Birds of Slovenia
The great bittern (Botaurus stellaris):The great bittern is a relatively large representative of the heron family, measuring 70–80 cm in length (from beak to tail). It lives in reed beds, where it mainly feeds on amphibians and fish. With its colour it can blend in perfectly with its surroundings and so it is mostly heard rather than seen. It rarely flies but, when it does, it looks like a big owl or a young black-crowned night heron, which is of a similar colour. If the water does not freeze over, great bitterns stay in Slovenia the whole year round. They build their nests on the ground, using reeds and twigs. They lay three to four eggs, and raise one to two broods a year.
The common merganser (Mergus merganser):Being 57–69 cm long, the common merganser is the largest of the three merganser species in the duck family that can be found in Slovenia. They live in forested areas along slow running and clean rivers and lakes. They are excellent divers and can easily hold on to their prey (i.e. fish) with their serrated bill. It builds its nest in tree cavities or holes on the banks of rivers and lakes. The female lays up to 14 eggs once a year. Common mergansers stay in Slovenia throughout the year, but only few of them nest there.
The lesser kestrel (Falco naumanni):The lesser kestrel is a representative of the falcon family. It is 29–32 cm long and so slightly smaller than the common kestrel, commonly found in Slovenia. It prefers open habitats, but also lives near human settlements. It is a sociable species that likes to nest together, in holes in rocks and large old buildings. It lays four to five eggs and raises one brood. It feeds on various insects, especially mole crickets. It migrates in autumn. Unfortunately, the lesser kestrel has become extinct as a nesting bird in Slovenia and can only be seen when flying through.
The Ural owl (Strix uralensis):Measuring 60–62 cm in length, the Ural owl is one of the largest representatives of the family of typical owls in Slovenia, and stays here throughout the year. It occupies old woodlands and nests in hollow tree trunks, tree stumps, old raptor nests and nest boxes. It has one brood and lays one to six eggs, depending on the food available (i.e. small mammals, birds, frogs and insects). It is especially active at sunset and just before sunrise, but also during the day when it needs to catch food for its young. Ural owls are distributed locally in Slovenia, as are the woodlands appropriate for them.
The Eurasian crag martin (Hirundo rupestris):The Eurasian crag martin is 14–15 cm long and thus a fairly large representative of the swallow family. Among swallows, it is the most rarely seen, and occupies sheltered cliffs, under which there is sufficient vegetation and water. It builds a nest under an overhang on a rock cliff face, which protects it from rain. The nest is similar to that of a barn swallow. It lays four to five eggs and raises one brood. Usually there’s another pair or two nesting nearby. It is a rare nesting bird in Slovenia, limited to the western and northeastern part of the country. It belongs to the summer species, but it is the only swallow that can also be seen in winter in certain warmer or southern parts of Slovenia.
This is the third time that Pošta Slovenije has joined the ranks of postal operators in other countries that issue scouts stamps. This year’s issue has been released at a time when the Slovenian Scouts Association (ZTS), which has been a member of the World Organization of the Scout Movement (WOSM) since 1994, is preparing to host two major international events: the 40th World Scout Conference in Ljubljana and the 12th World Scout Youth Forum at Rogla.
The stamp shows how scouts develop diverse outdoor activities which are appealing to young people. But the main point is hidden in the background: it is about shaping a relationship towards everything around us that guides our behaviour. Young people are key to Slovenia’s future. Scouting allows them to develop into leaders who can make this future come true.
Rescue of Allied Airmen
In late 1943 the British and American Allies seized a major part of southern Italy and set up an air base in Foggia, from where their planes would take off and attack German industrial centres, communications and other structures. The majority of planes crossed Slovenian territory when flying out on attack missions and returning.
Between 19 and 25 February 1944, 518 bombers and 652 fighters flew out on attack missions, of which nine bombers and one fighter crashed in Slovenia on their way back to Foggia. Out of approximately 90 airmen, the Partisans rescued 22 men, while 13 were captured by the Slovenian Home Guard and Chetniks, who tied them up and turned them over to the German SS units and the Police following the orders of the Slovenian Home Guard commander, Lt. Colonel Franc Krener.
In a fierce air battle which took place on 19 March 1944, the Allies lost 16 bombers and the German Luftwaffe lost 30 fighters over Slovenia. In the air battles from mid-March to mid-April 1944, approximately 25 Allied planes were forced to land in Slovenia. Around 80 men were rescued by the Partisans and around 120 were captured by the German forces and the Slovenian Home Guard. In total, 42 were killed in action and 5 were badly injured and taken to a Partisan hospital. In April 1944, the Partisans transported more than 70 U.S. airmen from White Carniola, Slovenia, to the airfield in Bosanski Petrovac, Bosnia and Herzegovina. Even as late as April 1945, the German enemy shot down three bombers and four fighters over Slovenia.
In a year and a half of air battles, a total of 207 Allied planes crashed in what is now Slovenia, Croatia, Austria and Italy. The Slovenian Partisans and patriots rescued 667 airmen from these planes.