Photographing butterflies and flowers in the peaceful meadows of the Velebit (Croatia)

The Velebit range, part of the Dinaric Alps, separates two different worlds: the Adriatic sea coast, with Mediterranean and Balkan strong influences, and the interior Croatia, with much more continental features.

Therefore, crossing one of the steep passes that climb the range from the mild seaside, you can encounter first harsh rocky landscapes with patches of short maquis of Downy Oak (Quercus pubescens) and European Hop-hornbeam (Ostrya carpinifolia), that I’ve already described in the two posts about the Paklenica National Park, located on the southern edge of the range, that have shown both, the winter (—> link) and the summer appearance (—> link) of these areas.

Then, approaching the watershed, the habitat changes strongly becoming definitely alpine, with extended pastures and some conifer or Beech (Fagus sylvatica) woodlands.

On the other side of the chain, the landscape recalls the complex of forests of the Central Europe, with only few clearings, not rarely boggy, and small villages, surrounded by some cultivated fields, to break the vastness of Spruce (Picea abies), Silver Fir (Abies alba) and Beech expanses.

Going finally at lower altitudes, woodlands give way to dry pastures and more extended cultivated fields, descending to the larger villages of the ancient region of Lika, but the population density keep substantially low.

During the two tours I led for Naturetrek, together with Josip Ledinšćak in June 2018 and June 2019, both the weeks ended in these grounds, exploring the northern part of the Velebit, more or less between Karlobag and Krasno Polje, and the photos will refer to that area.

Those tour were focused on butterflies and the season was a bit late to see the best of birds (even if I had some good ones like Wryneck, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Tawny Pipit, Eastern Orphean Warbler, Ortolan Bunting and Rock Bunting), so I concentrated more on the flora, expecially in 2019 when the wet spring delayed the blooming season of orchids, and on the little creatures of meadows, going from moth and butterflies to some other insects, reptiles or spiders.

In total, during the two years, I had in the Velebit about 62 species of butterflies, 50 moths (in two nights of moth trapping), 55 birds, 3 reptiles, 4 amphibians, 5 dragonflies and 16 orchids.


