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, 13 September 2015

Larnaca Salt Lake - Butterflies

My favourite family of butterflies is Lycaenidae - the blues, coppers and hairstreaks. When I was looking at Eddie John's fantastic web site of Butterflies of Cyprus there was one particular butterfly that I decided I really wanted to see - The Small Desert Blue, Chilades galba. Eddie kindly told me a good place to go and look for it, so on 22 July I set off from our rented villa to drive 100 miles to Larnaca Salt Lake.


Eddie had told me to head for the Hala Sultan Tekke mosque and to walk along the track beyond it around the salt lake. This was certainly good advice, as while I was parking the car I noticed a small blue butterfly flying at the edge of the track. I jumped out of the car and was delighted to discover that it was a Small Desert Blue.


The Small Desert Blue, Chilades galba, is small butterfly with a wing span of 17 - 22mm. I noticed that the males are a lot smaller than the females. It only occurs on the eastern edge of the Mediterranean. The books say that it is only found where its foodplant, Prosopis farcta, grows. This is a short thorny shrub, which it turned out was growing along both sides of the track. I believe that it can be quite invasive and it has very deep roots. It was certainly having no problem growing in the hostile environment around the salt lake.

I needn't have been so hasty to look at the first butterfly I saw as it turned out that there were thousands of them on the plants along the edge of the track. Sometimes it was impossible to take a picture without another Small Desert Blue trying to get into the shot!


I have never experienced butterflies in such numbers, they were almost flying up in clouds as I walked along the track.


Eddie also told me that if I walked as far as a flight of steps I would find some Zizyphus lotus bushes. He said if I looked in these I may find Little Tiger Blue butterflies, Tarucus balkanicus. I struggled through the vegetation to the only bush I could see and was soon rewarded with a Little Tiger Blue. This was a real thrill, as I have never seen a butterfly like this before.


According to the books this butterfly is the same size as the Small Desert Blue, but it appeared to be larger to me. The underside of the wings are beautifully marked, but very difficult to photograph, because they either had the sun glaring off their wings or they had shadows from the leaves on them. 


As I walked back to the car I realised that there were several Zizyphus lotus plants growing along the track that I had walked past. When I had a look, many of them also had Little Tiger Blues flying around them.


Having learned which plants the butterflies liked I found a perfect area with Zizyphus lotus and Prosopis farcta growing alongside a blackberry bush. Here I also saw Long-tailed Blues, Small Whites and Lang's Short-tailed blues, Leptotes pirithus.


Most thrilling of all for me were a couple of  Lesser Fiery Coppers, Lycaena thersamon. These are quite large with a wingspan of between 28 and 35mm.


The first one that I saw was the female above, and later I saw the male, below. The pictures don't really do them justice, as they are a beautiful bright orange/copper colour when they fly.


Among all of the Small Desert Blues there were a few Common Blues, Polyommatus icarus. They looked really big compared to their smaller cousins. 



Further along the track my eye was caught by this female Lang's Short-tailed Blue, Leptotes pirithous, which was, I think, trying to fend off the advances of a male. It was vibrating its wings, which made the blue scales shine with a real intensity.


This behaviour continued for several minutes with the occasional male Small Desert Blue joining in! Eventually, the male appeared to give up and he settled close to the female who then closed her wings. Sadly I had to drag myself away. It was 35 degrees Celsius and the sun was very intense and I had a 100 mile journey ahead of me to return to the family. What an amazing day, though. I will never forget seeing so many Small Desert Blues and such a great variety of Lycaenidae. I am very grateful to Eddie John for suggesting I should go there. I would never have imagined that a hot, dry area next to a salt lake would be such a great place to look for butterflies!







8 comments:

  1. I love that landscape and those palm trees, part of the Mediterranean landscape you visited. The butterflies are splendid as usual! Are you going back to the Caribbean at some point?

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    1. It was a lovely place Maria. Quite different from much of the rest of Cyprus and I have certainly never been anywhere with such a density of butterflies!
      We would love to go back to the Caribbean. I love it there. Great climate, scenery and people. It would be my first choice for a holiday, but with two teenage children it would be so expensive for us. I think we will have to wait until the children are independent!

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  2. Hi Nick i am blogging again, after a few months. Facebook has been getting lots of my blogging time, hahaha! It is also the season for our butterflies, i took a few shots when am home, because my hoyas are my priority. But i am enticed by a Lepidoptera group in FB, so i am shooting butterflies again if i have the time.

    Your shots are so sharp, very nice. We also have those hairstreaks and tits, almost look like those. But of course the species are different.

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    1. Hi Andrea,
      Good to have you back!! I hope you will be posting some pictures of the butterflies you have seen. You have so many beautiful butterflies there. I suspect that some of those that I saw in Cyprus also occur with you in Malaysia.

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  3. Hello Nick, your photos are gorgeous and captivating! :)

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  4. Fantastic series of small blues, Nick!
    They are magnificent and so new to me who has seen them only in books! LOL!
    What a marvelous time you must have had, I love desert areas!

    About my cuckoo,
    The hard work for the female comes from the number of eggs she lays: 20 to 25 is a lot and it means a great loss of calcium. She must eat accordingly to recuperate.
    The winner in the story is the male... as usual... with many birds!! LOL!

    Keep well and enjoy what's left of the week :)

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    1. Thanks Noushka, a couple of years ago I would never have imagined that the baron Sierra Nevada mountains or the dry salt lake in Cyprus would be good places for butterflies. However, they turned out to be the best places I have ever been to see butterflies. You live and learn!
      I think males often get the better deal in nature, other than spiders!!

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