Jul 312015

During early July 2015, Barrie and myself managed a week pass-out and we made our third visit to Bulgaria in search of butterflies. Our trip was carefully planned in the hope of seeing some of the high mountain species and we arranged our trip around the Rila & Pirin high alpine habitat. We were often at altitudes in excess of 5,000 feet and the highest altitude was just under 10,000 feet on Mount Musala, the highest peak in Bulgaria. We had a few disappointments, missing several Ringlet species, Bosnian Blue and Shepherd’s Fritillary, due to the fact that they were not on the wing, but many highlights and I saw at least thirteen new species of butterfly. Our total species count for the week was just over a hundred. (still finalising).

Bulgaria has such a rich and diverse range of habitats which makes it one of the best countries in Europe for butterflies and during the three trips I have made, I have seen close to 150 species. Some excellent other insects too, including one brand new species of Grasshopper, Tettigonia balcanica, another unique to the region grasshopper, Paranocaracris bulgaricus and the stunning Bulgarian Golden-ringed Dragonfly.  During this years trip we also saw a few good birds including, Rock Thrush, Levant Sparrowhawk, Little Bittern, Crag Martin, Nutcracker, Black Stork, Pallid Swift and Golden Oriole.

Southern Rhodopes_J4X6283

The view from the ski centre on Mount Musalla, across towards the Rhode Mountains.

Yellow-banded Skipper_J4X4607

Yellow-banded Skipper – A butterfly that is a speciality of Bulgaria. Tony Davison©


Tufted Marbled Skipper_J4X4353

Tufted Marbled Skipper – Another skipper species that is generally uncommon – Tony Davison©


Safflower Skipper_J4X5098

Safflower Skipper – My first new butterfly species of the trip and an early ID test! Note the elongated markings on the hind wings and dense grey hair – Tony Davison©

Pirin National Park_J4X4896 Pirin Mountains_J4X4911

Our first day was spent in the foothills of the Pirin Mountains, a stunning area of natural beauty and wilderness. Tony Davison©

Some of the butterflies of the Pirin and Rila   Mountains

APOLLO a_J4X5600

Apollo – A magnificent butterfly of the high mountains – Tony Davison©


Cardinal – The largest fritillary in Europe – Note the organ-pink flush to the under forewing, a distinctive feature – Tony Davison©



Cardinal – Note the heavy suffusion of green on the under hind wing and bold white  white markings – Tony Davison©


Camberwell Beauty_J4X6119

Camberwell Beauty – One of the star butterflies of the trip. Near mythical perched!! – Tony Davison©

Great Sooty Satyr_J4X6046

Great Sooty Satyr – This male was easier to ID in flight – Sooty brown with two white pupils ocelli on forewings. – Tony Davison©

Olive Skipper_J4X4632

Olive Skipper – The Pyrgus group of Skippers are very difficult to ID – note the almost absent markings on the upper hind wings – Tony Davison©


Nettle Tree Butterfly – Not often we saw one with wings open. This one was basking in early morning sunshine – Tony Davison©


The Nettle Tree Butterfly – A cryptic species and the only representative of the Snout butterflies in Europe. Very common – Tony Davison©

Marbled Fritillary_J4X4489

Marbled Fritillary – A fairly common species in Bulgaria. Note the outer half of the underwing is purple – Tony Davison©

Nickerl's Fritillary_J4X5813

Nickerl’s Fritillary – Rather local but we did see plenty on this trip – Note the in-filled marginal lines and the irregular central band on the hind wing – Tony Davison©

Eastern Large Heath_J4X4940

Eastern Large Heath – A fairly common high altitude butterfly and endemic to Europe – Note the pale patch and position on the under hind-wing – Tony Davison©

Balkan Marbled White_J4X5395

Balkan Marbled White – Close inspection is required to separate this from other species of Marbled White. An exciting find – Tony Davison©

Balkan Copper male_J4X6192

Balkan Copper – A speciality of the region and confined to the Southern Balkans.  A stunning butterfly when freshly emerged – Tony Davison©

Black-veined White_J4X5782

Black-veined White – A courting couple. Very common in Bulgaria and across the whole of Europe. – Tony Davison

