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EXCURSION NOTES 2023  (including many photos) - Scroll down

For a complete list of species seen and identified by me this year, click on:Year List 2023
For previous Excursion Notes (with photos) click on year:2022
For previous Year Lists click on year:    
 Excursion Notes 2023
1st:  A very mild start to the year in Trentino, north Italy, with night-time and day-time temperatures above the average.
7th: And ..... consequently ..... an earlier start than last year with regard to butterfly sightings; today I went out in the sunshine around lunchtime for my first real walk on the hill above the village where I live. At a particularly sunny spot (photo)(photo), a Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta) flew past me and disappeared over a nearby building. I went to look and I found it sunning itself on the side of a stone water container (photo) (photo). Looking around for some early flowers, rotting fruit or damp earth and not seeing any, I asked myself where its food supply was. A look on the other side of the building, explained why the butterfly was at this particular location - a tree full of juicy persimmons, some of them already ripe and split open (photo). Here is another shot of the butterfly resting on the vineyard terrace walls (photo), just a metre or two from the tree.
8th: Moderate snowfalls on the mountains down to around 1,500m.
10th: A couple of days later, as you can see on this photo, the mild daytime weather has melted a lot of the snow on the mountain at the back of my village and the snowline is now not much below the highest peak (2,054m). However, down at 320m asl, in the warm sunshine, I saw my second Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta) of the year in this spot (photo) No photo because the butterfly zoomed past me and flew off into the distance. Instead, here is a picture of a tree along the road (photo), interesting because of the Pine Processionary moth (Thaumetopoea pityocampa) caterpillar nests on it,. This particular tree, although small, had three of the white silken tents on its branches, inside of which the caterpillars continue to eat and develop until early spring. Here are photos of them (photo)(photo)(photo) Many of the pine trees in the area have these nests on them.
Mid-month: Cold weather and snowfalls on the hills and mountains in the area, but not as much as in other parts of Italy. However, the snow soon disappeared with the return of warmer daytime weather, leaving only the higher mountains with their snow-capped peaks (photo).
28th: Today I disturbed another Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta), which was sunning itself in this sheltered part of the local vineyards (photo).
4th: A very warm day with temperatures up to a ridiculous 19°C brought quite a few butterflies out. Here are two shots of a Large Tortoiseshell (Nymphalis polychloros) (photo, photo), one of two that I saw in the space of 10 minutes,  I didn't get the opportunity to take a photo of the Peacock butterfly (Nymphalis io) that sailed past me before disappearing or of the 3 Red Admirals (Vanessa atalanta) that I disturbed on various parts of my walk, but here is a photo of a Hummingbird Hawkmoth (Macroglossum stellatarum) that conveniently settled on a stone wall near me (photo).
13th: The current period of dry, warm and sunny, daytime weather continues and, along with it, the number of butterflies on the wing increases. Apart from the usual Red Admirals, today was the turn of Small Tortoiseshells. I spotted 4 or 5 in different places on a short walk on my local hill, all of which were sunning themselves in the vicinity of stone walls, presumably because of the warmer, sheltered position. Here is one (photo) with the location (photo), and here is another (photo) with its location (photo).Yes ..... there are a lot of dry stone walls forming the terracing for the vineyards in my area! I almost forgot ... a white butterfly was flying in the distance - not sure whether it was a Green-veined White (Pieris napi) or Small White (Pieris rapae) so I haven't recorded it in the Year List.
14th: A longer walk today with a friend. Count for our 3-hour walk: 3 Red Admirals, 5 Large Tortoiseshells and 8 Small Tortoiseshells (Aglais urticae)..... and this caterpillar (photo). (ID anyone...?) Here is a picture of the view about an hour into our walk (photo) - still no rain or snow, which explains the dry earth and vegetation and virtually snow-free mountain tops - and here is one taken later looking in the other direction (photo).
19th: I do consider myself extremely lucky to be able to go out for short walks near my house and have magnificent butterflies gliding and flitting around me - especially in late winter, like today. This afternnon, when the sun more-or-less came out after a very misty/hazy morning, I disturbed 2 magnificent Large Tortoiseshells (Nymphalis polychloros) a few hundred metres from my home. Here is one:(photo). Nearby a few minutes later, I saw my first Clouded Yellow of the year - a female - the helice form. (photo). It was lucky that the one of the hindwings was slightly torn, revealing the white spots on the upperside. Otherwise because of its pale whitish-yellow colour, I would have had difficulty separating it from  Berger's Clouded Yellow (Colias alfacariensis).There were also 2 or 3 Small Tortoiseshells flying around a little way up the hill.
