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|EXCURSION NOTES 2020 (including many photos) - Scroll down|
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Excursion Notes 2020
Fairly cold weather for most of the month with some warmer days towards the end of the month. However, no butterflies seen on my few opportunities to go walking.
February7th: Here we are. The first butterflies of the year spotted today, just 200 metres from where I live, on a sheltered, sunny piece of ground next to a small vineyard (photo of the spot). However, I didn't expect to see a Small Copper (Lycaena phlaeas) - a spring butterfly, certainly, but I have never seen one so early! Here is a photo. A few seconds later two Green-veined Whites (Pieris napi) appeared nearby and were soon joined by a third. (Photo of one of them). I set off up the hill hoping to find a lot more, eventually coming across a Small Tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae)(photo) and a little bit further on a second one. Here is a photo of the track that I was on. Despite walking for another two hours, that was it - there was nothing else to be found and even though I returned to the vineyard mid-afternoon where I had started the walk, the butterflies seen earlier had disappeared.
8th: In the mood for finding butteflies, I walked along the road to the same spot as yesterday to see fs anything new was around. Today, there were two Small Coppers. Here are two photos, but I think it is the same butterfly as yesterday (photo, photo). I had another slight surprise when a few minutes later an Eastern Bath White (Pontia Edusa) appeared - not usually in my list of very early species for any year. The only photo opportunity was when it stopped to rest on a steep grassy bank. Here is a poor photo to record it.
28th: A short afternoon trip to a local castle (photo) and a nice sunny (but windy) afternoon. Having found the castle still closed, we discovered a sheltered path just at the back going up through the woods and up the mountain. A few metres was enough to find several butterflies flying around: my first Red Admiral of the year (usually it's the first I come across), then a Comma, followed by several Orange Tips. (Here is one poor photo, the over-exposure giving the impression that one wing-tip is yellow and the other orange). There were also a few whites, mostly Green-veined but some Small Whites too, and - just as we were leaving - a Green Hairstreak. Sorry about the lack of photos, but the butterflies would not stay still long enough for me to get close enough. Here is a view of the back of the castle (photo) and here a shot from the castle down into the main valley (photo).
March1st - 14th: With the Corona-virus "stay at home" restrictions now imposed on all of us here in Italy, it is only possible to do short walks in and around my village. However, following the very mild weather in February and the first half of March (so far), I have so far seen no fewer than 17 species of butterfly on the wing within a few hundred metres from my house. As well as Holly Blues (photo), Commas (photo), Green-veined Whites (photo), Peacocks (photo), Orange Tips, Brimstones and Large Tortoiseshells are now out and about. Here is one (photo) and here is another (photo) sunning itself on the trunk of a tree. Most recently I have crossed paths with a single Scarce Swallowtail and this Mallow Skipper (photo) darting about and occasionally settling at the base of this stone terrace-wall (photo).
15th - 31st: My butterfly sightings and butterfly lists, including these excursion notes, are obviously being affected by the Corona-virus restrictions - especially here in Italy where we are basically being forced to stay at home. Since the middle of the month, my only "excursions" have been to throw our house rubbish away in the various collecting bins, which are located about 150m along the road from our house. All the photos posted here recently have been taken in a small section of vineyard, just behind the dustbins, which I have surreptitiously sneeked into to breathe some fresh air and keep up my hobby in some way. Sightings during the five minutes I spent there on the 28th were basically a Holly Blue (photo), a Wood White (photo), this new-for-the-year Provencal Short-tailed Blue (photo)(and a poor photo of the underside to prove it was alcetas), a resident Peacock, two or three Small Coppers, numerous Small Whites and Green-veined Whites and numerous Orange Tips.
April15th - 30th: The second half of April has conitinued in much the same way as the first with the exception of one very welcome full-day of rain - the first for over two months. Lots of butterflies on the wing - mainly those already mentioned in my notes - with the addition of numerous Silver-studded Blues (Photo of a mating couple).
