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 ...

Friday, 4 November 2016

Sierra Nevada Butterflies - July 2016 (1)

Two years ago I visited the Sierra Nevada for a day and saw a fantastic variety and number of butterflies. So, this year when we were on holiday near Malaga I took the opportunity for a return visit. There were three different locations that I had visited last year that I wanted to return to, but I had also been recommended another couple of spots to check out by Mike Prentice of Butterfly Conservation's European Interest Group.
It was a three hour drive from our rented villa to the first stop, which was on the road up to the ski resort at Hoya de la Mora at about 2,000 metres. This location had been recommended by Mike, who said I may find Spanish Chalkhill Blues, Polyommatus albicans, there. Unfortunately, I didn't see any, but I wasn't to be disappointed with the other butterflies I saw.

Initially I didn't see a lot there, but it was still before 9 in the morning, so a little early for butterflies There were a few Silver-studded Blues, Plebejus argus, flying amongst the scrub, though.

Other butterflies were less numerous there. There were a couple of Clouded Yellows, Colias crocea.

And a Wall Brown, Lasiommata megera, with a damaged wing.

I was really thrilled to see two Spotted Fritillaries, Melitaea didyma. They were very easily disturbed and quickly disappeared. Luckily I later saw another one that allowed me to get close enough to take a picture. This was one of the butterflies that I really wanted to see with its unusual markings.

I think this is a Thread-winged Lacewing of some kind. I had to follow it for ages before it stopped and I was able to get a better look at it. What an amazing creature!

On my way back to the car I saw another little blue butterfly that turned out to be a Lang's Short-tailed Blue, Leptotes pirithous. It somehow seemed out of place up in the mountains.

Not far away was this beautiful Blue-spot Hairstreak, Satyrium spini.

I had so many places I wanted to visit and so little time that I had to drag myself away to continue further up the mountain ...