Slovak Karst is by far the largest karstic area of the region. It is the most important bat area in Slovakia and for some species even in the whole Europe. Drienovska cave is home to a breeding bat colony of Greater and Lesser Mouse-eared Bat and Bent-winged Bat, one of the very few reproductive colonies of its kind found in caves. Some 60000 specimens of 21 species are regularly counted during winter census of cave-roosting bats.
East Slovak Lowland is in fact a continuation of Great Hungarian Plain. It is surrounded by a ring of low hills. The most extensive are Slanske Hills (that continue as Zemplen hills in Hungary), largely wooded region very popular among birdwatchers. Over 100 pairs of Ural Owl breed there regularly and a wealth of raptors breeds in or around the hills. Local streams seem to be ideal for Natterer´s, Alcathoe and Brandt´s Bat. Altogether 28 bat species were recorded in Slovakia. This exceptional tour covers 27 of them and we expect to see no less than 20 species. Some very interesting species like Parti-coloured, Bent-winged and Mediterranean Horseshoe Bat will be seen with certainty.
We will look for these in a wide range of bat habitats like caves, old houses, church attics, and will get to see an evening mist netting. A use of bat detector will add an extra bonus to the everyday´s variety of bats.
Birdwatching, though not a priority, should be of great interest on some days. Our tour guides, Štefan Matis and Štefan Danko, are foremost Slovak experts on bats and birds and have published number of papers on these subjects. Štefan Matis who will be your guide throughout the tour also runs the well-known Ringing station in Slovak Karst.
Mammals to be seen should include Edible Dormouse, European Souslik and Eastern Hedgehog. We´ll certainly find some dead rodents at roadsides. Typically they are Hamster, Pygmy Shrew, Yellow-necked Mouse and Striped Field Mouse. Wild Cat, much bigger than its Scottish relative, is often seen at dusk and we might be lucky enough to see one.
Slovak Karst is extremely rich in butterflies too and there are places where 50 species can be seen in one afternoon. Although season of species like Nickerl’s Fritillary, Poplar Admiral and Woodland Brown will be over in July we will have the pleasure of seeing many other butterflies. Among them Pallas’s Fritillary, Large Copper, Hungarian and Common Gliders stand high. Large, Chequered and Eastern Baton Blue, Niobe Fritillary, Large Tortoiseshell and Camberwell Beauty, Oberthur´s Grizzled Skipper, Purple and Lesser Purple Emperors are also worth mentioning.
Late summer will offer the last species of flowers but what species they are! Hopefully still flowering Turna Golden Drop (Onosma tornensis) is listed in the World Red Data Book, Carpathian Bell (Campanula carpatica) and Campanula xylocarpa are endemics. Other flowers will include Pale Bellflower (Campanula bononiensis), Asyneuma canescens, Yellow monkshood (Aconitum anthora), Sticky Sage (Salvia glutinosa), Large-flowered Hemp-nettle (Galeopsis speciosa), Yellow Garlic (Allium flavum), Italian Aster (Aster amellus) and Goldilocks Aster (Aster linosyris).
8 days | 2 hotels
ground cost: tba | single room: tba
airport: Budapest, Hungary
group size: 4-14
Itinerary in brief
D1 Arrival Kosice or Budapest
D2–3 Slovak Karst
D4 Volovske hills, Slovak Karst
D5 Transfer to Michalovce
D6 Slanske hills
D7 Departure Kosice or Budapest
Mediterranean Horseshoe Bat
Lesser Mouse-eared Bat
Greater Mouse-eared Bat
Day 1 Arrival to Kosice
After arrival to the hotel and some rest we will have a dinner and a short introduction followed by our first evening mist netting. The place is appropriately chosen and only one mile from the hotel.
Our hotel is situated below Horny vrch plateau one mile off the main road to Kosice airport (40 minutes to the airport, 4 hours to Budapest airport). Before we go mist netting along the bat foraging areas our guide will run a short power-point presentation on bats and bat conservation in Slovakia. We go out mist netting along the stream in Hrhov for following species: Greater Mouse-eared Bat, Daubenton´s Bat, Natterer´s Bat, Bechstein´s Bat, Noctule, Serotine and Common Pipistrelle.
Day 2 Slovak Karst
After a late breakfast we should tune to our new daily routine. We´ll start our program with a survey of the house-dwelling bat colonies. Old mill in Medzev holds a colony of Lesser Horseshoe Bats (R. hipposideros). Then we´ll move a few miles further to Jasov village where we will have a lunch break. After lunch we will go to Jasovská cave, home to an underground roost of Greater (R. ferrumequinum) and Lesser Horseshoe Bats (R. hipposideros). Before we come back to our hotel to rest we will visit a church colony in Hostovce at Hungarian border. It consists of Lesser Mouse-eared Bats (M. blythii), Serotines (E. serotinus) and Common Pipistrelles (P. pipistrellus).
After dinner we leave for Liscia diera – Domica to visit the emergence of 100-200 specimens Mediterranean Horseshoe Bats (R. euryale). Mist netting will be carried out along the stream in Kečovo a few miles from Domica. We have good chances of seeing several species in hand, namely Greater Horseshoe (R. ferrumequinum), Greater Mouse-eared (M. myotis), Lesser Mouse-eared (M. blythii), Daubenton´s Bat (M. daubentonii), Serotine (E. serotinus), Noctule (N. noctula), Leisler´s Bat (N. leisleri), Western Barbastelle (B. barbastella) or Bent-winged Bat (M. schreibersii).
