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|EXCURSION NOTES 2015 (including many photos)|
Excursion Notes 2015
JanuaryEarly January: Very mild weather for most of the month, but nothing on the wing .... until ...
25th January. Went for a walk up a local mountain (200m up to about 850m). (photo)(photo)(photo) Basically warm, sunny weather, but with a rather chilly wind in unshelterd spots. My first butterfly sighting of the year was this Red Admiral (Vanessa atlanta) on the way down. Plenty of heather in flower for it to feed on.
February7th February: No butterflies around up here at 1000m asl (photo, photo, photo), but ...
16th February: ...after some cold days, then 2 days of rain down in the valley with more snow on the mountains above 900m, a warm afternoon brought out a Small Tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae) and this caterpillar (photo), which I found crossing the road on the hill just above the village where I live..
17th February: Surprise, surprise! Walking through the snow at 1,800m asl what should fly past but a Small Tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae)! Although there was lots of snow on the ground on most of the mountain, at places over knee-deep, (photo, photo) the wind and sun had reduced the snow on the ridge of the mountain revealing some heather, the spot where the butterfly had chosen to sun itself (photo-butterfly bottom left, wife top right). This was the view from just a couple of metres from the photo with the butterfly (photo).
20th February: A quick afternoon run up the hill near home. Here is a photo of the track with snow-capped mountains in the background. Despite the cold morning temperatures (-2°C), the warm afternoon sun brought out a few butterflies. I spotted 2 Small Tortoiseshells (Aglais urticae) and this slightly malformed Wall Brown (Lasiommata megera).
28th February: A milder (12*C) and sunnier afternoon prompted me to go for walk on the hill above Pomarolo, where I live (view of village and my most local butterfly hunting areas) to see if any Large Tortoiseshells (Nymphalis Polychloros) were out of hibernation yet. Most of my searching proved negative with the sighting of only one Wall Brown (Lasiommata megera) until I was returning and the sun was disappearing behind the mountain. This one individual was gliding up and down the path in a nicely sheltered area and conveniently stopped near me for a quick photo shoot (photo).
10th March: I quickly went out in the sunshine to water some plants in our small garden to find a Green-veined White feeding on a white flower. A few seconds later a Comma flew in and settled on a bush (photo), quickly followed by a passing Brimstone. As I got in the car, a Swallowtail flew past. Spring is on its way!
11th March: Another nice day, so I went out for a short run/walk on the hill behind the village. Not as much as I expected around on most of my walk, except for this mating pair of Green-veined Whites (photo) and a couple of commas (photo) (photo), but on the way back, less than a kilometre from home, I had my first sightings of the year of a Speckled Wood, 2 Clouded Yellows and a Nettle-tree butterfly.
18th March: Lots of Brimstones around today in a lateral valley near Rovereto together with Large Tortoiseshells, a Red Admiral, a Small Tortoiseshell, some Commas and Green-Veined Whites and a couple of Nettle-Tree Butterflies (photo, photo). I was hoping the Camberwell Beauties might be out, but if they were, I didn't see them!
28th March: A fairly warm sunny day with a real spring-like feel in the air, matched by the sighting of several more spring-time butterflies. The first was a Holly Blue, which paid a quick visit to our garden. I then went on a walk to the Leno stream which runs in a valley a short distance at the back of Rovereto (photo). Although Brimstones were the most common butterflies and apart from the now common-place Large Tortoiseshells and Nettle-Tree butterflies (photo of typical position), the new species for the year included several Green Hairstreaks (photo), a few Orange Tips, a single Peacock, and lots of Small Whites and Wood Whites. A nice surprize was this Alpine Chamois (photo), which I found staring at me from a protected outcrop of rock, where there was once a sawmill, near the valley bottom.
April2nd April: A short Easter break on the coast in Lazio. At my first opportunity, I went for a run/walk on the hills a couple of kilometres inland (photo) where I hoped to have a good butterfly-spotting session. Despite the strong, cool breeze, the sun was shining and the butterflies present were already very active, so I was disappointed with the lack of photo opportunities. As expected, there were a number of Cleopatra (gonepteryx cleopatra) around (but they never settled anywhere near me) as well as Brimstones, Speckled Woods (photo), Orange Tips (photo, photo of female), Holly Blues and my first Small Heath of the year (photo). A couple of days later. the bad weather set in, with persistent rain and really low temperatures, so no butterflies on the wing at all.