1st - 14th: While the weather is absolutely fantastic with warm sunny days (daily temperatures between 19C and 26C), quarantine continues and I am still limited to my walk to the recycling bins 150m up the road - wearing my face-mask, of course, in case I meet anyone. Recent first-of-the-year sightings near the bins have included several Chequered Blues (photo)(photo)(photo) and Geranium Bronzes (photo), this single Short-tailed Blue (photo), this Common Blue (photo) and the occasional Adonis Blue and Dingy Skipper. Here is a shot of the underside of a Holly Blue (photo) and a group of Wood Whites (photo) all on some damp earth, which the local farmer had presumably watered that morning for the seedlings that were present. I couldn't resist taking a photo of the vineyard's resident Peacock butterfly (with snow-capped mountain in the background) and of this Scarce Swallowtail attracted by the cherry blossom (photo).
3rd: With the partial easing of the Italian "lockdown" - we are now allowed to take physical exercise in the local area without being limited to 200m from home - I went on a 3-hour walk up and down the hill behind our village. Here is a view looking down into the valley (photo) . I must say it was a much needed and welcome release from quarantine, but I realised how unfit I have become! However, I was rewarded by some photo opportunities of new butterflies for the year. Here is a Green Underside Blue (photo) (one was much lower down the mountain than I had seen before) and a Small Blue (photo). As expected, there were a few Granville Fritillaries around (photo) and several Pearl-Bordered Fritillaries too (here is a photo of a mating couple) Probably the most common butterfly I saw today was the Adonis Blue (photo).
9th: A sunny, but windy, Saturday and I decided to cycle to a side valley on the other side of the main valley, leave my bike and then continue walking, basically following the course of a small stream. At a certain point, in the middle of thick vegetation there is a sunny opening with a narrow Roman bridge which crosses the stream - today a wonderful spot for butterflies. The bridge seemed to be guarded by a couple of Duke of Burgundies (photo, photo), a number of Green Hairstreaks, a Dingy Skipper (photo), a Wood White, a Red Admiral and a number of Blues of various types. Unfortunately, photos were difficult because the bridge was narrow with no side protection, the butterflies invariably perched on the outer side of the vegetation and I didn't want to risk falling off. This is a photo of the medieval Beseno castle towering above the spot. Here is the same stream a little further on (photo), where there was this Brimstone (photo), which could still fly quite well despite having half its right forewing and hindwing broken off, several male and female Orange Tips (photo of a male) and this single Berger's Clouded Yellow (photo)(I believe it is alfacariensis). My fitness was again called into question as I struggled to cycle home against the strong wind blowing up the valley!
17th: Today we drove up a nearby mountain for a picnic, finding six new species for the year. The main reason for the location was to look for Geranium Arguses, (which I hadn't seen for a couple of years) and, although it is earlier in the year than usual, I thought they might be already on the wing ... and a few were (photo, photo). As expected, there were many Woodland Ringlets (poor photo here), this single Spotted Fritillary (photo) and numerous Heath Fritillaries, too, one of which insisted on settling on my trouser-leg where it was very awkward to get a photo (photo)! Here is a better shot showing the underside (photo). To my surprise there was also this Black-veined White (photo) and this slightly deformed Sooty Copper (photo) along with several rather worn-looking Green Hairstreaks (photo).
21st: Not a very interesting post, this one, with no photos of any butterflies - not that I didn't find any, but because the few I did take are not really worth publishing here. The aim of the excursion was to find some De Prunner's Ringlets near the top of my local mountain and, in this, I was successful. There were a handful flying around, but they very worn butterflies - not fresh, young adults, as I would have expected to find in so early in the year. Here are a couple of views of the path I was on at about 1,300 - 1,400m asl, (photo, photo) with a chamois mountain goat in the second one which had walked within a few metres of me without even noticing I was there. (I was a bit slow with the camera, though!)
28th: A walk today in the flowery meadows of Servis and several new sightings for the year. Here is a High Brown Fritillary (photo), a couple of photos of a Twin-spot Fritillary (photo, photo), a Lesser Marbled Fritillary (photo) a Marbled White (photo) and a Large Skipper (photo). I also came across this Safflower Skipper (photo), that, for once, posed nicely for the camera.
