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EXCURSION NOTES 2018  (including many photos) - Scroll down

 
For a complete list of species and identified by me this year, click on:Year List 2018
For previous Excursion Notes (with photos), please click on year:20172016201520142013
For previous Year Lists, please click on year:20172016201520142013
 
 Excursion Notes 2018
January
6th: First butterfly of the year spotted, not in Trentino, where it's still very cold even during the day, but in a village in Lazio - a Red Admiral - seen sunning itself on a balcony. This is a view of the village from a path where I did hope to see other butterflies around (photo). Their natural instincts were obviously much better developed than mine, in that, just 36 hours later, temperatures dropped drastically and the whole village was covered in 10cm of snow!
Back in the north of Italy in Trentino the weather continued to be cold for the rest of the month and I saw nothing flying on the few days when the sun warmed the air a bit. Photo of a frozen lake at about 1,100m asl.
February
1st-15th: Although statistics say otherwise, it seems to be colder this year than last year and the first half of the month brought fresh snow to the mountains and to within 100m of the valley bottom, where we live. I went out looking for butterflies a couple of times on sunnier days, but still nothing flying locally.
16th: Finally.... I spotted a couple of Small Tortoiseshells (Aglais urticae) sunning themselves at about 2pm today. Here is a photo of one of them.  
24th: Despite the weather forecast predicting snow and freezing temperatures, today was a lovely, warm, sunny day and really felt like spring (photo). A pleasant two-hour walk along the hill to the neighbouring village brought sightings of a total of 11 butterflies - 2 Brimstones, 5 small tortoiseshells and 4 Nettle Tree butterflies. (photo of the upperside - sorry about the careless intrusion of my shadow on the left wing) (photo of the underside of the same butterfly). This is the path along which the above-mentioned butterflies were spotted (photo).
25th: The weather forecast proved to be right! It got colder during the day and  temperatures dropped to well below freezing. 3 days later this was a view of our garden. (photo). This was followed by two weeks of  extremely cold weather with no chance seeing of any butterflies .
March
16th: The second warmer, sunny day of the month (the first was two days ago) and I went for a short walk on my local hill looking for Large Tortoiseshells. I was not disappointed, but did expect to see more butterflies on the wing. Total count was 3 Large Tortoiseshells, 2 Small Tortoiseshells, 2 commas and 1 Brimstone. Sorry, no photos of the butterflies - they were too quick for me - only a view of the local mountains, showing the path I was on and the fairly fresh snow on the mountain tops on the other side of the valley (photo)(photo).
22nd: This shouldn't really be part of my excursion notes because I didn't go anywhere! 2 of the 4 Large White caterpillars that I rescued (?) in November from some cabbage plants in the garden have just emerged from their chrysalises as butterflies (photo, photo). A little premature, but...! Unfortunately they are both males. We'll see if a female hatches from the other two - hopefully soon.
25th: My excursions this year have all been quick walks on the hills at the back of the village where we live. Today was no exception. The warmer afternoon temperatures allowed me, finally, to get some photos of a few butterflies Here are three different Nettle-tree butterflies all feeding on these catkins (photo), two of them looking very tattered (photo, photo). I also saw three Large Tortoiseshells (photo), one Small Tortoiseshell, one Brimstone and one unidentified white.
April
2nd:   I am spending a few days down in Lazio, just south of Rome, where the weather has not been much better recently than in the north of Italy. They, in fact, had some snow here only a few days ago. Generally though, the climate is much milder and on my one short afternoon excursion I saw a few species that I imagined would be out and about. The first butterflies I saw were Wall Browns (photo) and Brimstones, immediately followed by a couple of Cleopatra's, which unfortunately never stopped for any photo opportunities. There was this caterpillar (photo) - a Ruby Tiger moth?? -  walking across the stony ground, a few Orange Tips, including one female, and one Green Hairstreak which I disturbed and which flitted off high into some thick bushes. However, by far the most common butterflies were Painted Ladies (photo)(photo). Here are two views of the terrain with terrace upon terrace of olive trees (photo)(photo) - the main agricultural activity in the area.
