Iberian Marbled Whites appear to have escaped the ravages of Winter, they were prolific in the sunny banks and clearings along a small road that winds its way up the Sierra Nevada from the small town of Guejar Sierra. This little known, narrow, and hard-to-find road is very picturesque. Bordered by flowering hedges, small meadows and woody clearings it is a delight for butterfly enthusiasts in high summer.
The Brimstone is the origin species of the word Butterfly, the male being a very "butter-coloured" fly. This is one of the longest lived adult butterflies, they are known to hibernate through winter and fly again as soon as the springtime sunshine warms their wings sufficiently.
This Small Pincertail dragonfly struck a typical upturned abdomen pose on a streamside rock, and a Speckled Wood butterfly conveniently held its wings open flat for the perfect ¨field guide¨ species shot.
The Queen of Spain Fritillary is a very handsome species. The large silver spots on its hindwing underside seem to glow in the sun´s rays, fabulous.
The Marsh Fritillary is described as in serious decline in Europe due to changes in agricultural practices. We are lucky enough here to see them frequently although usually solitary, not in any numbers. I like their large club-shaped orange antennae. The Long-tailed Blue is a fast flying wanderer. It can reach the Azores 1400 kms from the mainland, and has been observed 3300 metres up on Mount Everest
Sage Skipper - muschampia proto
On a short walk by the Rio de la Miel I picked up a few shots of a Sage Skipper. I haven´t recorded this species before as I am not good at identification. However this clear shot looks like the Sage Skipper illustrations in Collins Field Guide.Sage Skipper - muschampia proto
This underwing shot doesn´t help much as it is very like a Grizzled Skipper, but I believe the upperwing white spots clinch it, Sage Skipper.
Here´s a look at a Southern Marbled Skipper. Easily distinguished from its Grizzled cousins but not so simple when compared with other Marbled species.Copper Demoiselle female - calopteryx haemorrhoidalis
Copper Demoiselle Damselflies flutter around in sunny clearings along riverbanks. They are a common but welcome sight around the trickling mountain streams of the Axarquia.
Black-veined White - aporia crataegi
An elegant butterfly, the Black-veined White is found all over Europe, including Scandinavia and Russia, but strangely it is absent from the UK. Older insects wings become almost translucent as the white pigment wears off which gives them a delicate and ephemeral appearance.Lizard of Oz
These colourful beetles were sharing the flowers with butterflies in a roadside meadow on the way down the Sierra Nevada mountains. The lizard however was taken on a wander along the Rio Higueron below Frigiliana with Josh and Allen from the Camera Club. We saw a few dragonfly species including Epaulet Skimmer, Blue Emporer, Orange-winged Dropwing, Violet Dropwing, Small Pincertail and Red-veined Darter.
Butterflies are not abundant along the Rio Higueron except for the Striped Grayling, which I have photographed and posted several times before. However this Wall Brown alighted with closed wings, unusual for this species, so I took advantage with a quick shot to show the elaborate patchwork of the underwing design.
And finally this little wild flower attracted Josh´s eye, and quite rightly so as the photograph reveals a stunner in shape and colour, well worth an inclusion in a wildlife blog.
First year Spotted Flycatchers
The heat of July in Andalucia has kept me out of the field lately so a day trip up to the cooler air of the Sierra Nevada seemed like a good idea. I was joined by friends Phyl and Sandi from Frigiliana and we took the old road to Granada to call in at the "Dipper" site on the Rio Guadalfeo. No dippers today but we did hear Golden Orioles in the eucalyprus trees, and there was plenty of evidence that Spotted Flycatchers had a successful breeding season with lots of juveniles taking fly catching lessons from the parents.
Langs Short-tailed Blue - leptotes pirithous
We moved on in search of the butterflies of Sierra Nevada. Taking the old road up from Guejar Sierra our first stop by the reservoir provided some good sightings, including a brief glimpse of what I believe was a Two-tailed Pasha. Unfortunately this elusive beauty did not stop to have its picture taken, unlike the Lang´s Short-tailed Blues that seemed to like Sandi and Phyls´s attractive red toenail varnish. Other species sighted here include Long-tailed Blue, Scarce Swallowtail, Brimstone, Common Blue, Purple-shot Copper, Small Skipper, Clouded Yellow, Speckled Wood, Wall Brown, Knapweed Fritillary and a rather nice Iberian Marbled White.