6th: Very pleased to find a new species for me personally today - an Iolas Blue (Iolanda iolas)(photo of a male) - and very near to home, too.. The funny thing was that I was walking with a friend and just telling him about the Bladder Senna bush (Colutea arborescens) by the side of the path just ahead of us (photo) and the fact that it was the foodplant of the caterpillar of a blue butterfly, which feeds inside the seed pod. At that moment a larger-than-usual blue butterfly flew up from the bush and I thought to myself -"Yes, that must be an Iolas Blue!" Here is the underside to prove it (photo). I have passed the bush on countless occasions over the past 10 years and never seen this species.Three days later, I went to inspect the bush again (photo, photo) and found 2 females and 3 males there. (See species page for the photos). I was particularly pleased, because the butterfly doesn't seem to be present at all in the neighbouring region (Veneto) and it's certainly not common in Trentino. Here is a photo of a female Holly Blue, feeding just a few feet away from the Iolas Blues.
13th: In search of Chequered Skippers, Ringlets and Poplar Admirals. Only found the first... here is a photo of two of them together.
17th: I had 2 days free and I decided to drive into the neighbouring region (Veneto) to visit sites where there have been sightings of species that I have never seen before - in particular the Purple-shot Copper and the False Ringlet. The weather in the morning was cold and damp, certainly not good butterfly-hunting weather, but near to the Purple-shot Copper site I did find a Ringlet (photo)(which I failed to find 4 days ago) and a False Heath Fritillary (photo). When I finally got to the second site, I had to wait until 15.30 before the storms and rain cleared and I spent the next 3 hours walking around the marshes. Here are two photos showing the area (photo, photo). There were plenty of these Demoiselle Damselflies around (photo) but no False Ringlets, probably because it is slightly too early for them. However, a very interesting walk.
18th: A more successful day in a valley near Belluno with numerous sightings of Hungarian Gliders - a completely new species for me! Here are two views of the area. (photo, photo) The only problem was getting photos of the butterflies, which, when they appeared, glided continuously just above the high bushes, apparently hardly ever stopping to rest. Here is one that did stop in an accessible position (photo) and here is one of the underside, taken in my net (photo)! Apart from seeing N. rivularis, what impressed me was the number of Woodland Browns in the area - there were hundreds! Here are two of them that posed nicely for me (photo).
20th; Today I decided to do a higher altitude walk in my local area, parking the car at 1,370m asl and getting up to 2000m asl. On the way up, where I hoped to find Poplar Admirals, I was really surprised to come across this worn and tired-looking Camberwell Beauty (photo, photo), surely a survivor from hibernation, and also this female Northern Wall Brown (photo). I must say, I was a little disappointed with the number of butterflies around, because, although down in the valley summer is here, up on the mountains things seem to be very late. The views from the highest point of my walk top were, as usual, wonderful (photo, photo), but almost the only butterflies flying were Small Tortoiseshells, Green-veined Whites and Alpine Heaths (photo). It was also coolish - 10-12 degrees - (earlier it had been only 5 degrees).
23rd: Much better weather today - hot and sunny, so I ventured onto another mountain top to see if any high altitude species were out yet. Here are some photos of the spectacular scenery from near the top (photo, photo, photo) and one poor photo of a (quite early) Sooty Ringlet, the only interesting find of my excursion. Apart from the usual problem of a butterfly never settling when it's anywhere near you, this species seems to have the uncanny ability to just disappear among the stones, even when you know where it is! On more than one occasion I saw the butterfly land on the stony scree several metres away down from the path I was on, I clambered down to where it was, looking between the stones for any sign of it. Being sure it was somewhere there, I started removing the stones one by one without success. Eventually after several minutes searching I gave up, but just as I moved my foot to climb back up to the path, up it flew from wherever it was hiding! Frustrating! Here is the same Sooty Ringlet, I believe, this time on top of a stone on a scree above the path (the butterfly is in the centre of the photo). My final photo here is of the crest of the mountain showing the screes where this species breeds and flies (photo).
