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Guided butterfly, botanical & birdwatching holidays
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Butterflies of Slovenia

Dates & Prices

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Dates: 22nd – 29th June 2019 Guaranteed departure!

Price: £1,245

Single Room Supplement: £125

Deposit: £150 per person


Price Includes: All meals, accommodation, ground transport, services of guides, holiday report and donation to Butterfly Conservation

Not Included: Flights, travel insurance, drinks and any other personal items.

Conservation Donation: 10% of profits donated to Butterfly Conservation.

Leader: Paul Tout

Group Size & Travel: Minimum of 4 and a maximum of 12 guests plus 1-2 leaders.

Grade: Gentle paced and generally easy

Holiday Highlights


  • Explore the diverse mix of habitats of the Karst, Lake Cerknica and the Dinaric Alps
  • Enjoy 80-100 butterfly species
  • Star species include Large copper, Purple-shot Copper, Alcon Blue, Poplar Admiral, Lesser Purple Emperor, Scarce Fritillary, Geranium Argus, False Ringlet and many more!
  • A nice mix of late spring flowers – various hellebores, asarabacca, blue-eyed mary & haquetia, plus summer displays of grassland orchids – Adriatic lizard, green-winged, burnt-tip & bog orchid 
  • Plenty of other interesting wildlife in the area – Brown Bear, Grey Wolf, 9 species of Woodpecker, Bitterns, Scarlet Rosefinch, Short-toed & White-tailed Eagle and lots more!
  • One centre tour at a relaxed pace to ensure full enjoyment of our surroundings and the wildlife
  • Tour supports Butterfly Conservation

A new and exclusive tour of Southwestern Slovenia for a wonderful show of butterflies and summer flowers!

BOOK HOLIDAY NOW

New for 2019! An exclusive tour of Southwestern Slovenia for a wonderful show of butterflies & summer flowers!

For such a small country, Slovenia is amazingly diverse. After all, the distance from the closest point on the Adriatic coast (Ankaran) to top of its highest peak (Triglav 2,864 metres) is just 88 kilometres (55 miles) as the crow flies. This enormous diversity in landscape, climate and topography is reflected in the country’s biodiversity and no more so than in the 179 species of butterflies regularly recorded within its 20,000 km². To put that in context Great Britain and Ireland (315,159 km², about 16 times as large) has 58 resident (or reintroduced) species. Some of the species in Slovenia are confined to the areas with a Mediterranean climate while others, some of them very rare such as False Ringlet and Purple-shot Copper are more typical of peatbogs and wetlands. Another environment rich in species, particularly in ringlets of the genus Erebia, are the high Alps above 1500 metres where more than a dozen species are found.

In geographical terms, the Primorska region in southwest Slovenia has the highest butterfly diversity in the country. Its limestone karstic ridges, dry grasslands, rich meadows and open woodlands represent an ideal mix of diverse habitats for butterflies. In some areas, species of different biogeographical zones (Mediterranean, Continental, Alpine) can be found all at the same site.

Butterflies of the Karst, Lake Cerknica and the Dinaric Alps

Climate and vegetation change very rapidly as one moves from the drier summer heat of the northern Adriatic inland across south-western towards the relative cool and humidity of Central and Eastern Europe in midsummer. The limestone of Karst country, the more acidic flysch soils derived from massive undersea mudslides and the peat-bogs where cold spring waters emerge increase the complexity of the habitat mix with peaks rising to almost 1800m above sea level on Mount Snežnik and over 1300m elsewhere in the Dinaric Alps across which vast forests of Beech and White Fir stretch out in the Balkans’ largest wilderness area stretching across Croatia and on into Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Our base at Lake Cerknica, is an Important Bird Area, a Site of Community Interest, Special Protection Area and Regional Park that covers more than 3,000 hectares, the lake itself being a vast turlough or temporary lake, rising and falling with the input of groundwaters from the surrounding limestone and the outputs into the subterranean river system that eventually finishes in the Black Sea. Butterfly diversity is extremely high in the wide range of habitats from wet to dry, from hot to cool and from high altitude to sea-level. The butterfly fauna of Slovenia is well-known, with an excellent national butterfly atlas, fine natural history museums and large and well-maintained collections of Lepidoptera stretching back to the 18th century when the country, as the Duchy of Carniola in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, was the stamping ground for natural history giants of the age such as Giovanni Scopoli who described the autumn-flying Woodland Grayling Hipparchia fagi from butterflies he collected in Carniola.