We continued on up above 2500 metres where the air is cooler and thinner. Here one finds different species that prefer these conditions. The two most numerous being the beautiful but diminutive Silver Studded Blue, and the large and showy Apollo, both of which were were abundant in the hillside meadows around the ski station.Idas Blue - plebejus Idas
Identifying different species within a group or family can be virtually impossible in the field. Blues are particularly difficult, with so many almost identical species and sub-species it is the realm of the true expert or even the laboratory to differentiate. For example the butterfly to the left clearly shows silver-studding in the underwing blue spots. However the Idas Blue is almost exactly the same and here their ranges overlap, so how is one to decide? The little black tufts on this insect´s outer margin look more like field guide photographs of the Idas Blue, they are more distinct than the Silver Studded example above, but apart from that I can´t see any difference.
Apollo - parnassius apollo nevadensis
The Apollo is quite a striking insect which is generally found above 1000 metres in most large European mountain ranges. The Sierra Nevada sub-species has orange wing spots instead of the normal red. I was pleased to get some reasonable shots today as it takes patience waiting for one to settle.
Niobe Fritillary - argynnis niobe
Perhaps the most beautiful butterfly of the day was this stunning Niobe Fritillary. Brilliant orange wings with simple black markings in perfect symmetry make it one of my favourites. They can be difficult to distinguish from the Dark Green Fritillary but the underwing shot gave a fairly positive ID on this occasion.
The Wall Brown is an attractive butterfly which likes to open its wings in the sun. There were just one or two of these and in fact the butterflies were far fewer than at this time last year, many varieties were missing and apart from the Apollos and Small Tortoiseshells fewer numbers of those that we did see. Further evidence of the effects of a very long, cold and wet winter.
A mixed bag this week with visits to Julian & Margarate´s delightful plot near Torrox Pueblo, a superb barbeque held by Alan and Yvonne at the stunning villa and estate they manage high in the Rio-de-la-Miel Valley, and some Bee-eater shots from the Rio Seco near Frigiliana. The Bee-eaters are feeding young so they turn up with all manner of insects for the brood. It is interesting to watch how they knock and scrape the stingers out of a bee, then squeeze the venom out of the abdomen before anything gets eaten.Chamaeleon
This Chamaeleon was lurking in the flowerbeds by the barbeque so everyone was taking pictures, he didn´t seem to mind. His eyes move around in all directions and I wonder how they reconcile the different views. Do they have two virtual screens in the brain each with a different view, or can they switch from one to the other at will? Scientists can only speculate.
The Little Skipper butterfly below was captured on a tangled spider´s web. I thought it was stuck and awaiting its fate like the other victims whose empty shells can be seen in the web, however the butterfly did manage to pull itself free and take off.
Clouded Yellow - colias crocea
I am searching for a means of differentiating between a Clouded Yellow and a Berger´s Clouded Yellow. So far I have drawn a blank, they look the same to me. A top wing shot might help but they always alight with closed wings.
The Striped Grayling is a handsome butterfly. Quite large with very distinctive grey-brown markings it is a common sight on the hot sunny slopes of the Axarquia,
Blue-spot Hairstreak - satyrium spini
This butterfly is a Blue-spot Hairstreak. Another quite familiar insect in the hot, dry scrubby hillsides of the Axarquia. It is readily identified by the speckled blue spot just forward of the "Tail" on the hindwing underside.
A final photo from the bbq at Alan & Yvonne´s, this one is of grey Bee Fly, one of many varieties of the genus bombylidae which are not bees at all. It may be useful for them to closely resemble bees in order to deter some predators. They are all characterised by the long fixed proboscis which is used to suck nectar from flowers. They are expert hoverers and can fly backwards and are capable of sudden bursts of speed.
I was disappointed not to be able to post any of the photos taken at Julian´s idyllic plot because everything was "Soft" (Blurred). I now see that the low light in the shade of all Julian´s trees meant very slow shutter speeds and consequently slightly blurred images.
Retired seafarer living in Frigiliana, a white village in Malaga Province in southern Spain. Married to Elena. Keen bird and wildlife watchers.
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