Friday, 12 August 2016

29th July - Kolhern to Kasteruth, South Tyrol, Italy.

Another lovely morning after the sudden storms last night, with more stunning views out across the valley  The Alps are a gateway for many flights into major European cities and the blue skies are decorated with vapour trails criss-crossing each other.


After the gentle strolling yesterday around Bolzano, today we were putting the boots back on and heading off to our next town, Kastelruth.

After Breakfast we were transferred to the town of Vols.  The journey took us down the mountain to pick up the main road at the cable car station, the journey taking a lot longer than the cable car.  We then headed north on the main road following the auto strata where Alpine Swifts swooped under the pillars supporting the road, they could be seen visiting nests, there white bellies clearly visible as they dropped from the concrete ledges.  It was then an ascent up, which again, was always pleasing.

In the Town of Vols we walked away from the centre heading uphill through a lovely meadow.  Some of the grass had been cut, and was being turned over to quicken the drying process.  Here the grass is first cut and allowed to dry out, before it is gathered in.  This is harvested with mechanical equipment but is done in the traditional manner left for a time to dry allowing the seeds to fall back to the ground along with any insect eggs.  The cut grass is then turned frequently in the sun before it is collected and baled.  At home the whole process is done in one, cut, baled and wrapped with no opportunity for seeds to settle.

As we crossed the field Swallows swooped low over the grass, and a bird of prey soared above us, with the pigeon like head, and long tail with distinctive bands this was a Honey Buzzard, not a real surprise when you consider the number of Bees we have seen and heard so far..


The path climbed gently up, and looking back we were afforded lovely views of the village of Vols (Fie in Italian).  Once again churches dominating the view.



As we walked through the meadow there were plenty of butterflies about already.  But it was the lazy flapping flight of a white butterfly that had me chasing after it through the meadow.



A Scarce Swallowtail, and this time a near perfect specimen.



It was totally engrossed in the clover flower, looking to get as much nectar as possible and not bothered by me at all.



A really spectacular butterfly.


In addition to the Swallowtail there were also several blue butterflies about, and the first Adonis Blue of the trip.



The Chequered tips to the upper wings quite clear



Our route then took us past a lake, Laghetto die Fie.  It is a popular bathing spot in the summer and is used for ice skating in the winter.  There were plenty of people about using the decks to sunbathe and to swim from.  The lake was artificially made in the 16th century for the breeding of fish.  Today the lake is well known for its excellent water quality.

After picking up some water we followed the path now heading through a forest of mostly pine trees but with also a selection of birch, beech and oak.  The sunlight was piercing through the trees producing lovely sunny patches where the butterflies made good use of the flowers.

There were several Silver-washed Fritillaries hawking around the edge of these sunny glades, and like at home they would settle on the bramble.


The Silver-washed Fritillaries seemed to be everywhere as we walked, as you brushed past the bramble they would spring up.



The other butterflies about were mainly small browns, this one another Scotch Argus.



We stopped at a clearing which was bathed in sunlight, and of course this was a magnet to more butterflies.  A Marbled White, taking advantage of the Knapweed.



A Large Skipper that was quite aggressive to all the other butterflies.



And of course a Silver-washed Fritillary that was the main target for the skipper's aggression.



As we watched the butterflies we could hear the calls of what was clearly a young bird of prey, at first maybe Buzzard, but much different from the mews of the young Buzzards I hear regularly in Old Down Wood at home.  We tried to locate the calls but we're not able to, as we peered up into the trees a large bird of prey drifted over, and I could see that this was a Honey Buzzard, probably the parent of the hidden calls.  



We got one good views as it circled above us.


Giving up the search for the young birds the attention returned to the butterflies, this time two Scotch Argus.



We carried on following a contour trail, that rose more than it dropped, again the sun was creating dappled conditions in the lovely lush green grass.  We reached a small pond with a bench over looking it and decided this was ta good spot to take a short break.  The pond though was too much of an attraction with Hawker dragonflies circling the water.



The path crossed several gullies some where the path just skirted around it and on others by crossing a new bridge.  At each of these there were wonderful views of Mount Sciliar the monster monolith the watched over us at every opportunity.  


Movement in the gully caught Helen's eye, and at the same time alarm calls rang out on both sides.  Peering into the scrub, I just made out a Sparrowhawk before it flew off.