7th April: Still down in Lazio. Finally the rain stopped and I took advantage of the sunny day to go for a walk on the hills behind the village (photo). Unfortunately, the strong bitterly-cold wind kept most butterflies that there may have been around snuggled up in their resting places. In the few sheltered spots, however, I managed to see a couple of Orange Tips and Green Hairstreaks, one Brimstone, one Wall, one Mallow Skipper, this "Dung" beetle, pushing a lump of something unsavoury with its back legs (photo), and, what I believe is, a female Mountain Small White. (photo) Someone please correct me if I am wrong.
9th April: Travelling back through Tuscany, we stopped near the town of Sarteano (photo of area). Unfortunately, there was still a very cold wind blowing. The only new species for today was a Scarce Swallowtail but it was also interesting to discover a patch of ground where several female Brimstones were egg-laying (photo).
10th April: Still in Tuscany. Hoped to find some Southern Festoons in an area where I had photographed them 4 years ago during this period, but either the very cold weather of the previous 5 days had delayed their emergence or I was looking in the wrong places. The one new species for the year was a Dingy Skipper (photo). Here is another photo of an Orange Tip
12th April: A walk near Noarna in Trentino near home - this time looking for Camberwell Beauties, but no luck so far. Here is a picture of the castle (photo) and here is a Small Blue (Cupido minimus)(photo), which posed nicely for me, and a Comma (Polygonia c-album) (photo).
17th April: To get rid of our household rubbish, we have to walk 150 metres up the road to the recycling area. This snake (a Biacco "carbonarius, I believe) was slithering along just behind the bins (photo).
22nd-24th April: A beautiful week, with warm spring weather on most days. Two short trips out brought a total of 10 new species for the year. The first to be spotted was this Chequered Blue (Scolitantides arion) (photo, photo), followed by this Small Copper (Lycaena phlaeas) (photo) and this Grizzled Skipper (Pyrgus malvae) (photo). My second walk was just above my village and the colours everywhere were really lovely (photo)(photo). First sightings this year included this Glanville Fritillary (Melitaea cinxia) (photo), this very small Queen of Spain Fritillary ( Issoria lathonia) (photo) and this Adonis Blue (Lysandra bellargus)(photo).
May2nd May: Sunshine after a couple of wet days and I went again to look for Camberwell Beauties in 2 places where they had been last year (photo, photo). No luck, but plenty of other butterflies about. The three new species for the year were Provencal Short-tailed Blues (Everes alcetas)(photo), Silver-studded Blues (Plebejus argus)(photo,photo) - I believe - and a Sooty Copper (Lycaena tityrus) (photo).
8th May: Stormy weather, but quite warm in the middle of the day and early evening, which is when I managed to get out for a short walk. Lots of Brimstones (Gonepteryx rhamni) and Orange Tips (Anthocharis cardomines) still on the wing, but also many Glanville Fritillaries (Melitaea cinxia) and Painted Ladies (Vanessa cardui) (photo, photo), plus this fresh-looking Safflower Skipper (photo).
9th May: Sightings of the day - 3 types of caterpillar (photo, photo, photo), 3 snakes (photo, photo, the first was like the Biacco on 17th April) and finally .... a Camberwell Beauty (Nymphalis antiopa) (photo). After seeing at least 16 of them last year in six different sites, starting from as early as 29th March, and having visited 3 of those sites in vain this year, I was beginning to give up hope. This one was in a lateral valley - clearly a potential site (photo) - but which had not brought forth anything last year. Here is another view of the stream with the Camberwell Beauty sunning itself on a small branch in the middle of the picture (photo). I had just spent 5 minutes scanning the rocks and stones all around wondering where the butterfly had gone, when all the time it was sitting just in front of me!.
