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.
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.
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).
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.
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.