Many square kilometres of the lake bed consist of wet meadows cut once a year for hay and used by breeding corn, spotted and little crakes while black and white storks, the local pair of white-tailed eagles and large numbers of herons, bitterns and egrets use the flooded areas for feeding on the large stocks of fish and amphibians.  On calm nights in summer the noise of the various crakes mixes with the booming of bitterns and the reeling of Savi’s warblers. The wet meadows throughout the area play host to a large number of rare butterflies though not all of these will be on the wing when we are there. Species in these habitats in mid-June include Large Chequered Skipper Heteropterus MorpheusLarge Copper Lycaena dispar (although the autumn brood is much larger), Sooty Copper L tityrus, Purple-shot Copper L. alciphron and Alcon Blue Phenargis alcon.

Peat-bogs such as those at Bloška Planota is one of the largest and most intact in Slovenia, is a rare habitat this far south and with a fantastic range of plants, butterflies and dragonflies. In woodland areas at this site Poplar Admiral Limenitis populi is seen in some years but Lesser Purple Emperor Apatura ilia is quite common. The upland grasslands surrounding the lake and the Dinaric Alps themselves are another rich habitat for butterflies. On the highest ground are small colonies of Clouded ApolloParnassius mnemosyne while the last Southern Festoons Zerynthia polyxena are still on the wing in mid-June. In the rockier area are rare species such as Chequered Blue Scolitantides orionNorthern Brown Argus Aricia artaxerxes and the very rare Geranium Argus Aricia eumedonDark-green Fritillaries Argynnis aglaja are often very common in mid-June together with Queen of Spain Fritillary Issoria lathonia in some years.

With much of the country’s land in the hands of the Church and a landed aristocracy until 1945, forests have survived across vast swathes of Slovenia and now cover 55% of the country, especially in upland areas. Though the areas of true ‘virgin’ forest are now small and scattered, Notrajnska Regional Park, covering 22,200 hectares, includes areas of old forest with many species of birds, animals and plants associated with them. The woodlands hold some interesting species including both White admiral L. camilla and the Southern white admiral L. reducta in warmer areas closer to the coast while Hungarian glider Neptis rivularis is sometimes seen along the forest tracks in mid-June. The area above the Cerknica Lake is a site for Scarce fritillary Euphydryas maturna.

We will also visit the dry hay meadows of the Karst, lower down and closer to the coast. Here the grassland fritillaries come to the fore with Glanville Melitaea cinxiaHeath M. athalia, Spotted M. didymaAssman’s M. britomartis and Nickerl’s Fritillary M. aurelia all on the wing in mid-June although in varying numbers as well as large numbers of common species of blues, skippers and heaths. We will also look for two rare species at sites where they occur; Europe’s most endangered butterfly, the False Ringlet Coenonympha oedippus and the Chestnut Heath C. glycerion.

Other wildlife and plants…

Lake Cerknica is an important breeding site for many bird species including large numbers of whinchats and tree pipits. After dark is the best time to hear calling corncrakes and spotted crakes in the wetter parts of the lake as well as reeling Savi’s warblers and booming bitterns One of the last species to arrive at the lake in late May and early June is the scarlet rosefinch, at the limit of its distribution.

Short-toed and White-tailed eagle often hunt around the lake while the villages have Scops OwlsBlack RestartsWrynecks and Red-backed shrikesFieldfares are common right around the lake and there are nine species of woodpecker within the park. OttersPolecats and Beech Marten are all present close to our accommodation while the forests hold both Brown Bear and Grey Wolf. The latter prey on the Red and Roe deer which are common and easiest to see in the late evening and early morning.

