Monday, 15 August 2016

4th August - Williamshutte, Murmeltier Hutte, Priesen Prensules, Saltria, South Tyrol, Italy.

We awoke this morning to misty skies all around with no views what so ever of any of the mountains.  Slowly the gloom lifted and by the time we had finished breakfast there were signs that the mist would burn off.  Outside the hotel the House Martins were gathering in large numbers on the chair lift cables, a sure sign that Autumn was not too far away here.

Like yesterday the plan today was for a leisurely walk of my own design after consulting the map.  Both the maps and the waymarking are excellent and it is very easy to navigate yourself around the many paths.

It was the chair lift once again that was going to do the climbing so we set off with the sun now definitely burning away the cloud around the mountains.

We were earlier than yesterday, and the chair lift was quite quiet.

We reached Williamshutte which was still quiet, and none of the tables had been dressed yet.  Edelweiss, the flower everyone wants to find up in the mountains fronting the views.

I confess this is a cheat, the Edelweiss was in a pot as has all the ones we have seen.

With all the mist and clouds around us the views were not as clear as yesterday.  As we walked through the Hutte the staff were just beginning to prepare the tables for another day of beer and food.  We followed the path we had taken yesterday towards Zallinger Hutte, and turned off on to path 9A. 

The sun was now out and the bees were all over the cow parsley as we approached the first flower meadow.  Orange butterflies, Mountain Fritillaries could be seen in the middle of the field.

And closer in Large Grizzled Skippers and Olive Skippers were warming up in the sunshine tucked away in the grass.  This is an Olive Skipper.

From the meadow we took a detour down a gravel path alongside a stream with plenty of flowers, and with the flowers came more butterflies, this is a Marzine Blue

This is what I think is actually a moth probably a Latticed Heath but I am not certain.  It displays much of the characteristics of a butterfly, its flight and the shape of the wings when settled.

The meadow though was a delight, with the lovely old hut to complement the wild flowers and the views.

It even looks spectacular in Black and white

There is always danger what ever form of life you are, there is always someone looking to eat or harm you, and never was that a truer statement as here amongst the flowers, spiders had cast their webs.

We watched a female Marzine Blue come up from a flower, and waited for it to land, Our expressions were "Ahh", then "Oooh" as it was suddenly it caught in a web, and instantly the spider was out and grabbing it and wrapping it in silk.  Earlier we had seen the same spider do this with a fly, and thought nothing of it, but to see a beautiful butterfly go this way was quite disturbing, strange really.

Leaving the stream we crossed to another small meadow on the other side, again with plenty of butterflies about.  

An Olive Skipper on Scabius

Helen gave me directions to one, "on that blade of grass" she said!

I found it though, our first Silky Ringlet

Leaving the flower meadows we walked up to Murmeltier Hutte, where yesterday we had a drink, today we sat and drank a cappuccino while scanning the mountain ridges and crags again, still trying to turn rocks into Chamois.  I didn't realise yesterday that the name Mumeltier is the German name for Marmot, and as we sat scanning the rocks we could hear the whistling calls of the Marmots away in the distance.

We followed the path beyond the Hutte into the wonderful Rock Garden.  

A combination of sunshine and sheltered dips produced many more butterflies, the Mountain Fritillaries being the most numerous.

The rock garden had been created by the many fallen rocks from the mountain over the years, and the grass and trees have taken them over producing the perfect conditions for the flowers, mostly daisies and scabius.

Out through the gate and into the valley we had explored yesterday, suddenly the sun suddenly went in, so we stood and waited.  A male Black Redstart once again was concerned by the close presence of a Nutcracker, and mobbed and stayed close to ensure it did not threaten the younger birds that were about.

A strange call in the trees behind had us searching, and soon we flushed a female Ring Ouzel, which was joined by a male later as it flew across the valley.

Once the sun came out again we were treated to another good show, more Mountain Fritillaries, and a first Turquoise Blue.

