The earlier pictures were taken on my wee compact Canon ixus 970IS, which involved sneaking up on the butterflies. This can be very frustrating when they fly off, but very rewarding when they don't!

Since 2012 I have been using a Panasonic Lumix FZ150, which allows me to zoom in to the butterflies from a couple of metres away.

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Sierra Nevada Butterflies - July 2016 (4)

By now it was really time to be heading back to the villa, but I had three quick stops I wanted to make on my way back down the mountain. The first was at a viewpoint I had found two years ago. This is at about 2100 metres above sea level and the last time I was there I saw several Swallowtails hill topping.

I thought that the first butterfly I saw there was a very worn Blue-spot Hairstreak, but when I was looking at my pictures later I realised it was a False Ilex Hairstreak, Satyrium esculi.

When compared to the Blue-spot Hairstreaks, Satyrium spini, you can see the subtle difference in the white line on their wings.

In contrast to my last visit, I only saw one Swallowtail, Papilio machaon, this year and it was very ragged. There was also just the one Spanish Swallowtail, Iphiclides feisthamelii, in slightly better condition, but it had still lost its tails!

As with my previous visit there were a lot of Wall Browns squabbling over their territories, but I didn't spot any Large Wall Browns this year. I did see a Clouded Yellow, Colias crocea, which I haven't seen before in that location.

I jumped back in the car and drove down another 100 metres to the spot that Mike Prentice had suggested. There were a lot more butterflies there now than there had been at 9am.

I saw two Graylings, Hipparchia semele, one much lighter than the other. I spent ages checking my photographs to see if either of them were Nevada Graylings, but they both turned out to just be standard Graylings!

There were so many different butterflies flying amongst the vegetation there, including Long-tailed Blues, Spotted Fritillaries and Common Blues. They were very active in the afternoon heat, so many of them didn't stop for a picture! I managed to catch a shot of this Queen of Spain Fritillary, Issoria lathonia.

And I think this is a Large Grizzled Skipper, Pyrgus alveus. I have to admit that I find it very difficult to differentiate between many of the skippers.

Other butterflies there included Silver-studded Blues, Marbled Whites, Great Banded Grayling, Blue-spot Hairstreak and Southern Brown Argus. However, I didn't have long to watch them on my whistle-stop descent!

My final stop of the day was a little further down the mountain at about 1800 metres above sea level. This is a little scrubby area next to some Pine trees that I discovered two years ago. As then, I certainly wasn't disappointed with the butterflies I saw there.

Strangely, exactly as on my visit two years ago, the first butterfly I saw was a Marsh Fritillary, Euphydryas aurinia beckeri. Just the one next to where I parked the car.

The place was awash with butterflies, including Southern Brown Argus, Aricia cramera;

Essex Skippers, Thymelicus lineola hemmingi;

Silver-studded Blues, Plebejus argus hypochionus;

And I think this is a female Idas Blue, Plebejus idas nevadensis.

There were also Large Whites, Small Whites, Common Blues, Purple-shot Coppers, Cleopatras, a Rock Grayling and an Oriental Meadow Brown. Just like the last time, I saw one Black-veined White, Aporia crataegi, but this year it was kind enough to allow me to take a picture!

I spent some time following this Iberian Marbled White, Melanargia lachesis, to try to identify it. There are three different species found in the Sierra Nevada, but I have only seen the Iberian Marbled White there.

All too soon I had to drag myself back to the car. I had had an amazing few hours in the Sierra Nevada seeing 42 different species of butterflies, with several of them being species I hadn't seen before. It was certainly worth the three hour drive each way to get there.

Sunday, 11 December 2016

Sierra Nevada Butterflies - July 2016 (3)

I retraced my steps towards the car park, but took a shortcut below the observatory as I wanted to head towards a stream in the valley below. I noticed that a small cloud had developed above the valley and it appeared to be stuck there. As I entered into its shade I saw a lovely female Escher's Blue, Agrodiaetus escheri, waiting for the sun to come out again. I decided to wait with it to see if I could get a photo of the upper side of its wings.

Thankfully, when the sun came back out it opened up its wings. I have taken many pictures of female Lycaenidae, which I find almost impossible to identify from the upper wing shots. I hope that this picture may help me to identify other female Esher's Blues.

As I walked down the feint path in the mountain side I came across several Spanish Brassy Ringlets, Erebia hispania. They were quite obliging as they sat against the rocks warming up once the cloud had passed.