26th: Following a beautiful, warm, sunny day yesterday, today winter arrived! Cold, windy and grey.
12th-21st: Mid month we were in my wife's home village in lower Lazio and it rained a lot! In fact, between the light drizzle on several evenings and the two heavy rainstorms on different days, I can honestly say that I saw more rainfall this week here than in the previous nine months in Trentino in north Italy. Partly due to this, I didn't spot as many butterflies about as I had hoped. Here is a Speckled Wood (photo), the first of the season for me and a Wall (photo of underside) and here is a very tattered Large Tortoiseshell (photo), the first I have ever seen in Lazio. Other butteflies included Cleopatras (sorry, none stopped for a photo opportunity), Red Admirals, Small Tortoiseshells, Large Whites and Small Whites. There were also several of these caterpillars on a variety of plants alongside the road near the village (photo). Here are some views from a track to the west of the village the first looking north-westwards along the coastal plain (photo) and the second looking westwards towards the sea (photo).
23rd-24th: Some photos from Tuscany! On the outskirts of a small town on a piece of rough ground bordering a wooded hillside, there were lots of butterflies on the wing and a variety of new species for the year. You can see a full list on my 2023 Year List, but here is a Brown Argus (photo), a Peacock (photo), a Holly Blue (photo), a Dingy Skipper (photo), a Small Copper (photo) and a Large White (photo). Apart from the butterflies, Tuscany has so much to offer and it was wonderful to be able to spend a couple of days visiting mediaeval village and town centres at this time of the year without the usual hordes of summer tourists!
26th -1st: Back in my home village in Trentino - where, incidentally, there has been no significant rainfall at all in the past month - and lots of time these days to go on butterfly hunting excursions. The usual springtime species are beginning to appear in and around the local vineyards (photo)(photo)(photo), notably Scarce Swallowtails (photo), Walls (photo), Green-veined Whites, Small Whites, Eastern Bath Whites (photo), Small Coppers (photo), Mallow Skippers, Brown Arguses (photo),Common Blues (photo),  and Commas.
1st: Today I did my annual springtime visit to a lateral valley where I have found some interesting species in the past. However, it was a frustrating start on a fairly cold morning with one small cloud that blocked the sun for about an hour after my arrival with the result that no butterflies at all were on the wing.  Here are four photos taken (before the cloud moved) of butterflies, which were torpid due to the low temperature - a Speckled Wood (photo), a Brimstone (photo). an Orange Tip (photo) and a Green Hairstreak (photo, taken with the flash on). When the cloud finally cleared, the sun was really hot and butterflies were instantly very active and difficult to photograph. However, here is a Wood White (photo), a Green-veined White (photo) and a Nettle Tree Butterfly in the trees (photo, photo of underside).
4th: A visit to another lateral valley in search of Camberwell Beauties. Here are a couple of views of the area (photo, photo). No luck with the target butterfly, but encounters with scores of Green Hairsteaks, dozens of Walls, this Chequered Blue (photo), one of two Swallowtails (photo), an Eastern Bath White (photo), a Dingy Skipper (photo) and the first Grizzled Skipper (photo) of the year.
5th: These few days have been dry, generally sunny but with a fairly strong, cold winds most of the time. Night-time temperatures down to near 0° C several nights running. Probably why there have been no sign of any Camberwell Beauties yet. However, nice to find another Nettle Tree butterfly (photo), very close to my house this time.
6th: Today ... a trip outside Trentino. While my wife was shopping I went for a wonderful walk around the very beautiful Torbiera del Sebino near Lake Iseo (photo, photo, photo). In a clover meadow up a grassy bank just off the path, I came across two young Coypus (Myocastor coypus), otherwise known as Nutrias. Unafraid of my presence this one insisted on coming down the bank just where I was standing, giving me the opportunity for a close-up photo shoot (photo). The most interesting sighting, butterfly-wise, was this Sooty Copper (photo, photo), the first of the year, seen in this meadow (photo) and this Spotted Fritillary chrysalis (photo).
10th: Female Orange Tip (photo) and Short-tailed Blue (photo) seen locally.
