Three weeks in Abruzzo looking for mammals, birds, orchids and butterflies

This year I led three Naturetrek groups, together with the masterly Jessica Turner and some other guides, in Abruzzo during three different weeks, two in May and one in September, discovering there an amazing variety of wildlife!

Abruzzo, and first of all the National Park of Abruzzo, Lazio and Molise, are worldwide known because of presence of big mammals, despite if it is less than 3 hours of driving far from the city of Rome. The harshness of the territory, the relatively low human density and some very pioneering tries to protect the area that started at the end of the XIX century, managed to save the area from the heavy hunting pressure that led to the extinction the big predators in the Alps or in other corners of the Apennines chain.

That’s why the area is now considered one of the best in Europe for the mammalwatching and in fact, during my time there, I listed 15 species of mammals!

But such a wilderness area is also suitable for an amazing number of other creatures, some of those particularly rare at Italian and European level, if not even endemic of the Central Apennines.

During my three weeks in Abruzzo, I observed 103 species of birds (including Golden Eagle, Goshawk, White-backed Woodpecker, Alpine Accentor, etc), 57 species of butterflies (including Scarce Copper, Turquoise Blue, Southern White White Admiral and Autumn Ringlet), 25 species of orchids (including Naked Man, Coralroot, Lady’s Slipper and Military orchid), 4 reptiles, 2 amphibians, etc…

This photo-report wants to show a bit of this variety, including also some emotions transmitted by the beauty of landscapes and the characteristic old villages that spread in area.


Snow above the tree line in val Fondillo
Viola eugeniae, endemic of Italy
Gentiana dinarica
Cut Leaved Dame’s Violet (Hesperis laciniata)
Reddish Saxifrage (Saxifraga porophylla), endemic of Italy
View from Opi
Old street of Opi
Large Pine Weevil (Hylobius abietis)
Puss Moth (Cerura vinula)
Sparse Flowered Orchid (Orchis pauciflora)
Hybrids Early Purple x Sparse Flowered Orchid (Orchis x colemannii)
Glaucous Spurge (Euphorbia myrsinites)
Ophrys promontorii, endemic of Italy
Ortolan Bunting (Emberiza hortulana)
Interior of the IX century church of San Pietro in Albe (Alba Fucens)
Barrelier’s Bugloss (Cynoglottis barrelieri)
Solenanthus (Solenanthus apenninus)
Bank Vole (Myodes glareolus)
Boschi della Difesa
Opi at sunset
Yellowhammer (Emberiza citrinella)
Apennine Hare (Lepus corsicanus), endemic of Italy, characterized by the orange thighs and the grey nape
Red Deers (Cervus elaphus)
Il Campo at dawn
Barrea and its lake
Elder-flowered Orchid (Dactylorhiza sambucina)
Southern Grizzled Skipper (Pyrgus malvoides) on Veronica orsiniana, a speedwell endemic of Italy
Lago di Barrea
Red Deer (Cervus elaphus)
Red Squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris)
Common Toad (Bufo bufo)
Val di Rose
Alpine Squill (Scilla bifolia)
Red-billed Choughs (Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax)
Abruzzo Chamois (Rupicapra pyrenaica ornata)
Lago di Barrea
Common Treecreeper (Certhia familiaris)
Blue Anemone (Anemone apennina)
Early Purple Orchid (Orchis mascula)
Lady Orchid (Orchis purpurea)
Lady Slipper Orchid (Cypripedium calceolus)
Stripes of light on the Beech (Fagus sylvatica) forest
Ivy-leaved Toadflax (Cymbalaria muralis)
Marsican Brown Bear (Ursus arctos marsicanus), endemic of Central Italy
Sunset from Gioia Vecchio
Three Apennines Wolves (Canis lupus italicus)
Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes)
Low clouds in the early morning
Lobster Moth (Stauropus fagi)
Brown Argus (Aricia agestis)
Duke of Burgundy (Hamearis lucina)
Late Spider Orchid (Ophrys fuciflora)
Rock Bunting (Emberiza cia)
Green-winged Orchid (Anacamptis morio)
Brooklime (Veronica beccabunga)
White Mignonette (Reseda alba) among the Purple Viper’s-bugloss (Echium cf. plantagineum)
Chicks of Blue Tit (Cyanistes caeruleus)
Man Orchid (Orchis anthropophora)
Bertoloni’s Bee Orchid (Ophrys bertolonii)
Libelloides lacteus
Bedstraw Broomrape (Orobanche caryophyllacea)
Adriatic Lizard Orchid (Himantoglossum adriaticum)
Collared Flycatcher (Ficedula albicollis)
Marsican Iris (Iris marsica), endemic of Central Italy
Monte Velino (2,487 m)
Firecrest (Regulus ignicapillus)
Bonelli’s Warbler (Phylloscopus bonelli)
Burnt Orchid (Neotinea ustulata)
Common Carpet (Epirrhoe cf. alternata)
Nice Milkwort (Polygala nicaeensis)
Scarce Swallowtail (Iphiclides podalirius) on Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna)
Apennines Wolf (Canis lupus italicus) in the sanctuary of Civitella Alfedena
Viola eugeniae
Savi’s Pine Vole (Microtus savii), sub-endemic of Italy
Buds of Beech (Fagus sylvatica)
Barrea and its lake
Wood Warbler (Phylloscopus sibilatrix)


