TRIP REPORT, SPRINGTIME IN TURKEY, 7 - 14 May 2011

 

An early season trip to the Mediterranean coast of Turkey, organised by Mike Williams of the West Midlands Branch of Butterly Conservation, during the second week of May, centred on Antalya, saw a group of six enthusiasts meet up with 'Safi' and our local Turkish guide Egemen. After a late arrival in Antalya we set off the following morning for the drive east to Koprulu where a flowery hillside gave us the first opportunity to 'get our eyes in' and an Oriental Meadow Brown (Hyponephele lupina) was first to show, quickly followed by a Mallow Skipper (Carcharodus alceae), Tesselated Skipper (Muschampia tessellum), Green-underside Blues (Glaucopsyche alexis), supplemented by Large White (Pieris brassicae), Clouded Yellow (Colias crocea), and a weary Common Blue (Polyommatus icarus). Butterflies were not present in any number but it was still good to have made a start.

 

Entering the Koprulu National Park and crossing the narrow bridge at the Canyon we continued to the hamlet of Selge where the road petered out. At an estimated altitude of c1,000m the local kids thronged around us curious to know what we were doing and keen to demonstrate that a net wasn't necessary for catching butterflies. Immediately Eastern Festoons (Zerynthia cerisy) flew non-stop along the roadside and photography was impossible. Nigel found our sole False Apollo (Archon apollinus) with its semi-transparent wings and though it flew short distances it invariably settled deep into the grass making the chance of a decent shot quite difficult. Both species share the same foodplants - Aristolochus - and ova were found on the underside of several leaves, we think Eastern Festoons.  

 

On our return, we stopped at the Canyon and a black-looking Lycaenid caught our attention stopping regularly at the roadside low down on the rock wall. However, it turned out not to be a Lycaenid at all but the African Ringlet (Ypthima asterope) the sole representative of its genus in Europe. The instant it landed it flashed open its wings usually just once and then rested with wings closed. Our plan had been to cross to the other side of the valley where habitat looked favourable but it turned out to be very quiet: 'more going on at home' someone said. However, a compliant Eastern Festoon was a bonus as was a ragged Powdered Brimstone (Gonepteryx farinosa) which came in to shelter on the ground.

 

Under Mediterranean blue sky our second day got underway. Our first stop was a short way down the valley to inspect a grassy hillside recently planted with olive trees. Immediately we were confronted by a fiery orange copper which had us puzzled for some time. A male, its upperside was Grecian Copper (Lycaena ottomana) but the underside was unusual being a grey colour with dark spots and lacking the conspicuous marginal orange-red line. If anything the underside resembled the Anatolian Fiery Copper's (Lycaena asabinus) but distribution ruled this out. Species here were not numerous but we ended the visit after a good hour or so with stunning shots of an Orbed Red-underwing Skipper (Spialia orbifer) flushed with purple iridescence on its forewing margins.

 

Dinner at the hotel was good building us up for the after dark trek to the eternal flames of Olympos, or the flames of Chimera of Greek mythology. We walked up steep steps in the dark to where the natural gas flames flickered out of the limestone ahead of us. This was quite a meeting point for trekker-types and had an air of camp-fire conviviality.

 

The third day began locally at a dry, stony, parched valley floor with no sign of life for a considerable time. Then an Eastern Rock Grayling (Hipparchia syriaca) was netted with no intention of hanging around upon release and a bright Levantine Skipper (Thymelicus hyrax) was next to put in an appearance. A mint-condition Lattice Brown Kirinia roxelana) was next to show, intent on resting low down in bushes and on trees and a couple of Mersin's (Samos) Graylings (Hipparchia mersina) were seen plus a sole Small Bath White (Pontia chloridice) and Sloe Hairstreak (Satyrium acaciae).

 

The ancient ruins of Olympos were approached along a hot beach where a solitary Mediterranean Skipper Gegenes nostrodamus) nectared on a lantana bush. No sooner had we reached the beach than we found Lulworth Skippers (Thymelicus acteon) around a low bush and Ilex Hairstreaks (Satyrium ilicis) were also present. The river that flows into the sea at this point leads upstream to the Lycian, and earlier, ruins of old Olympos. The group became fixated on something on a low wall: it turned out to be a fresh Southern Swallowtail (Papilio alexanor) in beautiful condition, almost certainly recently emerged. Our one and only Green-veined White (Pieris napi) put in an appearance here also. The long journey west to our second base at Kas then began.

 

The ancient Lycian site theme continued the next day with a visit to Patara. One or two people saw snakes and an Eastern Festoon larva was located under a leaf by Safi. A new butterfly for the trip was Small Skipper (Thymelicus sylvestris) and an obliging Eastern Bath White (Pontia edusa) permitted us to differentiate it from the Dappled White (Pontia daplidice). A dark form of the Small Copper (Lycaena phlaeas) was a real delight and a newly emerged Large Wall Brown (Lasiommata maera) was also seen.

 

Later on that afternoon, Nigel somehow managed not only to spot, but also to track in flight, a Grass Jewel (Chilades trochylus) that was buzzing around an area of stony ground. As thunder rumbled and more clouds built we called it a day. Back at our hotel the weather had now turned 'big time' and the large island offshore disappeared beneath the storm heading our way. When it hit us with tropical intensity the drains couldn't cope and before long an inch of water covered the restaurant floor.

 

Egemen had organised a boat trip to the hamlet of Aperlai and after waiting for the rain to stop we set-off.  Brown Argus (Aricia agestis) was particularly attractive one of which had unusual white spots below the hind-wing orange lunules. The walk back to the boat was capped by an unidentified Hairstreak that fooled us all by pretending to be compliant but which then shot off in the wind and was lost.

 

Our penultimate day was spent in the hills behind Kas stopping where the Lycian Way crossed the road delivered only one each of Eastern Meadow Brown, Small Copper, Large White, Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui) (plus larvae on thistles), Lattice Brown and two Clouded Yellows.

On the way in to Kalkan, driven there by rain and the imaginary smell of coffee, we'd passed through some lovely habitat and returned there in sporadic light rain. In wet vegetation we turned-up Common Blues and Green-underside Blues, a jazzy caterpillar, whilst Tony located a Cream-spot Tiger (Arctia villica), or similar moth.

 

With a mid-afternoon flight back home on our final day there was little further time in the field but at the Karaman Beli pass some 10km before Korkuteli at 1,290 metres we dismounted to check out a lovely herby thyme covered hillside. But boy, was it cold, despite the sunny intervals! Safi spotted a Bavius Blue (Pseudophilotes bavius) rooster and it was good to see Chapman's Blue (Polyommatus thersites) and Brown Argus in the windswept conditions.

 

The Lycian site of Termessos became our final stop, tragically largely destroyed by an earthquake. The zig-zag approach road was ascended under a grey sky and cool breeze but a pair of roosting Eastern Festoons and a solitary Bavius Blue were found adjacent to the car park. Most of the group went to see the amphitheatre. A final stop was made not far from the site entrance where Tony found a freshly emerged Balkan Marbled White (Melanargia larissa) low down on a yellow sage. This was to be the last butterfly of the trip.

 

A total of 50 butterfly species had been seen and 71 birds had been recorded including (warblers) Olivaceous, Ruppel's; (buntings) Cirl, Cretzschmar's, Black-headed, and Corn; (wheatears) Northern, Isabelline, and Black-eared; (woodpeckers) Middle-spotted, Lesser spotted, and Syrian.

Report also published in 'Comma', the West Midlands BC Newsletter