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.

Monday, 21 July 2014

Malaga, Spain - Butterflies - July 2014

For our family holiday this year we spent the first two weeks of July in southern Spain. We returned to the villa that we rented in 2012 near Alora, about 40 kilometres north west of Malaga. When we were there two years ago Spain had been experiencing a particularly dry spring and hot summer and everything was really parched. This year the weather patterns had been more normal and it was a little greener, but strangely, fewer butterflies seemed to be in the air. Not surprisingly most of the species I saw were the same as last time!

As soon as we walked out of the airport I saw a Large White, Pieris brassicae, flying across one of the flower beds. I saw a few more of them during our holiday, but they never seemed to land!

The first morning I took a walk up the hills behind the villa and came across some Wall Browns, Lasiommata megera, in the same location I had seen them before.

On the way back down I saw a few Dusky Heaths, Coenonympha dorus. These were a lot smaller than I had remembered and I thought they were a different species, until I checked in the book! They are beautiful little butterflies with a silver line running along the edge of their wings, although those I saw this time were quite faded.

What was strange was that these were really common two years ago, but I only saw about six or seven of them that morning and no more on my other saunters around the countryside near the village.

Back down to my usual butterfly patch and I saw a blue butterfly which I expected to be a Common Blue. However, it turned out to be a lovely fresh Lang's Short-tailed Blue, Leptotes pirithous.

Over the holiday I would regularly visit the area where I had seen so many butterflies exactly two years earlier, but I was always a little disappointed by how few there were there. I suspect that this little valley with a lot of Thyme, Rosemary and Lavender in it was like an oasis to butterflies two years ago, but this year there was more choice for them to feed in other areas.

I think I only saw two Common Blues, Polyommatus celina, this year, whereas last year I saw several of them each day in this area.

I saw a few more Southern Brown Argus, Aricia cramera, which are really beautiful little things.

The butterfly that was the most common two years ago was the Southern Gatekeeper, Pyronia cecilia. These seem to like any slightly shaded ravine and I remember walking along a dried-up stream last time and hundreds of them flying up in front of me. This year I probably only saw about ten in total!

I think the butterfly below is a Sage Skipper, Syrinthus proto, and it patrolled a short section of the track leading to our villa. Without fail it would be there any time I walked past flying up and down a section about 20 metres long, seeing off any other butterflies that should dare to enter his area!

The other skipper that I saw was new to me. I think this is a Mediterranean Skipper, Gegenes nostrodamus.

One morning I had a brief view of a Clouded Yellow, Colias crocea, and managed one quick photo before it continued on its way.

Most of the other butterflies I saw were ones that flew through the garden of the villa. Many of them didn't give me a chance to grab my camera, including a Holly Blue, Celastrina argiolus, and a Brimstone, Gonepteryx rhamni. We regularly had a Small White, Pieris rapae, visit a Lantana plant near the swimming pool. I not sure if it was the same individual that came back day after day, but it only seemed to be attracted to this one plant.

I saw this Meadow Brown, Maniola jurtina, in the garden and I saw a couple more in the hills close-by.

Geranium Bronze, Cacyreus marshalli, were the only butterfly that I saw more of this year than on my previous visit. Normally, I have only seen them in parks or gardens, but this time I came across them out in the countryside quite regularly. I imagine this must be because there were more flowers available for them to feed on this year. This Geranium Bronze was enjoying the fruits of a Lantana and it stayed in this position for over half an hour one evening.

On our last visit I saw one Bath White, Pontia daplidice, very briefly along a track. This year I also saw one, but this time in the garden and it stayed around a Lantana plant for a while allowing me to take a few pictures!

This Long-tailed Blue, Lampides boeticus, flew manically around the garden all day without stopping. Eventually, one evening it decided to refuel, allowing me to positively identify it and get a picture. A shame it didn't stop in brighter weather to allow me to get a better picture, though!

I went for a walk down to the river in the village, where last time I had seen quite a few butterflies. Unfortunately for me, there was a lot more water in the river this year, so I wasn't able to cross over to the better side. However, the next morning I drove down to another shingle area by the river where I saw some Speckled Woods, Pararge aegeria aegeria, and my target species, African Grass Blues, Zizeeria knysna. No trip to southern Spain is complete for me without me seeing these!!