16th May: A sunny morning but with rain forecast for early afternoon, so I got out as soon as possible. My sightings for the day were as follows: Green-veined white, Wood white, Small White, Clouded Yellow, Berger's Clouded yellow, Orange Tip, Brimstone, Scarce Swallowtail, Black-veined White (photo) (first of the year), Dingy Skipper, Sooty Copper, Common Blue, Small Blue, Silver-studded Blue, Chequered Blue, Adonis Blue, Green-underside Blue (photo) (first of the year), Queen of Spain Fritillary, Glanville Fritillary, Red Admiral, Painted Lady (lots), Small Tortoiseshell, Small Heath and Comma.
17th May: A day-trip further afield to Veneto to see if I could find any Southern Festoons, which have been reported in the area. If there were any flying today, I didn't find them anywhere! But.. in addition to most of the species sighted yesterday, I did spot my first Meadow Browns, Duke of Burgundies (photo) and Chequered Skippers (photo) of the year. This is a view looking back down the valley called Valposina (photo), which was a new route back into Trentino for me.
24th May: Following a week of cold, wet weather with fresh snow on the tops of the mountains over 1,800m high, the sun was out this morning. The weather forecast warned, however, that clouds would gradually build up again and that there would probably be storms later in the afternoon. I decided to go up a mountain rather than stay in the valley (photo), and I was pleased I did. My target butterfly was a De Prunner's Ringlet (Erebia triaria), a new species for me, and , for once, I was lucky. I came across just a single adult (photo) at about 1,500m along a path in front of a rock wall. (photo of the location). Although I went a further 200m up the mountain, and walked around the mountain at about the same altitude, I didn't see any others, maybe because it was gradually getting colder with fewer appearances of the sun. Other new species for the year were several Northern Browns (Lasiommata petropolitana) (photo) and a single Woodland Ringlet (Erebia medusa) further down in the fields.
30th May: As a follow-up to the previous entry, I will add here that I went up the same mountain again, but via a different route this time. I was happy to find 5 or 6 other De Prunner's Ringlets all flying at between 1,400m asl and 1,580m asl. Although I was hoping to find some adults in slightly better condition than the one photographed previously, all the ones spotted were very worn, indicating that I need to start looking earlier in future years (See main species page for photos).
June1st June: Nothing really exciting today, but the first appearances this year of a single Silver-washed Fritillary (Argynnis paphia), high up in a tree (photo), and 3 or 4 Marbled Fritillaries (Brenthis daphne) (photo) .
5th June: A local walk, on a very hot day, from 1000m up to 1,500m asl. Although there was a lot about at the lower altitude, I was disappointed at how little was flying at the higher one (and the 'rifugio' where I was hoping to buy a cool drink was closed!) The most common butterflies everywhere were Woodland Ringlets, but it was nice to see a few fresh Nettle-tree butterflies and Large Tortoiseshells around, including this one that settled on my trousers (photo). New species for the year were Heath Fritillaries, Geranium Arguses (photo) and Amanda's Blues (photo).
11th June: Went out looking for Poplar Admirals in an area where I had caught sight of one last year. My luck was in, not exactly where I expected it on the dirt tracks on the mountain side, but on the tarmacked road. In fact, the behaviour of this male (photo) was exactly like the butterfly I had photographed not far away from this spot in 2012: flitting just a few centimetres above the road surface occasionally landing and feeding, but constantly on the move, walking as it fed. Every time I tried to get close enough to get some reasonable photos, it took off to settle in the trees (photo on full zoom) only coming down again when I disturbed it by lobbing a stone into nearby branches. The frustrating thing was that every time I was nearly close enough and was more-or-less in the right position to get a photo, a car or tractor came along and disturbed us. Very annoying! This was about the closest I got (photo). I had, in fact, gone on the trip prepared with food bait (mashed banana in red wine and sugar) which I poured at strategic points along the road, but the butterfly did not seem in the least bit interested in my special meal, flying directly over the offering without stopping. Even though I didn't get as good photos as I would have liked, I was delighted to have had another close encounter with this fantastic butterfly.