It is difficult to say which blue butterfly was the most common on the way down to the stream. There were probably equal numbers of Escher's Blues, Common Blues, Polyommatus celina, and Nevada Blues, Plebicula golgus. With almost every step another would fly into view.
Common Blue
Nevada Blue

The cloud also slowed the Apollos, Parnassius apollo nevadensis,  down a bit. I remember on my previous visit watching them for ages drifting up and down the mountain side without stopping. On my descent they were all on the ground, only flying when they were disturbed.

On the short grass by a spring I saw this lovely Safflower Skipper, Pyrgus carthami nevadensis.

This beautiful female Knapweed Fritillary, Melitaea phoebe, briefly stopped next to the path. This is the first time I have seen this butterfly.

When I reached the grassy area next to the stream I saw a few larger fritillaries. They all turned out to be Dark Green Fritillaries, Argynnis aglaja. A butterfly that I haven't seen in the Sierra Nevada before.

There were also about 20 or so smaller fritillaries. These were Meadow Fritillaries, Melitaea parthenoides, another butterfly that I haven't seen before. It is strange that they were so common this year, but two years ago I didn't see any in exactly the same location.

I spent some time down at the stream, enjoying the beautiful clear water cascading through the rocks and the many insects that live alongside it.

I was thrilled to see this cow pat, which was attracting various male blue butterflies. In this picture there are Common, Escher and Nevada Blues.

Every so often I would see a Purple-shot Copper, Lycaena alciphron gordius. I love the purple edging to their wings.

Other butterflies seen there, but not photographed were Clouded Yellows, Colias crocea, Cardinal Fritillaries, Argynnis pandora seitzi, Small Tortoiseshells, Aglais urticae, Bath Whites, Pontia daplidice and Wall Browns, Lasiommata megera.
On my way back up the mountain I saw this lovely Heath Fritillary, Melitaea athalia celadussa.

It was fantastic seeing so many butterflies and such a variety, but I had to drag myself away as I still had a couple of other places I wanted to check out.

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Sierra Nevada Butterflies - July 2016 (2)

I drove up to the car park at the ski resort at Hoya De la Mora. This is as far as you can drive, although it is possible to take a mini-bus further up the mountain. As I got out of the car I saw a Bath White, Pontia daplidice. I had seen a number of similar butterflies on the drive up the hill, so it was good to confirm its identity.
I started to walk up the mountain to another area recommended by Mike Prentice. Almost immediately I saw a Purple-shot Copper, Lycaena alciphron gordius.

Then a larger butterfly caught my eye. It turned out to be a Painted Lady, Vanessa cardui. We had just experienced an influx of Painted Ladies in Scotland and evidently they were doing well here, too. I saw another one just a little further up the path.

I was delighted to see so many Apollos, Parnassius apollo nevadensis. The sub-species in the Sierra Nevada has orange, rather than red, ocelli. They seemed a lot more approachable this year and a little later when a cloud came over they all landed and on a couple of occasions I very nearly stood on one! I guess with such large butterflies they need the energy of the sun to keep them airborne.

There were a number of Small Whites, Pieris rapae, flying in the same area as the Apollos along with one or two Small Tortoiseshells, Aglais urticae.

There were also blue butterflies there, which I could only identify by photographing them and enlarging their picture on the camera. They all turned out to be Escher's Blues, Agrodiaetus esheri.

A little higher up the Small Tortoiseshells were replaced by Queen of Spain Fritillaries, Issoria lathonia. The last time I was in Sierra Nevada I very briefly saw one of these a little lower down the mountain, but this time I saw seven or eight.

My reason for climbing further up this barren-looking mountain side was because Mike Prentice had suggested some sites I could check for Zullich’s Blue, Agriades zullichi. I was amazed that there continued to be plenty of butterflies despite the apparent lack of vegetation. I didn’t spot any Zullich’s Blues at the first area he had suggested, but I was over the moon to spot one at the second location, which was at about 2,650 metres above sea level.

I think there were about 15 Zullich’s Blues there and I saw some very similar-looking Spanish Argus, Aricia morronensis, flying with them. These were both new species for me.

It was lovely to watch them with an occasional fly past of an Apollo, which looked enormous compared to the small Lycaenidae. Some Nevada Blues, Plebicula golgus, also joined the party. I spent some time at that location and sat down on a rock with a snack while watching these rare butterflies.

It seemed like such a hostile environment for these small creatures to live in. This was the height of summer, but there was still quite a wind blowing and very little shelter.