18th: Today was sunny and warm so I decided to go butterfly hunting along a small valley with a stream in the southern part of Trentino (hoping to find some Camberwell Beauties). Here is a photo from the beginning of the walk and this photo is a little bit further on. Here is a list of the species that I saw: Small White (photo, photo)(or Southern Small White?), Green Veined White in the grip of a crab spider (photo), Wood White (photo), Swallowtail, Scarce Swallowtail (photo), Orange Tip (photo), Brimstone, Green Hairstreak, Small Copper, a rather worn Brown Argus (photo), Common Blue (photo), Provencal Short-tailed Blue (photo), Holly Blue (photo), Comma (photo), Red Admiral, Large Tortoiseshell (photo), Small Tortoiseshell, Queen of Spain Fritillary, Pearl-bordered Fritillary (photo) (lots of them - the first I have seen this year) Wall, Small Heath, Speckled Wood, Dingy Skipper. The Comma, Large Tortoisehell and Provençal Short-tailed Blue were all resting close together on the rock wall on the right of the stream near this point (photo of stream). I also met some non-winged, woolly creatures along the track (photo).
22nd: Photos of two new species for the year from a meadow (photo) on my local hill: a Small Blue (photo) and a Glanville Fritillary (photo).
25th: Tau Emperors are fairly common in springtime in my area but, because of their fast, unpredictable, zig-zagging flight and infrequent stops, they are extremely difficult to catch or locate.  Today I got lucky and found one at rest. Here are a couple of photos (photo, photo)
26th: A second visit to the same valley thast I visited on the first day of this month and within 3 minutes of arriving I saw a Camberwell Beauty glide gently past me, change direction about 10m past me and then fly back up the valley, presumably from where it had come from. This is the spot (photo). Despite spending the next two hours searching for its resting place/vantage point, constantly looking upwards in case of a return fly-past, no Camberwell Beauty was to be found. Consequently, no photos. Instead, here is a shot of a Green-underside Blue (photo) and a Berger's Clouded yellow, which was laying eggs a few seconds earlier (photo). Here is one of the eggs (photo).
7th: I am spending a few days in Zagreb, Croatia, helping out my daughter and her family who live there. The weather has been rather mixed, with one or two sunny, warmer days, but a lot of windy, cloudy and/or rainy days as well. The main butterfly species that I was hoping to find did not disappoint with a total of 5-6 Southern Festoons flying along the banks of the River Sava (photo). Here are some photos of them: (photo, photo, photo). Among the 50-80 Small Heaths, which seemed to be flying everywhere, and a handful of other common species already seen this year in Italy, the only new species for the year was this Duke of Burgundy Fritillary (photo). The other butterflies were Large White, Small White, Green-veined White, Wood White, Brimstone, Orange Tip, Clouded Yellow, Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell, Red Admiral, Glanville Fritillary, Violet Fritillary, Dingy Skipper, Grizzled Skipper, Small Copper, Sooty Copper, Common Blue, Provençal Short-tailed Blue and Speckled Wood. It's possible that a Map butterfly flew past me in one location, but I wasn't able to confirm it.
I must apologise for not having kept these notes up-to-date this year. Among other things, I have been adding my butterfly-sighting data to the I-naturalist platform and this has taken time away from updating this page of my website.
15th: Back home. In a local field (photo) a Green-underside Blue (photo), a Spotted Fritillary (photo), a Queen of Spain Fritillary (a photo), a female Adonis Blue (photo), A Red-underwing Skipper (photo) and this Burnet moth (photo) (Zygaena loti?)
17th - 31st: Back in southern Lazio and I was pleased to find a few (rather worn) individuals of Lesser Fiery Skipper in the same field as I found them last summer (photo, photo). Searching other tracks and waste land nearby, I came acroos this very fresh Black-veined White (photo), this Southern White Admiral (photo), a Mallow Skipper (photo), a Large Skipper (photo) and an Essex Skipper (photo) - all firsts for the year. Here is a view of the general location (photo).
28th: On a mountain at about 1000m asl near Collepardo in Lazio (photo) I came across, what I am told, is an Eastern Knapweed Fritillary - Melitaea ornata: (photo, photo). If so, this is a first for me. Other butterflies spotted included a Berger's Clouded Yellow (photo), a Large Wall Brown (photo), a Glanville Fritillary (photo) and this moth - Eurrhypis pollinalis (photo).
To try to catch up with my postings this year, I thought I would simply add some photos of the locations I visited on the various dates in June as part of my butterfly-hunting excursions. I should add, however, that the weather this month was not always ideal for butterfly-hunting. Most of the photos of the butterflies I took are very similar to those taken during the same period in previous years and I haven't published them here. Here we go:
1st: photo near Sonnino, Lazio,
6th: photo, Monte Stivo, Trentino
9th: photo, local hill, Trentino
11th: photo, local hill (higher), Trentino
16th: photo, mountain on the other side of the valley, Trentino
21st: photo with Duke of Burgundy Fritillary. Meadow on mountain, Trentino.
