Marvellous Motril 2, Turtle Dove Alley
Red Avadavat female - amandava amandava
This month started with a bang. The back road to the Charca de Suarez, named "Turtle Dove Alley" by my good friend Bob Wright "The Axarquia Birder" was alive with birds, most notably the delightful Red Avadavat, an introduced species from India. The bright ruby-red male looks stunning in the tall grass and the female, although less brightly coloured is a very attractive little bird. They are quite difficult to photograph as they avoid exposed positions and remain mostly out of sight in the long grasses whose seeds they feed on. I was lucky to get a few shots from distance
Plain Tiger - danaus chrysippus
Possibly the best find of the day was a small colony of Plain Tiger butterflies. This exotic African species occurs only sporadically in coastal regions of the European Mediterranean so I felt quite priveliged to have the opportunity to see it in the wild.
Plain Tiger - dannaus chrysippus
The Plain Tiger is highly migratory and they could have been moving through so I will be interested to see if they occur here again next year. The life cycle of the adult insect is about one month so if they are present next year it would perhaps be evidence of successful breeding in this location.
Monarch (Milkweed) - dannaus plexippus
On a return visit next day instead of plain tigers I found several Monarch or Milkweed butterflies. This is a larger but no less exotic species from North America. First recorded in Spain in the 1980s it is now resident in small colonies, mainly in the Province of Malaga.
Monarch - dannaus plexippus
These two species are brightly coloured, also in the caterpillar stage which would render them highly vulnerable to predators were it not for their toxicity. The toxic chemicals are assimilated from milkweed plants that the caterpillars feed on making them unpalatable. The poison is concentrated in the adult´s wings and abdomen and some North American bird species eat just the thoracic sections. There is at least one species of bird and a mouse that have developed an immunity to the poison and which therefore feed almost exclusively on these butterflies. An interesting piece of trivia is that a tagged monarch butterfly was recovered 265 miles (424 kms) away from the release site just a day later. That´s a long way for a small insect.
Booted Eagle - aquila pennata
The day continued well. As we watched the red avadavats and butterflies a pair of Booted Eagles circled overhead and a Marsh Harrier quartered the adjacent marshes. Reed Warblers flitted around in the pampas grasses along with Zitting Cisticolas, stonechats, Chiffchaffs, a pair of Bluethroats and to my delight a Whinchat or two, not a bird I see very often in Spain.