22nd: Finally some really warm weather with temperatures up to 28 degrees! And it's obviously brought out the butterflies. My walk today was to a stream (photo) in a lateral valley to where I live, in the hope of seeing some Camberwell Beauties.No luck on that front, but several first sightings of the year of some more common species, namely Wood Whites (photo) Grizzled Skippers (this one hiding among the plants photo), one Dingy Skipper (photo), one Speckled Wood and one Small Blue. There were also lots of Brimstones, Orange Tips and Green-veined Whites (photo) on the wing, as well as this Scarce Swallowtail, which had just emerged from its chrysalis. (photo of upperside and photo of underside). The valley is just at the back of a lovely castle which overlooks the main valley. Here is a photo from the side valley where I was  and here is a zoomed view (photo).
28th: A nice surprise as a fresh-looking Mallow Skipper appeared in our garden, waited for me to get my camera and posed for a photo!
30th: A break from work and a trip to the Colli Berici to look for some Weaver's Fritillaries and Knapweed Fritillaries. It was a lovely sunny day, but we didn't start very early and by the time I had dropped my wife in the centre of Vicenza and got to some open grassland on the hills, the wind had got up and it had started to cloud over. There were, in fact, plenty of Weaver's Fritillaries around, but it wasn't quite so easy getting some good photos of them. Here are a few reasonable shots (photo, photo, photo, photo)). No Knapweeds, though - it's probably a bit early. However, other first sightings for the year consisted of Small Coppers, Duke of Burgundy Fritillaries, Common Blue, Adonis Blue (photo), Silver-studded Blue, Small White and Swallowtail.
May
20th: Pearl-bordered Fritillary day! Lots of them (and not much else) at 1,300m asl on our local mountain. This first one didn't fly off as I approached it but seemed to bury itself into the grass. "Strange", I thought, before realising that a spider had it in its grips and was pulling it down to a safer place where it could feast in peace. I attempted to rescue it, but the spider's bite had already done its job (photo, photo). There were also one or two Sooty Coppers around. Here is a photo of the underside of one of them and here is part of the mountain meadow where the butterflies were flying (photo).
26th: Today was a day when patience paid off! I had planned to go up to above 1500 m altitude on my local mountain to look for some De Prunner's Ringlets. Because the weather forecast had said rain later in the day, I had decided to start fairly early. Unfortunately, it had unexpectedly rained  heavily during the night, and as I should know from experience, when it rains and is then sunny, the moisture from the ground gradually works its way up the mountain as cloud, or thick mist if you're in it. However, I set off early all the same, climbing the mountain with some someshine (but I was mostly in the trees at this point), but as I went up the clouds were forming and it got colder and darker (photo and photo of the path)(Here is a photo, taken on 10th June, of the whole mountain, showing the rocky scree where the path was (just above the tree in the centre of the picture)). In fact, I didn't spot a single butterfly in my 2-hour climb. On the mounatin ridge at 1,650 m it was cold and misty and mist kept pouring off the south side of the mountain that I had just climbed. I walked on a bit, but then decided to descend a few hundred metres and wait patiently for the clouds to rise, which eventually they did for short spells (after a couple of hours). I would have given up had it not been for a single dark-looking butterfly which passed fairly nearby and which I thought might be waht I was looking for. My patience was rewarded with a similar butterfly flying straight towards me which I managed to net for identification. Yes - a De Prunner's Ringlet (photo).  In the few moments of sunshine, just before this the only butterflies I saw were Duke of Burgundy Fritillaries and Green Hairstreaks. On returning to my car, in a grassy meadow lower down the mountain, I saw my first Woodland Ringlet of the year.
June
2nd: I went out in the morning to a mountain pass at 1,200m asl, where I hoped to re-experience the sight I had last year standing in a meadow (photo) with hundreds of Clouded Apollos flying around me. I was not as lucky as in 2017, maybe because butterflies seem to be flying later this season, but had a good morning all the same. Clouded Apollos were around (photo)(photo) as well as Grizzled Skippers (photo)and also dozens of Large and Small Whites. I did walk further up the mountain in the hope of finding something interesting at a higher altitude but the clouds started closing in (photo) and it got cold and misty. The one really interesting find was this Narrow-bordered Bee Hawk Moth  at rest in the grass at 1,800m asl (photo)(photo). On the way down it started to rain, but I was rewarded by seeing three chamois goats grazing in the wet grass. Here is one of them (photo).
