I am no expert photographer, preferring to capture the moment than get a perfectly composed shot. The pictures on my blog are either taken with a compact Canon, a Panasonic Lumix FZ150 or on my phone.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Alicante, Spain - Butterflies - April 2011

After a long and exceptionally snowy winter we headed for the sun of southern Spain for a week. We rented an apartment in Torrevieja, which unfortunately didn't prove to be a particularly good location for butterflies.

These little Geranium Bronzes, Cacyreus marshalli, have spread along much of the Mediterranean after being introduced from Southern Africa on geranium plants. They were enjoying the pot plants at the apartment.

I've never had any luck photographing the upper side of the wings!

Most of the area around the apartment was quite built-up and the surrounding landscape was very flat. I had been recommended a walk along a river - the Rio Segura, where there may have been more butterflies. Unfortunately the day I was there it was quite windy, so there were very few butterflies about. Of course, I saw the ubiquitous Small White butterfly, Pieris rapae.

Part way along the river I spotted a track heading up towards a farm where there was a scrubby knoll that I thought looked promising. On one small sheltered, sunny spot I saw some blue butterflies amongst the wild flowers and herbs. They turned out to be Black-eyed Blues, Glaucopsyche melanops. They are stunning little butterflies. The the upper side of the males are two shades of blue with a black surround and narrow white edge. The females are mostly brown with a few blue flecks. The under-sides of the wings are grey with lovely black markings.

I spent some time just watching the small colony of these beautiful little creatures. I had a very brief view of these in Portugal a couple of years earlier, but it was fantastic being able to watch them so closely.

On the drive back to the apartment I saw a small white butterfly at the side of the road, so I stopped and tried to get a closer look. It turned out to be a Bath White, Pontia daplidice, but it wasn't keen on stopping for a picture. This was the best I could manage. I did see them later in the holiday in a couple of places, but never managed a picture.

Another day I headed for the distant hills, thinking that there may be more butterflies there. However, the hills seemed to be further away than I thought and I got a little lost and ended up by a reservoir. Initially there didn't seem to be many butterflies there, but after I had been there a while they started to appear. This is a Spanish Marbled White, Melanargia ines. There were a couple of them arguing over a sunny spot. I kept trying to follow them to take a photograph, but every time one settled the other would fly past and disturb it. I noticed that they always came back to the same point and so I just sat and waited with my camera ready and before long one flew into shot!

Other butterflies that I saw on the trip were:
Painted Lady, Vanessa cardui
Large White, Pieris brassicae
Swallowtail, Papilio machaon
Clouded Yellow, Colias crocea
Southern Swallowtail, Iphiclides feisthamelii
Speckled Wood, Pararge aegeria aegeria
Wall Brown, Lasiommata megera
Red Admiral, Vanessa atalanta
13 butterflies in total. I was expecting to see more, but I was thrilled to get good views of the Black-eyed Blues and Spanish Marbled Whites and I was particularly pleased to see the Bath Whites, a butterfly I hadn't seen before.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Large White - Pieris brassicae

Two summers ago our kids occupied themselves one day by collecting caterpillars from some nasturtiums growing outside our neighbour's house and bringing them into our garden to eat our nasturtiums!

They turned out to be the caterpillars of Large White butterflies, Pieris brassicae. Over the next few days they grew bigger ...

... until our nasturtiums had almost all been eaten! Then one day I noticed a couple of caterpillars climbing up the walls of the house.

When they reached a sheltered spot they shed their skin and then started to fatten up. If you look carefully, there is a length of silk around the second segment from the right holding the caterpillar to the wall.

Within an hour or so, they were looking more like a chrysalis.

And this is what they looked like a couple of days later. This was the end of September and the chrysalises remained there all winter. One day the next spring I checked and discovered that the chrysalises had all emerged and I had missed the butterflies!

This is what the adult butterflies would have looked like.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Menorca eggs!

There were so many butterflies in the orchard of the villa we rented that on three occasions a butterfly landed close to me and laid an egg.

This one is a Clouded Yellow, Colias croceus, or at least I think it is. The butterfly that laid it was a pale form and possibly could have been a Berger's Clouded Yellow, Colias alfacariensis. The only way I know to tell the two apart is by the caterpillar, but unfortunately I never found it!

This one was laid by a Cleopatra, Gonepteryx cleopatra. A few days later I saw a little caterpillar on the same leaf, but I didn't see it again after that despite looking on several occasions.

This egg was laid by a Swallowtail, Papilio machaon. When it was laid it was white and it turned yellow the first day. Three days later a brown line appeared around the egg and the next day it hatched.

Here it is chewing on its egg shell. Unfortunately, this was the last day of our holiday so I didn't get to see it develop any further. They grow into spectacular-looking caterpillars.