27th: photo, another high mountain, Trentino.
29th: photo, local hill above village where I live, Trentino.

4th -5th: Finally a 2-day trip to a high-altitude location further from home!!!!! Yes, but the first day was a slightly frustrating one, because of the shortage of sunshine and constant misting/clouding over and rain showers. Luckily, mountain species tend to come out whenever there is a couple of minutes of sunshine and so I was able to spot quite a few new species for the year. The weather on the second day was much better (photo) and, walking up to 2,430 m asl and then down a steep slope into parts of the valley where few people passed, I was pleased to find a good number of species. Here are some of them: Alpine Blue (photo), Alpine Grayling (photo), Geranium Argus (photo), Small Apollo (photo), Swiss Brassy Ringlet (photo), Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary (photo), Almond-eyed Ringlet (photo), Dewy Ringlet (photo), Cranberry Blue (photo) and Large Blue (Phengaris arion f. obscura) (photo).
14th: Great to be told about and find a small colony of False Ringlets (Coenonympha oedippus) (photo) not far from home.
16th: The highlight of this month, though, was a trip up to Passo Stelvio (2,750m asl). Various stops on the way up (by car, I should add. I didn't walk or cycle, as many people seemed to be doing!), and on the way down, enabled me to get photos of several new species for the year. Here is a Scarce Copper (photo), taken on the way up. Here is a Peak White (photo) one of several seen either near or above the road pass , a Marsh Fritillary (photo) and one of a Marsh Fritillary caterpillar (photo) and a Cynthia's Fritillary (photo) - I was very pleased to see this species again! If you get a chance to do the pass, do it, It's well-worth the 48 hairpin bends going up from the Alto Adige side (photo), but avoid Sundays in the summer. Today was a motorcycling rally with a street-party on the pass itself and there were crowds of people there. Luckily, it was easy to get away from the confusion.
11th - 13th: I am spending a few days in Lazio, without much time, however, to go looking for butterflies. When I did have a fews to spare, I was mainly limited to the area around the hill-side village where my wife comes from, which is home to several species which I do not find in Trentino in the north of Italy. One species which I went out deliberately to find was this Meleager's Blue (photo) - a male, and the only one I came across during these few days. On the same path were several Purple Hairstreaks (photo), many Cleopatras, which hardly ever stopped for a photo opportunity (here is one), Southern Gatekeepers (photo), Red Underwing Skippers (photo) and  lots of Spotted Fritillaries (photo), which I always hope are Lesser Sppotted Fritillaries, but which never are! This Spurge Hawkmoth caterpillar (photo) was an unexpected and interesting find! Nice, also, on returning from one of my walks at dusk to find 3 or 4 Convolvulus Hawkmoths hovering around a flowering plant (I believe Mirabilis jalapa - please correct me if I am wrong). Here is one of them (photo).
21st: A short trip in Lazio to a couple of fields where I went last year to see if the Lesser Fiery Coppers and Pygmy Skippers were still there. They were - here is a Lesser Fiery Copper (photo) and here is a Pygmy Skipper (photo) -  but I must try and visit the field earlier next year if I want to find fresher butterflies.
26th: On the way back from Lazio, we stopped for a couple of nights in the beautiful hills of Tuscany. Among the more common butterflies around there, I was surprised and delighted to come across a Two-tailed Pasha feeding on the rotting fruit of a dying fig tree (photo), (photo of location with tree on the right). I was extra pleased with this sighting because while I was in Lazio I had had no time to go to the coast to look for this species and hadn't realised that it could be found inland rather than just in coastal areas!
1st - 3rd: A few days in Zagreb, Croatia, and the opportunity to go out looking for some local species. I was hoping to find a Brown Hairstreak in the same location as 2 years ago, but despite spending some considerable time in the area, I didn't spot any.What I did come across though, stopping in 5 or 6 different locations, were Map butterflies (photo upperside)(photo underside), Common Gliders (photo), Great Banded Graylings (photo) and Large Coppers (photo with location) - all new species for this current year. Here is another Large Copper, showing the underside (photo) . Violet Fritillaries (photo) were also common.