30th: Today I decided to drive for 90 minutes to the region of Veneto in a second attempt to find some False Ringlets (Coenonympha oedippus): Bingo! Although it was a new species for me, I had looked at many images of the butterfly and I thought it would be very easy to recognise. However, I initially dismissed my first sighting of the butterfly as a slightly smallish Meadow Brown, both because of its similar colouring and its similar jumpy style of flying. On netting the butterfly, there was no doubt. Here are a couple of photos (photo, photo) and one of the area (photo) where I saw about eight butterflies, all of which, I believe, were males. (See main species page for other photos.) Also flying in the area were Woodland Graylings (photo), Large Wall Browns (photo) and Southern White Admirals (Zoomed shot). Other interesting wildlife included this chamois mountain goat (photo)
July7th-9th: We are staying in a campsite in the extreme north-west of the Friuli-Venezia-Giulia region (what used to be the extreme north-east of the Veneto region) - a chance to go on some new walks with my wife and hopefully to discover some butterflies that I personally have not found so far in the Trentino-Alto Adige region. After an evening and night of rain, it was very windy and cold in the morning (8 degrees) when we started our high-altitude walk at 1,800m. Walking up the mountain, there was very little of interest except the breathtaking views all around (photo, photo). As the temperature rose, however, a few butterflies took to the wing and I spotted my first Alpine Blue (photo) and Dewy Ringlet (photo) of the year. We got up to 2,160 m, had some lunch and then continued on up to the mountain pass at 2,360m, where I was beginning to believe that the area had little to offer butterfly-wise. Encouraged by some other hikers to proceed along a slightly higher path near the ridge of the mountain basically to see the panorama (photo) and look across into the Austrian valleys (photo), what should fly into the air just near me but a group of male Cynthia's Fritillaries - instantly recognisable, but seeming a lot smaller than the images of them in books (photo)! Continuing along the path (photo), I discovered several more, plus two or three females sheltering / resting in the lush vegetation of the path. (Here is a photo of one. See main species page for others) And .... flying just below the same path, a couple of "different-looking" mountain ringlets, which when I managed to net one, I discovered to be a Blind Ringlet (photo, photo) - another new species for me! Here is a photo of a Marsh Fritilllary, which was also nearby and one of a Shepherd's Fritillary (photo). Feeling very satisfied, we descended, but when nearly back to our starting point, a blue butterfly caught my attention and - yes, another new species for me - a Mountain Alcon Blue (photo).
Our second day of walking took us from 1,650m (arrived at via chair-lift) down to 1,520 m on what was supposed to be a 90-minute walk, but actually took us nearly 4 hours (well, it was down, down, down more, up, down, up, up, up, up!). At the very start I found a Thor's Fritillary (photo) followed by some fairly fresh-looking Asian Fritillaries nectaring on some flowers (photo, photo) in a meadow (photo). I had only come across one example of these before in Trentino, but they seemed to be common in this area, as I came across 9 or 10 of them during the morning as we were walking through the woods (Here is a photo of one). Really beautiful butterflies when fresh (See species page for other photos)!
After spending our third morning in the village, I attempted to get up to altitude in the early afternnon, firstly by mountain-bike (I gave up pedalling after having climbed only 250m - too much hard work!) and then on foot (leaving the bike behind). At the beginning of the path a Water Ringlet - my first sighting of the species this year - attached itself to my sweaty boot (photo) and I spent a few minutes trying to actually get a photo of it (the butterfly was always at the wrong angle and I am not as supple as I used to be!) Anyway, I continued on up and eventually stopped in an interesting-looking meadow on the slope of the mountain just where the trees started to thin out at about 1,700m. (photo) I thought "interesting" because in the first 3 minutes I saw another Blind Ringlet and in the distance an Apollo. However, despite climbing up the slope to the beginning of the rocky part (here is a photo of the view from there), after 90 minutes I had seen nothing else of interest, so eventually decided to return to the campsite.
[Sorry if I have got behind with my excursion notes. I will try to post a few photos of the highlights of July and August as soon as possible.]
15th - 31st: In Croatia (not on the coast) with some very mixed weather - extremely hot for a few days, then cool, with some distinctly cold and wet periods. The most exciting days - butterfly-wise - was the first day on our journey to Zagreb and the penultimate day. As usual, whenever I stop in service stations on the motorway, I have a brief look around for any local butterflies. This particular day in the grassy-bushy part of the service station - I got lucky - a fabulous Purple Emperor! I disturbed it, it flew away but came back and settled long enough to get a few photos (photo of upperside) (photo of underside). The other occasion was in a park in Zagreb itself, where I knew Lesser Purple Emperors bred, and I was able to get some fairly good photos of the one butterfly that came within range of my camera. (photo, photo). During my time in the country, I also managed to find a spot in the country near Karlovac where there were Dryad butterflies everywhere- literally hundreds of them. Here is one (photo). The River Dobra (photo) was a good place to find both Large Coppers (photo) and this Hungarian Glider (photo). Other beautiful places like this (photo) and this (photo) were surprisingly unproductive, whereas the campsite swimming pool seemed to be very attractive - certainly for this Grizzled Skipper (photo). Other interesting features of the area are these special platforms in some of the village streets (photo), designed for storks to nest on top, as you can see in the photo.
