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.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Gibraltar - Butterflies - July 2012

During our recent family holiday to Spain we visited Gibraltar for the day. It was a really interesting place and  quite different from what I expected. We dumped the hire car in La Linea on the Spanish side of the border and walked into Gibraltar. We then bought a Hoppa ticket which allowed us travel on the buses for the day. It is interesting that the road from the border crosses the airport runway, and we had to wait in the bus for a plane to take off in front of us!
The streets in the urban areas are narrow and twisting, but the side of the rock is a large green shrubby area. We took the cable car up to the top of the rock, from where you get great vies of the whole peninsula and across the Mediterranean to Morocco.

I had been told that Gibraltar was a great place to see butterflies and I wasn't to be disappointed. The main reason we had visited Gibraltar was because my wife and children wanted to see the Barbary Macaques and they live in various groups on the rock. While they were looking at the funny monkeys, I was keeping a look out for butterflies. Almost as soon as we arrived at the top of the rock I saw two Two-tailed Pashas, Charaxes jasius, chasing each other in the tree tops below. Sadly they quickly disappeared, but I hadn't expected to see them as they have two generations a year, and normally July is a time when they don't occur.

Not long afterwards a Southern Swallowtail, Iphiclides feisthamelii, flew past me on a path and landed in a tree. I risked life and limb and jumped up onto a wall above a precipitous drop to get a picture.

A little while later it landed in another tree and I managed to get a shot of the upper-side of its wings.

I saw various other butterflies while we walked along the paths, but I wasn't able to identify most of them as they didn't stop. I recognised a Swallowtail, Papilio machaon, but wasn't quick enough with my camera. I only just managed this out-of-focus picture of a Holly Blue, Celastrina argiolus, which is hardly worth including.

Later we returned down to the bottom of the rock and after lunch I was allowed half an hour to wander around the Alameda Botanical Gardens. This is an amazing place. It isn't very big, but it has a wide variety of different plants, which attract a lot of butterflies! There are small notice boards around the gardens with information about the plants and butterflies. There is now a resident population of Monarchs, Danaus plexippus, and it was lovely watching them gliding amongst the trees in the gardens.

I spent ages following some Cleopatras, Gonepteryx cleopatra, but they just wouldn't settle for any length of time. This was the best I could manage as one took a quick drink from a plumbago plant!

This Small White, Pieris rapae, was even more difficult to capture.

I had a bit more luck with this Lang's Short-tailed Blue, Leptotes pirithous.

On a shady path, three Speckled Woods, Pararge aegeria aegeria, were squabbling over the sunny patches on the ground.

There was one particular flower bed that contained a flower that seemed to be very attractive to smaller butterflies. Within a few feet of each other was a Geranium Bronze, Cacyreus marshalli ...

a Southern Brown Argus, Aricia cramera ...

a Common Blue, Polyommatus icarus and a Small Copper, Lycaena phlaeas.

Other butterflies I saw there were a Clouded Yellow, Colias crocea, a Large White, Pieris brassicae and a Long-tailed Blue, Lampides boeticus. Every corner I turned I saw butterflies. It was a fantastic place and I would have loved to have spent all day at the botanical gardens and another day exploring the rest of the peninsular.


  1. Great photos! Gibraltar looks amazing!

  2. Thanks Kirsten. Yes, I wasn't expecting much of the place, but in the short time I was there I really enjoyed the twisting narrow streets, interesting little shops, red phone boxes and the amount of greenness there was. I was expecting it to be more of a series of skyscrapers! Certainly worth a visit for anyone visiting southern Spain.

  3. Hi Nick,
    Sounds like you had a great family vacation. I loved Gibraltar. We were in the Queensquay Marina for about three weeks and I went to the gardens quite a few times. From the outside, the gardens don't appear to be much, but what a wonderful oasis it is. I saw the Double-tailed Pashas there; beautiful butterlies.