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Biebrza Marshes, Poland: an unspoilt wetland gem

At the end of May, I was fortunate to lead a new tour for Greenwings Wildlife Holidays to Poland. This dual-centre wildlife trip was based in the Biebrza Marshes and Białowieża Forest in the north-east corner of Poland and both considered to be the finest reserves in the country. I was joined by a local guide for the week who had phenomenal knowledge of the area and its diverse fauna and flora. I have wanted to tell you about it ever since my return but have been so hectic with other tours and catching up on paperwork and image processing that I’ve only just got the opportunity to sit and write about it.

Our first base in the southern half of the Biebrza Marshes had us excellently positioned for 24 hour wildlife viewing should we be so inclined. With its own wildlife ponds in the grounds and views over both forest and marshland, there were endless interesting things to be seen, heard and photographed, including the potential for large, iconic species such as Moose and Wolf. We hoped therefore for good weather and good wildlife sightings in this beautiful, unspoilt corner of Poland.

The group met up at Warsaw Airport where we were greeted by Tomasz, our local guide and Lukasz, our driver for the week. Introductions made, we were soon heading out of the city to the North East. Along the way, a few things were spotted from the motorway including White Storks, Buzzards and a single Roe Deer. We stopped for lunch with just over an hour of the journey under our belts and enjoyed traditional pierogi dumplings in a small restaurant.

On our way once again, we had a lesson from Tomasz about the large fauna of the country and in particular, the regular placement of green bridges to allow them to cross the motorway safely. He explained that they were already obligatory once the motorway networks had begun to be developed and are therefore a common sight. We certainly passed beneath a number of them. We also spotted a couple more White Storks, one of which was on its nest. We were told we’d see plenty more and probably be bored of them by the end of the holiday as they are so common in Poland, but for now we were pleased to get good clear views albeit at high speed as we passed! 

It wasn’t long before we were leaving the motorway once more and we had barely been on the side road two minutes when we saw a lovely male Montagu’s Harrier quartering low over an arable field beside the road. A short distance further on we pulled onto a gravel track and Tomasz led us to a spot where we could see a Bee Eater colony. There were several birds on the telegraph wires nearby and we got good views with the help of his scope to see a pair on the far side of a deep quarry.

Having had a good look at the Bee Eaters, we had a wander to take in more of our surroundings. We were parked between fields of Barley and Rye which, unlike many of our British arable crops, held treasures among their stems in the form of azure blue Cornflowers and tiny white Field Pansies. A few butterflies were on the wing, most proving to be Painted Ladies but also Common Blue and Small Heath. 

 

Cornflower among Barley

 

Alkanet was flowering beside the track and we came across a mass of bumbling Rose Chafers busily feeding on a naturalised garden hybrid Iris. The soundtrack to much of this was a mixture of Skylarks trilling overhead, Yellowhammers singing of bread but no cheese, the cronking of a distant Raven pair and a Nightingale Thrush warbling its crystal clear notes over the top of them all. Walking a short distance down the track, I suddenly realised that the Goat Willow beside me bore not just one but many Cockchafers and these, plus some very large snails, were admired by the group while a Marsh Warbler sang from the bushes.

Moving on, we stopped the vehicle a few times having spotted lovely things; first for a pair of Common Crane where a female Golden Oriole was calling nearby; then a Great Grey Shrike sitting on the telegraph wires beside the road; another pair of Cranes closer to the road and Grey Partridges in a recently cut hay field. 

Our final stop was a particularly wonderful roadside spot where Tomasz managed to pick out Clouded Apollo butterflies on the verge. On clambering out to investigate, we established that there were at least four individuals, and that as well as nectaring on red clover flowers, they were making the most of the sun and basking on the lower leaves of the trees which gave us a good clear view of them. Growing here we also found Melampyrum nemorosum, the Wood Cow-wheat which has glorious yellow flowers beneath vibrant purple tipped leaves. There was a patch of Lily of the Valley here too but most of it was sadly going over.

 

Clouded Apollo

 

A little way up the road one of my guests found Graphosoma italica, strikingly striped red and black shield bugs which were favouring the Cow Parsley (Anthriscus sylvestris) here.

 

Graphosoma italica

 

A couple of Chequered Skippers were also found flitting from flower to flower in the dappled light and an Orange Tip skimmed past. An impressive Black Veined Moth also caught our eye and all the while, Chiffchaff, Red-breasted flycatcher and Cuckoo called from the woods around us.

 

Chequered Skipper

 

A short drive onwards brought us to our first hotel for the trip and having checked in, most of us were soon out venturing in the grounds where Fire-Bellied Toads called in one pond and hybrid Pool/Marsh Frogs sang in another. Another guest from Germany showed us photos of a Moose he’d seen only moments earlier on the edge of the woodland, but sadly we didn’t catch a glimpse. We did hear and see a few birds though, with a guest spotting a pair of Red-Backed Shrike, while Woodlark and Hoopoe joined the Cuckoo’s chorus and a great many Swallows hawked for insects high above us. A Lapwing flew over and Greenfinch, Linnet and Pied Wagtail were spotted in the gardens.

 

Pool/Marsh Frog

 

A good supper awaited us and having settled in, eaten and made plans for the morning, we retired a happy bunch.

The following morning our day began exceedingly early, meeting at 4am to take a dawn drive down the road to look for moose. Our first attempts were unsuccessful, but we stopped at a high tower viewing point from which we enjoyed the dawn chorus. A Nightingale Thrush remained elusive while singing beautifully nearby; a Common Rosefinch provided us with fleeting views and sweet calls of “Pleased to meet you”, and a Red-Backed Shrike was spotted in a treetop on the roadside. A pair of Golden Orioles flitted tantalisingly between the trees but failed to stop for long in one place; a confiding White Wagtail came to investigate us from the safety of the closest Silver Birch, and a Chiffchaff sang with unerring regularity throughout. Blackcap and Blackbird joined the chorus along with Chaffinch, while Grasshopper and Savi’s Warblers reeled in the background. Corncrakes rattled, Common Cranes honked and overhead drumming Snipe joined the orchestra. The diversity of the Biebrza Marshes was astonishing and the lack of any human sounds like traffic or aircraft only added to our sense of wonder.

Back in the van to have another look for moose and before long Tomasz suddenly asks Lukasz to stop because he has seen one. It took us all rather a lot longer to locate as it was at quite a distance, but we had seen our first and were suitably impressed. We also noted that a tree stump beside the road showed evidence that Beavers had been in the area. They had begun gnawing it and humans had finished the job with a chainsaw, presumably as a safety precaution owing to its proximity to the road.

