Dusky Large Blue (Phengaris nausithous) by Simeon Gigov
A 9-day wildlife holiday to Bulgaria’s south-western mountain ranges in search of the most desirable species of butterflies on the Balkan peninsula.
During the first part of this tour we will explore the Pirin and the Rila Mountains. This is landscape of exceptional natural beauty, boasting high peaks over 2500 m, and fascinating alpine meadows dotted with glacial lakes, dense forests, spectacular rocky gorges and precipitous cliffs.
The Pirin National Parks hold outstanding biodiversity. The butterfly fauna there includes Balkan Clouded Yellow, Mountain Small White, Apollo, Clouded Apollo, Balkan Copper, Higgin’s Anomalous Blue, Phalakron Blue, Amanda’s Blue, Meleager’s Blue, Blue Argus, Mountain Argus, Balkan Fritillary, Cynthia’s Fritillary, Nettle-tree Butterfly, Nicholl’s Ringlet, Bulgarian Ringlet, Eastern Large Heath, etc.
Along the Struma valley we will be looking for Eastern Festoon, Powdered Brimstone, Lang’s Short-tailed Blue, Little Tiger Blue, Eastern Baton Blue, Escher’s Blue, Nettle-tree Butterfly, Yellow-legged Tortoiseshell, Balkan Marbled White, Common Glider, Hungarian Glider, Southern White Admiral, White-banded Grayling, Lattice Brown, Yellow-banded Skipper, Oriental Marbled Skipper, etc.
Many traditional villages in these mountains are turned into open-air crafts and architecture museums, where one can feel what life used to be like a century or two ago. Such is Melnik, the small town where we will be based for the second half of the tour. Along with its unique and attractive architecture, Melnik is also famous for its locally produced wines, which we are going to taste.
In the next days we will visit the Slavyanka Mountain. It is a former border zone, which for many years have had limited access, and therefore have very rich wildlife. The character and physical appearance of the mountains here changes significantly from the wetter high mountain areas to the dry, Mediterranean habitats, which variable flora is matched by a wonderful selection of butterflies, like Clouded Apollo, Krueper’s Small White, Anomalous Blue, Osiris Blue, Large Blue, Freyer’s Fritillary, Lesser Spotted Fritillary, Twin-spot Fritillary, Woodland Grayling, Eastern Rock Grayling, Great Banded Grayling, Delattin’s Grayling, Dils’ Grayling, Marbled Skipper, Southern Small White. In the lowland areas we have good chances to find Large Copper, Purple-shot Copper, Lesser Fiery Cooper, Ilex Hairstreak, Little Tiger Blue, Eastern Short-tailed Blue, Reverdin’s Blue, Balkan Zephyr Blue, Freyer’s Purple Emperor, Sandy Grizzled Skipper and Eastern Greenish Black-tip.
The last part of our trip will take us back to the Rila Mountains, where we will explore the subalpine and alpine zones of the northern part of the mountain, looking for alpine specialties like Apollo, Mountain Small White, Balkan Clouded Yellow, Balkan Copper, Bosnian Blue, Poplar Admiral, Shepherd’s Fritillary, Cynthia’s Fritillary, Bulgarian Ringlet, Nicholl’s Ringlet, Ottoman Brassy Ringlet, Water Ringlet, Black Ringlet, Dewy Ringlet, Eastern Large Heath, Dusky Grizzled Skipper.