13th June: Humid, showery weather. A visit to two very local sites; the first at 650m asl and the second at 1,300m asl. New species for the year at the first site consisted of Marbled Whites, Essex Skippers, Large Wall Browns, High Brown Fritillaries, Blue-spot Hairstreaks (photo), Ilex Hairstreaks and a single Twin-spot Fritillary (photo). At the second site, as well as seeing many Mazarine Blues (photo), (photo), I was pleased to find several Clouded Apollos (photo).
17th June: A free morning and afternoon, so I decided to drive to the mountain where I spotted the Poplar Admiral 6 days ago. A bit of a misadventure as I was parking the car by the side of the country road: I backed a little too far onto the edge of a muddy meadow with lots of freshly mown wet grass and the car wheels could not get enough grip to get out again. Despite trying to back up, driving round the meadow to get a run-up, I could not make it up the last 3 metres to get back onto the road. Solution? I walked 3 km down to the nearest village, managed to find a willing farmer with a tractor and got myself towed out. Lesson to be learnt there! However, during this time, the weather had gradually improved and just near where I finally parked, there was a Poplar Admiral just 50 m away from where I had seen the one on my previous visit here. While I was taking some photos, I thought it was the very same butterfly as before, but comparing them now, I see that the white mark in the forewing cell is larger and the hindwing lunules are brighter orange. (photo) (photo). Although I searched along other tracks nearby, I did not see any other examples. Driving on and then during my walk up to 1,650m asl, I found a site at about 1,400m with scores and scores of Clouded Apollos, the most I've ever seen before. What also surprised me was how big some of them were! Sorry no photos. Here is a mixed group of butterflies found along the track. (photo - mostly Amanda and Mazarine Blues)
22nd June: A trip to Rifugio Lancia and Mount Pasubio. On the way up, I finally saw my first Woodland Brown (Lopinga Achine)(photo) of the year but, as has often happened this year, after a sunny start, the weather at altitude (1,800 - 2000m) quckly deteriorated. When I reached my target area, it was very cool, cloudy and windy with just the occasional sunny moments. Here is a view of the terrain (photo) and one looking down to the Vallarsa from one of the war trenches (photo). The most common butterflies on the wing were Dewy Ringlets (Erebia pandrose)(photo) and Alpine Heaths (Coenonympha gardetta)(photo), but I also saw Woodland Ringlets, Black-veined Whites, Green Hairsteaks, Orange Tips and Northern Wall Browns.
25th-27th June: Spending 2 nights away in a campsite in the Val di Rabbi - one of my favourite hunting grounds for butterflies (photo of valley). The 3 walks that I went on didn't disappoint either with the range or number of species on the wing. Although we were slightly earlier in the year than in previous years, I was pleased to spot nearly all the butterflies that I have seen here before, notably Lesser Mountain Ringlets (photo), Almond-eyed Ringlets (photo), one Titania's Fritillary (photo), one Mountain Fritillary (or Shepherd's Fritillary?) (photo), Thor's Fritillaries, Large Blues, Purple-edged Coppers (photo) and Scarce Coppers (photo) as well as plenty of Apollos (photo), Chequered Skippers, Dewy Ringlets and Arran Browns (photo)(photo), the last of which I had expected to find on 22nd June on my trip on Mount Pasubio. The only species that I didn't see, which I had hoped to, was the Swiss Brassy Ringlet, but maybe it was just too early. By far the most common species was the Alpine Heath, which was everywhere from 1,500m up to 2,400m. However, on the higher part of the walk (photo), I was delighted to get some photos of an Alpine Grayling (photo) (see main species page for other photos) - a completely new species for me and one of several flying at different spots on the mountain. The following day, as well as finding a single Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary (photo) (the last and only other one I had seen was three years ago at the same altitude (1,950m asl) not far away) , I had my first ever encounter with some Alpine Blues (photo), the males flying together on a stretch of mountain at 2,100m (photo of view) and a female crouched in the long, damp grass slightly lower down (see main species pages for more photos). A good three days!