Our next stop was a section of boardwalk out to a viewing platform over the marsh. The walk down to the platform was briefly punctuated with pauses to look at flowering Bogbean (Menyanthes trifoliata), singing Sedge Warbler and a large Drinker Moth Caterpillar. On reaching the platform, a second female Moose at closer quarters held our attention for a short while as it wandered across the reedbed. Several male Snipe drummed overhead while the females called from a short distance away; Black-Tailed Godwit flew over and males of both Marsh and Montagu’s Harriers came past. 

 

Moose

 

Tomasz explained the song of the Aquatic Warbler to us and we listened for some time. They were singing in the distance and we thought that a small bird performing an undulating song flight may have been one, but it was too far away to identify with positivity. A nearer Gasshopper Warbler was much more obliging and gave us fantastic views as it sang from the top of a small bush. As we were about to leave, I spotted a Tiger Moth caterpillar and one of my guests contorted himself around the fencing to take a hand held focus stacked image of it to great effect.

By this point it was trying to rain and so we moved on before it set in too steadily and returned to the guest house for a hearty Polish breakfast. Our hunger satisfied, a quick look around the ponds in the grounds revealed another amphibian to add to the list in the form of a European Tree Frog which we had great views of in a small Alder on the water’s edge. The numerous Tree Sparrows were admired and both Linnets and Spotted Flycatcher seen here too while Icterine Warbler called from the woodland nearby.

 

European Tree Frog

 

Setting out for the main part of the day, our first stop was at a section of boardwalk accessed via a small meadow. A brief but light rain shower greeted our arrival and we didn’t pause long in the meadow as a result, but the boardwalk area held a number of delights. We made our way to a viewing platform from where we had nice views of a male Reed Bunting singing from the top of a reed.

 

Male Reed Bunting

 

We could also hear Penduline Tit calling here and after a little exploration we found a visible nest just a few yards back the way we had come. It was hanging in the boughs of a Willow tree, halfway constructed with the male bird visiting to continue building work.

 

Male Penduline Tit visiting the nest

 

Tomasz also taught us the call of the Bluethroat as we heard one singing nearby. We had soon located it and over the course of our visit, we watched several.

 

Bluethroat

 

Cuckoos were calling almost constantly and several made an appearance. A Common Rosefinch sang nearby too, though we failed to see it. A Grey Heron was spotted and several Black Headed Gulls flew over along with a Marsh Harrier. On the smaller scale there were some nice damselflies including White Legged and Azure plus a male Banded Demoiselle. Wood White, Green Veined White and Female Orange Tips were spotted along with a number of Painted Ladies. One of my guests delighted in finding and photographing jumping spiders and seeing Ruby Tailed Wasps. There was also a very large Weaver Beetle sitting nicely on the edge of the boardwalk.

Retracing our footsteps through the meadow in drier conditions, we admired a great number of Latticed Heath moths and a Small Heath butterfly plus Thrift, more usually associated with coastal locations, in good flower.

 

Thrift

 

We moved on and had a slightly longer drive round to an area known as the Red Bog. After a brief wait, interrupted by a Black Redstart outside the van, Tomasz had collected our permit and we were on our way into the restricted area. We learnt that only five vehicles per day are allowed into this zone and he had had to book some months in advance to secure our place. It was soon apparent why, as this was a beautiful and particularly unspoilt area with patches of virgin forest.

Having parked up in a grassy glade, we enjoyed our packed lunches at the picnic table. Some rather large horseflies buzzed around and seemed a little alarming but in fact none seemed to be biting, much to our relief. A large ground beetle was spotted as we ate which could have been Carabus granulatus, but it had scuttled off by the time we had finished and so we didn’t get to examine it further.

Suitably replete, we prepared for a walk into the forest. It began with a great swathe of Lily of the Valley on one side of the path and May Lily on the other interspersed with small, delicate white Chickweed Wintergreen (which is actually neither a Chickweed nor a Wintergreen!).

Lily of the Valley

 

Chickweed Wintergreen

 

Only a short distance further on, we came across the stunning pink blooms of Bloody Cranesbill in another small clearing and the fluffy seedheads of Pulsatilla patens. Back beneath the trees, Solomon’s Seal had just gone over.

 

Bloody Cranesbill

 

We soon emerged onto a section of track which consisted of looser sand and was bordered on one side by a high sandy bank and on the other by long grass and the odd small sapling leading to the woodland edge. A Common Clubtail dragonfly was spotted by Tomasz who helpfully focused the scope on it for us to look through, particularly as it was tricky to locate even with binoculars let alone the naked eye.

The track here was sunnier too and several Painted Ladies were seen zipping past at high speed. Northern Dune Tiger Beetles flew ahead of us and occasionally a Sand Lizard darted off the path before we had a chance to take a closer look. Annual Knawel flowered inconspicuously among the lichens on the bank while Tufted Vetch put on a blousier display and Wood Cow-wheat flowered in the grass on the other side of the track. A number of bumblebees were making the most of the available nectar sources, among them Red-Tailed and Buff-Tailed, while Painted Ladies flitted about in the sun.

 

Northern Dune Tiger Beetle

 

We soon reached a viewing platform and on climbing the wooden steps to reach it we startled several large sand lizards that had been beneath them. From the top we had fantastic views over the marsh but despite our best efforts we could see very little. The breeze here was a pleasant respite from the heat of the afternoon though and so we were content to sit and watch a while. A couple of Ravens flew past while both Yellowhammer and Common Whitethroat sang from the Birch trees below. On the way back down, I came across an Antlion in the sand at the bottom of the stairs. 

Returning the way we had come, we noted a few more butterflies than earlier including Common Blue, Small Heath, Brimstone, Pale Clouded Yellow, Chequered Skipper and quite a few Sooty Copper.

 

Sooty Copper

 

A Scarce Chaser dragonfly was also seen resting atop a dead plant stem.

 

Scarce Chaser

 

Cuckoo had been calling almost constantly during our visit and one flew overhead here. Tomasz was also able to point out a very obliging female Sand Lizard on the edge of the track which allowed us all to photograph her and admire her beautiful markings. It’s no award winning photo for me, but I was happy to get such a clear view of a species I’d not seen before.

 

Female Sand Lizard

 

Having told us that Wolves tend to use the track to patrol their territory, Tomasz also explained that the recent rain had washed away any tracks that we might have seen, but he was able to show us an old scat which consisted mostly of fur.

On the way back through the wood a Clouded Apollo was briefly glimpsed, and in the glade beyond we looked for Scarce Heath butterflies but without success. On reaching the minibus we took a moment to rehydrate and relax. During our brief wanderings in doing so, we came across a single Map butterfly and a male Beautiful demoiselle.

