Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Romania - Dobrogea: plains, wetlands & oak forests

Dobrogea is the Romanian coastal region stretching from the Bulgarian to the Ukranian border. it is organised in a southern county Constanta & a northern county Tulcea. Both are named after their respective main city.
We visited some coastal plains, salt marshes and lower hills from the north of the county Constanta until just south of the Danube delta; we visited some old open oak forests and ajacent grasslands near Babadag & in the foothills of the Macin Mountains (<500m) and we visited the Danube delta so to make it easy I will divide the pictures in 3 parts: (1) plains, (2) oak forests & (3) Danube delta.


Papilio machaon, some hilltops near Enisala held nice amounts of hilltopping males of this species

Colias erate
A rather common species near the coast. Most of them were clearly lemon yellow (like these two, a fresh and an abraded male). Interestingly up to 20% of them (rough estimate) however held a variable amount of an orangeish tinge, fainter than in C. croceus. I caught one real orange one as well, to check in the hand, and that male looked phenotypically just like W-European C. croceus (including a clear androconial patch on the hindwing). There is some discussion whether these orangeish individuals are hybrids/intergrades between C. erate & C. croceus with some "non-believers" saying all can be explained by interspecific variation of both species (and indeed, on the Azores for example you have the whole range of C. croceus from pure orange to lemon yellow without any C. erate being in the next 5000km). The fact however that both species share COI mitochondrial DNA suggests that there is or has been at least some introgression between these two taxa. Also the amount of orangeish colored C. erate seems to be considerably higher in the western part of the distribution where the distribution overlaps with C. croceus, again suggesting hybridisation at some level. Hybridisation is not such a rare event in butterflies and has been described in a lot of species (up to 16% of European butterfly fauna is known to hybridise to some extent!), sometimes anekdotical but in some cases also on a higher, stable level (fe. in Papilio machaon/P. hospiton).

Lycaena dispar in coastal marshes

Oak forests near Babadag and the foothills of Macin Mountains

Habitat at the foothills of Macin mountains

Argynnis pandora, male

Hipparchia syriaca
A check of the Juliƫn organ in the field with 20x magnification showed this male having 7 broad & stout lamella confirming the ID.

Kirinia roxelana
A pleasant surprise, easily 10+ spotted on one morning in Macin Mountains. In the literature I checked beforehand this species was mentioned for N Dobrogea but the mentions were very few and only for Babadag forest. Aparently recently it appears to be a bit more widespread in Babadag & Macin Mountains.

Lycaena thersamon, underside

Lycaena thersamon, female

Lycaena thersamon, male
Widespread in Macin mountains with easily 50+ seen

Polyommatus admetus, female, recently only known from N Dobrogea in Romania

Danube delta

We mainly visited this area for birdwatching & to enjoy the amazing landscapes but still got some nice butterfly sightings.

Apatura metis 
I have been searching for this species a few years ago without succes (see this older post) but this time I could see and enjoy the real deal!

Heteropterus morpheus
Remarkably fresh early august, I only know the Dutch populations and these start to fly end of june - early july. In the Danube delta, more or less at sea level, it seems like this species is on the wing a month later than in the Netherlands!

More on the eastern Carpathians in a next thread.

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