Alex, Robert Fico and Dukla

Alex, Robert Fico and Dukla

Today is the 71st anniversary of the KDO (Carpathian Dukla Operations) one of the worst battles of WW2 and also known as the Battle of Dukla (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_the_Dukla_Pass). My town of Svidnik was rebuilt by the Russians after the war to commemorate it. The sheer number of casualties, both dead and wounded, is staggering. This is also a battle within living memory (the bus loads of old people in town today attest to that). Svidnik was utterly destroyed in WW1 during fighting between the Germans and the Russians, and then again in WW2.

As part of a school trip from the Gymnasium, my younger boy Alex went to the Dukla memorial, on the border of Poland and Slovakia, some 15 miles out of town. As this is such a major event for Slovakia, both the Prime Minister and President attended, along with survivors of the battle and the modern military from both Slovakia and Poland. The photo is of Alex at Dukla with the Prime Minister Robert Fico, who’s currently doing a damned good job sticking up for Slovakia’s rights in Europe. Alex doesn’t have a problem with confidence – he just walked right up and asked the PM for a photo.

Alex said he also spoke with an army nurse who’d attended the wounded during the battle. She’d saved 122 lives and was apparently covered in medals. After visiting the Dukla memorial, all parties then headed to the giant Soviet monument in the town.

White-backed Woodpecker?

White-backed Woodpecker?

Whenever I’m alone in the bush, there are several species of birds and animals which always keep me company – the Raven and Lesser Spotted Eagle fly above the trees making their calls (sometimes the eagle flies through the forest and its wing beats send whooshing sounds through the leaves), woodpeckers knock on trees, Jays scream at each other and Red Squirrels jump about playing with their nuts. And of course there are plenty of little tits….

When I was a kid back in England, the sounds were different, with the Wood Pigeon and the Pheasant being the dominant noise makers.

In the area around my house we get multiple species of woodpeckers, and most are easy to identify – the Green, the Grey, the Black, the Lesser Spotted – but there are other species which could be one of several. The woodpecker pictured here is, I believe, a White-backed (Dendrocopos leucotos) as it misses the vertical stripes seen in other species, such as the Greater. Then again, it might not be. If anyone can clear up this matter I would appreciate it.

Angry Adder

Angry Adder

Just when I thought it was safe to go back in the wood pile…

Yesterday, shortly after my brother had picked up some wood from the pile he keeps outside my house and then left, I noticed a cat playing with a snake on the road. It was pawing it and as the snake lunged it would quickly withdraw its paw. I thought it was a smooth snake until getting closer. It turned out to be the most livid adder (Vipera berus) that I’ve ever encountered.

Despite being Europe’s only poisonous species they’re usually quite docile, but this one started hissing and arching its head at me from several metres away. The cat had enraged it so much that it had clearly become dangerous. As it was a mere few feet from my garden, where my Jack Russell and kids play, it could have had dire consequences. I was really tempted to kill it, something I don’t like doing as I usually don’t have a problem with snakes, but as I was dressed to go out on a motorbike ride and the engine was running, i couldn’t be bothered with skinning it and defleshing – without which the skin would go to waste.

So the snake’s still there, in the rocks someplace. Hopefully, this hot weather will change and it will hibernate and wake up in the spring in a better mood. Otherwise it’ll end up on my barbecue and around my wrist…