When we eventually moved on we drove back towards the guest house and stopped at an area of raised bog which Tomasz described as a Fairytale Forest and we could soon see why.

 

 

It was beautiful with the foamy white flowers of Labrador Tea among vivid green Bog Bilberry leaves and Stiff Clubmoss beneath the Silver Birch trees. We had nice views of a Wood Warbler as we started out and a Tree Pipit called and was eventually located in the top of a Silver Birch a little further round. 

 

Labrador Tea

 

In some pools created by old peat cutting activity we found Round leaved Sundew growing alongside Cottongrass and a couple of small Marsh Frogs were spotted among the moss. Several Painted Ladies were chasing one another round the canopy and an Eggar type moth was seen briefly as it flew from the undergrowth. We found a few piles of Moose droppings beside the path too and noted their distinctive rugby ball shape.

We had heard a thunderstorm building while we walked and at the first few drops of rain we turned back, reaching the van just as the heavens opened. We only had a short drive back to the hotel and the rain only seemed to get heavier as we arrived, so we stayed put for a minute or two in the hope that it would abate. Eventually it did just long enough to grab our things and make a run for it to the cover of the hotel. When we reconvened for dinner later the storm had passed completely and there was barely any sign that it had happened save the odd puddle outside. We enjoyed another hearty meal and having gone through our species checklists, took an early night after our dawn start.

The next morning dawned cloudy but thankfully not wet. After breakfast, we set out to a small town where we stopped at a viewing area overlooking the river Biebrza below and the marshland beyond. It was chilly and trying to drizzle, but we weren’t dissuaded and our resilience soon paid off. Swifts wheeled overhead, Mute Swans patrolled the river and a Stork on a nest below us stood up to reveal three chicks safely sheltered beneath. We watched the adult birds swap over parental duties and listened to a Great Reed Warbler calling from somewhere nearby. It wasn’t until I got home and put my photos on my laptop that I spotted the interloper, a House Sparrow that had taken up residence in the bottom of the Stork’s nest, not an uncommon sight but an amusing one nevertheless!

 

White Stork and young

 

A White Tailed Eagle put in an appearance and circled slowly in front of us before moving off over the marsh, while a noisy flock of Rooks departed their Rookery for the day. A Common Rosefinch was spotted singing from the very top of a Silver Birch tree by the river but flew before Tomasz could set up the scope. He soon had it trained on a Roe Deer he had spotted in the distance though!

Just as we had decided to move on one of our eagle-eyed guests spotted a Falcon which sped overhead and disappeared. Despite hurrying back to the best viewing spot we were unable to locate it again to confirm the species but Tomasz thought it was likely either a Hobby or Red Footed Falcon.

We eventually did move on and our next stop was at a Bridge over a smaller river from where we could see a scrape beyond the riverside meadow. A Great White Egret had been spotted in flight only a few moments before we stopped and we were surprised to see five more and a Grey Heron all sharing a ditch! Black Headed Gulls were numerous here and Redshank called around us unseen. Lapwing flew over the scrape giving their “peewit” calls and Ruff were spotted. The meadow here was full of flowering Bistort and a confiding White Wagtail sat on the crash barrier a few feet from us while a Yellowhammer called nearby.

 

White Wagtail

 

Driving on, we asked if we could stop to photograph Storks in a meadow and duly came across a large non-breeding flock beside the road. Having photographed these we found a similar flock in the next field and several more in almost every one we passed. Tomasz estimated that there must have been nearly 100 in this one village alone!

 

White Storks

 

Another Stork caused us to stop to see what it was carrying – nesting material as it turned out – and just as we were about to move on Tomasz spotted a stunning male Red-Backed Shrike in a sapling right beside us. One of my guests carefully opened the door and we were all able to get a great view and photographs of this lovely bird.

 

Male Red Backed Shrike

 

Our next stop was in a village right by the river where Tomasz usually sees hundreds of Terns. He explained that this year they had had a very dry spring followed by a very wet week where the water level had risen by over twenty centimetres, and subsequently the Terns’ nests were flooded and so they had dispersed. Nevertheless we saw both Whiskered and Black Terns here as well as Black-Tailed Godwit, Redshank and Sand Martins skimming over the water.

Having checked a couple more spots in the village without success we continued to our lunch spot, pausing only briefly to photograph a roadside shrine decked out with ribbons and flowers, one of a great many seen during our trip. 

Lunch was at another viewing point overlooking the marsh and we enjoyed our sandwiches with a fantastic panorama in front of us. There was another group of Great White Egret here along with Grey Heron, the ubiquitous White Stork and more Black Terns. There were also several Shovelers, the first duck we had seen other than Mallard. We heard Cranes calling in the distance and a huge flock of seventy five flew over. Tomasz looked and looked for Black Stork but didn’t find any. He did spot a Moose however, again at a great distance. 

The Rye field beside us was once again full of Cornflowers but also Common Poppies and Scentless Mayweed. Artemisia absinthium grew here too and Tomasz enjoyed demonstrating its delicious scent to the group.

 

 

Near the edge of the field I found a Paper Wasp building a nest on a dry plant stem and this, along with Latticed Heath moths, weevils and various other small critters, became a favoured photographic subject here.

 

Paper Wasp building a nest

 

It was soon time to move on and Tomasz took us to another site to look for Black Storks. We waited in the minibus for a few minutes while he went off to scout it out. He came back shaking his head but we had kept ourselves entertained trying to make out whether a Wood Pigeon was actually a Stock Dove and watching another House Sparrow return to its nest in the bottom of a White Stork’s nest.

Driving on we made a brief stop to look at a Crane with two chicks only to find a second, also with two chicks in the distance too. Only a short way down the same road we stopped again having seen a White Tailed Eagle fly into a nearby tree. It was out of sight for us but we waited and sure enough it soon emerged, only to fly in the opposite direction meaning we didn’t get the views we were hoping for. Not to be disappointed though, we found all manner of insect life to look at instead, including a beautiful orange micromoth (Olethreutes sp.), a jumping spider, lots of Scorpion flies, several longhorn beetles, a variety of weevils, a Dock Bug, a Yellowtail moth caterpillar and a number of damselflies too. I also found the eggs of a predatory shield bug which were intriguingly edged with tiny spikes. We duly heard Bittern booming in the distance as well and saw a Mute Swan on a nest from the track on the other side of the road.

