The Komovi

The mountain road from Kolasin to Andrijevica passes through the small village of Mateševo and then follows the river Drčka, a tributary of the Tara, up the valley to Trešnjevik Pass. I stopped when the road started to hairpin and the road became more a bobsleigh run with walls of snow where the ploughs had cut there way through; much of the run was tarmac but in sheltered stretches the surface was compacted snow. I walked up the road under the bluest of blue skies, half-blinded by the snow, warm under the sun. Looking south and the twin peaks at the heart of the Komovi massif, skirted by dark forests, are stark and impressive.

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The twin peaks of the Komovi, a wilderness in winter.

The Komovi, Kučki Kom (2487 m) and Vasojevički Kom (2460 m), lie on the edge of the great Prokletije range to the east and together form part of a mountain wilderness area that straddles Montenegro, Albania and Kosovo.   The snow was being whipped from the peaks by a strong south wind but down in the valley the air was completely still. The two mountains appeared distant and untouchable. I watched a pair of ravens fly from one end of the valley to the other, giving their repeated, harsh ‘kraark kraark’ call; they were soaring and sailing and checking everything beneath.

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Raven, one of a pair, soaring and calling in the clear blue sky.

A mistle thrush sang its simple, mellow song from the tree tops and did not stop all morning; another joined from down the valley. These were the first I have heard. This is probably an upland species, absent from the oak-hornbeam forests and coastal maquis. A pair of lesser spotted woodpeckers energetically worked the dead wood high in the beech and aspen and called frequently to each other. Long-tailed tits, marsh tits, treecreepers, great and blue tits, and a shrieking blackbird all put in an appearance; the cast is becoming familiar now.

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A pair of lesser spotted woodpecker.

An altogether different call is the deep whine and staccato trill of a black woodpecker. The call is like no other and difficult to describe. This is a woodpecker the size of a crow, handsome black with dark brown on the outer wing, a red splash on the head and a huge silver bayonet of a bill. The bird, a female because only a splash of red, is a cartoon of a woodpecker with round, white eye and funny calls; she is a brilliant, black joker. Whatever she is, finding one tells you that you are high in the forest where conifer and beech mix on the edge of mountain wilderness and that you are having a good day.

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A distant but unmistakeable female black woodpecker.

One thought on “The Komovi

  1. Those woodpeckers are very similar to the Pileated Woodpeckers we have here in North Carolina, although ours have a white band running from the beak and then down the throat to the top of the wing, a white throat and eyebrow and a red moustache! (Around 16-20″).

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