Having checked through my butterfly book before we left I thought that there were about 90 species of butterflies occurring in this part of Spain at this time of year. By the end of the holiday I had only seen 19 species! I know that many species will have quite specific habitats and thinking of the butterflies that occur back home, you really have to know exactly where to look to find some small colonies of butterflies. When I had climbed to the top of the hill behind the villa I had looked down into the valley on the other side and wondered if there would be different butterflies on the northern slopes of these hill. So, on the last day of our holiday I drove round to the other side of the hills for a short walk.

As soon as I stopped the car I saw a large, dark butterfly land at the side of the road. It flew off before I could spot it, but within a few metres I saw another and it turned out to be a Striped Grayling, Pseudotergumia fidia. Another new butterfly for me. I walked up into the Pine and Eucalyptus forest and saw a Striped Grayling about every 20 metres. They seemed much bigger than the illustration in the book, but I was thrilled to see a new species before we left Spain.

It was great seeing all of these butterflies. Although there weren't as many as I saw during my previous visit, at least I saw almost as many species. However, the butterflies I saw on a visit to the Sierra Nevada mountains more than made up for the lack of butterflies around the villa in Alora. More to follow...


  1. These are exquisite Nick. I love the light and the variety presented here. I love the Small White, Pieris rapae, visiting the Lantana plant the Geranium Bronze, Cacyreus marshal. They are all beautiful!

  2. The greatest shot for me is the Southern Gatekeeper, Pyronia cecilia. I like the composition.

    1. Thank you Maria. I was very pleased that I managed to get pictures of most of the butterflies I saw. The Southern Gatekeeper was very obliging and it stayed on that plant for a few minutes offering me various views! However, it would only open its wings for a second at a time every so often!

  3. Despite your disappointment with the smaller numbers of butterflies, you still managed to snapped some lovely photos. I like the intricate pattern on the Southern Brown Argus, but the photo of the Geranium Bronze on the lantana berries is my favourite.

    1. Thanks Elsie. Yes, the Geranium Bronze picture is my favourite too! The butterfly itself was in lovely condition and I have never noticed the blue spot on the wing before!

  4. Oh my, Nick, these butterfly pics are gorgeous!
    You must have had a ball!
    South of Spain is where I wish to go for some dragonfgly species!
    But driving there from the other side of the Pyrenees is a long way...
    One hundred species you got, congratulations!!
    You must have lots more to show us!
    Keep well!

    1. Hi Noushka, Southern Spain is beautiful away from the built up, tourist areas. I guess that May or June would be a lovely time of year to visit.
      My 100th butterfly was since I have been keeping a record starting in 2008, although I saw more than 50 species this visit to Spain.

  5. Hello Nick!:) It's quite an acheivement to have seen and photographed so many species. You took some beautiful shots here, many of which I know, but I didn't know the Geranium Bronze, or the Dusky Heath, both such pretty butterflies.

    1. Hi Sonjia. It was certainly the best holiday I have had for butterflies. I am still trying to work out how many species I saw in the Sierra Nevada along with those near the house and in Gibraltar!

  6. Nick, I tried to comment on this post about 30 times since last week, and I never could! I think these are some of the most phenomenal shots and butterflies you've got so far. Just gorgeous. I don't even know where to begin, these are all so great. What an amazing place. I can see why you would want to return here.

    1. Hi Sylvia. Yes it was so lovely seeing different species from those I see at home. I was lucky enough to see some particularly fresh-looking butterflies. There is so much luck involved in being in the right place at the right time. It is lovely - very dry - a big contrast to Scotland. We would love to move to Spain or France to enjoy the drier weather (and the butterflies!)!

    2. I would love to see some of the European butterflies. Perhaps someday. Meanwhile I'll just enjoy yours, and let you figure out all the good places to find them! And you are certainly right about the luck factor!

    3. I'm trying to think where would be the best place to visit. Probably the Alps or Pyrenees in late spring, or Greece or Turkey. Yes, there is a lot of choice!