 

Olethreutes sp., a micro moth

 

Golden Bloomed Grey Longhorn Beetle

 

Nettle Weevil

 

Predatory Shieldbug eggs

 

Tomasz was still hopeful that he could find a Black Stork to show us and so we visited one last stop to look for them. Collared doves flew past and a couple of domestic Guineafowl foraged in the undergrowth on the bank below us but the Storks were still elusive apart from the odd white one. There were the remains of a Second World War bunker here with a memorial which proved interesting though. Tomasz helped to translate the interpretation board which explained that in an extraordinary battle lasting three days, 720 Polish soldiers had held off 42,000 advancing German troops. When the captain realised that they had run out of ammunition he told his men to surrender to the Germans and blew himself up inside the bunker, destroying it in the process.

With this incredible but sobering tale in our thoughts, we climbed back into the vehicle to head to a spot where we would look for Citrine Wagtail. It turned out to be only a short distance up the road from where we had looked at the butterflies on the first afternoon. The Wagtails were not to be seen but we did have nice views of a Montagu’s Harrier and a couple of Lapwing. Water Plantain was growing in some of the puddles and a few damselflies were lurking in the undergrowth too.

 

Water Plantain

 

A Common Rosefinch called nearby and I located a Thrush Nightingale in the dense undergrowth beside the road, only for it to have moved by the time the group joined me. Instead, Tomasz played their contact call to lure it briefly into view. We also noted a number of branches of a nearby cherry tree covered in cobwebs containing caterpillars of the Orchard Ermine moth.

Our last stop of the day was at the boardwalk we had visited the previous morning. Sedge Warblers were still the most conspicuous residents here, but Meadow Pipits and Snipe were also seen and the Tiger moth caterpillar had hardly moved. Aquatic Warbler was heard calling in several spots and eventually located very close to the boardwalk allowing us all good views.

 

Aquatic Warbler

 

A few flower buds of Early Marsh Orchid were found, much to Tomasz’s surprise as he said they should be in full bloom already by now. Marsh Cinquefoil was also noted in distinctive flower.

On our return to the hotel we were once again treated to a delicious three course meal in the evening and having eaten, we retired to start packing up ready to move bases in the morning.

We woke to glorious blue skies the followingmorning. One of my guests had been out at 3.20am for a hike through the woods to a viewpoint recommended by Tomasz. Over breakfast he told us of a close encounter with Moose, hearing what he thought were howling Wolves and photographing a dew-jewelled Chequered Skipper roosting beside the path. Having eaten, we packed our luggage in the minibus to the sound of a Woodlark singing high overhead.

The first stop of the day was a very short drive away. We took a walk down a track through the Alder Carr and out to the wet meadows and marshland beyond. Our progress was slow as there was so much to see. We began finding jumping spiders to photograph only a short distance in and a Wood Warbler was spotted in the trees nearby. Painted Lady butterflies zoomed past every few minutes while Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff and Blackcap provided a steady background soundtrack interspersed with Common Rosefinch, Great Tit, Song Thrush, Thrush Nightingale and distant Cranes.

 

Female Jumping Spider

 

We also found quite a few caterpillars of the Scarce Fritillary. We looked in vain for adults too.

 

Scarce Fritillary Caterpillar

 

A few interesting plants were noted on our walk. Along with Wood Cow-wheat which is very common here, we found Herb Paris and Twayblades in bloom as well as the bud of a Lesser Butterfly orchid. Leaves of Broad Leaved Helleborine and Lady’s Slipper Orchid were also found but although the latter should have been flowering it was not yet. One unusual plant seen was Asarum europeum which has very round, glossy leaves and a strange, bell shaped flower at ground level which is pollinated by ants. Both Wood and Water Avens were flowering and Yellow Flag Iris blooms punctuated the pools either side of the track.

 

Water Avens

 

Further down the track a couple of Grass Snakes were spotted, one on the track itself which slithered off at our approach and another in the undergrowth to one side. On reaching the observation tower that we had been aiming for, we found that two vehicles which had passed us (to our surprise) were in fact those of wardens/rangers who were repairing the tower and boardwalk there. We went a short distance beyond to a point labelled as the end of the trail so that we could hear one another over the noise of their chainsaw and had a brief break, during which a Swallowtail was spotted flying at high speed just above the rushes in the marsh around us. Marsh Valerian was flowering here and still more Painted Ladies came in a steady stream overhead.

Turning back, we noted one Alder tree which seemed to have a lot of Cockchafers in the lower branches. On closer inspection each branch all the way up the tree must have held at least a dozen, meaning that this one tree would have had several hundred of these large beetles that are so scarce in Britain these days. 

We paused on the way back in a wet meadow full of Bistort, Meadow Thistle, Ragged Robin and Lesser Spearwort and studded with Marsh Orchids. This group of orchids is notoriously difficult to identify to species level, particularly as they hybridise readily, but after some discussion, Tomasz and I suggested that these were likely to be the Broad-Leaved Marsh Orchid, Dactylorhiza majalis. A Common Toad was also enjoying the meadow and Green Veined White, Peacock and Common Blue joined the Painted Ladies nectaring on the flowers here. Back on the track, Map, Scarce Heath and Heath Fritillary were spotted as well as both Chequered and Northern Chequered Skippers. A Common Lizard was also seen as it scampered off the path in front of us.

 

Chequered Skipper on Jacob’s Ladder

 

Northern Chequered Skipper

 

Heath Fritillary

 

By this time we were a little behind schedule as there had been so much to look at. We made our way steadily back to the road and were met by Lukasz in the minibus. He took us back to our guesthouse one last time for lunch and a quick break before we moved to our second base for the trip in the forest. It is at this point that I’m stopping for now. There is so much more to tell you but you’d be here all week reading about it and so you’ll have to wait for the next instalment!

More Grecian Butterflies

Following on from my last post detailing a tour round the Gulf of Corinth for Greenwings Wildlife Holidays to look for Grecian butterflies, I’m picking up where I left off. Join Julian Dowding, esteemed illustrator Richard Lewington and me as we set out for several more days exploring the Greek countryside in search of its rich and diverse lepidoptera – of course everything else we find is a bonus and not to be overlooked either!

Our fourth day broke and we woke to a rather miserable morning weather-wise, but were not too disheartened as we were transferring to our second base for the week and so hoped that we may be able to find a sunny spot on our way. We packed up the vans after breakfast and set out, making a brief fuel stop en route. Unfortunately the rain didn’t relent and so we stopped for a coffee in a small cafe on the harbour front in the charming little town of Galaxidi. As we finished our drinks the sun came out and we were able to have an impromptu wander around the harbour and up the wooded hill on the far side to a little historic cave dwelling.