7th: Back in Trentino and a desire to see what butterflies are still about in the high mountains. I set off quite early for the Val di Peio and when I started walking around this lake (photo) it was still quite chilly. The first sunny meadow, however, soon brought out lots of butterflies - notably, Scarce Coppers, Silver-spotted Skippers (photo)(photo) and Niobe Fritillaries (photo upperside)(photo underside). Carrying on up the mountain, there were some fresher-looking Marbled Ringlets (photo) around but my progress up the mountain at this point was hindered a bit by a large herd of horned cattled coming down the narrow path: couragious cows pass by when you stand aside but timid ones tend to just stand there. As the path got steeper (photo view), Common Brassy Ringlets (photo) started to appear, along with some very worn Titania's Fritillaries. Crossing a damp grassy area, there were some Water Ringlets (photo) and this frog (photo), but arriving at 2,455 m asl, I was a little disappointed that there wasn't much flying at that altitude. Here is the location (photo). To compensate, on the way down, back below the tree-line, a lovely Red Squirrel appeared (photo).

25th: What a pleasure is when someone who has been looking for a certain species of butterfly for a long time in the hope of getting some good photos finally has the the opportunity to do so! It's true for me and it certainly was for Silvio, who in this picture is walking purposefully with his camera towards a Camberwell Beauty (Nymphalis antiopa) resting in the centre of the path in front of him (photo). It was, in fact, the species we had especially gone to look for and the one individual that appeared late morning made the trip a very worthwhile one. I was particularly pleased because it was the same valley (photo)(photo) where I had come across 3 individuals in September 2018. Here are a couple of my not-so-good photos (photo of underside)(photo of upperside) and one of a Sweet Gale moth caterpillar (Acronicta euphorbiae) (photo).
12th: Today a trip to Verona for some medical tests, but instead of going directly to the medical centre we stopped just outside the town in a small village to photograph a species which I hadn't seen anywhere this year so far - a Southern Comma. A big "thank you" to Silvio for giving me the precise location of this butterfly, which was an old, ivy-covered, stone wall bordering a large private house (photo). Sure enough, the butterfly was exactly where he said it would be and was very willing to be photographed (photo of upperside, photo of underside).
Nothing special to report for the rest of the month in my local area.
29th: A few nice excursions in southern Lazio allowed me to see what species were still on the wing at this time of the year. Here is a view (photo) from one of the locations. There were a fair number, although unsurprisingly most of the butterflies were showing signs of significant wear and tear. (photo of a Lang's Short-tailed Blue). Here is a fairly fresh-looking Cleopatra (photo) and here is a Pygmy Skipper (photo) - this one with very prominent white markings, unlike some of the others around at the same location. This Crimson-speckled Footman was also a pleasant find (photo)
6th: A report of a Plain Tiger (Danaus chrysipus), spotted and photographed two days ago near the resort of Sperlonga in Lazio prompted me to drive the 45km from where I was to see I could get some photographs of this completely-new species for me. I started off in the approximate whereabouts of where the butterfly had been observed and gradually moved in to the exact spot without finding anything. My search took me around empty car-parks, along the beach, across waste-land, through an olive orchard and into an archeological site (view from above), where I got told off and almost arrested for trespassing! No Plain Tigers around there at that moment and  I didn't have much choice but to get out of the area! I decided to walk around and up a nearby promontory, where I was pleased to see scores of Lang's Short-tailed Blues (Leptotes pirithous) (photo). Here is a photo from the top (photo). I spent some time looking around through the shrubs on top and at a certain moment I spotted a large orangey-brown  butterfly flying towards me. Yes ! Unmistakeably a Plain Tiger, but being chased by a Red Admiral. No time to raise my camera before the two butterflies had flown past me, over the nearby bushes and over the top of the hill. Needless to say I rushed after them without seeing where they had gone, spent another hour or so waiting in the same spot to see if the Plain Tiger would come back, but without success. A pity about the lack of a photo, but a clear sighting, at least!
13th: A return visit to Sperlonga didn't reward me with another encounter with a Plain Tiger, but instead with a rather worn Two-Tailed Pasha (Charaxes jasius)(photo) and scores more Lang's Short-tailed Blues.
Back in Trentino, a cold start to December with, incredibly, some snow on the mountains. A few days later the weather improved and for most of the month the weather has been very mild for the time of year, rarely going down below freezing at night and reaching temperatures of between 10 and 15 degrees during the middle of the day, ludicrously high for where we live!
24th: Christmas Eve - a Red Admiral appeared at the window. No photo.
27th: While my wife was looking around IKEA near Brescia, I decided to go for a drive and some short walks in the hills not far away. Here is an active Red Admiral sunning itself on the wall of a small castle on a hill a few kilometers away from Lake Iseo (photo), probably my last photo of a butterfly for this year.
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