Thursday, 15 July 2010

Barranco de San Juan, Sierra Nevada, Granada Province.

Endemic Plants and Butterflies.

After a last minute decision to go up the Sierra Nevada, Yogi and I set off from the car park at 2500 meters near the barrier stopping traffic proceeding towards the summit. We walked out towards the top of Barranco de San Juan, almost the first thing seen was a cracking male Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush (Roquero Rojo / Monticola saxatilis) which flew passed and perched on a rocky outcrop below the track. Amongst the scree above the track there were a lot of Nevada Houseleek (Sempervivum vicentei), Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea var nevadensis), Lysimachia ephemerum and Lotus glareosus. We walked on around several rocky bends in the track picking up Black Redstart (Colirrojo Tizón / Phoenicurus ochruros), Common Stonechat (Tarabilla Común / Saxicola torquata), Crag Martin (Avión Roquero / Ptyonoprogne rupestris), Linnet (Pardillo Común / Carduelis cannabina), Northern Wheatear (Collalba Gris / Oenanthe oenanthe), Pallid Swift (Vencejo Pálido / Apus pallidus), Rock Bunting (Escribano Montesino / Emberiza cia), Rock Sparrow (Gorrión Chillón / Petronia petronia) and Wren (Chochin / Troglodytes troglodytes). Several
of the endemic Apollo's (Parnassius apollo subsp nevadensis) flew over the slopes, along with good numbers of Silver-studded B lues (Plebejus argus hypochionus),
a couple of Purple-shot Coppers (Lycaena alciphron subsp gordius) and several of the very rare Spanish Brassy Ringlet (Erebia hispania) flew by but would not allow me to get a shot.
Further on we came to the main plant site and area of wet gullies with low grass and other plants, here we found good numbers of Spring Gentian (Gentiana verna subsp sierrae), a few Gentiana alpina which were note quite in flower and a couple of the pale Gentiana boryi. Also here there were hundreds of plants of the insectivorous endemic Butterwort (Pinguicula nevadensis), Plantago nivalis, Campanula herminii and Starry Saxifrage (Saxifraga stellaris subsp alpigena). On the drier banks between the gullies I found Pale Lady's Mantle (Alchemilla xanthochlora), Potentilla nevadensis, Moonwort (Botrychium lunaria) and Loosewort (Pedicularis verticillata var caespitosa).
It was at this point where it all went a bit pear shaped as Yogi, me and my tripod became one for a second and I ended up full length in one of the wettest gullies, twisting my ankle, knee and taking a bit of a winding. After a few minutes I recovered and started the slow hobble back towards the car, looking rather peat coloured and wet.
On the way we added several more plants to the list including the first Centranthus nevadensis I have found in a photographable position, Senecio pyrenaicus subsp granatensis, Meum athamanticum, Eryngium glaciale, Ptilotrichum spinosum, Silene rupestris, Arenaria imbricata and Arenaria pungens. A few more butterflies were also seen including Clouded Yellow (Colias crocea), Brown Argus (Aricia agestis), Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui),
Long-tailed Blue (Lampides boeticus), Queen of Spain Fritillary (Issoria lathonia), Small Tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae) and Wall Brown (Lasiommata megera). I then meet up with three Spanish lads from up North in the Pico's who appeared to be catching and potting butterflies, I am pretty sure that this is an Illegal practice in any Natural Park so I informed the barrier man in my worst Spanish but he seem to understand and made a swift phone call, so hopefully the situation was sorted later. Just as I reached the car park another two butterflies were added,
a single Cardinal Fritillary (argynnis Pandora) and a small number of the endemic Nevada Blue (Plebicula golgus subsp golgus), both species were on a damp area of gravel taking on water and minerals. The bird list also grew slightly with Barn Swallow (Golondrina Común / Hirundo rustica), House Martin (Avión Común / Delichon urbica), House Sparrow (Gorrión Común / Passer Domesticus), a Tawny Pipit (Bisbita campestre / Anthus campestris) with a bill full of grubs and finally I was seen off by a pair of cronking Ravens (Cuervo / Corvus corax).
We both eventually made it back to the car, Yogi in better shape than me but by the look of his face we had both enjoyed it.
Photographs from the top: Nevada Houseleek (Sempervivum vicentei), Spring Gentian (Gentiana verna subsp sierrae), Butterwort (Pinguicula nevadensis), Starry Saxifrage (Saxifraga stellaris subsp alpigena), Yogi, Barranco de San Juan, Moonwort (Botrychium lunaria) and Northern Wheatear (Collalba Gris / Oenanthe oenanthe).

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