June 2018

Oštarijska vrata (928 m.a.s.l.), with its strange cubic monument settled by the Austrian Emperor Ferdinand in 1846
Bug Orchid (Anacamptis coriophora)
European Green Lizard (Lacerta viridis), juvenile
Marbled White (Melanargia galathea f. procida)
Bordered Orbweaver (Neoscona adianta) preying a forester (Jordanita sp.)
Silver-studded Blue (Plebejus argus)
Twin-spot Fritillary (Brenthis hecate) on a flower of Orlaya (Orlaya grandiflora)
Safflower Skipper (Pyrgus carthami) on a flower of Orlaya (Orlaya grandiflora)
Essex Skipper (Thymelicus lineola) on a flower of Meadow Cleary (Salvia pratensis)
Queen of Spain Fritillary (Issoria lathonia)
Pyramidal Orchid (Anacamptis pyramidalis)
Sloe Haristreak (Satyrium acaciae)
Knapweed Fritillary (Melitaea phoebe)
False Heath Fritillary (Melitaea diamina) on a flower of Orlaya (Orlaya grandiflora)
Nine-spotted Moth (Amata phegea)
Large Wall Brown (Lasiommata maera)
Narrow-bordered Five-spot Burnet (Zygaena lonicerae) on an Annual Fleabane (Erigeron annuus)
Ragusa’s Nine-spotted Moth (Amata kruegeri) on a flower of Sand Leek (Allium scorodoprasum)
Kosinjski most, the “bridge of Kosinj”, modelled on the old Croatian bridge-building technique of uklinjenjem kamena (clipping stone)
Female of Slender Scotch Burnet (Zygaena loti) on a flower of Perennial Pea (Lathyrus cfr. latifolius)
Dusky-brown Wave (Scopula tessellaria)
Small Tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae)
Unknown grasshoppers (family Tettigoniidae)
Nickerl’s Fritillary (Melitaea cfr. aurelia) on a flower of Sand Leek (Allium scorodoprasum)
An owlfly (Libelloides macaronius)
Pygmy Moth (Thyris fenestrella)
A longhorn beetle (Judolia erratica), on the left, and Mediterranean Spotted Chafer Beetle (Oxythyrea funesta) on an Ox-eye Daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare)
Lesser Whitethroat (Sylvia curruca), male
Yellow Foxglove (Digitalis grandiflora)
Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta)
Amanda’s Blue (Polyommatus amandus) on a Wild Basil (Clinopodium vulgare)
Peacock (Aglais io) on a scabious (Knautia sp.)
Glanville Fritillary (Melitaea cinxia) on a Yellow Ox-eye (Buphthalmum salicifolium)
Spotted Fritillary (Melitaea didyma), female
Balkan Copper (Lycaena cfr. candens)
Richness of flowers of a meadow nearby Turinski Krč
Scarce Copper (Lycaena virgaureae) on some Yellow Oxe-yes (Buphthalmum salicifolium)
Orange Lily (Lilium bulbiferum)
Turquoise Blue (Polyommatus dorylas) on a rattle (Rhinanthus sp.)
High Brown Fritillary (Argynnis adippe)
Wild Strawberry (Fragaria vesca)
Southern Six Spot Burnet (Zygaena cfr. transalpina)
Spotted Fritillary (Melitaea didyma)
Green-venied White (Pieris napi)
Rather traditional woodcutter
Scarce Copper (Lycaena virgaureae) on a Yellow Oxe-ye (Buphthalmum salicifolium)
Amanda’s Blue (Polyommatus amandus)
Mountain Alcon Blue (Maculinea arion rebeli)
Red Trefoil (Trifolium rubens)
Pearly Heath (Coenonympha arcania)
Caterpillar of Ground Lackey (Malacosoma castrense)
Twin-spot Fritillary (Brenthis hecate)
White Hellebore (Veratrum album)
Wart-Biter (Decticus verrucivorus)
Adonis Blue (Polyommatus bellargus), female
Meadow Brown (Maniola jurtina) on a Meadow Cleary (Salvia pratensis)
View of the Adriatic sea with the island of Rab
Common Spotted Orchid (Dactylorhiza fuchsii)
Nottingham Catchfly (Silene nutans)
A wolf spider (Alopecosa sp.)
Speckled Yellow (Pseudopanthera macularia)
Black-veined White (Aporia crataegi) on a flower of scabious (Knautia sp.)
Viper’s-Bugloss (Echium vulgare) with an apochromatic ear.
Wodland Ringlet (Erebia medusa)
Grizzled Skipper (Pyrgus malvae) on a Yarrow (Achillea cfr. millefolium)
Transparent Burnet (Zygaena cfr. purpuralis)
Chestnut Heath (Coenonympha glycerion) on a flower of scabious (Knautia sp.)
The village of Krasno
Small Magpie (Anania hortulata)
Meadow Grey (Scoparia pyralella), on the left, and Transparent Pearl (Paratalanta cfr. hyalinalis)
Peppered Moth (Biston betularia)
Plum Lappet (Odonestis pruni)
Stag Beetle (Lucanus cervus)
Maple Leaftier Moth (Acleris forsskaleana)
Pebble Prominent (Notodonta ziczac)
Golden Twin-spot (Chrysodeixis chalcites)
Purple-shaded Gem (Euchalcia variabilis)
Small Elephant Hawkmoth (Deilephila porcellus)
Buff-Tip (Phalera bucephala)

