For a few years now I have enjoyed photographing butterflies at home and on holiday. Before we go anywhere on holiday I try to find out as much as I can about the butterflies there. Sometimes this proves very difficult, so I thought I should start a blog to keep a record of what I have seen.
I hope that this information will be useful to others.
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.
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.
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
On the short grass by a spring I saw this lovely Safflower
Skipper, Pyrgus carthaminevadensis.
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
I was thrilled to see this cow pat, which was attracting
various male blue butterflies. In this picture there are Common, Escher and
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
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.
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
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
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
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 ...
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
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 ...
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.
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.
was also a Bath White, Pontia daplidice,
flying among the grass there.
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.
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.
From the 1st to 15th July this year we had our annual family
holiday in a villa 45 kilometres north west of Malaga. This is the third time
we have holidayed there, coincidentally being there for exactly the same dates
in 2012 and 2014 previously.
The holiday went off to a really good start, with me seeing
a Small White, Pieris rapae, as we
were driving out of the airport and then a Plain Tiger, Danaus chrysippus, flew across the road in front of us.
There is an area that I tend to walk to each day to look for
butterflies just a little way up the road from the villa we rent. Over the
previous two years I have learned that this is the best local spot to find
them. Probably the most common butterfly there is the Southern Gatekeeper, Pyronia cecilia, although they weren't
as numerous as the first year we visited.
Dusky Heaths, Coenonympha
dorus, are beautiful little butterflies with the line of silver scales
along the edge or their wings. They always seem to be flying around this area.
The track turns into a feint path that climbs along the
ridge of the hills through olive groves. On the exposed parts of the path male
Wall Browns, Lasiommata megera, take
up territory, chasing after any other butterflies or large insect they see.
Common Blues, Polyommatus
celina, were the other butterfly that could be relied upon to be there each
day. They seem very much smaller than those that I see back home. I wasn't sure
if I was just imagining this, but I also remember when I saw a Small Copper, Lycaena phlaeas, how much bigger it
looked than the Common Blue. The two species are more-or-less the same size
I only saw a Small Copper once this year. It seems to be a
very widely distributed butterfly, but it's never seen in great numbers.
I was delighted to see a Striped Grayling, Pseudotergumia fidia, on the first day I
walked up the path. It was there again in exactly the same place the second day
too, but I didn't see it after that. Two years earlier I saw a lot of them in
the next valley, but have never seen them at this spot before.
Mallow Skippers, Carcharodus
alceae, seemed to have small territories along the road to the villa
chasing after anything that flew anywhere near them.
Up the track, on the wild Thyme, Sage Skippers, Syrinthus proto, were doing the same
On a couple of occasions I saw a Mediterranean Skipper, Gegenes nostrodamus. I saw this species very briefly for the first time two years ago.
Other butterflies that I saw occasionally were Clouded
Yellow, Colias crocea,
... and Bath White, Pontia
The Southern Brown Argus, Aricia cramera, is a beautiful little butterfly, which I regularly
saw flying among the wild flowers.
I'll continue with the other butterflies I saw in my next post.