Day 3 Slovak Karst
Our goal for the morning will be the above mentioned Drienovská cave where we undertake a survey of the roost used by summer mixed colony of Greater (M. myotis) and Lesser Mouse-eared Bat (M. blythii) and Bent-winged Bat (M. schreibersii). A brief visit to Silicka ladnica cave is planned after lunch.
Before dinner we will pay a visit to one of the colonies that reside in Silická Jablonica church (Greater Horseshoe, Mediterranean and Geoffroy’s Bat) or in Krásnohorské Podhradie church (the same species composition). As usual we will be spent the evening mistnetting bats along their favourite flight paths. We will merge into forest interior after a 40 minute drive. The mist netting will take place along a stream in Zlata Idka. This is already a mountaineous area where we expect to see Noctule (N. noctula), Leisler´s (N. leisleri) and Parti-coloured Bat (V. murinus). Northern Bat (E. nilssonii) will be of particular interest as we will probably not have a chance to see it anywhere else.
Day 4 Volovske hills
After the usual late breakfast we will travel to see more buildings. Survey of house-dwelling bat colonies (ordinal number IV.) will take us to Rochovce church where a colony of Greater Mouse-eared (M. myotis), Geoffroy’s (M. emarginatus) and Lesser Horseshoe Bat (R. hipposideros) is settled. Further down the road in Štítnik a gamekeeper´s house holds a colony of Lesser Horseshoe and Geoffroy´s Bat.
We´ll eat our packed lunch or have a picnic in Zadiel village where plenty butterflies fly along the stream on sunny days.
Walking through the breathtaking Zadiel gorge with 130m high rock called Ihla (Needle) follows and we´ll check another gamekeeper´s house for a colony of Common Pipistrelle, Whiskered and Parti-coloured Bat at the end of the gorge. The journey back and forth will keep us occupied for the whole afternoon. We should see a Dipper and Grey Wagtail, possibly Rock Bunting and Peregrine and Carpathian Bell and will walk along a rushing stream all the way. Refreshment is available on both sides of the gorge.
We will spend the evening mist netting along the stream in Jasov – Teplica. It is a place where Daubenton´s, Greater Mouse-eared, Bechtein´s, Natterer´s and Leisler´s Bat, Noctule and Western Barbastelle are regular and we hope to catch most of these if not all.
Day 5 Michalovce town
We will drive around 50 miles eastwards after breakfast. We may stop at another bat colony before we leave „the Slovak bat paradise“.
East Slovak lowland is another sunny region encompassed by low wooded hills. We will meet our new guide, another Stefan who is a renowned bird and bat expert. Stefan has written several books including a monograph on Slovak bats and is also regarded to be one of the world´s best experts on Eastern Imperial Eagle. We have to use the opportunity and go with him to search the plains for Imperial Eagle and Saker Falcon in the afternoon. And in the next two days we shall have a great chance to see the bat species that don´t occur in Slovak karst.
Our hotel is found at a large artificial lake. Behind a wooden paneling of our dining room there is a colony of 100 Noctules. Several other species fly around and we will use the detector to determine them. Nathusius´ Pipistrelle (Pipistrellus nathusii) should be recorded here.
Right after dusk we will try another site for catching bats with nets. This time quite unusually in the middle of Michalovce town (center of Slovak Zemplin area) and we will go for Kuhl´s (Pipistrellus kuhlii) and Savi´s Pipistrelle (Hypsugo savii). It is quite an interesting fact that they roost (and reproduce) in panel walls of large blocks built by communists and very close to where our guide lives. They were both first recorded in Slovakia after 2000.
Day 6 Slanske hills
This day will be a leisure one since we travel to the airport the other day. We plan to visit a church with Grey Long-eared Bat (Plecotus austriacus) colony underneath its roof.
We will spend the rest of the day at Senne ponds or birdwatching in the lowland. Both options are at leisure. The ponds are especially rich in birds that can be observed at close range. Egrets, herons, Spoonbill, Bittern, White-tailed Eagle, Ferruginous Duck, Bearded and Penduline Tit, waders and many other water birds will be feeding and taking a rest there.
We will have an early dinner and then drive into Slanske hills to catch bats there. A shaded stream in hills will hopefully produce several species coming to feed or drink. We will focus on Western Barbastelle (Barbastella barbastellus), Alcathoe (Myotis alcathoe),Bechstein´s (M. bechsteinii), Brandt´s (M. brandtii), Natterer´s (M. nattereri) and Brown Long-eared Bat (Plecotus auritus). Our guide is a real expert on these and has chosen this site as the best one out of many other suitable places he knows.
Day 7 Departure from Kosice / Budapest
Transfer to the Kosice or Budapest airport. Optional extension to the trip in Budapest is possible. We can arrange a hotel in (and a guide for) historical center at the lowest rate.
Protective helmets are provided by local guide, no handling of bats is expected from tour participants. Since there is a mist netting planned every day the participants will often be given a leisure option (usually in/around the hotel or at coach/minibus when in the field) and all breakfasts will start later than usual, ie. 8-9 am so the participants have sufficient time to sleep. The mist netting takes place from dusk to 11-12 pm (arrival time to the hotel). It will be conducted by our guides who have necessary permissions, and interesting results of our week-long bat tour will be incorporated into a bat mapping scheme and a bat database.
The success to church attics and houses will be organized by our guides and they will try to guarantee a maximum safety for clients including precise description of local conditions. Some places do not allow a visit of more than 4-6 people at a time.
Please note that the daily program can be changed. It is always your guide´s decision where to take you. He will take into account your safety, comfort of animals and a wide range of species and prefer it to adhering to original itinerary if conditions change at a site. Thus such a decision often improves rather than deteriorates our plans.