Wild Boar (Sus scrofa)
Hybrid Adonis Blue x Chalk-hill Blue (Lysandra bellargus x Lysandra coridon)
Pyrausta purpuralis
Phasia hemiptera
Italian Stream Frog (Rana italica), endemic of Italy
Southern White Admiral (Limenitis reducta) on Horse Mint (Mentha longifolia)
Griffon Vulture (Gyps fulvus)
Chapman’s Blue (Polyommatus thersites)
Italian Wall Lizard (Podarcis siculus)
Amphitheatre of Alba Fucens
Southern Six-spot Burnet (Zygaena transalpina)
Feathered Footman (Spiris striata)
Silver-studded Blue (Plebejus argus)
Red-underwing Skipper (Spialia sertorius)
Southern Squinancywort (Asperula aristata)
Orange Swift (Hepialus sylvia)
Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum)
Blue-winged Grasshopper (Oedipoda caerulescens)
Speckled Wood (Pararge aegeria aegeria)
Tree Lungwort (Lobaria pulmonaria)
Rusty Foxglove (Digitalis ferruginea)
Roe Deer (Capreolus capreolus)
Turquoise Blue (Polyommatus dorylas)
Two “streets” of Scanno
Campanula fragilis cavolinii, bellflower endemic of Central Italy
Centaurea scannensis, endemic of Abruzzo
Gole del Sagittario
Ivy-leaved Cyclamens (Cyclamen hederifolium)
Broad-leaved Spindle (Euonymus latifolius)
A pretty street of Scanno
Gypsy Moth (Lymantria dispar)
Four-spotted Footman (Lithosia quadra)
Chersotis margaritacea
Episema glaucina
Church of the “Santi Pietro e Paolo” of Pescasseroli
Live-long Saxifrage (Saxifraga paniculata)
Patchwork Leafcutter Bee (Megachile cf. centuncularis)
Cardinal (Argynnis pandora)
Polistes cf. atrimandibularis on an Amethyst Eryngo (Eryngium amethystinum)
Prayer Mantis (Mantis religiosa)
Spotted Fritillary (Melitaea didyma)
Autumn Ringlet (Erebia neoridas sibyllina), endemic of Central Italy
Alpine Meadow Saffron (Colchicum alpinum)
Valle della Cicerana
Honey Bee (Apis mellifera) and Baton Blue (Pseudophilotes baton)
Scarce Copper (Lycaena virgaureae), female
Broad-leaved Helleborine (Epipactis cf. helleborine)
Cobweb Houseleek (Sempervivum arachnoideum)
Monte Sterpi d’Alto (1,966 m)
Scabiosa silenifolia
Apennean Gentian (Gentianella columnae), endemic of Italy
Bombus mesomelas
La Meta Apennine Grasshopper (Italopodisma trapezoidalis), endemic of Abruzzo
Italian Toadflax (Cymbalaria pallida), endemic of Central Italy
Sunset from the Rifugio La Cicerana

Luca Boscain

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