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Butterflies in the Italian Alps, August 2020. (1 Viewer)

Jos Stratford

Beast from the East
From Arctic to Alpine, returning from northern Scandinavia, I arrived back in Lithuania to a country steadily imposing restrictions on travel to more and more countries. Thus, before doors closed to all destinations, I decided it a good idea to squeeze in another trip ...and what better compliment to the butterflies of the Arctic than those of Alpine lands.

So it was, at a cost of 30 euro round trip, I bought some last minute flight tickets to Milan, rented a car and spent five very enjoyable days in Trentino, dramatic landscapes, fantastic weather and a whole bunch of late season butterflies, ringlets of assorted species the main targets.
 

KC Foggin

Super Moderator
Staff member
Supporter
United States
Given the world's condition, sounds like you are certainly making the best of it Jos!
 

Jos Stratford

Beast from the East
Early morning flight to Milan, nice upgrade from Europcar, off onto the autostrata, a pleasant warm sun rising. Three hours later, just after midday, I was at the base of Monte Baldo, a stunning limestone massif towering above Lake Garda.

The intention had been to climb immediately to the higher altitudes, but that soon got waylaid by the discovery of the amazing Valle dei Molini, a steep winding valley that cut through the precipitous eastern flanks of the mountain. Green and lush, abundant flowers on roadside verges and meadows, the valley was choc-a-bloc with butterflies – my upward progress came to a crashing halt!

I had assumed these lower latitudes would be hot and arid, way past their best, but upon flowers in every directions, hundreds of Scotch Arguses, dozens of Meadow Browns and a good scattering of Marbled Whites. And in among them, loads of other butterflies, not least Clouded Yellows and Berger's Clouded Yellows, three White Admirals, five species of fritillary, a splendid Dryad, several Short-tailed Blues, two Adonis Blues and a single Lulworth Skipper (along with Small, Essex and Large Skippers).

Eventually, leaving the narrow Valle dei Molini, I reached open limestone slopes and left my car. I was now at just over 1500 metres altitude, it was now over 30 C. Almost no Scotch Argus here, but loads of Chalkhill Blues in their place, this becoming the most abundant butterfly as I ascended on foot. Climbed this day to about 1750 metres, but a rather disappointing lack of butterflies at the top, Chalkhill Blues thinning out and the only additions of any note being two Silver-spotted Skippers and a couple of very faded Darwin's Heaths.

Still, what with Alpine Swifts hurtling about, a Rock Thrush on an old building and a Black Kite floating around, I couldn't complain too much. Found a colony of ten Bluespot Hairstreaks on the scramble down towards my car, a nice finale to the first afternoon in Italy.

From here, I drove north and checked into a hotel in Dermulo, a nice base for my next few days of exploration. 30 species of butterfly this day, quite content with that.
 
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Jos Stratford

Beast from the East
A few butterflies from the first day
 

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delia todd

If I said the wrong thing it was a Senior Moment
Staff member
Supporter
Scotland
Cor!!! What a start!!!

A lovely selection of butterflies there Jos, thanks.
 

Jos Stratford

Beast from the East
7 August. Valle di Rabbi.

I had hoped that the Val di Rabbi would be the highlight of my trip to the Alps ...and indeed it so proved. In a ten-hour hike up to 2500 metres, a wonderful progression of landscapes and a truly amazing number of butterflies at the various altitudes. The high peaks already bathed in sunshine, I started my hike at 8.30 am in the still deep-shaded valley just above the Terme di Rabbi, not a single butterfly to be seen.

Ninety minutes later, after a considerable upward slog to 1700 metres, I departed the shadow and stepped onto an dappled bank, the steep slope soaking in the first rays of the already warm sunshine. And giddy me, a splendid Apollo floating round, a stunner for the first butterfly of the day. Turned out to be several just here, sunning themselves, nectaring on the abundant flowers, flying up and down the slope. A momentary pause turned rather longer as more and more butterflies appeared, including the first Titania's Fritillaries of the day, along with Scarce Coppers and Wood White.

Continuing upward a little, I reached a large open meadow at about 1775 metres, a rare patch of relatively level ground. Full of flowers and full of butterflies! Much time here, sifting through the many species present - Dark Green Fritillaries and Niobe Fritillaries in abundance, Titania's Fritillaries and Lesser Mountain Ringlets common, Scarce Coppers everywhere. And in among all these, lots of other butterflies, including a couple of Purple-edged Coppers, several Alpine Heaths, both Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary and Heath Fritillary and a good number of both Essex and Silver-spotted Skippers.