July8th July: We are spending a few days on the Adriatic coast in Pescara, Abruzzo. The weather is extremely hot - up to 36 degrees Celsius every day! My only occasion to get out looking for local fauna was about 10km inland near the River Tava (photo) from 7.10 until 9 o'clock in the morning, when it was already 28 degrees. Although there were no new species for me, it was nice to see my first Spotted Fritillaries (photo of female)(photo of male), Eastern Bath Whites and Southern White Admiral (poor photo) of the year. With the high temperatures all the butterflies I saw were already very active and it was impossible to get good photos of them. Other species flying in numbers were: Clouded Yellows, Provencal Short-tailed Blues (photo), Common Blues, Marbled Whites, Wall Browns, Meadow Browns, Large Whites, Dingy Skippers and Grizzled Skippers (photo).
22nd-26th July: Camping with family near Imer in Trentino, but not much opportunity to get out for any serious butterfly hunting. The most common species near the campsite was the Scotch Argus. Another day we went up by cable-car to 2,600m asl, but I was disappointed with the few species at that altitude - Small Tortoiseshells, Peacocks and Painted Ladies with the odd Dewy Ringlet.
30th July: a one-day stop in a campsite in Umbria, where we stayed a couple of days in September two years ago, revealed more or less the same species as then. Lang's Short-tailed Blue (photo)s, a Lesser Purple Emperor (photo)(photo), Great-Banded Graylings (photo), which were flying together with Graylings and Woodland Graylings, as well as lots of Southern White Admirals. No Hermits where there had been before, though.
August3rd-8th August: We are camping in Garfagnana in Tuscany near the Alpi Apuane - a part of Italy that I haven't been to for over 20 years. Presumably because of the scorchingly hot and dry month of July everywhere in Italy, there was very little of interest from the valley bottoms up to about 1000m asl. I suppose that every butterfly that had been in its early stages had had ideal conditions to develop quickly and hatch out before August. I made two trips up to higher altitude. The first on my bike (which was really hard work!), that led to sightings of Scarce Coppers (photo), Chalk-hill Blues, High Brown Fritillaries (photo) and hundreds of Woodland Graylings. For the second trip, I got up at 5.10, to be given a lift by some local quarry-workers to a mountain road near their quarry, along which I walked for about 2 hours to reach the altitude of 1,650m asl. Unfortunately, the dusty road led through dry stone quarries in a shaded valley and I didn't get to the grassy mountain-side I wanted to reach until the sun had already got very hot and made any butterflies very active. Add this to the fact that the terrain was very awkward to walk through (with long grass hiding large rocks, holes and crevices), consequently, following and photographing butterflies was not easy. My target was Ringlets. The only ones that I could confidently identify myself were Marbled Ringlets (Erebia montana) and Arran Browns (Erebia ligea), which were by now very worn. In my original published notes, I also had mistakenly listed Scotch Arguses (Erebia aethiops). My thanks to Rudi Verovnik from Ljubiana University, who very kindly wrote to me to correct my error. The butterflies I had failed to recognise were, in fact, Autumn Ringlets (Erebia neoridas) - my first sightings and photos of this species (photo)(See main species page for others). The bright red forwing colouring, much redder than that shown in the Tolman and Lewington guide had made me discount the species. However I am still unsure of the identity of this other butterfly even though I managed to net it (photo, photo, photo). Comments welcome! Another thing I was pleased about, was my encounter with a single Lulworth Skipper, my first with this species. The butterfly's small size first attracted my attention and then I noticed the light-coloured circle on the forewing. (photo). Here are some scenic views taken during my 16 km walk (photo, photo, photo).