August10th-27th: Part of our holiday was spent in a village in Lazio about 100km south of Rome. It was a bit late in the season to find many interesting species in the area, considering that the weather had been up in the high 30's for over two months and most of the local terrain was dry and stony. I went on a couple of mountain walks (photo at 800m asl), where I basically saw what I had seen in previous years: Woodland Graylings, Tree graylings, Graylings, Southern Gatekeepers (photo), Spotted Fritillaries (photo, photo) the odd Cleopatra and dozens of Long-tailed Blues in one particular location. The place that provided most butterfly photo opportunities was an area of scrub, consisting mainly of blackberry bushes with various butterflies feeding on them. Here is a Grayling (photo) and here a Purple Hairstreak (photo taken nearby) - a butterfly which has eluded me for the past seven years. On the side of the hill, not far from the blackberry bushes there were a few Chalkhill Blues (photo) and Adonis Blues (photo) flying .
28th: On our way back from Lazio, we stopped in Umbria for a night. Of interest was this Lesser Purple Emperor (photo of the underside) - the clytie form, so a pinkish mauve sheen on the upperside not a deep purple one like the photos of Apatura ilia taken in Zagreb, some Lang's Short-tailed Blues (photo) and this lovely dragonfly (photo).
September5th: Back at work but at the weekend we took advantage of the good weather to go up into the mountains near Madonna di Campiglio to do some serious walking and to see what butterflies were still around. Very few butterflies were to be found at low altitude but there were many more from 1,900m asl up to 2,300 - the highest I went. The species still on the wing were mainly worn-looking Common Brassy Ringlets (photo of a fresher one), Water Ringlets (photo) and Marbled Ringlets (photo), but near the end of the walk at 2000m asl - surprise, surprise - this magnificent Camberwell Beauty shot up from a gated bridge and settled on a nearby tree (photo). Here it is with its wings open (photo) and here are some views from the walk: (photo, photo, photo). The following day was in a different location but basically more of the same with the addition of this Pine Hawkmoth caterpillar (Sphinx pinastri) (photo).
12th: Another weekend trip into the mountains, this time to my favourite place - the Val di Rabbi (this time one of the lateral valleys off the main valley). We started walking at lunchtime with warmish but quite cloudy weather, having driven up to about 1,500m asl, and within one minute the first butterfly I saw was a Camberwell Beauty taking moisture from the ground (photo). A great start! We continued on upwards without seeing much of interest until I decided to return via a higher path, leaving my wife to return the way we had come. At the 2000m mark (here are 2 shots of the location photo, photo), the sun broke through the clouds and there were considerably more butterflies than lower down the mountain: Large Skippers (photo), Silver-spotted Skippers (photo) and, at last, some Dark Green Fritillaries (photo), most of which were very old and worn-looking. I used the words "at last", because I hadn't seen any all season up to that moment.
13th: Still in the Val di Rabbi and another walk up to 2,100+ metres. As usual, wonderful scenery (photo of the view on the way up), great exercise and several other very friendly walkers, but slightly disappointing regarding the range of species still on the wing. The extremely heavy storms about 3 weeks previously must have wiped out many of them. Interesting, though, were the number of butterflies on the Carlina (acaulis?) thistles. Here is, what I think is, a Common Brassy Ringlet on one flower (photo) and here are a couple of other flowers, close to each other, with no fewer than 19 butterflies between them both (photo). The butterflies, I believe, are a mixture of Common Brassy Ringlets and Water Ringlets - all rather worn individuals. (Please correct me if I am mistaken) Here is a single Marbled Ringlet, seen on the top part of the walk (photo).