Over the course of years of exploring the Lake Kerkini National Park and the biologically rich surrounding countryside where north-eastern Greece meets the mountainous border with Bulgaria, we’ve built up an intimate knowledge of the area’s butterflies. Indeed, we’ve even added one or two species to the known butterfly fauna!
This tour builds upon the wealth of experience we have in the area, with an itinerary refined to maximise the amount of species we’ll see during the course of a week-long stay, ensuring we visit sites that provide the greatest spectacle as well as diversity, and giving us the opportunity to make some new discoveries all of our own as we take our time to explore each day’s sites at an easy pace.
With around 130 species recorded in the area, we have ample scope to see plenty of species, and will be anticipating recording in the region of 100 species during the course of our tour. Amongst them there will be some extremely desirable targets – skippers, in particular, will be well-represented and we’d expect to see well into double figures of species of them alone. Our targets will include Tessellated Skipper Muschampia tessellum, Yellow-banded Skipper Pyrgus sidae, and Sandy Grizzled Skipper Pyrgus cinarae.
Fans of Lycaenids won’t be disappointed either. Our exploration of the region will cover habitats ranging from lakeside margins to dry scrub, and from woodlands to mountain meadows. Puddling activity can be simply remarkable, with many species of blue all present at once in a dense crowd of soporific insects. We’ll visit special sites in the lowlands for the likes of Europe’s largest blue, Iolas Blue Iolana iolas, and one of its smallest, Little Tiger Blue Tarucas balkanicus. Up in the mountains, we’ll search meadows for the delightful Blue Argus Aricia anteros. Those montane meadows ought to abound with coppers too, and we’ll make a visit to ‘the copper mine’, a special site we found in recent years that boasts an abundance of Purple-shot Copper Lycaena alciphron, in addition to Scarce Copper Lycaena virgaureae, Sooty Copper Lycaena tityrus, and the dark, local form of Small Copper Lycaena phlaeas. We’ll be hoping to encounter Balkan Copper Lycaena candens, Large Copper Lycaena dispar, and Lesser Fiery Copper Lycaena thersamon during the week to complete the flaming copper set.
Some special aristocrats will also be on the agenda – we’ve good sites for Lesser Purple Emperor Apatura ilia, and Southern Comma Polygonia egea; we anticipate good numbers of the king of fritillaries, Cardinal Argynnis pandora; and we will keep our eyes peeled for itinerant Camberwell Beauty Nymphalis antiopa, and Large Tortoiseshell Nymphalis polychloros. Impossible to ignore will be the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of puddling Nettle-tree Butterflies Libythea celtis.
Hidden, tree-fringed meadows close to the Bulgarian border give us a chance of encountering Common Glider Neptis sappho, and Map Araschnia levana, along with a host of other interesting possibilities – the likes of Eastern Festoon Zerynthia cerisy, Lattice Brown Kirinia roxelana, and Balkan Marbled White Melanargia larissa. Our eastern location gives us a good chance of further regional Satyrid specialties, like Balkan Grayling Hipparchia senthes, and Eastern Rock Grayling Hipparchia syriaca. If we are truly blessed, we may encounter the ultimate emperor of all, Freyer's Purple Emperor Apatura metis.
Where there are this many insects, it almost goes without saying that other wildlife will abound too. Lake Kerkini is justly famous for its birdlife, and we’ll expect to see large numbers of breeding heron and egret species, in addition to the immense, magnificent Dalmatian Pelicans Pelecanus crispus, and many more species besides.
We will stay at a comfortable hotel in the heart of the countryside not far from the shore of the lake. Butterflies and birds alike can be found within short walking distance of our base, and there will be Balkan Lizard Orchids Himantoglossum calcaratum, to see on the quiet roadside margins. At night, over a cacophony of singing Nightingales Luscinia megarhynchos, we may hear the sound of Golden Jackals Canis aureus calling to one another in the near distance. Above all this week, we will be seeing lots of butterflies every day, and we look forward to seeing you there too.