Much of the ground vegetation had been cleared here, presumably to prevent fire risk being so close to the town, but we still managed to find a few things of interest. The first was a reasonable sized Marginated Tortoise, looking for all the world like an old tin army helmet with legs, and which seemed rather surprised to be suddenly confronted with people! One of our guests then spotted a Freyer’s Grayling on a tree trunk and as the sun’s warmth continued to pervade we saw many more, most of us sporting them as fetching accessories at one point or another during our time here. There were also a couple of Small Whites and Wall Browns fluttering around.

Some large Lobed Orb-Weaver Spiders, Argiope lobata, caught people’s attention among the spines of a Prickly Pear and several Rosemary Leaf Beetles shone beautifully in the sunshine among the twigs of the Rosemary bushes beside the path, showing off their metallic red and green stripes.

Back in the harbour, we had nice views of Yellow-legged Gulls, and lots of House Martins and Collared Doves. There was plenty to look at in the water too, with crabs feeding on the surface where a patch of seagrass held them above the water and lots of small fish, sea anemones and sea urchins just beyond the harbour wall.

It was soon lunchtime and we found a delightful restaurant on the waterfront which offered us a selection of delicious local dishes to enjoy before we hit the road again. Our journey took us along the coast road to Antirrio. Unfortunately the rain set in again while we were on the road and the views of the other side of the Gulf of Corinth were masked by low cloud, but the sea still looked amazingly blue-green despite the poor weather. We crossed the spectacular Rio-Antirrio suspension bridge over the Gulf and turned back towards Athens taking a turn off the new motorway at Diakopto. By now, the sun had begun to shine again and we were soon making an impromptu stop to make the most of it.

We had not long turned onto the road towards Kalavryta when we saw a suitable spot to stop beside a river where some orchards came down to the road. Here we found Holly Blue, Speckled Wood and Southern White Admiral butterflies as well as Beautiful Demoiselle and Whilte-legged Damselflies.

 

White-legged Damselfly

 

There were some impressively large Weevils as well and once again one of our guests spotted a Short-Toed Eagle take off from a nearby tree and soar overhead.

 

Lixus angustatus weevils mating

 

Our legs suitably stretched we decided to move on up the mountain to another good butterfly spot while the weather allowed. Our next stop was a small meadow surrounded by woodland with a small spring running through it to the river below. As we pulled in a large butterfly soared effortlessly over the vans at high speed and quite a height. Julian leapt from the vehicle with a shout of “Cambi” but the Camberwell Beauty was almost out of sight. It made a few brief appearances at great height overhead but didn’t come so close again. Nonetheless, we soon had plenty more to look at including Brown Argus, Common and Chapman’s Blues, Small Skipper and Balkan Marbled White.

 

Brown Argus

 

An eagle-eyed guest found a beautiful brown form female Meleager’s Blue and there were still more lovely butterflies to be found here including Lattice Brown, Wood White, Hungarian Skipper, Painted Lady, Ilex Hairstreak, Grecian Copper, Large Wall and Freyer’s Grayling.

 

Brown form female Meleager’s Blue

 

Another member of our group found a lovely Silver Washed Fritillary while a third came across a Greek Stream Frog. I also found a rather nice Longhorn beetle on the back of a Bramble leaf.

 

Longhorn beetle, Corymbia cordigera

 

We also found a pair of beautifully coloured Jewel Beetles living up to their name.

 

Jewel Beetles

 

An intriguing plant also caught my eye here, a very slender, yellowish Bupleurum.

 

Bupleurum glumaceum

 

The rain eventually caught up with us as we climbed back into the vehicles for the last leg of the trip which was punctuated only by a brief stop at a roadside kiosk to buy locally grown cherries which were passed around the buses to share. We arrived in Kalavryta in the early evening and had time to settle in before taking a walk round the town and heading to dinner in a Pizzeria near the town square.

Another morning of unseasonably wet weather greeted us the following day and we decided to head back towards the coast in the hope of getting out of it. We took a circuitous route via a small village called Plataniotissa where a huge and ancient hollow Plane tree has become the local church and which you can read more about in my piece about an Autumn trip to the area. There was little wildlife to see in the downpour but the magnificent church in a tree was worth a detour.

Reaching the coast, we visited the bottom of the Vouriakou Gorge and set up a bait of over-ripe bananas mixed with ouzo in the hopes of attracting Two-Tailed Pashas. The rain didn’t let up though and while we saw a few Beautiful Demoiselles and one of our group spotted a freshwater crab, we soon headed into Diakopto in search of a coffee shop to warm up and wait out the worst of the storm.

Suitably refreshed, a few members of the group decided that they would like to take the rack and pinion train back up the gorge to Kalavryta. Having checked the timetable, we gave them their packed lunches and sent them on their way, promising to wave as they passed us, as we were heading back to the gorge. Our second stop here was more successful as the rain abated for a while as we ate our lunches, supplemented with some lovely local sunflower seed breadsticks from a bakery in town. A couple of Lattice Browns were spotted flying around the treetops and a wander yielded Eastern Bath White and Southern Small White. It was a start!

The Beautiful Demoiselles were still there in some numbers and a couple of White-legged Damselflies were found too while a Common Kestrel’s calls echoed through the valley from above us.

 

Beautiful Demoiselle

 

Probably the most intriguing find was the utterly enormous green caterpillar of the Giant Peacock Moth, Europe’s largest moth. It was easily 4-5 inches long and feeding happily in a Blackthorn bush. We all got good photos and were able to admire the bright blue spots from which sprouted coarse looking black hairs. In the damp weather, several of these held water droplets.

Heading back up the mountain we stopped once more at the spring in the woods that we had visited the day before. The rain had stopped and although the sun wasn’t quite out there were butterflies about as well as a Cetti’s Warbler loudly declaring its presence from the trees nearby.

In terms of butterflies there seemed to be a vast number of Brown Argus in particular and most posing calmly for photographs so I took rather a lot. I’m not going to post them all but here are a select few!

 


Brown Argus

 

At one point, I saw a frog jump into the undergrowth and was looking for it when I became a model of a new species for the trip, a Woodland Grayling which had landed on my arm and sat nicely for the rest of the group to photograph there. It then sat on the numberplate of one of the vans for a moment or two which allowed me to photograph it too.

 

Woodland Grayling

 

A Silver Washed Fritillary was found in the higher section of meadow along with a Long-tailed Blue, while Brown Argus, Holly Blue and Wood White were seen lower down. There was soon a call from the roadside that a new species had been found in a clearing a few yards further on and so we carefully walked down the road to find it. On the way we found a lovely male Meleager’s Blue on a mint plant in the ditch and a green shield bug nymph doing its best to blend in.

 

Male Meleager’s Blue

 

Shieldbug nymph

 

In the clearing beyond, we were greeted by a lovely Grecian Anomalous Blue which was perched atop a plant and quite happy to be photographed by one and all.