10th: After a month of  unsettled weather with some rain nearly every day, finally a weekend of beautiful sunny weather! A 2-hour walk on my local hill (photo) saw a total of 29 species, which included the following: Large White and Small White (photo showing both), Clouded Yellow, Spotted Fritillary, Comma, Red Admiral, Small Tortoiseshell, Painted Lady, Small Heath, Wall Brown, Small Copper, Small Blue, Common Blue, Adonis Blue, Silver-studded Blue, Nettle Tree butterfly, Duke of Burgundy Fritillary. Here is a list of the eleven new sightings for the year: Meadow Brown, Blue-spot Hairstreak (photo), Ilex Hairstreak (photo),  Safflower Skipper (photo), Large Skipper, Essex Skipper (photo), Heath Fritillary (photo), Dark Green Fritillary (photo), Silver-washed Fritillary (here is a photo of the underside of the valesina form, the first butterfly of the species that I saw, showing the wonderful silvery green colouring), Marbled Fritillary (photo) and Marbled White. Although I had seen 51 different species up to today, today felt like the first "real" day of the 2018 butterfly season.
15th-16th: At last - time for a long, calm walk in the mountains ... and what better place than the Val di Rabbi! (photo, photo, photo, photo). Great weather, although very cool in the morning and when the wind got up in the afternoon. However, I was disappointed by the number of species around - it's clearly a late season and I saw very few of the species I was expecting to see. Anyway, here is an Alpine Heath (photo), a Chequered Skipper (photo) and 2 shots of a Dewy Ringlet (photo, photo).
17th: Today was Fritillary Day! In an uncultivated field (photo) on the hill just 10 minutes drive from home there were hundreds! Lots of Twin-spot (photo, photo, photo) - the main object of my trip - as well as Heath, Marbled (photo), Silver-washed (photo), Dark Green (photo), High Brown and Queen of Spain (photo).
24th: It's the time of the year for Poplar Admirals and so I decided to walk along the gravel road on Monte Finonchio where I had seen one on 20th June six years before. Literally 50m from where I had come across the last one, I disturbed a beautiful, fresh-looking female, which circled me and then flew up to the top of a tall fir tree (poor photo, using enlarged zoom shot). Here is the spot (photo). Despite waiting for some considerable time and walking up and down the road many times, the butterfly, to my knowledge, did not come down again, so I had no chance of getting any decent photos. A real pity, because it was a stunning butterfly!     Earlier in the morning I had seen my first Ringlets (photo) and Woodland Browns (photo) of the year.
26th: Having seen a Poplar Admiral 2 days ago, I decided to go on another walk, this time on a different mountain, where I had come across two Poplar Admirals last year. My wife and I set off a bit too early and it was shady and very cool as we walked up the track from 1,450m to 1,825 asl. I saw absolutely no butterflies apart from 4 Dingy Skippers and one rather worn Northern Wall Brown! After a coffee in the rifugio, I descended the path again to below where we had parked a couple of hours before and did the climb again. Still, very little around. After lunch I climbed up to to 2000m, only to see a few whites, a couple of Alpine Heaths and one Dewy Ringlet. At this stage of the afternoon, the clouds cleared slightly and the air warmed up a little, but it was time to start back home. Down again near our car, a large dark butterfly swooped past me and settled at the top of a tree (just like two days before)! Finally a Poplar Admiral! (poor full-zoom  photo of the top of the tree with the butterfly perched there). I waited, but the butterfly flew off in the other direction and did not come back. However, here are some nice photos, taken after we had been driving for a couple of minutes of a group of Black-veined Whites gathered around a puddle (photo) and a group of blues (photo showing 3 Mazarine Blues and 2 Amanda's Blues). Here is a close-up of the upperside of the Amada's Blue (photo).
July
Many apologies for not keeping these excursion notes up-to-date this year. Other projects have taken up most of my time! Sorry. here are a few short notes

8th - 10th: Trip to val di Rabbi with grandchildren. I managed to photograph a few of the species that I expected to find, but couldn't climb to a higher altitude in search of others. See Year List 2018 for full list.