The main botanical feature of the holiday will include the tail-end of the absolutely superb displays of spring flowers in the beech woodlands, including various hellebores, asarabacca, blue-eyed mary and haquetia, whilst the summer displays of grassland orchids such as Adriatic lizard, green-winged, burnt-tip and bog orchid will be underway in the splendid hay meadows in the Karst.

This promises to be a very popular tour – we recommend booking early to avoid disappointment!

          

The itinerary below is our planned programme of excursions but adverse weather and local factors may entail some re-ordering of this itinerary during the tour to maximise the best use of the time and weather conditions available.

Focus: An all-round natural history holiday, focusing on the outstanding butterflies but without neglecting the other fauna and flora, as well as a little of the local culture and cuisine.

Day 1: Arrival & transfer to ŽerovnicaWe begin our holiday with a transfer by road to Žerovnica. Logar Farm is our base for the week, a comfortable and modern house in a small village on the eastern shores of the Lake Cerknica in southern Slovenia. Nearby Postonja, this ancient Roman city was called Adelsberg and was the capital of the Duchy of Carniola when the area was part of Austria-Hungary. It lies on the route of the Roman road, the Gemina, linking Rome, Aquileia and Emona, today called Ljubljana and followed a crucial route avoiding the mountains.  This was also the main route along which animal and plant species from the Balkans colonized the Italian peninsula at the end of the Ice Age. The area around the farm is rich in birdlife including breeding Wryneck and Red-backed Shrike. Early morning walks down to the lake pass through beautiful flowery meadows with birds including Whinchat, Fieldfare, Scarlet Rosefinch and Grey-headed Woodpecker.

Day 2: Lake Cerknica. Today we will attempt to orientate ourselves in our surroundings within 6-8 kilometres of the farm. The first site we will visit is the 1000 metre mountain, Slivnica, which provides a fine view over the lake. The flowery meadows near the summit are rich in butterflies including Clouded Apollo and Geranium Argus, the latter a rare butterfly in Slovenia. We will then follow a circular route around the lake, visiting the various habitats. On foot from the farm down a track to the lake bed we will pass through open farmland with large scattered sessile oaks. Most is given over to small-scale cultivation and hay-meadows, rich in wild flowers including Meadow Clary (Salvia pratensis) and a range of scabiouses and knapweeds. Butterflies are abundant including Spotted Fritillary and Marbled Whites of the dark procida subspecies.  Nearing the lake, in an area with regular winter flooding, the trees vanish and the view opens out across 3000 hectares of fabulous flat meadows rich in orchids such as Early Marsh Orchid (Dactylorhiza incarnata), Green-winged Orchid (Orchis morio) and dense stands of Yellow Rattle (Rhinanthus minor). As a result of regular inundation there are fewer butterflies but Large Copper is a possibility while breeding birds include Whinchat, Ashy-headed Yellow Wagtail and Tree Pipit. Moving round the lake we will visit other areas, adding to our butterfly list perhaps with a late Marsh Fritillary or Woodland Ringlet and trying to catch up with other breeding birds including Black and White Stork, Sedge Warbler, Corncrake, and Bittern. The plant communities support rarities such as Shrubby Violet (Viola elatior) and Bog Orchid (O. palustris).

Day 3: Javorniki & the forests above the lake. This morning we will be exploring the forested mountains above the lake with their extensive forests of Beech (Fagus sylvatica) and White Fir (Abies alba). The magnificent ground flora includes Hacquetia (Hacquetia epipactis), Blue-eyed Mary (Omphalodes verna) and the scarce endemic Henbane Bell (Scopolia carniolica). The latter’s genus is named after the naturalist Giovanni Scopoli who collected and described many species from these very forests. Clearings in the forest are good for butterflies including Woodland Brown, Silver-washed Fritillary, White Admiral and, if the season is late, Chequered Skipper Some of its rarer birds will also be looked for including Ural Owl and Three-toed Woodpecker. Other commoner species included Willow, Crested and Coal Tit and the numerous Firecrests.

