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.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Alameda Botanical Gardens, Gibraltar - Butterflies - July 2014

During our recent holiday to southern Spain, we paid a quick visit to Gibraltar. While my wife and kids went up to the top of the rock in the cable car, I spent a couple of hours in Alameda Botanical Gardens, as I remembered that it was a good spot for butterflies when we visited a couple of years earlier.
This time it was just as good!

One of the first flower beds I came across had several Holly Blues, Celastrina argiolus, enjoying the flowers.

There were Small Whites. Pieris rapae, everywhere and they were certainly the most numerous butterflies in the gardens.

I returned to an area where two years ago I had seen a lot of Southern Brown Argus, Geranium Bronze, Common Blues and Small Coppers feeding on the flowers. Unfortunately this year the flowers were not doing as well and there were a lot fewer butterflies at this spot. I did see this nice Common Blue, Polyommatus celina, though.

While I was watching it, out of the corner of my eye, I spotted a large butterfly drifting past. Eventually I tracked it down in the high branches of a pine tree. It turned out to be a Two-tailed Pasha, Charaxes jasius. According to the books this flies in May/June and mid August to October, so I was surprised to see it the second week in July.
Nearer the entrance I spotted another enjoying something sticky on the lid of a bin.
In another part of the gardens, I noticed some more in a tree. As I watched, it was apparent that there were seven or eight of them, some quite fresh-looking and others very ragged. I don't know what kind of tree this is, but it was obviously very attractive to the Pashas and other insects.
They would keep chasing each other from the choice fruit and fly across the path to the trees on the other side of the path. I spent quite a bit of time tracking them trying to get a picture, but they would always land high in the trees. At one point I completely lost sight of one of them as it flew past me. I couldn't figure out where it had gone, but then noticed something out of the corner of my eye. I had a Two Tailed Pasha sitting, parrot-fashion, on my shoulder! Unfortunately my camera strap was too short for me to get a selfie with it!

Close to where the Two Tailed Pashas were flying was a patch of Milkweed and right on cue a Monarch, Danaus plexippus, landed on one of the plants. They have their own little breeding colony of Monarchs at the botanical gardens and I saw quite a few during my visit.

Also enjoying the Milkweed was this Wall Brown, Lasiommata megera.

There were a few Speckled Woods, Pararge aegeria aegeria, enjoying the dappled light.

This rather worn-out Lang's Short-tailed Blue, Leptotes pirithous, was the only one I saw that day.

And I only saw one Small Copper, Lycaena phlaeas lusitanicus. This little butterfly occurs over most of Europe, but I only saw two on my whole holiday.

There were plenty of Southern Brown Argus, Aricia cramera, there, though.

Also flying in the botanical gardens were Large Whites, Pieris brassicae, Geranium Bronzes, Cacyreus marshalli, and Cleopatras, Gonepteryx cleopatra. And on our walk from the border to the bus station we saw a Brimstone, Gonepteryx rhamni, and a Clouded Yellow, Colias crocea.

Our trip to Gibraltar added two new species to my holiday list bringing it up to 48 species, 20 of which were new species for me!


  1. Dear Nick,

    I co-edit The Island Review -

    I see you have visited several islands where you have taken superb photographs of butterflies. I write to ask if you might consider allowing us to publish a feature about these pictures and your island travels. It would largely be a gallery of your favourite pictures taken on islands, with some text about what you do and why do you it. We would of course point our visitors to your blog in the feature too.

    Please let me know if you would like any more info or to discuss. My email is

    All best,
    Jordan Ogg

    1. Hi Jordan,
      That sounds like fun! I'll send you an e-mail.

  2. Hello Nick!:) Well, that does sound interesting! Wow, it's so special, and encouraging when people admire your work so much they want to write about it, but have you ever thought of publishing your own book? You are so knowledgable about butterflies, good at writing, and your photographs are beautiful,:)

    How exciting to see the Two-tailed Pasha, and the Monarch in the Botanical Gardens. Hubby and I have been to Gibraltar several times but never knew of the gardens exsistence. Lovely post Nick!:)

    1. Thanks Sonjia,
      It will be interesting to see if anything comes of it. I have much to learn before I could publish a book about butterflies! That is what I love about them, there is just so much to learn!
      The botanical gardens are close to the bottom of the cable car, and well worth a visit. They are not particularly big, but very peaceful compared to the hustle and bustle of the rest of Gibraltar.

  3. Amazing variety as usual Nick. I would love to visit that part of Spain.

    1. Maria, it is a lovely part of the world. Very hot and dry in the summer away from the coast, but perfect weather the rest of the year. Of course Gibraltar is part of Britain - red phone boxes and pound coins!!

  4. Hi Nick. I very much enjoyed reviewing your recent posts. Wonderful images.

    1. Thank you Frank. Likewise I have just been reading your blog and have added it to my watch list! Good luck with your transect next year

  5. Oh my, what a great post!
    I am soooo jealous of your Two-tailed Pasha!!!
    I've been hoping to see it for years, but it seems that where ever I go in Span it eludes me!
    Have a good week Nick!

    1. Thank you Noushka. I had such a great time in Spain and Gibraltar. The best butterflying time I have ever had. The Two-tailed Pasha was a great surprise. They are not supposed to fly in July. They must be Europe's most spectacular butterfly.

  6. Nick, these are wonderful pictures! The Gardens look really great too. The Charaxes is quite stunning. We've got one species in Singapore as well but it is grey and very, very, rare.

    1. Thanks Jonny,
      The Charaxes is spectacular. The upper side of the wings are velvet brown with orange margins. It's not often seen withits wings open, though. I'll have to look up your species. I am always interested in seeing butterflies that are related to ours.

  7. I find it amusing that the Two Tailed Pashas was actually playing catch with you. Its a beautiful butterfly with an intricate and ornate pattern. You have a good collection of butterfly images. Its hardly surprising that others would admire your work greatly.

    1. Elsie,
      I suppose it is only right that a butterfly should tease me after me chasing them all these years! The Pasha was a real treat for me.