20th: In Zagreb for a couple of days. Went on a butterfly hunting excursion with my 9-year -old grandson. It didn't take him long to spot one of the butterflies I was looking for - a Common Glider (Neptis rivularis) (photo). On the way back in a different location, we also found a Lesser Purple Emperor (only one, though)(photo)
22nd: Today was an opportunity to enjoy two of my hobbies at the same time - music and butterflies. Our local band had been invited to play at the Pradalago mountain refuge near the mountain resort of Madonna di Campiglio. So after a early start by coach, we all walked up to the refuge at 2000m in the morning sunshine. The butterfly species I identified on the way up were mainly Common Brassy Ringlets (Erebia Cassioides)(photo) and Lesser Mountain Ringlets. Here is a photo, showing how the wings of the Brassy Ringlets can refract so many different colours, given the right angle. The view from the refuge was fantastic (photo), as expected , but there was no time to go off walking or butterfly hunting as we had to start playing our first "concert" (photo of the band setting up). A huge lunch was provided! Despite this, I managed to leave my place at table to climb up the mountain at the back of the refuge (photo). It was on the way up at about 2200m that I came across, what I believe is a Mnestra's Ringlet (Erebia mnestra) (photo). As weather was now turning cold, rain was threatening and the band was due to play again, I had descend quickly and join the others. Rain, unfortunately, interrupted our second concert and ruined any other chances of butterfly photographs. However, a great day out!
August
1st - 29th: Virtually the whole month of August was spent doing interior work on a family home in Lazio, with very few opportunities to get out and look for butterflies. However, here are some of the photographs I did manage to take: Tree Grayling (photo) - by far the most common butterfly around everywhere on the stony, bushy hills (photo); Southern Gatekeeper (photo); Brown Argus (photo); Spotted Fritillary (photo); a Chalk-hill Blue (photo) - the underside resembling the Spanish Chalk-hill Blue illustrated in the Tolman/Lewington guide, and a Long-tailed Blue (photo) - many of them flitting around a flowering Wisteria.
30th: A two-day stop in a campsite in Umbria to break our journey and relax a bit! I didn't have the energy to get up early to go on any long hikes to look for butterflies - also because the weather forecast for the afternoons was not good on either of the two days - so I was contented with observing the local butterflies (and moths) in the immediate surrounding area. As in previous years during this period there were plenty of Lang's Short-tailed Blues around  (photo) and, happily, several Lesser Purple Emperors flying in and around the campsite. (sorry they wouldn't stop long enough for any photos). Here is a photo of the terrain near the campsite.
September
4th: Back at home in our small garden only to find that most of our geraniums have been eaten up by Geranium Bronze caterpillars. I found no less than 25 of them on 7 plants (photo of one). .... But how nice to be visited by a Southern White Admiral! (photo)
10th: Over four years have passed since I last saw a Camberwell Beauty, even though I have gone especially looking for them every year. Today I was overjoyed to see 3 or more when I was least expecting to see them. After spending the month of August basically working indoors, I desired to go for a walk on a high mountain and so, even with a broken toe (I'm probably very silly!), I put on my walking boots and went for a trip with my wife to Val Breguzzo (photo) in the west part of Trentino in the hope of seeing a few late season flyers, such as Water Ringlets and Marbled Ringlets. On the paved track leading from the car-park at about 1,350m there in front of us was a beautiful Camberwell Beauty - the first summer-flying adult that I have seen in Italy (with its lovely yellow-bordered wings; not the pale cream colouring of the spring adults). Here are some photos (photo, photo, photo). Climbing up the valley (up to Rifugio Trivena at 1,650m)(photo), we encountered 5 or 6 adults, all in pretty good condition, but I couldn't tell whether some were the same butterflies or not. The butterfly count for the whole of the 5 hours or so (from 1,230m up to 1,970m)(photo) was about 4 Red Admirals, 7 Marbled Ringlets (photo), 2 Water Ringlets, 1 Scotch Argus (photo), 15 Lesser mountain Ringlets (photo, photo) and 3 definite Camberwell Beauties. I returned home satisfied, but with a very sore toe!


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For similar excursion notes and month-by-month list of sightings of butterflies in Switzerland, please click on this link to Guy Padfield's fantastic website. http://www.guypadfield.com/butterflyyear.html

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