The warm season around the Paneveggio – Pale di San Martino Natural Park

The Paneveggio and Pale di San Martino Natural Park shows an amazing collection of beauties, going from the best alpine flora, to a selection of butterflies, mammals and birds typical of the Dolomites, everything flavored by the unmistakable shape of the Cimon della Pala (3,184 m), the “Matterhorn of the Dolomites”.

I visited this area a lot of times during the summer season, often leading leading Naturetrek groups, but I went hiking a couple of times also at the end of the warm season, in October, when not rarely the glorious sunny days and the lack of snow allows to explore the area enjoying the beauty of the landscapes almost in loneliness.

This park is in fact very popular and crowded in between mid June and August, when thousands of people hike along the many trails that cross the massif of Pale di S. Martino, between Passo Valles (2,032 m) and Passo Rolle (1,984 m), and the adjacent Valle del Biois (that I’ve described already in the post about Falcade —>link), Primiero and Val Venegia or Travignolo.

The photos of this post were collected during three different years (2017, 2018 and 2019) in which I went around during June, July, August and October, showing how the landscape can change when it is not covered in snow: the white sheet usually last at this altitudes about 6 months per year, although in the recent winters the climate changes affected a lot the Dolomites, reducing considerably the amount of snow that till 20-30 years ago used to exceed often the 3 meters, above the 2,000 m.


June

In this month the flora triumphs at the highest altitudes, when some rare examples of alpine flowers can be found among or above the boulders that abound along the foothills of the breath-taking vertical cliffs of Pale di S. Martino, including many species of primroses (Primula spp.), anemones (Anemone spp.), snowbells (Soldanella spp.), butterworts (Pinguicula spp.), gentians (Gentiana spp.) and the stunning King-of-the-Alps (Eritrichium nanum).

Birds are also still rather active and singing, although there is already too much crowd to see easily grouses of ptarmigans.

Cimon della Pala (3,184 m)
Whorled Lousewort (Pedicularis verticillata)
Monte Baldo Bedstraw (Galium baldense), endemic of Italy
Long-flowered Primrose (Primula halleri)
Sequier’s Buttercup (Ranunculus seguieri)
Alpine Azalea (Kalmia procumbens)
Series of layers of the Werfen Formation, dating back to the Triassic period.
Livelong Saxifrage (Saxifraga paniculata)
Mountain Avens (Dryas octopetala)
Monte Baldo Anemone (Anemone baldensis)
Triglav Gentian (Gentiana terglouensis terglouensis), endemic of eastern Alps
Alpine Snowbell (Soldanella alpina)
Dwarf Alpenrose (Rhodothamnus chamaecistus), endemic of Alps
Least Snowbell (Soldanella minima minima), endemic of Alps and Apennines
Chamois Cress (Hornungia alpina)
Dolomites Whitlow-grass (Draba dolomitica), endemic of the Dolomites
Alpine Crowfoot (Ranunculus alpestris)
Trumpet Gentian (Gentiana acaulis)
Rusty-leaved Alpenrose (Rhododendron ferrugineum)
A single large tadpole of Common Frog (Rana temporaria) among Common Toad ones (Bufo bufo)
Rock Thyme (Clinopodium alpinum)
Dingy Skipper (Erynnis tages)
Eastern Saxifrage (Saxifraga sedoides), endemic of eastern Alps, Apennines and Dinaric Alps
Tyrol Primrose (Primula tyrolensis), endemic of the Dolomites
Bear’s Ear (Primula auricula)
Dunnock (Prunella modularis)
Leafless-stemmed Speedwell (Veronica aphylla)
Carpet of Bird’s-eye Primroses (Primula farinosa)
Spear-marked Black Moth (Rheumaptera hastata) surrounded by crambid moths (Metaxmeste phrygialis)
Common Buckler-Mustard (Biscutella laevigata)
Elongated Valerian (Valeriana elongata), endemic of eastern Alps
Dewy Ringlet (Erebia pandrose)
Lesser Redpoll (Acanthis cabaret), male
Campigol della Vezzana (1,918 m)
Alpine Poppy (Papaver alpinum) with an unusual red variation
Alpine Butterwort (Pinguicula alpina)
Malga Venegiota (1,824 m) with the Cima della Vezzana in the background (3,192 m)
Black Vanilla Orchid (Gymnadenia cfr. austriaca)
Spotted Gentian (Gentiana punctata)
Velvetbells (Bartsia alpina)
Southern Butterwort (Pinguicula leptoceras), endemic of the Alps
Yellow Alpine Pasqueflower (Pulsatilla alpina apiifolia)
Spring Gentian (Gentiana verna)
A geometrid moth (Psodos quadrifaria) on an Alpine Bistort
(Bistorta vivipara)
Alpine Accentor (Prunella collaris)
Red Vanilla Orchid (Gymnadenia rubra var. dolomitensis)
Alpine Marmot (Marmota marmota)
Snowdon Lily (Gagea serotina)
King-of-the-Alps (Eritrichium nanum)
Pyrenean Whitlow-Grass (Petrocallis pyrenaica)
Triglav Gentian (Gentiana cfr. terglouensis), endemic of eastern Alps
Pink Lousewort (Pedicularis rosea), endemic of the Alps
King-of-the-Alps (Eritrichium nanum)
Moss Campion (Silene acaulis)
Alpine Bluegrass (Poa alpina vivipara)
Small-leaved Gentian (Gentiana cfr. brachyphylla)
Alpine Marsh Violet (Viola palustris)
Least Primrose (Primula minima)

