Saturday 7 July 2018

Summer Lepidoptera & wildlife in the Karst

After the highly intense spring season, during which we've been mainly guiding the different tours, now we have more time to relax and enjoy wildlife closer to home. In recent days we made a few visit to some local karstic grasslands near Se┼żana, as well as to those on the southern edge of Trnovski gozd (Trnovo forest). The latter is a butterfly biodiversity hot-spot in Slovenia as many species depend on the mosaic of dry karstic grasslands, limestone cliffs, mountain meadows, shrubs and forest edge. Late June and early July represent the peak time for butterfly activity & diversity, especially on such dry mountain meadows. Among the many common and regular species, some were also new to us, including rarities or locally scarce species like Styrian Ringlet Erebia stirius and Alcon Blue Phengaris alcon (of the ecotype form rebeli). Of course we also payed attention to some interesting plants, as well as checked the traditional breeding site of Lesser Grey Shrikes Lanius minor in the Vipava valley.

Great Sooty Satyr Satyrus ferula, southern edge of Trnovski gozd. 
A rare butterfly inhabiting open stony habitats in western Slovenia.

Alcon Blue Phengaris alcon, southern edge of Trnovski gozd. 
This individual belongs to the mountain ecotype rebeli (once called Mountain Alcon Blue), whose larvae feed on Cross Gentian Gentiana cruciata, as opposed to the lowland ecotype alcon that depends on Marsh Gentian G. pneumonanthe. The alcon form, inhabiting wet grasslands, is one of the fastest declining butterflies in Slovenia, whereas rebeli is still doing relatively well on mountain meadows.

Styrian Ringlet Erebia stirius, southern edge of Trnovski gozd. 
A widespread butterfly in the Slovenian Alps, with a few isolated populations along the Dinaric ridge, like the one in Trnovski gozd. It favours rocky cliffs and limestone screes.

Chestnut Heath Coenonympha glicerion, southern edge of Trnovski gozd. 
A rather common butterfly on Dinaric mountain meadows, but even more so in a variety of other grasslands in central and eastern Slovenia.

Niobe Fritillary Argynnis niobe, southern edge of Trnovski gozd. 

Swallowtail Papilion machaon, southern edge of Trnovski gozd. 

Carniolan Burnet Zygaena carniolica, southern edge of Trnovski gozd. 

Scotch Argus Erebia aethiops, southern edge of Trnovski gozd. 

Large Chequered Skipper Heteropterus morpheus, southern edge of Trnovski gozd. 

Dry mountain meadow in flower, southern edge of Trnovski gozd. 

Great Yellow Gentian Gentiana lutea, southern edge of Trnovski gozd. 

Scheuchzer's Rampion Phyteuma scheuchzeri, southern edge of Trnovski gozd. 

Rock Knapweed Centaurea rupestris, southern edge of Trnovski gozd. 

Southern Globethistle Echinops ritro ssp. ruthenicus, southern edge of Trnovski gozd. 

Montpellier's Pink Dianthus monspessulanus, southern edge of Trnovski gozd. 

Grass-leaved Scabious Scabiosa graminifolia, southern edge of Trnovski gozd. 
A quite distinctive scabious growing along the karstic edges of Trnovski gozd and Nanos and in a few places in the Julian Alps.

Hladnikia Hladnikia pastinacifolia, southern edge of Trnovski gozd. 
Although not very impressive, this species is certainly the most endemic plant of Slovenia. It only grows in the Trnovo forest and nowhere else in the world. It belongs to the only endemic plant genus in Slovenia and was named after the 19th century botanist Franc Hladnik.

Rock Bunting Emberiza cia, southern edge of Trnovski gozd. 

"Beech Longhorn Beetle" Morimus funereus, Trnovski gozd. 
Up to 9 of these attractive beetles were found on a single pile of beech logs, along a forest road. After mating, this Natura 2000 beetle, deposits its eggs in the dead wood, but clutches are usually destroyed, as the logs are taken away from the forest.

Lesser Grey Shrike Lanius minor, Vipava valley.
This is one of the rarest breeding birds in Slovenia, with only a few pairs still persisting in two main areas; one of them being the Vipava valley, where some days ago we observed two fledged juveniles being fed by an adult.

Queen of Spain Fritillary Issoria lathonia, Karst. 
This individual visited the lavender in our garden.

Owlfly Libelloides macaronius, Karst near Komen. 
A common species at this time of year on dry karstic meadows. Not a butterfly, but a net-winged insect (order Neuroptera). In flight it looks something in between a dragonfly and a butterfly.

Great Banded Grayling Brintesia circe, Karst near Komen. 
The commonest butterfly in mid-summer in the Karst; seen abundantly along roads, where sadly huge numbers get run over by cars!

Weaver's Fritillary Boloria (Clossiana) dia, Karst near Komen.

Round-headed Leek Allium sphaerocephalon, Karst near Komen. 
The commonest and most prominent wild garlic in mid-summer on dry karstic grassland.

High Brown Fritillary Argynnis adippe, Karst near Komen. 
Note underwing difference with Niobe Fritillary (above).

Berger's Clouded Yellow Colias alfacariensis, Karst near Komen. 
This species, in some areas, is even commoner than the "usual" Clouded Yellow C. croceus. Note the pale-yellow tone that distinguishes this species from its closer relative.

Grayling Hipparchia semele, Karst near Komen.

Spotted Fritillary Melitaea didyma, Karst near Komen.

"Trieste's Pink" Dianthus tergestinus (D. sylvestris ssp. tergestinus), Karst near Komen.

Amethyst Eryngo Eryngium amethystinum, Karst near Komen. 
The first flowers of this attractive umbellifer are just turning blue, as the summer season progresses. It is a common species on dry limestone grasslands and is especially abundant in western Slovenia. A typical sign of late summer & early autumn though...

More on the butterflies of Slovenia on our special thematic webpage: