Saturday 30 July 2022

Dolomites Bits.

 As well as the butterflies we also had a few other interesting things to look at including several species of Orchids, Moths and other insects.

All the time the mountain scenery was surrounding us with its beauty. 

A Willow Tit approaching its nest, just yards from the footpath though the woodland.

Common Wall Lizard.

Golden-ringed Dragonfly.

Zygaena carniolica.

Every night we set a moth trap and each morning many moths graced the trap. A couple of special moths below.

Pine-tree Lappet.

Purple-shaded Gem.

Mating Green Mountain Grasshoppers.

Alpine Saw-tailed Bush-cricket.

Grayling on the hat!!

Bob by a Mountain.

The Dolomites.

Tuesday 26 July 2022

Italian Highlights.

 During our stay in the Italian Dolomites we were so lucky with the weather. Apart from a few showers overnight the only rain we had was on the first full day. Although to be honest it wasn't actually rain, but massive hailstones. We had moved below the hotel to the valley below and we hadn't been out of the vans very long before the first deluge. Fortunately we were near the vans, which was just as well as I haven't seen a hailstorm as big as this one. The road very quickly became more like rivers. With that we decided to try our luck higher up in the mountains as these storms can be very localised. We had to wait for the storm to ease off first as it was impossible to see in front of the vans as the hail came down, but eventually we got going again. At the next stop the roads were dry which was a good sign. Here we spotted more Fritillaries and Ringlet species. After an hour or so we then saw more heavy clouds moving in so we walked back towards the vans and just as we were getting these the hail came again. We went into a local bar for beers or coffee for us drivers!! The hail then fell possibly even heavier than earlier. So much so that the barman had to go to the doorway to take some photographs.

After that day the weather became dry and sunny and with that came lots of butterflies. Of course, as I was co-leading the group I was not able to spend much time with the photos as my job was to find things for the clients. I did however manage to get some photos of subjects once everyone else had finished and occasionally found a few things when the clients were otherwise engaged. It was a terrific group and everyone got on really well during the week. Most of the species we were seeing are not found in the UK but a few good ones were including several White-letter Hairstreak and lots of Silver-studded Blues. The most confusing family were the Ringlets with 10 species seen. I now know much more than I did at the start of the trip on these tricky butterflies.

Blind Ringlet.

Blind Ringlet. (No eyelets on the wings).

Large Ringlet.

Scarce Swallowtail.


Olive Skipper.

Large Grizzled Skipper.

Alpine Heath.

Provencal Short-tailed Blue.

Chequered Blue.

Female White-letter Hairstreak.

Sunday 24 July 2022

The Italian Dolomites.

 Several months ago I was invited to co-lead the annual Naturetrek butterfly tour to the Dolomites. I have recently returned from Italy having experienced an absolutely fabulous week with the most amazing views and many simply stunning butterflies, moths, and many other insects and orchids.

I am so pleased I took up the invitation. It was also a great help as the main leader was Luca Boscain, a very enthusiastic guy that lives in Italy and is very familiar with the wildlife there.

Our Hotel was on the outskirts of a tiny village high up in the mountains with great views and stunning food too. 

I could post a whole blog just on the scenery, but will try to stick mainly to the insects we saw, although the odd view will I'm sure make it into the following few posts.

The Hotel in Tamion above the Fassa valley.

The first post will concentrate on the Fritillaries that we saw, both high up in the mountains and also in the valleys.

Dark Green Fritillary.

Marbled Fritillary.

Female Silver-washed Fritillary valezina form.

High Brown Fritillary.

Titania's Fritillary (top wing and under-wing).

My hope was to see the Titania's, Shepherd's and Mountain Fritillary. In the end we saw plenty of the Titania's (above) and Shepherd's. In the Mountain Fritillary the female is quite easy to tell apart from the Shepherd's, but the male is much harder, although I am confident we did see several male Mountain as well as the female.

Shepherd's Fritillary.

Female Mountain Fritillary.

Under-wing of a probable Shepherd's Fritillary.

Some of the terrain we were searching.

Friday 22 July 2022

Back to the Local.

 After Transylvania I had a short break before going off to Italy and the Dolomites co-leading a butterfly tour for Naturetrek. There will be a few posts concerning this terrific trip shortly, but in the meantime there are a few bits and pieces from between the trips and just after getting back from Italy.

Some sightings were from the garden and some from my local patch. Also during a survey in Friston Forest a very fresh Scarlet Tiger was spotted. In fact 2 of these spectacular moths were seen, but one that had probably only just emerged posed quite well.

Scarlet Tiger.

In the garden the 2nd brood of Wall Brown are flying with a male posing well on the Ivy in the early morning sunshine.

Male Wall Brown.

Also in the garden I was pleased to find a couple of Poplar Hawk-moth larvae on one of my potted Willows. Pete gave me two Willows a few years ago in the hope that some Hawk-moths would lay eggs on them. This is the first time they have, although I have had Herald and Grey Dagger caterpillars before. In a little over the week since I found them they have doubled in size and have now both left to pupate.

Poplar Hawk-moth larva.

On the patch Chalkhill Blue numbers have picked up well and several mating pairs have been observed.

Mating Chalkhill Blues.

Finally, the 2nd brood of Lace Border are now on the wing with 2 spotted, both in very good condition. It's always good to see this rare moth has continued to breed locally.

Lace Border.


Thursday 14 July 2022

Transylvania Finale.

 I could say it began to get a bit tiring the amount of people that went on about Dracula and Vampires when I mentioned I was going to Transylvania.

The odd thing is I have actually met Dracula and served him food and drink!! When I worked for GB Airways Christopher Lee, the most famous Dracula actor was in seat 1C and I served him his food. He was such a distinguished looking man who spoke very quietly. The strange thing was I didn't even recognise him until I heard another passenger mention it was him as we were disembarking. I then checked the passenger list and there it was, C. Lee in 1C. I can't remember if he had any red wine though!

Anyway, the final couple of days were also very good in the meadows behind the house. Having breakfast listening to a Golden Oriole calling was a bit special. On the walks a few special butterflies were also seen with some common British species such as Large and Essex Skipper, Small Tortoiseshell and some rarer ones such as Wood White. I also saw my very first Short-tailed Blue. Nickerl's Fritillary showed very well, especially a very fresh female that I spotted as it was being pestered by a male. Once she gave him the big heave hoe she posed very well for me. At the far end of the meadow I was strolling gently back in the direction of home when I saw some horse dung that had an amazing Great Banded Grayling taking minerals from it. For this special butterfly I laid flat out on the ground to get the viewpoint I needed. After taking the photo I noticed blood on my arm with an insect ovipositor next to a tiny hole. I guess some kind of wasp laid some eggs in my arm, the nearest I got to that vampire!! The area around the hole quickly swelled right up, but after a couple of days it was back to normal. I haven't yet had that Alien scene with a strange beast breaking out of me, yet!!

Great Banded Grayling.

Small Tortoiseshell on Scabious.

Probable Alcon Blue.

Short-tailed Blue.

Wood White.

Lesser Marbled Fritillary.

Female Nickerl's Fritillary.

Bright Wave.
 (This pair were mating, although the back moth is not fully visible. A rare moth in Britain).

One of the colourful Bugs I have struggled to find the correct identification so far.

A fabulous week spent in Transylvania with Anna and her sister and parents. I had such a warm and friendly welcome and they were so generous to me. Many thanks to them for inviting me over, and if anytime in the future you feel like having me back!!!!