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The dramatic peaks of the ItalianDolomites are renowned for theirmagnificent walks and alpine flora,but it is less well known that they are alsoone of Europe's top butterfly hotspots. The sheltered valleys provide a warmmicroclimate at a southern latitude, whilstthe range of altitudes accessible providesa diversity unimaginable in Britain. 'TheDistribution Atlas of European Butterflies'(Kudrna, 2002) shows over 150 speciesthat are to be found within 50 kilometres of our base in the Val di Fassa. Indeed thevalley is something of a secret refuge, for not only does it hold its own endemic flora but it is also home to the Ladinpeople, their traditions and their uniquelanguage with its Latin roots, quitedifferent from Italian. This relaxing week is set amongst themountains but does not involve anystrenuous mountaineering. Strolling gentlythrough the alpine meadows, we will seewaves of fritillaries, not only the familiarSilver-washed, Dark Green and Pearl-bordered but also Titania's and MountainFritillaries. Amongst the tall meadowgrasses the Mazarine Blue flies in goodnumbers, and a flash of gold will lead usto Scarce Coppers, a reminder of whatBritain has lost with the extinction of theLarge Copper. Clouds of day-flying mothswill be stirred up at our feet - another sign of the sheer diversity of nature allaround us. The Val di San Nicolo is thefirst of several side valleys we will visit, its open meadows separated by a gushing river, and with wooded sides and the steep slopes that bring suchvaried habitats into one delightful area.Our hotel is situated on a shoulder abovethe main Val di Fassa, nicely off thebeaten track, and with a wonderful view inall directions. A friendly, family-runestablishment with a Tyrolean atmosphere,it provides a superb breakfast buffet as anexcellent starting point for our day trips.The early evening is a good time to findroosting butterflies whilst strolling near thehotel, and in this way both Amanda's Blueand an unusual form of the Marsh Fritillary(E. aurinia debilis) were found by recentgroups. It is certainly a necessity to returnto the hotel at the end of each day with ahearty appetite, for the evening meal isalways a treat! After enjoying it, there isthe prospect of running a moth trap in thewoods behind the hotel for those with aninterest in moths.There may be some patches of whiteamongst the distant peaks but the snowwill be long gone from the ski slopesabove Canazei, which by early summerhave become the Bindelweg along whichFarrer found such a variety of alpine flora.We will drive up to the Sella Pass (at 2,213metres) to walk two routes where we hopeto find a selection of ringlets, blues,skippers and fritillaries at home above thetreeline, together with Edelweiss.The domain of 'King Lauren's RoseGarden' sits on a terrace high above ourhotel, and is accessible by cable car or byshuttle bus. It is like a natural rock garden,stretching up to a mountain refuge lunch-stop with an impressive view back to thesheltered high alpine pasture where we willspend the afternoon looking for butterflies,amongst them Shepherd's Fritillaries, SilkyRinglets and a multitude of more familiarskippers and marbled whites.A short drive south will bring us into theextensive Panevéggio National Park, withits own range of mountains, rivers, forestsand pastures. We can expect to find theArran Brown, the Sooty Ringlet and theCommon Brassy Ringlet, as well as themore easily identified Alpine Blues andWarren's Skippers. With luck, we willexperience scores of fritillaries driftingaround us in sheltered glades - a trulymemorable encounter. There will be plentyof opportunities for photography; thelonger we stay, the longer our species listwill grow, and digital images will certainlyhelp us to keep track of our sightings.On one day we will descend to lower levels to extend the range of species onthe wing. Swallowtails, Scarce Swallowtailsand White Admirals are all to be found,and have a habit of popping up atunexpected moments. On a previous trip,the only Purple Emperor we saw settled atour feet at lunchtime!If you enjoy entrancing scenery, freshmountain air, and a rich diversity ofwildlife, all coupled with Italian wine andcooking, this is the trip for you. If you arealso a butterfly enthusiast, prepare to beimpressed!Butterflies of the Dolomites An 8-day holiday in search of the butterflies of the spectacular Dolomites Mountains in north-eastern Italy. Sunday 30th June - Sunday 7th July Cost: £1,295LIECHTENSTEIN SWITZERLAND AUSTRIA CATINACCIO PORDOI PASS MARMOLADAVIGO DI FASSA HOTEL VAL DI FASSA ROLLE PASS NATIONAL PARK OF PANEVEGGIO BRENTA GROUP TRENTO FROM/TOVERONA/VENICETHE ITALIAN DOLOMITES Outline itineraryDay 1Fly to Venice andtransfer to the FassaValley.Day 2/7A daily programme ofalpine walks in searchof butterflies from ourbase in the Fassa Valley. Day 8Fly London. AccommodationA friendly and comfortable family-run hotel (with private facilities),with fine views over the FassaValley.FoodAll included in the price.GradingDay walks only. Grade B.FocusButterflies and other natural history. LeaderAlan Miller.Single room supplement £160.ExtensionsAvailable on request, with orwithout car rental.Web quick search: ITA01Book direct on 01962 733051or see page 284 for Booking Information91Val di Fassa, Dolomites10% DONATIONTOAlpine BlueTitania's Fritillary