Eventually I had to drag myself away as there were so many more places I wanted to explore. However, I was quickly distracted by a Spanish Brassy Ringlet, Erebia hispania. Unlike two years earlier these ones allowed me to take a picture. I saw quite a few as I started to descend the path.

Next I wanted to head down to a green area near the stream lower down the valley ...

Friday, 4 November 2016

Sierra Nevada Butterflies - July 2016 (1)

Two years ago I visited the Sierra Nevada for a day and saw a fantastic variety and number of butterflies. So, this year when we were on holiday near Malaga I took the opportunity for a return visit. There were three different locations that I had visited last year that I wanted to return to, but I had also been recommended another couple of spots to check out by Mike Prentice of Butterfly Conservation's European Interest Group.
It was a three hour drive from our rented villa to the first stop, which was on the road up to the ski resort at Hoya de la Mora at about 2,000 metres. This location had been recommended by Mike, who said I may find Spanish Chalkhill Blues, Polyommatus albicans, there. Unfortunately, I didn't see any, but I wasn't to be disappointed with the other butterflies I saw.

Initially I didn't see a lot there, but it was still before 9 in the morning, so a little early for butterflies There were a few Silver-studded Blues, Plebejus argus, flying amongst the scrub, though.

Other butterflies were less numerous there. There were a couple of Clouded Yellows, Colias crocea.

And a Wall Brown, Lasiommata megera, with a damaged wing.

I was really thrilled to see two Spotted Fritillaries, Melitaea didyma. They were very easily disturbed and quickly disappeared. Luckily I later saw another one that allowed me to get close enough to take a picture. This was one of the butterflies that I really wanted to see with its unusual markings.

I think this is a Thread-winged Lacewing of some kind. I had to follow it for ages before it stopped and I was able to get a better look at it. What an amazing creature!

On my way back to the car I saw another little blue butterfly that turned out to be a Lang's Short-tailed Blue, Leptotes pirithous. It somehow seemed out of place up in the mountains.

Not far away was this beautiful Blue-spot Hairstreak, Satyrium spini.

I had so many places I wanted to visit and so little time that I had to drag myself away to continue further up the mountain ...

Sunday, 23 October 2016

More Malaga Butterflies

We had three species of butterflies that were resident in the garden of the villa we were staying in. I have always noticed Long-tailed Blues, Lampides boeticus, flying around the garden there, but it was only this year that I realised that they were laying eggs on a bush in the garden, which I now think is Polygala myrtifoli.

I have previously found the eggs and caterpillars of Lang's Short-tailed Blues, Leptotes pirithous, on a Plumbego bush in the garden. This year I could find plenty of eggs, but I didn't find any caterpillars. I suspect that they may have been inside the flower buds judging by the holes I found.

There seemed to be more Geranium Bronzes, Cacyreus marshalli, than in previous years. This was confirmed by the number of eggs I found on the Geranium flowers around the garden. Most flower heads had at least one egg on it.

Other visitors to the garden included Large Whites, Pieris brassicae, Clouded Yellows, Colias crocea, and most commonly the Small White, Pieris rapae.

No trip to southern Spain would be complete without me seeing an African Grass Blue, Zizeeria knysna.  I usually see them down by the river, but this year it took two visits to the Rio Guadalhorce before I saw one. I later saw some on the banks of the lakes at Emblase de Guadalhorce.

While I was there I briefly saw a Speckled Wood, Pararge aegeria.

There was also a Bath White, Pontia daplidice, flying among the grass there.

On our last full day at the villa I thought I would walk further along the road to see if I could find any other sites similar to my favourite butterfly spot. A couple of kilometres further up the hill I saw a track heading up into the olive groves, so followed it.

It was a worthwhile detour as almost immediately I saw a Painted Lady, Vanessa cardui.

There were a lot of Common Blues, Southern Brown Argus and Bath Whites flying around the few bits of green vegetation at the side of the track along with a little Red-underwing Skipper, Spialia sertorius.

Under an old olive tree I saw a couple of butterflies having a bit of a squabble. They turned out to be a Meadow Brown, Maniola jurtina...

 And a Small Heath, Coenonympha pamphilus. This is the summer form that occurs around the Mediterranean.

On a trip to walk the Caminito del Rey I only saw Speckled Woods and Bath Whites, which was a little disappointing as I thought there may have been various species of Graylings there.

However, a trip to the Sierra Nevada was fantastic. I will be posting about that in the next week or two.