Join butterfly expert Dr Simon Spencer for an exploration & survey of Mount Falakron in Northern Greece
We invite you to come with us to verdant Northeast Greece to stay at a welcoming local family run hotel in the small town of Volakas, situated at 830m above sea level. It is the gateway to the mighty Mount Falakron, home to one of the country’s largest ski resorts & rich in flora & butterfly fauna. This tranquil & beautiful mountainous region rewards the fairly infrequent visitor with lush quiet valleys, slopes & peaks clothes in forest & meadow, and to the north the wooded valley & deep gorges of the Nestos River, one of the largest & most ecologically important rivers in Greece.
Mount Falakron itself features several high peaks – Vardina 2,194 m, Chionotrypa 2,211 m and Agios Pavlos 1,768 m), with the highest being Profitis Ilias (2,232 m). In Greek the mountain is known as “Φαλακρό όρος”, meaning “bald mountain”. The mountain covers an area of 960 km2 and will be the main focus of our exploration, although we will also aim to venture further afield to visit one or more other excellent butterfly locations in the area.
The vegetation of Mount Falakron can generally be described as pseudomaquis at lower altitudes on southern slopes, dominated by Quercus coccifera & Carpinus orientalis. Above the maquis Pinus nigra forests are found, along with deciduous oak forest on the northeastern slopes. On higher and in damper areas (mainly the northern slopes) there are stands of Fagus sylvatica inside the Pinus nigra forests. Once above the tree line (at about 1,800m+) there are mountainous and subalpine grasslands, which cover a large area of the mountain and characterise it – hence its ‘Bald Mountain’ name.
Alongside a general exploration of the area for butterflies our group will assist in the long-term ambition of Butterfly Conservation’s European Butterfly Group to map the distribution of Dil’s Grayling Pseudochazara orestes which in Greece is only known to occur in this limited area around the Mount Falakron, Mount Orvilos & Mount Melikion massif.
Previous expeditions have been too late, but a 2018 visit established that the species emerges in late June. The butterfly then aestivates and can be found again in subsequent months.
Mount Falakron has a rich butterfly fauna with Black Ringlet Erebia melas to be found at higher altitudes. Here we could also see no less than 4 anomalous blues, including the very local Higgins Anomalous Blue (Polyommatus (=Agrodiaetus) nephohiptamenos). The word nephohiptamenos means ‘flying in the clouds’ and is an apt description for a species normally found on the tops of mountains where even in good weather there is usually lots of cloud.
The others are the widespread Ripart’s Anomalous Blue (P. ripartii), the newly described Falakron Anomalous Blue P. eleniae and Anomalous Blue (P. admetus).
Eastern Festoon Zerynthia cerysii is found at lower altitudes where many other species can also be found. Other target species include Powdered Brimstone G. farinosa, Oriental Meadow Brown H. lupina, Lattice Brown Kirinia roxelana, Lesser Spotted Fritillary M. trivia, Little Tiger Blue T. balkanicus, Lesser Fiery Copper L. thersamon, Russian Heath C. leander.
If weather and time permit, we will make a trip to the Rhodopi and hopefully find one or two Gliders N. sapho and rivularis and possibly Freyer’s Purple Emperor A. metis.
We hope to welcome you on this exciting & exclusive new trip!