I had the pleasure to lead, as ornithologist, two groups of Naturetrek in the Gargano (Puglia, Italy), where I discovered an unknow treasure: the peninsula hosts a huge variety of orchids (Orchidaceae), with about 80 different species (93 in the last list of the website http://www.orchideedelgargano.it) and many more subspecies and forms.
Considering that the number of orchids in Europe and in the Mediterranean basin is estimated in about 500 species and that the Italian list includes more than 200, to get such a biodiversity in an area of about 2100 km² means that the Gargano peninsula is probably the best hot spot for these amazing flowers in our continent!
Even if I’m not a proper botanist, but just a general nature enthusiast, I couldn’t avoid to be rapted by the beauty of the flora and the gorgeous landscapes of the area.
Me and my awesome colleague Andrew Cleave slept with the two groups first in the UNESCO Heritage Monte Sant’Angelo (Foggia province), a town famous because of its Longobard vestiges…
…and next in the little town of Peschici (Foggia province), that faces north into the Adriatic basin.
During the days, we spent time in a lot of lovely localities, from the area of Santa Maria di Pulsano abbey…
…and the limestones of around San Nicandro Garganico…
…always passing through superb meadows rich in orchids, asphodels and other interesting flowers.
It was really a shame that I was with only my Canon Powershot SX50 HS and I couldn’t spend too much time photographing but, as usual when I’m leading, I left my photo ambition at home, in order to put as much energies I can in sharing my knowledges with the group. Anyway that’s the reason of low quality of pictures of this post.
Anyway the Mediterranean flora, even excluding the orchids, was so colourful and various that I guess my pictures will transmit anyway some of the emotions of the garden of Eden I visited.
Of couse such a variety of flowers and plants attracted a number of other creatures, from butteflies to moths, grasshhoppers and lizards.
The two tours I led were not focused on birds, so we didn’t visit the best hotspot of the area for birdwatching, excluding the nice Manfredonia saltpans that is definitely a great birding place. However I observed more than 100 species including: Greater Flamingo (Phoenicopterus roseus), White Stork (Ciconia ciconia), Purple Heron (Ardea purpurea), Pygmy Cormorant (Microcarbo pygmaeus), Honey Buzzard (Pernis apivorus), Montagu’s Harrier (Circus pygargus), Kentish Plover (Charadrius alexandrinus), Mediterranean Gull (Ichthyaetus melanocephalus), Slender-billed Gull (Chroicocephalus genei), Little Tern (Sternula albifrons), Black Tern (Chlidonias niger), Turtle Dove (Streptopelia turtur), Alpine Swift (Tachymarptis melba), Pallid Swift (Apus pallidus), Bee-eater (Merops apiaster), Hoopoe (Upupa epops), Lesser Kestrel (Falco naumanni), Red-footed Falcon (Falco vespertinus), Woodchat Shrike (Lanius senator), Golden Oriole (Oriolus oriolus), Subalpine Warbler (Sylvia cantillans), Firecrest (Regulus ignicapilla), Short-toed Treecreeper (Certhia brachydactyla), Mistle Thrush (Turdus viscivorus), Blue Rock-thrush (Monticola solitarius), Black-eared Wheatear (Oenanthe hispanica), Spanish Sparrow (Passer hispaniolensis), Red-throated Pipit (Anthus cervinus), Black-headed Wagtail (Motacilla flava feldegg), Hawfinch (Coccothraustes coccothraustes) and Cirl Bunting (Emberiza cirlus).
But of course the main target of the tours were the fantastic orchids of Gargano.
The list of taxa I photographed during the two weeks is the following:
1) Bug Orchid Anacamptis coriophora ssp. fragrans
2) Green-winged Orchid Anacamptis morio
3) Green-winged Orchid Anacamptis morio ssp. picta
4) Butterfly Orchid Anacamptis papilionacea
5) Pyramidal Orchid Anacamptis pyramidalis
6) White Helleborine Cephalanthera damasonium
7) Narrow-leaved Helleborine Cephalanthera longifolia
8) Sack-carrying Dactylorhiza Dactylorhiza maculata ssp. saccifera
9) Roman Dactylorhiza Dactylorhiza romana
10) Elder-flowered Orchid Dactylorhiza sambucina
11) Lizard Orchid Himantoglossum hircinum
12) Giant Orchid Himantoglossum robertianum (= Barlia robertianum)
13) Violet Limodore Limodorum abortivum
14) Dense-flowered Orchid Neotinea maculata
15) Three-toothed Orchid Neotinea tridentata
16) Burnt Orchid Neotinea ustulata
17) Bird’s-nest Orchid Neottia nidus-avis
18) Common Bee Orchid Ophrys apifera
19) Late Spider-orchid Ophrys holosericea ssp. apulica (= Ophrys fuciflora ssp. apulica), endemic of southern Italy
20) Bertoloni’s Bee Orchid Ophrys bertolonii ssp. bertolonii
21) Bertoloni’s Bee Orchid Ophrys bertolonii ssp. bertoloniiformis, endemic of Puglia
22) Bumblebee Orchid Ophrys bombyliflora
23) Ophrys corsica (= Ophrys lutea ssp. corsica)
24) Ophrys crabronifera ssp. biscutella (= Ophrys argolica ssp. biscutella), endemic of Southern Italy
25) Ophrys incubacea ssp. incubacea (= Ophrys sphegodes ssp. atrata)
26) Yellow Bee-orchid Ophrys lutea ssp. lutea
27) Woodcock bee-orchid Ophrys oestrifera ssp. montis-gargani, endemic of Gargano peninsula
28) Late Spider-orchid Ophrys holosericea ssp. parvimaculata (Ophrys fuciflora ssp. parvimaculata), endemic of southern Italy
29) Ophrys passionis ssp. garganica, endemic of Italy
30) Ophrys promontorii, endemic of peninsular Italy
31) Ophrys sicula (= Ophrys lutea ssp. minor)
32) Ophrys sipontensis (= Ophrys sphegodes ssp. sipontensis), endemic of southern Italy
33) Sawfly Orchid Ophrys tenthredinifera
34) Man Orchid Orchis anthropophora
35) Naked Man Orchid Orchis italica
36) Few-flowered Orchid Orchis pauciflora
37) Provence Orchid Orchis provincialis
38) Lady Orchid Orchis purpurea
39) Four-spotted Orchid Orchis quadripunctata
40) Heart-flowered Serapias Serapias cordigera
41) Tongue Serapias or Common Tongue-orchid Serapias lingua
42) Eastern Serapias Serapias orientalis ssp. apulica, endemic of Puglia
43) Small-flowered Tongue-orchid Serapias parviflora
44) Long-lipped Serapias Serapias vomeracea ssp. longipetala
45) Long-lipped Serapias Serapias vomeracea ssp. vomeracea