Eventually, it was time to resume the climb to higher altitudes. Passed through an open wooded section with a couple of Marbled Ringlets and a number of Large Wall Browns, then began a really steep section as the trees petered out and the landscape became one of open rocky slopes. Fabulous for butterflies, more Apollos seen, plus numerous Lesser Mountain Ringlets, several Almond-eyed Ringlets, three Osiris Blues, one Peak White and another Purple-edged Copper. Next a near vertical section, then over a rock ledge to an open broad valley gently climbing towards the Rifugio Silvio Dorigoni at over 2400 metres. And truly amazing this area was - one Small Apollo almost immediately, then a steady stream of rather mobile ringlets of assorted flavour - Common Brassy Ringlets common, a few Silky Ringlets and Almond-eyed Ringlets and still Lesser Mountain Ringlets (though less common than lower down). Finally reaching the rifugio, a final treat in the meadows immediately below - not only one more Apollo, but also a colony of Shepherd's Fritillaries, at least 30 around a flower patch.

Well deserved drink at the rifugio, Crag Martins zooming around, Marmots whistling somewhere in the crags, then the long slog back. Took an alternative route down, saw many of the same species again, but also four Water Ringlets. Highlight of the return route however, in an extensive area of grassland at about 2000 metres, was the finding of several Swiss Brassy Ringlets, these also proving most challenging to (a) identify and (b) photograph! Think there were several at this locality and no Common Brassy Ringlets.

By the time we finally reached the valley's bottom some hours later, it was 6.30 pm, the valley was once again in shade and butterflies absent. One species only, a Large Wall Brown. Superb day it had been, 29 species seen, very good for high altitude.
 

Jos Stratford

Beast from the East
Ringlets galore
 

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Adey Baker

Member
The intention had been to climb immediately to the higher altitudes, but that soon got waylaid by the discovery of the amazing Valle dei Molini, a steep winding valley that cut through the precipitous eastern flanks of the mountain. Green and lush, abundant flowers on roadside verges and meadows, the valley was choc-a-bloc with butterflies – my upward progress came to a crashing halt!

I had assumed these lower latitudes would be hot and arid, way past their best, but upon flowers in every directions, hundreds of Scotch Arguses, dozens of Meadow Browns and a good scattering of Marbled Whites. And in among them, loads of other butterflies, not least Clouded Yellows and Berger's Clouded Yellows, three White Admirals, five species of fritillary, a splendid Dryad, several Short-tailed Blues, two Adonis Blues and a single Lulworth Skipper (along with Small, Essex and Large Skippers).

Jos, you've discovered my favourite 'secret' spot! My wife and I have visited Lake Garda several times and in the last few years have stayed at an excellent hotel in Garda from where it's only a 20 minute walk up to this special valley. We usually go in July (cancelled this year, of course) so I'm glad to see that it's still producing the goods in August. July butterflies include Spotted, Queen of Spain, Silver-washed, High Brown, Marbled and Knapweed frits plus Duke of Burgundy and lots of other good stuff like Southern White Admirals, Swallowtail, Scarce Swallowtail, etc., etc.
 

RafaelMatias

Unknown member
Portugal
Those are some fine butterflies sir, I knew you wouldn't disappoint your audience! :t:
Slightly gripping stuff there I must say! B :)
 

Jos Stratford

Beast from the East
8 August. Valle di Peio.

Took the easy route up this day, two rather pleasurable ski lifts carrying me to the lofty heights of 3000 metres. Barren rocks and scree, patches of snow, precious little vegetation, not classic butterfly habitat ... and indeed only two species seen at this altitude - one rather unexpected Small Tortoiseshell and, more exotic and initially causing me some identification issues, three Piedmont Ringlets. Hadn't expected this species on the trip, so very nice indeed.

From 3000 metres, I then hiked downwards, a total of eight hours in all, but the first section unfortunately mostly clouded by a puff of cloud that stubbornly sat over the summit of the mountain. Got back to sunny slopes, now richly dotted by Alpine flowers, at about 2300 metres ... and this was truly a Goldilocks zone, many species of butterflies in abundance. Among the more prominent, Niobe Fritillaries, Alpine Heaths, Lesser Mountain Ringlets, Common Brassy Ringlets, Water Ringlets and Scarce Coppers.

Onward and downward, slowly the butterfly selection evolved, masses of Dark Green Fritillaries becoming dominant (including at least 150 in one small area of thistle), plus at least 20 Silver-spotted Skippers. Essex Skippers joined the selection and, at about 1600 metres, so too a Large Skipper. Now well within the forest zone, it was a boiling 30 C in these lower lands, a couple of Scotch Argus made an appearance, plus Meadow Browns and my first Large Whites and Peacocks of the trip.

And for the finale of the day a meander through meadows at 1460 metres - non-mountain species now much in evidence, a Marbled White fluttering by, plus four Clouded Yellows, a couple of Silver-studded Blues, one Silver-washed Fritillary and several Small Heaths.

Got back to Peio village at 5 pm, 31 species of butterfly this day.
 

Jos Stratford

Beast from the East
Altitude 3000 metres, habitat and Piedmont Ringlet
 

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Jos Stratford

Beast from the East
Frtillaries of the day - Niobe, Dark Green, Heath, Titania's.
 

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