11th August: In the Val di Pejo walking from 1,600m up to 2,500m (photo, photo, photo). A rather disappointing day in that I had hoped to see more species still on the wing, albeit old and worn individuals. The species that were flying were the following: Lesser Mountain Ringlets (Erebia melampus)(photo -upperside) (photo-underside), Common Brassy Ringlets (Erebia cassioides)(photo), Marbled Ringlets (Erebia montana), Water Ringlets (Erebia pronoe), Mnestra Ringlets (Erebia mnestra) (photo)(photo - this last one showing a wonderful expanse of orange on its wings) and the odd Silver-spotted Skipper (Hesperia comma)
12th August: In the Val di Rabbi (photo). This is the first opportunity I've had to get back to this valley since our trip here from 25th to 27th June and although there was a greater variety of butterflies about than in the the Val di Pejo yesterday, several of the species that I had expected to see still flying were not to be seen anywhere. In fact, the grassy mountain meadows, full of butterflies two years ago at this time, were very dry with few flowers around, apart from near the banks of the streams: nearly 7 weeks of hot weather is a long period of time in the height of the butterfly season. Apart from Erebia species - Marbled Ringlets (Erebia montana) in particular (photo)- one of the most common species on the wing in was the Apollo butterfly (photo)(photo of a mating couple down in the undergrowth)(photo -this last one with the extra red spot in space 6 almost fooled me into thinking it was a Small Apollo, but checking the reference books, it is not an uncommon feature of the Apollo). All-in-all, despite the relatively low number of different butterfly species spotted, a great two days of walking in the mountains!
18th August: Back at home and at the earliest opportunity I walked up my local mountain to the meadows above Servis. I was pleased to see lots of Silver-washed Fritillaries still around, plus numerous Dryads (photo, photo) and a few Tree Graylings (photo).
30th August: A higher altitude walk on Monte Altissimo near Monte Baldo (1,500m - 1,830m). The only butterflies that I saw flying on this very warm day were Scotch Arguses (Erebia aethiops) (photo), Chalk-hill Blues (Lysandra coridon), some very fresh Queen of Spain Fritillaries (Issoria lathonia), the odd Dingy Skipper (Erynnis tages) and Silver-spotted Skipper (Hesperia comma,) and Clouded Yellows (Colias croceus).
(Sorry, no entries for over a month. I got behind with writing up my notes!)(I have also made important changes to the entry of 3rd-8th August)13th September: One of the few local walks that I had the chance to do this month. Very little around on the hills except for one or two worn Scotch Arguses, but looking at the weather, it's hardly surprising (photo).
20th September: Down in the valley, however, on a much sunnier, warm day, there were hundereds of Common Blues on the wing, some Small Coppers, several Eastern Bath Whites (photo)(photo) , the odd, elusive Mallow Skipper and several Red Admirals.
October10th October: A fairly cool day, with lots of cloud and not much sun (which eventually turned to rain). I went up to 700-900m not far from where I live (photo). Plenty of Wall Browns around at that height plus some Clouded Yellows (and Berger's Clouded Yellows?), one Common Blue, some Red Admirals and a couple of Tree Graylings (poor photo of female, but I think worth putting here because it had its wings open!).
19th-20th October: Following a week of rain, low cloud and cold weather with snow on the mountains nearby, a couple of warmer sunny days. There are still plenty of butterflies on the wing in the meadows not far from where I live (photo) (photo) (photo): Small Coppers (photo), Common Blues, Adonis Blues (photo), Large Whites, Small Whites, Wall Browns, Red Admirals, Berger's Clouded Yellows and - the most common - Clouded Yellows (photo of a mating couple).
November8th November. It's a very mild beginning of November and there's still several different species of butterfly on the wing, even on the hills at 700m asl.(Lots of Clouded Yellows and a few Walls) A surprise was seeing one or two Large Tortoiseshells lured out of hibernation, probably fooled into thinking that spring had arrived. The autumn colours have been wonderful in this period. (photo, photo)
26th November: Another local walk on the mountain at the back of the village where I live. A very pleasant cool but sunny day (they had promised snow on the mountain peaks, but little or nothing near us!) with the local landscape still full of autumn colours (photo, photo). The only two species of butterfly that I saw were a Small (?) White and 4 or 5 Clouded Yellows (photo).
December19th and 26th December: There are Clouded yellows still flying on this stretch of mountain at 700m asl! (photo) I saw two of them on 19th and one on 26th. Cold nights, as one would expect, but dry, really warm weather in the middle of the day. It hasn't actually rained for over 7 weeks now. This primrose (photo) is a bit confused, too.
28th December: warm, sunny day - about 12 degrees C. 1 Red Admiral and 1 Small Tortoiseshell.
There hasn't been a month this year in which I haven't seen at least one butterfly.