 

Grecian Anomalous Blue

 

Moving on uphill it was decided that as we still had time to spare we would head on beyond Kalavryta to see if the sun was shining higher up. We passed those that had taken the train on the way as they were returning from the Monument of Remembrance marking the terrible massacre that occurred in the town during the Second World War.

We found a sunny spot just off the road and pulled in to explore some local meadows. A nightingale sang here and just outside the buses a patch of mint was covered in Common and Chapman’s Blues and Brown Argus. The other side of the track a Great Banded Grayling basked on a rock and a Lattice Brown rested on a Mullein leaf allowing good views of its lovely eye-spot patterning.

Acanthus spinosus was in good flower here as were a number of slender Larkspur stems. Small Skipper, Meadow Brown and Clouded Yellow fluttered around the flowers in the meadow and a lone Hermit was found soaking up the sun on a small stone at the top of a steep bank. Other butterflies found in the meadow were Balkan Marbled White as well as Small Heath and both Anomalous and Ripart’s Anomalous Blues.

Suitably content that we had found butterflies despite the soggy start to the day we made our way back down the mountain. That evening we enjoyed a lovely dinner at a traditional restaurant around the corner from our comfortable hotel.

With the weather looking as though it might be clearer the next day, we set off after breakfast up the mountain once more and headed for the Chelmos ski centre. We were in the cloud on arrival but made the decision to venture out for a few minutes to see whether any butterflies could be found settled in the long grass. The temperature was a decidedly chilly 8°C which was a surprise to most of the group who had packed for more usual warm conditions.

Despite our searching there were no invertebrates to be seen and the only species noted were Linnets in the car park. We drove the short distance to look into the Valley of the Styx and see whether we might have more luck there, but as we couldn’t even see into the valley for the cloud we turned back the other way and took the road towards the Cave of the Lakes. The weather was not improving so we dropped down into the small town of Kleitoria for a coffee stop.

It wasn’t long before the sun broke through the clouds and, suitably refuelled from our refreshment break, we set out uphill once more. We had barely left the small town when we made our first stop beside the road at a scrubby meadow where the beautiful Grecian butterflies we were looking for were making the most of the warming sun.

Immediately beside the buses was a patch of brambles which bore both Small White and Southern Small White plus a couple of slightly battered Common Blues. There was fennel growing in the verge too and closer inspection of the plants yielded several Swallowtail caterpillars at different stages of development. One of our guests also came across a Sage Skipper nectaring on the flower of a Spanish Oysterplant.

 

Swallowtail caterpillar

 

Along with the Swallowtail caterpillars in the verge, I also came across another caterpillar which at the time was somewhat of a mystery in terms of identifying what it was and would turn into. Thankfully, my lovely Twitter followers have helped me to establish that it is a moth called Manuela palliatella.

 

Manuela palliatella

 

The other side of the road I came across several instars of Hairy Shield Bug nymphs. I was intrigued to see that they become progressively less hairy as they age but they certainly show how they earned their common name!

 

Hairy Shield Bug nymph

 

Climbing the bank there were plenty more butterflies to be found including Great Banded Grayling, Brown Argus, Small Copper, Wall Brown and Southern White Admiral. A Large White fluttered past along with an Eastern Bath White and several Clouded Yellows followed suit. Overhead a Kestrel was making rather a commotion and looking up, we found it to be mobbing a juvenile Golden Eagle directly above us.

 

Small Copper

 

One of our guests found a Weasel hunting around a stone pile in one corner of the meadow and popping up, “whack-a-mole” style every few moments to keep an eye on him. Further up the bank, an Anomalous Blue was found along with Spotted Fritillary, a slightly worn Grecian Copper and several Long-Tailed Blues.

 

Long Tailed Blue on Felty Germander

 

A gorgeous Scarce Swallowtail also flew through, pausing to feed on a lovely blue Eryngo and allowing most of the group a good look albeit from a reasonable distance. In a meadow below the road at least two more were spotted egg-laying on Blackthorn bushes. Along with the butterflies we found a Red Assassin Bug wandering about, presumably in search of its next invertebrate victim.

 

Red Assassin Bug, Rhynocoris iracaundus

 

Another guest was particularly pleased to find a Spotted Sulphur Moth, now considered extinct in the UK but previously limited to the Brecks. Meanwhile we found a Four-spotted Moth which was equally striking in its markings. On the way back to the vehicles it was established that the lovely Sage Skipper was still there but sadly had been caught by a cunning yellow Crab Spider which was busy devouring it – such is nature!

 

Spotted Sulphur Moth

 

We moved on to another roadside meadow the other side of Kleitoria for our lunch stop. Here there were a good number of enormous Illyrian Cotton thistles and before we had even parked there were cries of “Swallowtail!” as both Common and Scarce Swallowtails were feeding on the huge purple flower heads. A Hummingbird Hawkmoth was also zipping from one to the next while most bore beetles of one sort or another including Rose Chafer, White Spotted Rose Beetle and some more fine weevils.

 

Rose Chafer on Thistle bud

 

A Cetti’s Warbler called loudly from somewhere below us and among the flowers up the bank above were yet more butterflies including both Common and Chapman’s Blues, Great Banded Grayling and a lovely male Meleager’s Blue. A Balkan Marbled White was particularly obliging for photographs and another Sage Skipper was found. A few yards up the road one of our group came across a pristine pair of Brown Argus mating while Sooty Copper, followed swiftly by a Grecian Copper were spotted next to the vehicles.

 

Balkan Marbled White

 

I also found a rather pretty Dianthus species with gorgeous patterning on the petals. I have yet to identify it to species level but thought it worth sharing anyway!

 

Dianthus sp.

 

Having enjoyed our lunch in the sunshine we turned back towards the town and stopped by the river on the outskirts. We walked a short way down a side road following the course of the river and were rewarded with a variety of lovely things. Julian spotted what he thought was an unusual form of Cleopatra but by the time we had caught up from our dawdling enjoying the sun and the birdsong and looking at the plants it had disappeared into the ether. Not to be disappointed we carried on and were soon fascinated by a particularly large wasp, Megascolia flavifrons which was gorging itself on another large thistle flower.

 

Megascolia flavifrons and honey bee

 

The flower head next to it held a spectacular Violet Carpenter Bee and there were lots of other, smaller insects humming around too.

 

Violet Carpenter Bee

 

We were soon seeing butterflies too with a stunning Silver Washed Fritillary one of the first to be spotted. There were a few Odonata here too with both Beautiful and Banded Demoiselles as well as White-legged Damselflies. A Blackcap sang from the trees on the bank over the water and a small flock of Serins flew over. I also came across a small but striking moth sitting amongst the brambles on the riverbank.