July

The beginning of this month signs probably the peak of the orchids, at least for the wonderful carpets of Dactylorhiza orchids that cover most of the boggy areas, especially in Val Venegia or nearby Baita Segantini.

Birds become mainly silent, while butterflies reach their peak in the second half of July, when a lot of alpine species, including ringlets (Erebia spp.), fritillaries (Boloria spp.), skippers (Pyrgus spp.) and the wondeful Alpine Blue (Albulina orbitulus).

Mazarine Blue (Cyaniris semiargus)
Water Pipit (Anthus spinoletta)
Olive Skipper (Pyrgus serratulae)
Alpine Newt (Ichthyosaura alpestris), male
Some Alpine Chamois (Rupicapra rupicapra) by one of the last snowfields
Mountain Pearl (Udea uliginosalis)
Alpine Chough (Pyrrhocorax graculus)
Alpine Thrift (Armeria alpina)
A fly (Mesembrina mystacea)
Chives (Allium schoenoprasum)
A valerian (Valeriana saxatilis), endemic of the Alps
Mountain Burnet (Zygaena exulans)
Globe-flowered Orchid (Traunsteinera globosa)
Common Frog (Rana temporaria)
Alpine Marsh Orchid (Dactylorhiza cfr. majalis alpestris)
Martagon Lily (Lilium martagon)
Large Ringlet (Erebia euryale ocellaris), subspecies endemic of eastern Alps
Dark-veined White (Pieris bryoniae)
Heartleaf Twayblade (Neottia cordata)
Willow Tit (Poecile montanus)
Large Ringlet (Erebia euryale ocellaris), subspecies endemic of eastern Alps
Scheuchzer’s Cotton-Grass (Eriophorum cfr. scheuchzeri)
Net-leaved Willow (Salix reticulata)
Pink Cinquefoil (Potentilla nitida), endemic of the Alps and the Apennines
Spiniest Thistle (Cirsium spinosissimum), endemic of the Alps
Eurasian Linnets (Linaria cannabina)
Alpine Ring Ouzel (Turdus torquatus alpestris), male
Mountain Clouded Yellow (Colias phicomone)
Encrusted Saxifrage (Saxifraga cfr. crustata), endemic of eastern and Dinaric Alps
Apollo (Parnassius apollo)
Highland Scottish breed in Val Venegia
A pyralid (Catastia marginea)
Alpine Blue (Albulina orbitulus)
Brooklime (Veronica beccabunga)
Blind Ringlet (Erebia pharte), endemic of the Alps and Carpathians
Early Marsh-Orchid (Dactylorhiza incarnata cruenta)
Northern Brown Argus (Aricia artaxerxes)
Short-spurred Fragrant-Orchid (Gymnadenia odoratissima)
Southern Grizzled Skipper (Pyrgus cfr. malvoides)
Mountain Fritillary (Boloria napaea) on an Alpine Thistle (Carduus defloratus)
Carpet of marsh orchids (Dactylorhiza spp.)
Chimney Sweeper (Odezia atrata) on a Marsh Horsetail
(Equisetum palustre)
Mountain Yellow Saxifrage (Saxifraga aizoides)
Shepherd’s Fritillary (Boloria pales)
A hoverfly (Chrysotoxum bicinctum)
Small-white Orchid (Pseudorchis albida)
Eyebright (Euphrasia officinalis)
Common Spotted Orchid (Dactylorhiza cfr. fuchsii)
One-flowered Wintergreen (Moneses uniflora)
Alpine Blue (Albulina orbitulus), female
Whorled-leaved Willowherb (Epilobium alpestre)
Alpine Heath (Coenonympha gardetta), subendemic of the Alps
Southern Butterwort (Pinguicula leptoceras), endemic of the Alps
Common Brassy Ringlet (Erebia cassioides), endemic of eastern Alps and Balkans
Wall-Rue (Asplenium ruta-muraria)
Round-leaved Wintergreen (Pyrola rotundifolia)
A chickweed (Cerastium carinthiacum), endemic of Alps and Carpathians
Bluish Paederota (Paederota bonarota), endemic of eastern Alps
Silky Ringlet (Erebia gorge)
A rampion (Phyteuma sieberi), endemic of eastern Alps
A geometrid moth (Yezognophos dilucidaria)
Alpine Blue (Albulina orbitulus), male
Geranium Argus (Eumedonia eumedon)
Mountain Fritillary (Boloria napaea)
Dusky Crane’s-Bill (Geranium phaeum)
Shepherd’s Fritillary (Boloria pales)

