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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 be added.
4th -5th: Finally a 2-day trip to a high-altitude location!!!!! 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. Herte 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 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 and a walk at 2.300 m asl
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