 

Tineid moth, Euplocampus ophisa

Dropping into a small roadside meadow we came across Sooty Copper, Common Blue, Brown Argus and Spotted Fritillary.

 

Common Blue on Vervain

 

A Southern Skimmer Dragonfly hung from a bramble leaf and there was a mass of Dodder too, which is an interesting orangey-yellow parasitic plant that winds itself around other plants.

 

Dodder, Cuscuta palaestina

 

Making our way back towards the vehicles we came across an Eastern Bath White, a Hummingbird Hawk-moth and a Sage Skipper.

 

Eastern Bath White

Sage Skipper

 

A large red and black beetle was also found face down in a thistle flower. Richard identified it as Trichodes apiarius, the Bee-eating Beetle, so named for the larval stage of their lifecycle where they parasitise solitary bees, eating their larvae.

One of our guests also came across an uncommon lizard behind the small spring, the Greek Algyroides which is endemic to the Peloponnese and a few outlying islands. Up a dry track nearby there was another Sage Skipper as well as both Meadow and Oriental Meadow Browns.

 

Meadow Brown on Spanish Oyster plant

 

A new Dragonfly was also found, a lovely yellow Small Pincertail.

 

Small Pincertail Dragonfly

 

Moving on once more we headed to a local spring for our last stop of the day where we hoped to find the endemic Greek Goldenring Dragonfly. Indeed we were barely out of the vehicles when the first individual was spotted. There were several patrolling the waters here and one of our guests even photographed one ovipositing in the calmer water at the edge of the main torrent.

 

Greek Goldenring Dragonfly

 

Along with the impressive Goldenring, several exuviae of which were found and collected, were smaller Spectre dragonflies and lots of Beautiful Demoiselles, the latter of which seemed to take a liking to those wearing hats as a novel perch.

 

Beautiful Demoiselle

 

The dragonflies were not the only interest here as there were Sooty Copper and Mallow Skipper as well as wonderfully shiny metallic green Mint Leaf Beetles and some lovely Longhorn Beetles too.

 

Sooty Copper

 

Mint leaf beetle

 

Well and truly satisfied at a good day of entomology, botany and ornithology we set out back to the hotel and another pleasant evening at a local restaurant.

The following day dawned sunny with just the odd cloud in the sky and we thanked our lucky stars that the peculiar weather seemed to have come to an end. Setting off after breakfast we found that once again the mountain top was in cloud but as there was so much blue sky elsewhere we were confident that with a little time it would burn off.

We continued down towards the Cave of the Lakes to the roadside meadows we had stopped in several evenings previously. Once again the patch of mint next to the buses was covered in butterflies, Brown Argus were most numerous with a couple of Common Blues joining them. A Cirl Bunting sang from a telegraph wire overhead while a Hoopoe called nearby. Great Banded Grayling and Lattice Brown flew overhead and Meadow Browns fluttered through the long grasses around us.

 

Lattice Brown

 

This morning, rather than scramble up the bank to the meadow above us we chose to walk on down the track to see what lay in wait in the fields beyond. We rounded the first corner and found the day’s first new butterfly of the trip sitting on a rusty fence wire, a Purple Hairstreak. A Ripart’s Anomalous Blue was next to be found and in a small, stony field Clouded Yellows flitted about while an Eastern Bath White and Balkan Marbled White fed on Illyrian Cotton Thistle flowers. One dying flower head held a colourful and likely endemic Bright Bushcricket.

 

Bright Bushcricket, Poecilimon sp.

 

There were some lovely flowers here although they weren’t immediately obvious as the surroundings were so dry that many were rather smaller than they might have been. Among them though, rarities in England such as Corncockle and Larkspur, as well as Common Poppies and Love-in-a-Mist. Felty Germander was prolific in places too and with it came a variety of butterflies and other insects such as the Hairy Flower Wasp, Scolia hirta.

 

Hairy Flower Wasp, Scolia hirta

 

Small Skippers were plentiful here and in another meadow, so were Mallow Skippers and Hermits, the latter seeming to prefer the thistle flowers too.

 

The Hermit

 

An Anomalous Blue was found and a probable Southern Grayling along with Chapman’s Blue, Small Heath and Zephyr Blue. The Hoopoe called throughout but didn’t make an appearance though a Sardinian Warbler did and so too did a large mixed flock of goats and sheep which were being moved through the meadows.

 

Anomalous Blue

 

Chapman’s Blue

 

Turning to make our way back to the vehicles a few of the group had a lovely clear view of a Southern White Admiral basking in the lower branches of a Spiny Pear tree.

 

Southern White Admiral

 

Just beyond we came across a huge and beautifully marked adult male Antlion.

 

Antlion

 

As we were climbing into the vehicles another new species to the trip, a Sloe Hairstreak, was found on that notorious patch of mint by our parking spot and everyone disembarked to photograph it before we moved on.

 

Sloe Hairstreak

 

Retracing our steps we headed uphill once more towards the ski centre. It was still not quite as bright as it could be and so we continued on into the Valley of the Styx and found a lovely spot to stop where a track led along the mountainside through meadows and rough scrub. The butterflies here were numerous and there were plenty of other things to see too. We began with a Large Skipper, another new species for the trip, and followed soon after with a rather unhappy Black-Veined White which I moved off the path and onto a flower with the hope it might recover.

 

Black Veined White

 

There was soon a call from Julian that he had spotted a Chequered Blue in the meadow over the rise and so we quickened our pace to join him. It had gone by the time we got there but there were Spotted Fritillaries and Clouded Yellows bombing all over the place in the heat of the morning and along with them, Common and Chapman’s Blues, Brown Argus, Balkan Marbled White and Large White. There was lots of wild Oregano here which the butterflies were particularly enjoying.

 

Brown Argus

 

A little further along a newly emerged Cicada was found, still green and soft with its exuvium beneath it on the grass stem it had chosen. Nearby a pair of mating Great Banded Graylings were found while a Southern White Admiral flew overhead. There were at least two species of Burnet moth visiting the Oregano flowers here too.

 

Great Banded Graylings

 

On the track, a Turquoise Blue posed nicely for the group to get photographs and a short way further on a Meleager’s Blue was spotted which would be the first of many with a mating pair found later too.

 

Meleager’s Blues

 

There were several Ripart’s Anomalous Blues nectaring on the fluffy white Felty Germander (Teucrium polium) growing down the middle of the track and a Grecian Anomalous Blue was spotted too. There was also a Greek Goldenring Dragonfly zooming about which seemed rather bizarre as there was no sign of any water nearby.

