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, 3 August 2014

Sierra Nevada, Spain - Butterflies - July 2014 (3)

Further down the mountains at about 1,800 metres above sea level, the road entered an area of Cedar and Pine trees. I pulled over and walked into an area of scrub and meadow. There were plenty of different butterflies everywhere I looked here and I am very grateful to Mikhail and Guy Padfield from the UK Butterflies Forum for their help with some of the identifications!

This Iberian Marbled White, Melanargia galathea, was flying at the side of the road. There were several other Marbled Whites flying amongst the scrub, but I can't be sure they were the same species. The Spanish Marbled White and the Western Marbled White both also occur in the Sierra Nevada.

I spent some time watching this butterfly until it gave me a chance to photograph it. It turned out to be a Grayling, Hipparchia semele, although it is a little different from those I see in Scotland. There are several other species of grayling occurring in the Sierra Nevada, but the others proved elusive for me!

I think this is a Safflower Skipper, Pyrgus carthami. There were a lot of similar skippers in that area, but they were mostly whizzing about and they rarely settled.

After much indecisiveness, I have come to the conclusion that this is an Oriental Meadow Brown, Hyponephele lupinnus. The undulations on the rear wings being the deciding feature.

When I saw this little skipper I thought it was a Small Skipper, but closer examination of the pictures showed it to be an Essex Skipper, Thymelicus lineola hemmingi. There were quite a number of them flying around in this little area.

There were a lot of these little blues flying there. I assumed they were Silver-studded Blues, but again thanks to Mikhail, we now think they are Idas Blues, Plebejus idas nevadensis. In the Sierra Nevada the Silver-studded Blues tend to have lighter undersides to their wings (as per my earlier post). The Idas Blues have a grey background to the underside of their wings with a lighter postdiscal area. (Thanks also to "Las Mariposas de Sierra Nevada" and Google Translate!).

Given that all the males in this area were Idas Blues, I am assuming that this female is also an Idas Blue.

The other blues flying there were Common Blues, Polyommatus celina.

This Marsh Fritillary, Euphydryas aurinia beckeri, was the only fritillary there that I was able to photograph. Several others, large and small, flew past me!

After taking pictures of so many female blues, assuming that some of them were going to be an argus, it turns out that the last butterfly I photographed was the only argus I saw all day. It is a Mountain Argus, Aricia montensis.

Up on the top of the mountains the temperature was 10 degrees, but down here it was 18 degrees, and I think that is why the butterflies were so much more active. However, this was a lot cooler than Granada a few miles further down the road where it was 36 degrees when I drove past!
There were so many butterflies in this area that I wouldn't be surprised if there were twice the number of species that I managed to identify there. I also saw my first ever Black-veined White, Aporia crataegi. It was much bigger than I expected! There were also Cleopatras, Gonepteryx cleopatra mauretanica, Large Whites, Pieris brassicae vazquezi and Small Whites, Pieris rapae, flying there along with a lot more butterflies that I couldn't identify. I was only there for about 15 minutes, but I would have loved to have pitched a tent and spent several days there!
Sadly I couldn't spend more time there as I had a three-hour drive ahead of me to get back to the villa. All the driving was well worth it, though. In the five hours I had spent in the Sierra Nevada I had seen 33 different species, with 17 of them being species I had never seen before. Definitely my best ever day looking for butterflies!


  1. Hello Nick!:) Another excellent series of photos. I have never seen the Safflower Skipper, but the Marsh Fritillary is one of my favourites, a lovely capture, as is the Grayling. The underside of the Idas Blue is really pretty, and the angle makes a great photo. All in all, fantastic finds and great post.:)

    1. Thanks Sonjia. It was an amazing little spot with so many different butterflies flying. I am sure that I would have seen many more if I had stayed there longer. I love the little Idas Blues, and I am so pleased I managed to get some pictures of them.

  2. WOW!
    You have some very graphic pictures here!
    I agree, butterflies in Spain are a must!
    The Greyling I've seen only there although I know it occurs also in some parts of France.
    Keep well and enjoy your evening!

    1. Thanks Noushka. I am slowly learning more about the butterflies of Spain. Many areas on the south coast can be disappointing in the summer when it is very dry and hot. However, I now know that I need to head for the hills where it is cooler and there are more plants in flower. I would love to visit southern Spain in the spring and explore other areas of the country.

  3. I just love the Marsh Fritillary, Euphydryas aurinia beckeri, but the Common Blues, Polyommatus celina, are also very nice. All of the images are beautiful. Seems like a place very much worth visiting.

    1. Thanks Maria. Yes, certainly a place worth visiting. I will definitely go back to the Sierra Nevada whenever we next go on holiday to Spain.

  4. Hi Nick, it is amazing what butterfly enthusiasts go through just to take their photos. Imagine you have to go to Spain for them. We have lots now in our property as we are in the height of the rainy season, and the larvae have lots of plants to dibble on, however because i have very short time at home on weekends i cannot photograph them anymore. My time are used up by my hoyas.

    1. Hi Andrea,
      It was well worth all of the travelling to see these lovely butterflies. We have quite a few here just now too. I have planted a lot of plants in the garden to attract them and there are plenty of eggs and caterpillars now!! I enjoyed seeing the butterflies in your garden, but now I am enjoying your Hoyas instead!