Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Montenegro 27.5.14 - 3.6.14

Montenegro is somewhere I had wanted to visit for more than 10 years, both for the scenery (some of the most dramatic in Europe) and the natural life found there. Our late spring holiday would take in the Mountains, the river by Skadar Lake and the old towns of the Adriatic Coast. 

27th May 

The trip started with a lunch stop to the Niagara Restaurant, by the river Cijevna and falls the Montenegrins call Niagara. After a great start to culinary Montenegro we enjoyed a walk along the river, and I spotted a few species in the dry grasses of the valley slope - Queen of Spain Fritillary, Clouded Yellow, Small Heath, and Ascaphalids. 

Landscape of the Cijevna River

Queen of Spain Fritillary Issoria lanthonia

We continued on to our first base - the mountain town of Kolašin. We stayed in a 'Mushroom house', a wooden cabin shaped like a mushroom, perched on the steep slopes with hundreds of green-winged orchids around. 

28th May

After a good nights sleep, we awoke on a bright day and got ready for our visit to the nearby Biogradska Gora national park, a european rainforest with areas of primeval trees. We started our walk up Bendovac, and shortly came to a meadow filled with flowers and damp long grass, where I saw Duke of Burgundy which were much larger than their UK cousins. Climbing higher the temperature was rising as the day warmed, and I saw a fresh Pearl-bordered Fritillary in a large meadow, as well as Woodland Ringlet. 

A little further on we came across some yellow orchids, which I believe are Dactylorhiza romana, and a lone Dingy Skipper. Reaching a kind of plateau we came to the last slopes before the summit of Bendovac, where I found some interesting Snakes-head Fritillaries which could be Fritillaria messanensis. After refreshing ourselves from the mountain water tap, we descended and came to a different meadow which had basking lizards, Green-underside Blues, and Grizzled Skippers. It was a beautiful day, all weathers, great views and natural life. We rounded it off with some food by the lake and set off for home. 

Duke of Burgundy Hamearis lucina

Woodland Ringlet Erebia medusa

Woodland Ringlet Erebia medusa

Pearl-bordered Fritillary Boloria euphrosyne

Dactylorhiza romana

One of the streams coming down through the forest across the path

Green-underside Blue Glaucopsyche alexis

Grizzled Skipper Pyrgus Malvae

Biogradska Lake

29th May

The next day I had an early morning walk around our house and up to a ruined castle, where I could hear the soft whistling of a nearby shepherd, and the day was warming rapidly. I saw Small Heath, Meadow Brown and Wall. We had to leave but I'm sure I would have seen much more if I had stayed a little longer. We drove on to our next stop, Rijeka Crnojevica near Lake Skadar. Stopping on the way at a war memorial, we found Large Tortoiseshell, Brown Argus, Emperor Dragonflies and many crickets flying from tree to tree. 

Large Tortoiseshell Nymphalis polychloros

Brown Argus Aricia agestis on tongue orchid - Serapias vomeracea or bergonii or other?

When arrived in Rijeka Crnojevica we hired a 2-man kayak and paddled, rather badly, out into the river. It was a truly wild and beautiful place, hundreds and hundreds of lily pads, flowers, dragonflies, damselflies, egrets, herons, cormorants and coots. We didn't make it to the lake proper but will come back one day for a boat trip. 

Rijeka Crnojevica

30th May

After briefly stopping in Cetinje, where the market had the sights and sounds of real Montenegro, we drove on to Budva. The views on the way down to the coast were really stunning, coming down through the clouds as the blue sea and coastal buildings were gradually revealed. We had our first swim at Mogren Beach, the water was warm and I snorkelled a little, seeing some nice fish and urchins. 

The view from our apartment, with Mogren beach in the foreground, and Budva old town

31st May

The next day was blazing sunshine and we got a taxi to Sveti Stefan, a famous scene now on many holiday posters. We had a swim and then began to walk back along the coast to Budva. It was strangely devoid of insect life, and being the manicured lawns of the exclusive hotels there, I wondered if they had sprayed something to keep insects from bothering their guests. 

Sveti Stefan

Walking down through Pržno I saw a new butterfly for me -  Mediterranean Skipper. Having lots more lovely swims here, we had lunch and then carried on our walk. At a roadside bit of waste ground I saw either a Clouded Yellow Helice or a Pale Clouded Yellow, Mallow Skipper and Common Blue. 

