Although grey is a drab colour, the grayling butterflies are actually quite interesting. In Greece I encountered some familiar species and some new.
One familiar species was the widespread and unmistakable Great banded grayling (Brintesia circe). It occurs all over the southern half of Europe from the summer to the fall. You can easily recognize it in the field by its large size, the clear white pattern on the upper wings (visible in flight) and the small white patch on the underside of the hindwing (visible when stationary as below).
A new species for me was Freyer’s grayling (Hipparchia fatua). My friend and I encountered this specimen in the oddest of places: at the very touristic entrance to the Nestos river canyon between plastic chairs, children’s tour groups, stray dogs and cigarette-chainsmoking locals. After a week of almost complete solitude in the mountains, we were unaccustomed to such scenes. The butterflies though were totally ok with their environment and posed like they belonged there like everyone else. Together with bright early morning sunshine it made for magical lighting.
Another close-up shot from later that day:
Last in line and also a new species for me was the Eastern rock grayling (Hipparchia syriaca). It is awfully similar to the Woodland Grayling (Hipparchia fagi) but slightly smaller. Both species occur in the Balkans at the same time and are very hard to distinguish. I am pretty confident that this specimen is the Eastern Rock Grayling. To be 100% sure you would have to look at the julien organ of the male genitalia, something that I did not dare do. There should be something left on one’s bucket list, isn’t it?
This was the third and final episode of our adventures in Greece. In the next blog, I’ll search for butterflies closer to home. Stay tuned!