Tuesday 25 July 2023

Dolomites Part Two.

Part one I focussed mainly on the brown species of butterfly, these can be prolific in the high mountains, however, some more colourful ones are also to be seen. These can include different sub-species to the lower altitude butterflies.

The most common of the 'blue' species was the Mazarine Blue. This was actually once a UK species, but has been extinct in the UK since around the 1870s. Almost every site we went to held some Mazarine Blue across the Dolomites.

Male Mazarine Blue.

Female Mazarine Blue.

Mating Mazarine Blues.

Another speciality of the high mountains is the Alpine Blue. We saw more of these this year and I also spotted a female egg laying.

Male Alpine Blue.

Female Alpine Blue egg laying.

My favourite blue from the trip though was a sublime male Amanda's Blue, that posed so well and allowed myself and Helen a few superb opportunities.

Male Amanda's Blue.

We did stop at one point hoping for a sighting of Geranium Argus. We were just about to give up when one arrived to do some egg laying!!

Geranium Argus egg laying.

At one of the highest points I came across this blue that was notably larger. Although it is almost certainly a Large Blue, there is a possibility that it could be a Mountain Alcon Blue. Unfortunately, we didn't manage any shots of the top wings which would have confirmed it one way or the other.

Probable Large Blue.

Only 2 Copper species were seen, the Scarce Copper and the Sooty Copper. The Sooty Copper is also a sub-species in the high mountains.

Sooty Copper.

We did see several species of Fritillary, however, I didn't manage myself to photograph many of them, although I did get a short session with a lovely Marsh Fritillary, the mountain sub-species of Marsh Fritillary, and also I found the 2 Thor's Fritillary that we were lucky to see. This is one of the rarer Fritillary species. After the initial sighting, I returned to the spot just before we left the site and managed to see a 2nd individual. This one was in better condition than the first, although it was still far from fresh.

Marsh Fritillary.

Thor's Fritillary.

We were very lucky to see some Alpine Accentor, White-winged Snowfinch and Alpine Chough. The Chough was quite tame and I took this photo with the macro lens!!

Alpine Chough.

On the final day, on the return trip to the airport we stopped off on the last really high point before Venice and saw many different species including a few Apollo. All were a little past their best, but were wonderful to see. We also saw on the way up and down the mountain Woodland Grayling and Great Sooty Satyr. A Golden Eagle being mobbed by Honey Buzzards was also an epic sighting.


Golden Eagle.

Honey Buzzard.

Almost the final butterfly we saw here was a wonderful Southern White Admiral. An absolutely gorgeous butterfly.

Southern White Admiral.

So that was another wonderful trip to the Dolomites. Fabulous scenery and some very winding roads that the cycling fanatics were enjoying (possibly). A great Hotel with some of the best food too.

Two different views of the hotel.

Friday 21 July 2023

Dolomites 2023 Part One.

 For the 2nd year running I was invited by Naturetrek to co-lead their butterfly tour to the Italian Dolomites. It was certainly an honour to take them up on this offer, with the main leader being Luca, a brilliant Italian naturalist who is a mind of information.

We also had with us 12 enthusiastic clients who all helped to make the trip a tremendous success. Butterflies were the main target, but we also all enjoyed the botany and the stunning scenery, of course.

My camera does take a bit of a back seat when I'm leading as the priority has to go to the people that have paid to be on the trip, but of course, once they have all got their photos, if the butterfly is still there, then I can have a go. There were also moments when I had the odd chance of a quick photo when we were all searching larger areas.

The following 2 blogs will show a few of the highlights from the trip. It was quite a late season over there in Italy, so some of the species that we saw last year were not out yet, although we did pick up a few of the earlier species that we didn't see last year.

On the high mountains there are fewer species than in the lower valleys, but those up high are generally rarer and interesting. Last year we didn't see Alpine Grayling, but this year we saw reasonable numbers. Similar to our British Grayling, they do sometimes like to land on trousers!!

Grayling on Kev.

There are many types of Ringlet up high, all are dark, which probably helps them to absorb heat in the higher landscape. This year the Blind Ringlet was the most numerous. This Ringlet is so called as there are no white eye spots on their wings. We also saw several Dewy Ringlet and a smaller number of Almond-eyed Ringlet as well as several of the more common species.

Blind Ringlet.

Dewy Ringlet.

Almond-eyed Ringlet.

It was good to see the Dusky Skipper this year, a species that I didn't manage to photograph in 2022.

Dusky Skipper.

This year we also saw many more Alpine Heath, a beautiful species that we saw in most localities.

Alpine Heath.

As well as butterflies there were also some great moths. Apart from the daily moth trap that threw up some spectacular species, in the field we saw a few Yellow Banded, a really beautiful species, and many Nine-spotted including a mating pair.

Yellow Banded.

Mating Nine-spotted.

Some of the meadows were extremely colourful with so many wild flowers. Martagon Lily was one of the favourite species.

Martagon Lily.

There were also many types of orchids with hillsides full of Marsh Orchid, Small White Orchid, Vanilla Orchid and Round-headed Orchid.

Small White Orchid.

Round-headed Orchid.

Friday 14 July 2023

A Hint of Purple.

 The day after our visit to see the Large Blues and Lulworth Skippers Lisa was busy working from home, but as I was still in West Sussex I decided on a visit to Southwater Woods.

Although this is a great wood for Purple Emperors I was just a couple of days early for that species. However, on arrival there were a couple of Small Tortoiseshell that were looking good. In fact the Small Tortoiseshell locally seem to be having a better year, which is extremely good to see. It was certainly a lovely start to the walk.

Small Tortoiseshell.

Although I was too early for the Purple Emperor, I certainly wasn't too early for the other larger woodland species such as Silver-washed Fritillary and White Admiral, with both species well represented.

Female Silver-washed Fritillary.

Male Silver-washed Fritillary.

Female Silver-washed Fritillary.

White Admiral.

Several very fresh Comma were also seen including a gorgeous hutchinsoni form, which posed very well, showing both under-wing and top wing.

Female Comma hutchinsoni form.

I then bumped into Paul Day, a local butterfly enthusiast  that I hadn't met before. He was looking for Purple Emperor, but just like me he had failed at seeing any that day. However, just after I finished chatting to him, I spotted a Purple Hairstreak that had presumably just emerged. It was sitting still on some reeds. I called Paul back and showed him the butterfly. After he had taken many photos I spent some time with it managing to get some under-wing shots, but later as the sun moved, and the butterfly had moved a couple of times it opened up showing it was a male, and I managed my best shots to date of a male Purple Hairstreak. I should have actually taken more at this point, but as I had taken quite a few by now I decided I should stop. As the light was so bad though many of the shots were not good at all, but there was enough still to be really pleased. I just wish Lisa was there to share this special moment with me. It certainly is a rare event seeing a Purple Hairstreak up close at ground level.

Male Purple Hairstreak.