Mediterranean Skipper Gegenes nostrodamus

1st June

We awoke the next day to very heavy rain, but were very fortunate to talk to a lady in our apartment block who asked a friend to drive us to Kotor for €20, which was great value and very kind of them. Again we enjoyed great views on the drive, and were dropped and walked up to our hostel in the centre of the historic walled town. 

The North Gate of Kotor

After a brief look around I went up to the grassy path at the north of the city, as the day had began to warm and dry off after the heavy rain. I found a beautiful fresh Eastern Baton Blue, some Mallow Skippers, Balkan Green-veined White, Southern Small White, Meadow Brown, Escher's Blue, Essex Skipper, Turquoise Blue, and Tufted Marbled Skipper.

Balkan Green-veined White Pieris balcana

Eastern Baton Blue Pseudophilotes vicrama

Tufted Marbled Skipper Carcharodus flocciferus

Kotor Hillside

2nd June 

On our last full day we walked up the city wall path up to Lovcen as high as we could go in the time. This is something I recommend to any visitor to the area, the views were stunning and just kept getting better. It's so peaceful, the paths are covered in flowers, there are many insects, lizards and other things to see. Along the way we saw Southern Comma, Eastern Baton Blue, Wall, Chequered Blue, Brown Argus, Spotted Fritillary, Small Copper, Large Wall, Yellow Banded Skipper, Adonis Blue and Meadow Brown. 


Southern Comma Polygonia egea

Chequered Blue Scolitantides orion

Spotted Fritillary m Melitaea didyma

Spotted Fritillary f Melitaea didyma

Yellow-banded Skipper Pyrgus sidae

Unsure, Broomrape

Pyramidal Orchid Anacamptis pyramidalis

Ophrys bertolonii

Lizard (leave a comment if you know it)

Jumping Spider 

The view from around 600m up Lovcen

So that ended our last day in Montenegro, a stunning country with friendly people and diverse areas, and one we will be sure to visit again. 

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Totternhoe Knolls and Quarry and Knocking Hoe 21.5.14

Another fine spring day and a trip down to Bedfordshire for a variety of rare Butterflies and Orchids. First was Totternhoe, which has a good population of Small Blue Butterflies and also Duke of Burgundy in the old quarry, as well as lots of Orchids and is really one of the best grassland habitats in the area. Next was Knocking Hoe, a new site for me which has some lovely views, as well as a fine colony of Burnt Orchids and White Helleborine. 

Small Blues Cupido minimus

Common Twayblade Neottia ovate and Beetle

Mother Shipton Moth Callistege mi

Duke of Burgundy Hamearis lucina

A fairly well marked Grizzled Skipper Pyrgus Malvae

A nice pale Common Spotted Orchid Dactylorhiza fuchsii

White Helleborine Cephalanthera damasonium

Cardinal Beetle Pyrochroa serraticornis

 Brown Argus Aricia agestis

Burnt Orchids Neotinea ustulata

Common Blue m Polyommatus icarus

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Bedford Purlieus, Barnack Hills and Holes and Castor Hanglands 14.5.14

A beautiful spring day and we (my expert friend Roger) were off to North Hunts for two types of rare Orchid and anything else we could see. The Fly Orchid was a first for me and is now pretty much my favourite Orchid, and very interesting to witness a wasp visiting a flower. They are so small and could be happily growing somewhere unobserved by passers by. The Bird's Nest Orchid was next and is a very hard plant to find, unless you know someone who can show you, they really blend into the background and grow in shady areas of woodland. They lack Chlorophyll hence the weird colour, and get energy from a parasitic relationship with a fungus. We also saw Lily-of-the-Valley and Herb Paris. 

At Barnack the Man Orchids were just beginning to open, and there were some lovely Pasque Flowers about too. Roger was kind enough to lend me his Macro lens for a few shots of the Man Orchids which only increases my desire to get one. 

At Castor Hanglands the expected Marsh Orchids were not showing yet. There were a couple of Common Twayblades, and in the pond my first sighting of Palmate Newts which was great. 

Fly Orchids Ophrys insectifera

Bird's Nest Orchids Neottia nidus-avis

Herb Paris Paris quadrifolia

Man Orchid Orchis anthropophora

Pasque Flower Pulsatilla vulgaris

Green Hairstreak Callophrys rubi

 Palmate Newt Lissotriton helveticus