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.



Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Sierra Nevada Butterflies - July 2016 (2)

I drove up to the car park at the ski resort at Hoya De la Mora. This is as far as you can drive, although it is possible to take a mini-bus further up the mountain. As I got out of the car I saw a Bath White, Pontia daplidice. I had seen a number of similar butterflies on the drive up the hill, so it was good to confirm its identity.
I started to walk up the mountain to another area recommended by Mike Prentice. Almost immediately I saw a Purple-shot Copper, Lycaena alciphron gordius.

Then a larger butterfly caught my eye. It turned out to be a Painted Lady, Vanessa cardui. We had just experienced an influx of Painted Ladies in Scotland and evidently they were doing well here, too. I saw another one just a little further up the path.



I was delighted to see so many Apollos, Parnassius apollo nevadensis. The sub-species in the Sierra Nevada has orange, rather than red, ocelli. They seemed a lot more approachable this year and a little later when a cloud came over they all landed and on a couple of occasions I very nearly stood on one! I guess with such large butterflies they need the energy of the sun to keep them airborne.

There were a number of Small Whites, Pieris rapae, flying in the same area as the Apollos along with one or two Small Tortoiseshells, Aglais urticae.

There were also blue butterflies there, which I could only identify by photographing them and enlarging their picture on the camera. They all turned out to be Escher's Blues, Agrodiaetus esheri.

A little higher up the Small Tortoiseshells were replaced by Queen of Spain Fritillaries, Issoria lathonia. The last time I was in Sierra Nevada I very briefly saw one of these a little lower down the mountain, but this time I saw seven or eight.

My reason for climbing further up this barren-looking mountain side was because Mike Prentice had suggested some sites I could check for Zullich’s Blue, Agriades zullichi. I was amazed that there continued to be plenty of butterflies despite the apparent lack of vegetation. I didn’t spot any Zullich’s Blues at the first area he had suggested, but I was over the moon to spot one at the second location, which was at about 2,650 metres above sea level.

I think there were about 15 Zullich’s Blues there and I saw some very similar-looking Spanish Argus, Aricia morronensis, flying with them. These were both new species for me.

It was lovely to watch them with an occasional fly past of an Apollo, which looked enormous compared to the small Lycaenidae. Some Nevada Blues, Plebicula golgus, also joined the party. I spent some time at that location and sat down on a rock with a snack while watching these rare butterflies.

It seemed like such a hostile environment for these small creatures to live in. This was the height of summer, but there was still quite a wind blowing and very little shelter.

Eventually I had to drag myself away as there were so many more places I wanted to explore. However, I was quickly distracted by a Spanish Brassy Ringlet, Erebia hispania. Unlike two years earlier these ones allowed me to take a picture. I saw quite a few as I started to descend the path.

Next I wanted to head down to a green area near the stream lower down the valley ...

18 comments:

  1. Hi Nick,
    I just had a long look at this site on Google maps, how interesting!
    It is long drive from where I live but it gives me ideas to visit some of Spain's National Parks but I have to find someone to come with me!!
    The Apollo is a wonderful butterfly to observe, I had only 2 opportunities to photograph it in the Pyrenees... quite difficult to follow in some areas!
    Hoya De la Mora seems a great place for many species, I really enjoyed this post :)
    Enjoy your WE

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    1. Hi Noushka,
      It is an amazing place. When I was first recommended this area to look for butterflies I thought that it didn't look very promising! I had always imagined that I should be looking for flowery meadows! However, there is an amazing variety of prostrate plants there. You would love them, too, along with all sorts of birds and really interesting invertebrates. I am always rushed when I am there, as I can only spend one day away from our family holiday there. It would be amazing to be able to spend more time enjoying the phenomenal flora and fauna. And I have only explored one mountain. I would love to go to other areas. I can't recommend it more highly. There are a number of hotels at Hoya de la Mora for the winter skiing. I have never checked, but I am sure they would be pleased to have visitors in the summer! If you do decide to go I can give you more details of where I have been.

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    2. Many thanks for your answer, Nick.
      I always wish to go places but I am alone now and would prefer to travel with friends for the fun side but also for security reasons...
      It is probable though I would find a hotel in summer for a few days.
      Keep well :)

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    3. Noushka,
      I hope you do find someone to go there with. However, it is a very open and safe-feeling environment. It is the sort of place that you could just sit and enjoy the wildlife fly past! There are so many amazing little plants and insects, birds and mammals. I know you would love it!

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  2. Hi Nick the landscape really looks hostile even for people. It is amazing that those beautiful butterflies can get their food in that vast landscape. But they are really very beautiful, and i guess easy to photograph. I realized that they are not as fast when at cold habitat, than what we have in my garden. Oh how lovely to shoot them in our highlands where they are very kind to photographers.

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    1. Hi Andrea. Yes, the landscape is pretty hostile there. It is covered with snow for a number of months and even in the middle of summer it was a little windy and exposed, particularly the area where the Zullich Blue were flying. It must suit them, but it doesn't appear to be ideal! I didn't notice the temperature there this year, but last year it was only 10 degrees up at the top of the mountain at 9am, but 36 degrees on the road at the bottom of the mountain.

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  3. Beautiful series, Nick! And the colour of your blog background happens to be my favourite colour. Green. :)

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    1. Thank you Linda. Yes, green always reminds me of spring!

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  4. Hello Nick!:) Beautiful butterfly captures of the Sierra Nevada butterflies which are a treat to see, especially the beautiful Apollo, and the Nevada Blues, which I have never had the pleasure of seeing. I am however used to seeing butterflies resting on stones that retain the sun's heat for long periods of time. Have a great weekend, and thanks for the share, ...always an enjoyable experience.

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    1. Thanks Sonjia, It is a very special place. I have never been anywhere else with such a variety and density of butterflies. It is interesting with it appearing to be a very baron landscape with quite hostile weather in winter. It makes me wonder if the butterflies do well there because of the lack of interference from humans. Whey don't we see butterflies like that in more flowery and less hostile environments? Maybe because of the use of chemicals?

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  5. Hi Nick!

    The Apollo is stunning. There's nothing else like it. It's definitely something I'd hope to see if I ever visit someplace mountainous. Looking at the landscape shot, it's hard to imagine there are so many butterflies. I'm probably too used to the abundance of vegetation here. Great post!

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    1. Hi Jonny, Good to hear from you again. Yes, the Apollos are quite special and the way they glide up and down the mountainside is lovely. Like you, I look at the landscape and think it doesn't look promising, but between all of those stones are lots of little Alpine plants, that must be sufficient to sustain all of those butterflies. I would have imagined somewhere with more vegetation would have more butterflies, but I have never been anywhere with such a variety as the Sierra Nevada. Mind you, I have never been to Singapore!!

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  6. Such a beautiful collection of sightings and photographs. So nice that you were able to have a good sighting of different types. I am amazed that I will not see butterflies for months and more. But this season has a different sort of wings, ice crystals sometimes look like wings. Deep seasons offer something wonderful in each season.

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    1. Hi Tammie Lee. Yes the Sierra Nevada is an amazing place. I love it! We will also not be seeing butterflies here in Scotland for the next four or five months. I am keeping myself satisfied by searching out chrysalises and hibernating butterflies!

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  7. The colors look so bright and great against the stones.

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    1. Hi Maria, Yes it is amazing to see so many bright butterflies in such an apparently barren place. However, there are also so many little prostrate plants there between the rocks and stones.

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