Plavnica’s Fields of Gold

The morning is hot sun and the meadows at Plavnica are now tall grass and a profusion of wildflowers. The few cultivated fields down the long winding tracks, which a few months were waterlogged and a part of Lake Skadar, have been recently ploughed and harrowed; one has lines of black plastic sheeting laid to both protect and mulch the courgette crop.  Most of the fields are grown for hay and others are fallow; one of the latter is a sea of blinding, bright yellow meadow buttercup (Ranunculus acris) edged with purple ragged robin (Lychnis flos-cuculi).

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A Plavnica fallow field of meadow buttercup and ragged robin.

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The profuse ragged robin at the field’s edge.

The meadows are a mixture of grasses, meadow buttercup, loose-flowered orchid (Orchis laxiflora), pale flax (Linum bienne), yellow trefoils, tufted vetch (Vicia cracca), clovers and tall daisies. The wetter areas are dominated by stands of yellow iris (Iris pseudacorus). One or two summer snowflakes (Leucojum vernum) are still in flower but they are now the minority.

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A Plavnica hayfield.

The butterflies are around, mostly familiar species but a couple of new ones: Knapweed fritillary (Melitaea phoebe) is in one field corner and tangles with other butterflies including male common blues (Polyommatus icarus) and a brown argus (Aricia agestis). A small copper (Lycaena phlaeas) is also on the track as are mating small heaths (Coenonympha pamphilus). There is a moth that is very common and the males flutter low across the fields looking, I think, for females.  They never rest in their quest and, as a consequence, are constantly distracting.

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Knapweed fritillary and small copper.

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Small heath and one of the beautiful but infuriating moths.

The birds are not much seen but heard in a wall of sound: nightingales and golden orioles, lead the melody, hoopoes, turtle doves and blackcaps in support.  Occasional rattles from starlings, great tits, Cetti’s warblers, woodpeckers and, new today, red-backed shrike. Yellow wagtails are breeding in the wetter fields and one of the few bird species that is confiding, the rest hidden or always in retreat.

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Male yellow wagtail on the lookout.

The pond that held a frog on each lily pad is now surrounded by yellow iris and the yellow flowers of the water lily (Nuphar lutea) is in bud. In the fields too is a beautiful, small purple iris (Iris graminea) that is easily overlooked.

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Yellow water lily and Iris graminea.

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