August

I visited again the area twice at the end of August: it’s now almost the end of the flowering season, with few late species blooms and few remains of the mid summer species, including some gorgeous gentians.

Butterflies also reduce a lot their activity and most of the individuals still around are usually pretty worn and damaged.

A good reason to explore the area of the Pale di San Martino is that in this time of the year can be observed some lovely Eurasian Dottorels (Charadrius morinellus) on migration to the southern Mediterranean. This species stops nearby the top of some grassy hills, feeding on grasshoppers.

Fringe-flowered Gentian (Gentianopsis ciliata)
Water Ringlet (Erebia pronoe)
A dwarf gentian (Gentianella cfr. anisodonta), endemic of Alps and Apennines
Eurasian Dottorels (Charadrius morinellus), adult
Bearded Bellflower (Campanula barbata)
Common Heather (Calluna vulgaris) with some apochromatic branches
Eurasian Dottorels (Charadrius morinellus), juvenile
Eurasian Dottorels (Charadrius morinellus), juvenile
Northern Firmoss (Huperzia selago)
Alpine Toadflax (Linaria alpina)
Antler Moth (Cerapteryx graminis)
Dwarf Soapwort (Saponaria pumila), endemic of Eastern Alps
Small Tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae)
Common Moonwort (Botrychium lunaria)
Hoary Groundsel (Jacobaea incana carniolica)
Alpine Gentian (Gentiana nivalis)
A saxifrage (Saxifraga bryoides)
Hedge-leaved Adenostyle (Adenostyles alliariae)
Roseroot (Rhodiola rosea)
Monk’s-Hood (Aconitum napellus)
Juribrutto lake (2,206 m) with one of the best views to the north-western side of the Pale di San Martino
Green Alder (Alnus alnobetula)
Cima Valles (2,305 m) with, in the lower part, the geological Formation with Bellerophon of the Permian, and, in the upper part, the Werfen Formation of the Triassic
Tormentil (Potentilla erecta)
Rainbow in front of the northern cliffs of the Pale di San Martino

October

At the beginning of the month, the ancient forests of Paneveggio sounds with the rutting of Stags (Cervus elaphus).

If the weather turn into bad, not rarely the precipitations can be snowy, but, if there are no clouds, the sunny days can be glorious with an amazing visibility: it is possibly one of the best moments of the year for the landscape photography, because to the clear and warm light it’s added the bright yellow colour of the Larches (Larix decidua), making the forests particularly attractive.

Only few very late flowers and butterflies, like the Small Tortorishell (Aglais urticae), can be spotted in the warmest corners, while birding can be productive thanks of the passage of migrants, like thrushes or finches, along the main alpine passes (including Passo Rolle and Passo Valle), together with some sough-after species of alpine birds, like Wallcreeper (Tichodroma muraria), Alpine Accentor (Prunella collaris) or White-winged Snowfinch (Montifringilla nivalis), that in this time come at much lower altitudes than in summer and can be more easily seen.

Raven (Corvus corax)
Calaita lake (1,620 m) with a nice reflection of the Cimon della Pala
Rifugio Giuseppe Volpi di Misurata al Mulaz (2,571 m)
Cimon della Pala (3,184 m) in the morning
Almost a bird-flight view of Val Venegia
Larches (Larix decidua) in the sunshine
Wallcreeper (Tichodroma muraria)
View to the Campigol della Vezzana
Larches (Larix decidua) along a scree side
Clusius’ Gentian (Gentiana clusii)
Larch tinges
Grey-headed Woodpecker (Picus canus)
The small Travignolo glacier survived to another summer
Larches (Larix decidua)
Cimon della Pala (3,184 m) in the afternoon
Series of layers of the Werfen Formation of the Triassic.
Red Crossbill (Loxia curvirostra), male
Stag (Cervus elaphus) rutting
Little church of the Assumption of Mary with the Cimon della Pala at sunset

Luca Boscain

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