June 2019

Fragrant Orchid (Gymnadenia conopsea)
Black-veined Moth (Siona lineata)
Hybrid between Burnt-tip and Three-toothed Orchid (Neotinea × dietrichiana)
An owlfly (Libelloides lacteus)
Bright Eyed Ringlet (Erebia oeme)
Late Spider-Orchid (Ophrys fuciflora)
Caterpillar of Little Peacock (Saturnia pavoniella)
A froghopper (Cercopis cfr. sanguinolenta)
Eastern Large Heath (Coenonympha rhodopensis) on a milkwort (Polygala sp.)
A scorpion (Euscorpius sp.)
Burnet Rose (Rosa spinosissima)
View to the Adriatic sea with the island of Pag
A blister beetle (Hycleus sp.) on a flower of Bloody Crane’s-bill (Geranium sanguineum)
Mazarine Blue (Cyaniris semiargus) on Tufted Vetches (Vicia cracca)
French Meadow-Rue (Thalictrum aquilegiifolium)
Red-bellied Jumping Spider (Philaeus chrysops)
Swallow-Wort (Vincetoxicum hirundinaria)
Mating pair of Grizzled Skippers (Pyrgus malvae)
Ortola Bunting (Emberiza hortulana), male taking off
Hound’s-Tongue (Cynoglossum officinale)
Mountain Kidney-Vetch (Anthyllis cfr. montana)
Clouded Apollo (Parnassius mnemosyne)
Matted Globularia (Globularia cordifolia)
Globe-flowered Orchid (Traunsteinera globosa)
Elder-flowered Orchid (Dactylorhiza cfr. sambucina), unfortunately over
Wayfaring-Tree (Viburnum lantana)
Early Marsh-Orchid (Dactylorhiza incarnata)
European Crayfish (Astacus astacus)
Broad-leaved Cottongrass (Eriophorum cfr. latifolium)
Shepherd leading the flock by car
Alpine Newt (Ichthyosaura alpestris)
Marsh Horsetail (Equisetum palustre)
Broad-bodied Chaser (Libellula depressa)
Meadow Squill (Scilla litardierei)
Southern Skimmer (Orthetrum brunneum)
Large Red Damselfly (Pyrrhosoma nymphula)
Larvae of Fire Salamander (Salamandra salamandra)
Loose-flowered Orchid (Anacamptis laxiflora)
False Heath Fritillary (Melitaea cfr. diamina)
Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo)
Caterpillar of Slender Scotch Burnet (Zygaena cfr. loti)
An owlfly (Libelloides macaronius)
Crosswort (Cruciata laevipes)
Chestnut Heath (Coenonympha glycerion)
A Bath asparagus (Ornithogalum cfr. sphaerocarpum)
Oak Spider (Aculepeira ceropegia)
European Green Lizard (Lacerta viridis), male
Common Footman (Eilema cfr. lurideola)
Cream-spot Tiger (Arctia villica)
Bordered Gothic (Sideridis reticulata)
Treble Lines (Charanyca trigrammica)
Scarlet Tiger (Callimorpha dominula)
Green Carpet (Colostygia pectinataria)
Green Silver-Lines (Pseudoips prasinana)
Chinese Character (Cilix glaucata)
A short-horned leaf beetle (Lachnaia italica)
A forester (Jordanita sp.)
Lesser Butterfly-Orchid (Platanthera bifolia)
Goldenrod Crab Spider (Misumena vatia) waiting for preys on an Oxeye Daisy
(Leucanthemum vulgare)
European Comma (Polygonia c-album)
Female of Orange-Tip (Anthocharis cardamines) on a Viper’s-Bugloss (Echium vulgare)
Eurasian Hummingbird Hawkmoth (Macroglossum stellatarum)
Sooty Copper (Lycaena tityrus)
White Helleborine (Cephalanthera damasonium)
Broad-bordered Bee Hawkmoth (Hemaris fuciformis)
Scarce Swallowtail (Iphiclides podalirius) on a scabious (Knautia sp.)
Ascending clouds above the northern Velebit
Dark Green Fritillary (Argynnis aglaja)
Patton’s Tiger (Hyphoraia testudinaria)
Common Twayblade (Neottia ovata)
Bird’s-nest Orchid (Neottia nidus-avis)
Herb Paris (Paris quadrifolia)
Duke of Burgundy (Hamearis lucina)
Pale Corydalis (Pseudofumaria alba)
Common Figwort (Scrophularia nodosa)
Burnt-tip Orchid (Neotinea ustulata)
Blackish Columbine (Aquilegia cfr. nigricans)
A birthwort (Aristolochia cfr. pallida)
Ragged-robin (Silene flos-cuculi)
Large White Buttercup (Ranunculus platanifolius)
Southern Festoon (Zerynthia polyxena)
Deptford Pink (Dianthus cfr. armeria)
Balkan Copper (Lycaena cfr. candens)

Luca Boscain

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