Shepherd's fritillary (Boloria pales)

Spectacular Passo Valparola

I’ve been to the Valparola pass in order to look for the rare False orchid (Chamorchis alpina) and the very beautiful Silky ringlet (Erebia gorge), but I was surprised by the number of interesting other species I’ve found there!

The pass lies in Belluno province, inside the Dolomiti d’Ampezzo Natural Park, and reaches the 2192m, connecting the Badia valley with the Falzarego pass and Cortina d’Ampezzo.

In the heart of the Dolomites, the pass is surrounded by amazing rocky mountains like the Lagazuoi (2835m), the Sass de Stria (2477m), the Cunturines (3064m) and the famous Cinque Torri (2361m). Being in the past on the border between Austro-Hungarian Empire and Italian Kingdom, the Valparola hosted, during the First World War, very harsh fights between the two armies, culminated with the partial distruction of the Tre Sassi fort.

Cinque Torri
Cinque Torri

Now the pass hosts a Rifugio and a number of interesting trails that allow to hike among the alpine pastures and the screes, reaching the Lagazuoi range.

The area is plenty of burrows of Alpine Marmots (Marmota marmota), rather easy to approach.

The flora arround, although it was almost in mid summer, was still colourful and stunning, with a number of interesting species like Edelweiss (Leontopodium alpinum), Snow gentian (Gentiana nivalis), Hairy alpenrose (Rhododendron hirsutum), Alpine popy (Papaver alpinum), Net-leaved willow (Salix reticulata) and many more.

Not too many birds arround, going from Lesser redpoll (Acanthis cabaret), to Alpine chough (Pyrrhocorax graculus) and Water pipit (Anthus spinoletta), but a big Common frog (Rana temporaria) was another good find.

One of the primary interest about the Valparola was to find some alpine species of butterflies, so I was pleased to find quite a few, despite the variable weather:

  • Mountain clouded yellow (Colias phicomone): 1-2 individuals
  • Chalk-hill blue (Lysandra coridon): 2 individuals
  • Shepherd’s fritillary (Boloria pales): some individuals
  • Blind ringlet (Erebia pharte): 1 individual
  • Eriphyle ringlet (Erebia eriphyle): 1 individual
  • Silky ringlet (Erebia gorge): 2-3 individuals
  • Alpine heath (Coenonympha gardetta): 1 individual
  • Olive skipper (Pyrgus serratulae): 1 individual
  • Silver spotted skipper (Hesperia comma): 1 individual

The other objective of the excursion was the find of orchids and the Valparola was again very rich in variety of alpine species:

  • Fragrant orchid (Gymnadenia conopsea): fairly common
  • Short-spurred fragrant orchid (Gymnadenia odoratissima): localized and almost over
  • Black vanilla orchid (Gymnadenia rhellicani): rather abundant, but almost over
  • Common Twayblade (Neottia ovata): a couple of plants
  • Frog orchid (Dactylorhiza viride): just a few almost over
  • False orchid (Chamorchis alpina): rather common and abundant, despite hard to find
  • White adder’s mouth (Malaxis monophyllos): the surprise of the excursion, with 5 unespected plants among the butterburs leaves!

Luca Boscain








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