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.



Friday, 14 August 2015

Cyprus Butterflies - July 2015

We have just returned from this year's family holiday to Cyprus. We were based in a villa on the outskirts of Pegia, about five miles from the coast at Coral Bay.

Normally, before we go anywhere on holiday I spend ages researching what butterflies I may see, but this year my life was made so much easier by Eddie John's fantastic web site. This has all of the information anyone would need about the butterflies of Cyprus. Eddie runs the butterfly recording scheme for Cyprus and he was kind enough to send me the grid squares they use to record butterflies along with some tips on good places to look for them.

I also bought a copy of The Butterflies of Cyprus by Christodoulos Makris. This is a large book with details of every species of butterfly that has been seen on Cyprus along with distribution maps.


I was advised that July isn't a particularly good month for butterflies in Cyprus because much of the vegetation is dried out at that time of year. However, as I discovered, if you pick your spots then there were plenty of opportunities to see butterflies.

53 species of butterflies have been recorded on Cyprus, but five of those are very rare migrants, so it is probably more realistic to say that 48 species occur on Cyprus. 38 of those species occur in July.

Near the villa was an area of waste ground where there were two large Thyme plants growing. Every time I visited them there were about ten butterflies in that small area. The most common was the Cyprus Meadow Brown, Maniola cypricola.


The upper side of the females has lovely orange markings.


The males are less boldly marked and I noticed that both males and females can be quite variable.

There were also a number of Large Wall Browns, Lasiommata maera, in the area. Superficially these looked quite similar to the Cyprus Meadow Browns and I would have to wait for them to land before I could positively identify them!


And in amongst these two were the occasional Wall Brown, Lasiomata megera.


As well as seeing these butterflies in this area, these three species would also regularly drift through the garden of the villa we were staying in. Several times a day we would also have a Swallowtail, Papilio machaon, fly into the garden and spend several minutes flying around the orange trees. It seemed to be attracted to the trees, but never landed on them.

Long-tailed Blues, Lampides boeticus, were very regularly seen in the garden, but again they never landed or fed on any of the plants.


On our first day a Cleopatra, Gonepteryx cleopatra, flew into the garden and landed on a Hibiscus plant. They are so well camouflaged that I couldn't find it until I disturbed it and it flew off. I realised that I had been staring at it all along thinking it was a leaf! That was the only one I saw in the area.

Meanwhile, back at the patch of Thyme I regularly saw Holly Blues, Celastrina argiolus, and Lang's Short-tailed Blue, Leptotes pirithous. These are becoming much more common on Cyprus than they once were.


Further down the track there was a dried-up stream where I was lucky enough to see a Millet Skipper, Pelopidas thrax. This was the only one I saw on my holiday.


I also saw two or three Pigmy Skippers, Gegenes pumilio, there.


I saw the occasional Bath White, Pontia daplidice, here. It used to be thought that it was the Eastern Bath White, Pontia edusa, that occurred in Cyprus, but recent genetic research has proved that it is P. daplidice that occurs there. The Small Bath White, Pontia chloridice, also occurs there, but I don't think I saw that!


Later on our holiday I was surprised that I hadn't seen any Dark Grass Blues, Zizeeria karsandra. Up until recently these were considered to be a sub-species of Zizeeria knysna, which I regularly see in Spain and the Canary Islands. There they are commonly found on irrigated grass, road sides and by water courses, but for some reason I didn't find them in similar habitats on Cyprus. Eventually I spotted some flying next to a bin in Coral Bay when I had driven in to buy my morning croissants!


There was a thunder storm on our last night and the next morning it was still cloudy. So, I decided to pay a quick visit to the Thyme bushes to see if there were any different butterflies flying in the overcast conditions. The usual species were still flying as usual, but on the track I spotted a Grass Jewel, Chilades trochylus, on a plant in the middle of the track. These are Europe’s smallest butterflies and they are almost impossible to follow when in flight.
 
I had seen a Grass Jewel earlier in my holiday on a trip up to the Troodos Hills. I will try to write posts about what I saw in Troodos, Larnaca Salt Lake and the Movrokolympos Dam over the next few days.

4 comments:

  1. I’m so glad you had this beautiful vacation Nick. I really love the Zizeeria karsandra, and had never seen those kind of colours before!

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    1. Thank you Maria. It was a great place for a family holiday, with plenty for all of us to do. I am very fond of Zizeeria karsandra, which looks almost identical to Zizeeria knysna, which I always look out for in Spain. Luckily I saw a few similar species later during our holiday in Cyprus.

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  2. Hi Nick,
    I was wondering where you would go to find butterflies this season!!
    Cyprus is surely a very interesting place and I see indeed you found a couple of species I have never seen in France. The Bath White and the Grass jewel are great catches!
    Your story about the crayfish is quite typical of the mistakes people can do without thinking of the consequences of an action. And this kind of thing has been repeated numbers of times and not only with animal species but with plants. The UK and the whole of Europe are now plagued with invasive species, some of which are quite uncontrollable by now, brought in by plant nurseries and private individuals.
    Take care, enjoy your week :)

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    1. Thanks Noushka,
      The Grass Jewel was a real thrill for me. I also managed to see some other new species which I will put into future posts. I am struggling to have time to blog about them just now!!
      Yes, we have many invasive species of plants here in Scotland that we are struggling to control. They cause a lot of problems, particularly erosion along the banks of rivers.

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