After a while the Clouded Yellows we had seen yesterday, now known to be Mountain Clouded Yellows appeared, and they would whizz around and not settle, but once the sun went in they would take to the ground, lying still with the wings on one side.

In doing this you could understand why you would completely miss them until you almost stepped on them.

When the sun came out once again I took the opportunity to see if I could photograph them in flight.  It wasn't easy but you can see the pattern of the upper wing, which clinched the fact that these were Mountain Clouded Yellows.

A different blue butterfly caught my eye, a paler blue male Chalk Hill Blue

The sun went in once again and the clouds were building around the slopes.

We decided to walk back past the Hutte, and start the journey back to the hotel.  This would involve taking the 531 way marked path through the Comumweiden, and down through meadows and forests to the Priesen Prensules to join the way marked path 30 that would take us to Saltria.

Just before we made the turn a calling bird on a post caught my attention, an it turned out to be a juvenile Red-backed Shrike.

Common Redpolls were also in the hedge and trees as we turned onto path 531.

The path wound downhill through flower filled meadows, but unfortunately the sun was not out, and we had to be content with Siskins and White Wagtails.

Every so often the sun would come out and the butterflies would appear.  Mostly Mountain Ringlets we passed them by and enjoyed the view in front of us

And away to our left.

There were small streams crossing under the path, and at one point we came across a small pond that appeared to be the source of one of these streams as we could not find any trace of a stream feeding the pond.

As we left the pond Helen found a Mountain Ringlet with two red mites.

It would appear that this is infestation by the larvae of the mite Trombidium breei. These live on the blood of the butterfly and can often be found on many in a colony. It is not quite as bad as it looks. The larvae only stay attached for two or three days, although of course some butterflies only live a few days. Investigation has shown no evidence of the mite affecting the lifespan.

The path then went through a gate and immediately the land changed, it became very muddy and boggy as if this was the extent of the water table in the limestone below.

We walked on down with still a few more butterflies, a Small Heath.

And a Dark Green Fritillary.

From the open meadow the path then went into a forest with elusive Crossbills calling from above us as they flew between the tops of the larches.

At the bottom of the hill we turned onto the way marked path 30 the landscape again changed with more boggy conditions and open grassland covered in cotton grass.  Unfortunately clouds were consuming the Plattkofel, other wise this would be a lovely place to get some great views of the impressive mountain, I had to be content with the partial cloud cover.

It was also possible to appreciate the extent of the scree and rock fall still on the mountain.  A close up shot of the side of the mountain reveals the scree present.

The path then winds down through a valley with a fast flowing stream, back up the other side then down once again towards the chair lift station where we had set off from this morning.  Turning back up path 9 towards the hotel, I took a detour to once again try to photograph the Grey Wagtail.  I wasn't able to see the adult birds, but did find three juveniles which was going to be the best I could do.

As well as the wagtails there was also a lovely male Black Redstart that was acting more like the Water Redstarts we had seen in India.

The Black Redstarts has definitely been the bird of the trip, they seem to have been everywhere, this environment clearly suiting them very well.

One thing that has also been a common theme has been that of the region and witches, the Witch's bench, and in the hotels witch dolls hanging almost everywhere. 

Every local knows that the long ridge of the Sciliar Mountain is a popular meeting place of the witches, who come from all parts, flying on their broomsticks. Bad weather often brews at exactly the highest point of the Sciliar and is attributed to the presence of the witches.  But where does this folk lore come from?  As it became dusk I noticed from our balcony that the shape of the top of the pine tree was familiar.

A big spiked hat, what looks like a head and pointed nose, arms and maybe even a broomstick?

After dark the shape looks even more menacing, is this the witch that all the locals fear?

Many of the pine trees have shapes just like these, and as you look around at night you could be forgiven for thinking they were witches.

We leave in the morning for Verona from Bolzano.  Tonight being our last night here, we had hoped for a last drink on the terrace, but the forecast was for heavy rain the next day, and all the benches and tables were stacked away early to protect them form the rain.  After dinner we sat on the balcony once more and watched the witches dance in the wind.  They were brewing up a storm.

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