There were more interesting flowers by the path in the in places where the sun could get through the trees, this is Antericum ramosum, known as a Branched St Bernard's-lily.  It is a herbaceous perennial plant with a rhizome.  These plants grow in sunny areas and calcareous soils, on grasslands, slopes and forest edges. In the Alps they can be found at an altitude of up to 1,600 metres.



Around these pretty delicate flowers flew a delicate little butterfly, another Wood White.



We reached the last gully and it had a stream running down it, so here we decided to stop and eat our lunch on a bench.  There was a bridge across the Gully, once again with views up to the Sciliar Mountain.



Walking across the bridge we could see plenty of butterflies, so after finishing lunch we crossed the bridge and walked down the stream bed where there were several Buddleia bushes.  At first they appeared to look empty but a closer look revealed that they were covered in bees and butterflies.

The first to catch my eye though was a Hummingbird Hawk-moth, flying around the buddleia flowers with it's proboscis dipping into the small flower heads.



The conditions were bright, it was a fast speed on the camera shutter but still the wings of this insect just merge into a blur.



I love Hummingbirds, you may recall the experiences in Costa Rica four years ago, but these littlle insects go some way to making up for the fact that you can't see them away from the Americas.

After the moth it was a real butterfly festival.  Some lovely Painted Ladies, being able to get quite close meant that the backgrounds could become a lovely canvas to show off the butterflies.



A Painted Lady sitting on the white Dolomite Limestone pebbles that littered the river bed.



A Red Admiral, The red and black markings of the upper wing are so very characteristic, but if you can get the chance to photograph the underwing I think the detailed markings are just beautiful.



The first White Admiral.



I checked carefully to see if this was a Southern White Admiral, but it has the white patchs at the end of the lower wing whereas the Southern has a row of spots, so this is a White Admiral.



On the upper wing the Black and white markings.



Another new butterfly record for the trip, a Brimstone.



There wass also the cousin of the Brimstone, the Cleopatra about but for some reason it kept eluding me before flying off.

More commoner species to be found on buddleia were Small Tortoiseshell and this Comma.



Reluctantly we pulled ourselves away from the bushes and climbed back on to the path and bridge to continue our walk  



The path took us through a small patch of wood before coming out just past a hotel and restaurant.  It then led to a road and car park, and the cable car station just outside the village of Seis.  The cable car goes from here up to the small village of Compatsch, our next destination after Kastelruth

Leaving the car park we crossed a river and then walked between two gardens, surprisingly a male Common Redstart flew in front of us and confidingly sat on the fence for me.



We made our way to the centre of Seis where there were a couple of hotels and cafes.  This small village lies at the bottom of the Sciliar Mountain, at about 1000 metres above sea level.  Sitting having a drink there we were rewarded with some wonderful views of the mountains surrounding the area.


It was now the hottest part of the day, and as we left the village we had to make quite a steep ascent up to the church of St Valetin.  Frequent pauses were necessary, fortunately there were butterflies about in the meadow including a Clouded Yellow that would not stop.  The Common Blues though were quite happy to stick around while I used photographing them as a chance to grab some breath.


When we reached the church we stopped to rest under the shade of the trees, then continued on a grassy track towards the village of Kastelruth, our home for the next two days.  

Looking back the church of St Valentin was framed by the huge Sciliar Mountain.



Over the other side, para-gliders were coming down from the peaks of the plateau above Compatsch.



Again we walked through fields of wild flowers and were treated to some more lovely butterflies including a Clouded Yellow that did stop, and gave some lovely views.



Plus another Hummingbird Hawk-moth.



This time with completely different colours, there can be considerable variation in the colours but this is the first time I have seen this difference.



We reached the crown of the hill, and the path then dipped and wound its way towards the village of Kastelruth and with some lovely views.



Finally we entered the village and made our way to the centre, and the church, next to which was our hotel.  I must admit feeling a little concerned about the proximity of the church to the hotel.

Kastelruth stands about 100 metres higher than Seis at 1089 metres above sea level.  It is very picturesque, and has a lovely town square with traditional alpine architecture and murals.

Our stay here is only Bed and Breakfast so we wandered around the village to pick a restaurant for this evening's meal.  Our choice was the Hexenkeller where we were able to sit outside on the terrace and enjoy a nice bottle of wine and a very good meal.

Once again it was an early night, but before retiring there was time to have one last look at the Mountain that seems to be following us where ever we go at the moment.





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