 

Ripart’s Anomalous Blue on Felty Germander

 

Reaching the end of the track where it dropped away at too steep a rate to continue we had lovely views of a female Silver Washed Fritillary and on the way back to the vehicles, we found a male as well.

Female Silver Washed Fritillary

 

Female Silver Washed Fritillary

 

We ate our lunches by the vehicles before retracing our route up the mountain. On the way back uphill, a snake crossed the road in front of Julian’s van. We all stopped and several people jumped out for a closer look but it had slithered beneath a bush not to emerge again and so we never did manage to identify it.

Our next stop was the first of three at consecutively higher altitudes to look for the elusive Chelmos and Oddspot Blues. We stopped beside the road and walked up a rough track to a gully where scree collected. There was a lovely clump of Narrow Leaved Valerian here and although it didn’t yield any butterflies, a Ripart’s Anomalous Blue was found nearby while higher up a Mountain Small White fluttered past. There were Ravens cronking and tumbling overhead and a small-flowered Wild Rose grew beside the track while a Woodland Grayling did its best to blend in with the rock on which it sat.

 

Wild Rose

 

Woodland Grayling

 

A little further up the mountain we stopped in a damp gully and found a number of Corn Buntings singing from the tops of the shrubby trees there. The butterflies we were hoping for were not to be found but we did see Silver Studded Blue and Oriental Meadow Brown. Julian also found a Dark Green Fritillary though many of the group didn’t manage to see it. There was a nice wild cornflower there too, Centaurea pichleri. Climbing back into the vans for the next stop, one of our more intrepid guests opted to walk and set off before we did as it wasn’t far.

He rejoined us soon after we disembarked the vans at our next stop. It was a rather windy and exposed spot but we felt that it was worth exploring as the sun was better here than it had been all week.

We hadn’t gone terribly far when the first butterfly was found, it wasn’t the local endemic we had hoped for but a Silver Studded Blue. This was the first of four, and the only butterfly species we found here. There were some lovely large beetles bumbling around though and the flora was very interesting. There were cushions of Thyme, the lovely Scabious, Pterocephalus perennis and pink flowered Spiny Thrift, Ancatholimon echinus (the food plant of the Odd Spot Blue) studded with sedums sporting both pale pink and yellow clusters of starry flowers.

 

Mountain flora

 

The lower slopes were tufted with endemic low growing, grey leaved Hawthorns, Crataegus pycnoloba and there were some lovely pale yellow endemic Toadflaxes here too, Linaria peloponneasiaca.

 

Linaria peloponnesiaca

 

We began to make our way back down towards Kalavryta and made an impromptu stop in a promising looking glade where Lathyrus grandiflorus and Ornithogalum narbonense were flowering. I came across a rather lovely looking Blister beetle and there were Meadow Browns and a couple of Blues flying about but it wasn’t quite what we were looking for and so we moved on.

 

Blister beetle. Mylabris quadripunctata

 

Our next impromptu stop was at another roadside meadow with a track through it. Here, we began with nice views of a male Red-backed Shrike on top of a low growing shrub. There were a couple of butterflies including Balkan Marbled White, Clouded Yellow and Common Blue but once again not quite the new and exciting species we were after. Having photographed a Cicada which sat nicely for everyone on the wooden post of a sign by the bus, we continued downhill.

Our final stop was only a short distance on from the previous one, another meadow down a rather steep bank but worth the effort of scrambling down into it. The few who stayed at the top didn’t miss out though and saw a number of species including an Eastern Baton Blue found by one of our guests.

In the meadow below there were several lovely bright green lizards though none stuck around long enough to be examined for identification purposes. There were lots of butterflies though including Brown Argus, Painted Lady and Hermit. One Small Heath defied its name a little by being rather larger than normal and a guest excelled herself by finding a stunning specimen of Lesser Fiery Copper.

 

Small Heath

 

Grecian butterflies - Lesser fiery copper

Lesser Fiery Copper

 

In a gravel basin at the top of the slope there was Onosma erecta flowering and Crag Martins swooped over our heads.

 

Golden drops, Onosma erecta

 

It was soon time to wend our way back down the mountain but our wildlife viewing was not quite over yet as a pair of Short Toed Eagles was spotted circling overhead as we drove down the last stretch towards Kalavryta and a very small Hermann’s Tortoise crossed the road by the path to the memorial.

We spent our last evening at Grand Chalet watching the sun set over the gorge below us and eating delicious home cooked food.

Of course, being our last day, the weather was glorious! We packed up and set out in reasonable time saying our goodbyes to one of our guests before doing so as he was staying on. We headed back down to the bottom of the gorge at Diakopto and laid out our bait once more. Within moments there were Two-tailed Pashas dropping in to feast on the fermenting fruit and although a couple were a little tatty, there was at least one in excellent condition.

 

A rather worn Two Tailed Pasha

 

In addition to the stunning Pashas we also saw Berger’s Clouded Yellow, Holly Blue, Pygmy Skipper (our only of the trip) and both Freyer’s and Woodland Graylings. There were quite a few dragonflies and Damselflies around today too, plus numerous frogs on the edge of the river and several fine male Peloponnese Wall Lizards showing off their vibrant orange throats.

 

Greek Marsh Frog, Pelophylax kurtmuelleri

 

Male Peloponnese Wall Lizard

 

We were also able to show the Giant Peacock Moth caterpillar to those who had taken the train up the mountain earlier in the week. We discovered that there were in fact two in the same bush – how we had missed the second which was a similar size to the first, we will never know!

 

Giant Peacock Moth caterpillar

 

On our way to this spot, one of our guests who has a keen interest in jumping spiders came across a rather splendid red and black male Philaeus chrysops which had been sitting on the shoulder of another guest in the minibus. We were able to release it in a suitable spot for photographs and after a wonderful time pottering around in the sunshine, we set off towards Athens for the last leg of our journey.

 

Male jumping spider, Philaeus chrysops

 

As we were doing well for time, we made a stop at the Corinth Canal where we ate our packed lunches and took in the staggering engineering of the canal which had been dug by hand. We watched a pair of Lesser Kestrel flying back and forth over the dry meadow at the top of the deep channel and soon had to leave for the airport. We dropped a few of our guests at Arrivals to make their onward journeys into the city before returning the vehicles and bidding our farewells.

A total of 78 species of Grecian butterflies were seen during a very enjoyable week, and despite the extraordinary unseasonable rainy weather. Our guests were all charming and I thoroughly enjoyed working with both Julian and Richard, finding the trip both a rewarding and fascinating experience. I can’t wait to lead again for Greenwings in the future and I look forward to telling you about my upcoming adventures soon!