Day 4: Rakov Škocjan & Planina. The water flowing out of the lake passes through a deep limestone gorge, the Rakov Škocjan before dropping into cave systems deep below the karst. Today we will explore the gorge itself and some of the flowery meadows along the warmer and richer polje where the river re-emerges at Planina some kilometres away. Many of the birds, butterflies and plants at the first of the stops are similar to those seen yesterday but include some new species such as Hungarian Glider and Blue-spot Hairstreak.   Fir Mistletoe (Viscum abietis), perhaps just a subspecies of the Common Mistletoe (V. album) but which parasitizes White Fir, making an interesting Christmassy pairing. Picking up the River Rak again where it emerges as the Unica at Planinska jama a few kilometres away, before flowing across the polje there are breeding Dippers, Grey Wagtails and Hawfinches and the open meadows of the polje have abundant Red-backed Shrikes.

 Day 5: The Bloke Plateau. The Bloke (pronounced “Bloh-keh”) Plateau, ten kilometres south of the lake is in one of the coldest districts in Slovenia. An area of icy springs, these that have given rise to a peat-bog, one of the most important sites in Slovenia for plants but which includes many rare butterflies. There are a range of beautiful flowery meadows from very wet to very dry, offering a wide range of environments. Most of woodland here are Scots Pine (Pinus sylvestris) and support a range of unusual birds including Common Crossbill and Nutcracker together with several rare species of butterflies that prefer cold, damp conditions including the rare Assman’s Fritillary, Arran Brown, Chestnut Heath, and Poplar Admiral, a very local species in Slovenia where the foodplant, Aspen (Populus tremulans).

Day 6: Ždroclje and Mount Snežnik. Most forests in Slovenia are heavily-managed for timber but small patches of near-virgin forests survive, including Ždroclje, a recently UNESCO-listed area of almost untouched Norway Spruce, White Fir and Beech. In the afternoon we will visit the peak of Mount Snežnik at almost 1800m above sea-level and a famous botanical reserve. Without many clearings or hay-meadows butterfly species are less varied than in warmer areas. Ždroclje, as beautiful as it is impossible to pronounce covers about 100ha. It is not absolutely virgin forest but has not been subject to any cutting for well over a century and this forest of Beech, Norway Spruce (Picea abies) and White Fir the endangered Balkan subspecies lilfordi of the White-backed Woodpecker and the rather commoner Three-toed Woodpecker together with Ural Owl and good populations of small birds. In the afternoon we will visit the heavily-forested Iška river valley, known for its populations of Scarce Fritillary, often on the wing with good numbers of Duke of Burgundy.

Day 7: Senožeče  and the Nanoščica Valley. Cerknica lake lies in the Danube catchment with just a short distance away towards the coast the river systems flowing into the Adriatic and the most westerly arm of the Black Sea river system is the Nanoščica valley which we will visit together with the extensive dry limestone grasslands close to Senožeče with fine displays of orchids and large numbers of butterflies.

Emerging in springs from the foot of the limestone massif of Mount Nanos, the River Nanoščica passes through beautiful unspoilt farmland and damp flowery meadows that include superb displays of Siberian Iris (Iris sibirica) as well as other wetland plants while butterflies include the Large Copper and Large Chequered Skipper.

Close by on Mount Vremščica are mountain meadows with large displays of orchids including Fragrant Orchid (Gymnadenia conopsea), Orange (Lilium bulbiferum) and Carnic Lilies (L. carniolicum) together with large numbers of rare butterflies including Great Sooty Satyr, Queen-of-Spain Fritillary and Clouded Apollo.

The final stop are the meadows close to Senožeče where butterflies are the most obvious element with Heath, Glanville, Knapweed, Assman’s, Nickerl’s and Marsh Fritillary all on the wing in June together with beautiful displays of orchids and interesting specialities such as the Yellow-berried Mistletoe (Loranthus europaeus).

Day 8: Departure

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