forests, which are registered in UNESCO, also visited the natural reservation of Jovsianska hrabina. “I was in a lot of countries, but I learned a lot in Slovakia,” says Thomas Hering, a biologist at the University of Nottingham. During their stay, experts have found real uniqueness, including the rare truffle of the hairy genus. “But this species is not edible. But you are very happy that you have such a large area of land covered by beautiful forests, “said Caroline Hobart.
In the UK, domestic mushrooms are not harvested, forests have very little. Interesting English specialists are very pleased with Samuel Adamcik of the Centre for Biology of Plants and Biodiversity of the Slovak Academy of Sciences, who prepared the stay for them together with colleagues from universities. “According to the research, the ribarous beech forest is a top forest habitat in Europe,” says a scientist. Exceptional mushroom species grow the most there on the dead stalks of old trees. “Some types of mushrooms become threatened by human intervention. They can be important for the survival of green plants, they are part of maintaining natural balance. It is our responsibility to preserve the country. We do not know how the loss of species diversity can affect the existence of humans, “explains Adamčík the importance of mushrooms in nature.