The green and fertile island of Lesboslies in the Aegean Sea just a fewkilometres from the coast of Turkey.Third largest of the Greek islands, it has arugged mountainous interior which travellerscan access by means of narrow twistingroads passing through villages where thetraditional way of life is virtually unchanged.A magnificent coastline has thus far largelyescaped the ravages of mass tourism,although the island has always beenpopular with Greek holidaymakers andartists. A major source of revenue is theproduction of high quality olive oil and oneof the most conspicuous aspects of theisland vegetation is the abundance of OliveTrees which seem to adorn every hillsideand valley. Fishing is still an importantindustry but, as with other fisheries inEurope, catches have been much reducedin recent years. Another local industry is thedistilling of Ouzo and the product can besampled at the numerous tavernas whichare such a feature of Greek island life. Withso many natural attributes Lesbos is aperfect holiday destination; however, forbirdwatchers there is further incentive, forthe island is not only perfectly situated as astopover for migrant birds heading northfrom Africa, but also boasts an impressivelist of breeding species. There are fewbetter places in Europe to observe the ebband flow of spring migration and certainlynone more pleasant.We are based for seven nights at a smallfamily-run hotel in the village of SkalaKallonis at the head of a large shallow inletfrom the sea. The village is renowned forits Sardine fishery and there are a numberof excellent restaurants along thewaterside to sample this local speciality.The sheltered waters of the bay anduncrowded beaches provide diversions foranyone wishing to relax in the Aegean sunbut Skala Kallonis is also close to some ofthe best birdwatching sites on Lesbos anda perfect base for our activities. A variety of pools, marshes and saltpansin the vicinity of Skala Kallonis providesome of the biggest concentrations ofbirds on the island and will warrant dailyinspection to witness the ever changingpopulations of passage migrants, inparticular herons, waders and marsh terns.Venturing further afield we will arrange ourprogramme to ensure a leisurelyexploration of the prime birding areaselsewhere on the island. A full day will bespent in each of the main regions, allowingplenty of time to thoroughly investigate therange of habitats and to enjoy unhurriedlunches at convenient tavernas. In thecourse of our travels we will be seeingrural corners of the island where donkeysreplace motor vehicles and herds of goatsbrowse in pastoral scenes, which seem aworld away from the windsurfing andparagliding activities of the tourist resorts.The local Krüper's Nuthatch and CinereousBunting are two of the rarer breeding birdsthat we will be hoping to find, but manyother delights await us including Long-legged Buzzard, Lesser Kestrel, Bee-eater,Lesser Grey and Masked Shrikes, RockNuthatch, Rüppell's and Olive-TreeWarblers to name but a few. Whethercrossing rock-strewn hillsides where Black-eared Wheatears and Cretzschmar'sBuntings abound, or watching wadersprobing alongside egrets and herons on amuddy pool, we are never far from birdson Lesbos, and in late April and early Mayeach morning brings a fresh selection ofnew arrivals. Some, like Black-wingedStilts, Collared Pratincoles and Red-footedFalcons, may linger for days where there isa good supply of food; others, driven bythe compulsion to move north to breedinggrounds, only settle for a few momentsbefore continuing their journey. Suchwanderers can turn up almost anywhereand enhance the sense of anticipation atevery birdwatching stop. The regularmigrants form a long and impressive listbut added to this are vagrants, many ofCentral Asian origin, which have occurredin recent years including Lanner Falcon,Spur-winged Plover, Great Snipe, CitrineWagtail and White-throated Robin. Birdwatching in Lesbos during the springmigration season is an unforgettableexperience, but there will be many othermemories to take away as a reminder ofour stay on the island. Hot sunny daysending with the chorus of cicadas andcrickets, fireflies flashing in the darkness,lizards scuttling from underfoot, and aprofusion of wild flowers and butterfliesincluding among the latter the impressiveScarce Swallowtail. Add to this headymixture the warm hospitality of our islandhosts and you have all the components ofa superlative holiday.Lesbos An 8-day birdwatching holiday to the beautiful Greek island regardedas one of the best places in Europe to observe spring migrants.Saturday 20th April - Saturday 27th April Cost: £1,395Saturday 27th April - Saturday 4th May Cost: £1,395Outline itineraryDay 1Fly Mytilini; transfer toSkala Kallonis.Day 2/7Daily programme ofbirdwatching excursionsfrom Skala Kallonis.Day 8 Fly London.AccommodationA pleasant family-run tourist hotelat Skala Kallonis, all rooms withprivate facilities.FoodAll included in the price.GradingA. Gentle birding walks.FocusBirds. LeadersReg Thorpe and Mike Hodgson.Single room supplement £150.Web quick search: GRC0592Call now or visit your free Trip ItineraryTURKEYGREECEPOTAMIAVALLEYPARAKILAAGIASSOSDERBYSHIRESKALA KALLONISPETRAMOLYVOSEFTALOUSKALA POLICHNITOSSKALAERESSOSSIGRIMYTILINIKALLONIS BAYLESBOSSkala KallonisMasked Shrike