Phalakron Mountain Range Greece_J4X5305

The area and mountains near Mount Phalakron in Greece – Tony Davison©

Mt.Phalakron Car Park_J4X5229

The Ski Centre and car park, Mount Phalakron, Greece – The Phalakron Blue butterfly is found on the surrounding alpine meadows – Tony Davison©

Phalacron Blue_J4X5261Phalacron Blue_J4X5259Phalacron Blue_J4X5201

Phalakron Blue – Very local to this area of NE Greece and SW Bulgaria – Tony Davison©

A few of the mountain birds


Rock Thrush – A bird of the high mountains – Tony Davison©


Rock Thrush_S1Q8800

Rock Thrush – Juvenile – Tony Davison©

Black Redstart_S1Q8785

Black Redstart – Fairly common in the mountain areas – Tony Davison©


Nutcracker – The thick-billed race – caryocatactes – Not easy to find in the dense forests. Heard more than seen – Tony Davison©

The Blues – Can be a nightmare trying to sort them all out

Turquoise Blue_J4X5290

Turquoise Blue – another new species for me – Note the distinctive “heart-shaped” lunules and brownish colour to underwings


Turquoise Blue_J4X4689

Turquoise Blue – male – In sunshine the upper wing colour is bright turquoise – note the black border extending inwards along veins – Tony Davison©

Chequered Blue_J4X6457

Chequered Blue – Local and uncommon – Distinctive patterning to under wings – Tony Davison©

Osiris Blue_J4X6442

Osiris Blue – Similar to Small Blue, except upper wing is bright violet, not dark grey-brown. Note black spots on under upper wing almost in a straight line – Tony Davison©

Mazarine Blue_J4X5288

Mazarine Blue – A common species in Bulgaria – Note the greyish tones to underwings and white bordered back spots – Tony Davison©


Large Blue_J4X5934

Large Blue – A patchy distribution in Bulgaria. Difficult to find – Note distinctive “Paw-Print” patterning on underwing – Tony Davison©


Idas Blue_J4X5894

Idas Blue – Seen in large numbers along hot mountain footpaths – Note shining blue centres to black marginal spots – Tony Davison©


Escher's Blue_J4X4440

Escher’s Blue – A large blue butterfly – Bold black ocelli on upper under wing – Tony Davison©


Eastern Baton Blue_J4X5740Baton Blue_J4X5748

Eastern Baton Blue – Note the black “notching” along the wing fringes and lack of any spots in orange submarginal lunules – Tony Davison©


Amanda’s Blue – Note the incomplete row of orange submarginal lunules and blue flush at base of wings – Tony Davison©


Adonis Blue_J4X5269 Adonis Blue_J4X5186

Adonis Blue – Note the row of small black markings along outer-edge of hind wing and black marks and indentations along outer forewing – Tony Davison©



Anomalous Blue – Note yellowish tones to underwings, white borders to ball spots and two rows of pale submarginal lunges. Brown upper wings – Tony Davison©

Southern Pirin_J4X5083

Southern Pirin Mountains


Southern Pirin Range_J4X5040

High alpine meadows in the Southern Pirin Mountains


Southern Pirin_J4X5095

Southern Pirin Mountains

Paranocaracris bulgaricus Grasshopper male_J4X4967

Paranocaracris bulganicus – male – A speciality of the region – Tony Davison©

Golden Ringed_J4X5949

Balkan Golden-ringed Dragonfly – Rila Mountains – Tony Davison©

Balkan Golden-ringed_J4X6414

Balkan Golden-ringed Dragonfly – Rila Mountains – Tony Davison©

Blue Chaser_J4X5471

Blue Chaser – Pirin Mountains – Tony Davison©


Blue Chaser_J4X5478

Blue Chaser – Pirin Mountains – Tony Davison©

Crag Martin_S1Q8933

Crag Martin – Rila Mountains – Tony Davison©

Crag Martin_S1Q9079

Crag Martin – Not often you get this close! – Rila Mountains – Tony Davison©


Red-backed Shrike – male – Rila Mountains – Tony Davison©

Water Rail_S1Q8852 Water Rail_S1Q8871

Water Rail – above two images – Tony Davison©

Mt. Musala_J4X6339

Mount Musala  – just under 10,000feet


Mt. Musala_J4X6270

The stunningly beautiful Mount Musala in the Rila National Park – just under 10,000feet



css.php Return to Top ▲Return to Top ▲

By continuing to use the site, you agree to the use of cookies. more information

The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.