In search of swallowtails

In Italy, Nature, Umbria
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A spring walk on Monte Acuto, in the Umbrian central Apennines, hunting fresh European swallowtail butterflies — scarce Iphiclides podalirius (also known as the pear tree or sail swallowtail) and the continental subspecies of the common Papilio machaon gorganus. Having spent many hours seeking glimpses of the britannicus British subspecies in the Norfolk broads, with it’s famously fussy larval feeding habits and adult sensitivity to habitat change, it seems remarkable how ubiquitous and numerous its southern cousin can be. The limestone grasslands on the climb were covered with spring flowers, with orchids and anemones at their seasonal best.

Lady orchids and dandelions growing in nutrient-poor alkaline grassland

Green-winged orchids on the slopes of Monte Acuto

Stunning broad-leaved anemones, fully open in the warm sunshine

Dandelion flowers and their ‘clock’, with visitor

A worn-looking painted lady, possibly having travelled from sub-Saharan Africa

Wall brown, abundant on the rocky summit

Pristine scarce swallowtail, resting obligingly on bushes

Very clean-looking common swallowtail, caught while pausing to feed between aggressive patrols, chasing – and being chased by – conspecific rivals as well as wall browns

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