More Butterflies and hills!
Pam, John and I set off towards Granada and then skirted the northern side and went to the far end of the Sierra de Huétor. We started the day along the Prado Negro near Venta del Mollinillo where we very quickly picked up large numbers of Beautiful Demoiselle’s (Calopteryx virgo) along the wooded stream. I had seen just a single insect a few years ago so when we turned up and found hundreds I was very pleased but large numbers do not mean that they are going to be any easier to get shots of. Eventually we got some good results and added Large Pincertail (Onychogomphus uncatus) and Large Red Damselfly (Pyrrhosoma nymphula) to the list along with a smart looking Plumb Moth which is still in the to be identified file. Butterflies were all over the meadow including several Iberian Marbled Whites (Melanargia lachesis), a couple of Knapweed Fritillaries (Melitaea phoebe), Meadow Browns (Maniola jurtina ssp hispulla), Small Heath (Coenonympha pamphilus F lyllus), Small White (Artogeia rapae) and Clouded Yellow (Colias Común / Colias crocea). Right by the entrance we could hear a couple of calling Golden Orioles (Oropéndola / Oriolus oriolus) in the Poplar trees that lined the stream, these were seen along with Wren (Chochin / Troglodytes troglodytes), Bonelli’s Warbler (Mosquitero Papialbo / Phylloscopus bonelli), Rock Bunting (Escribano Montesino / Emberiza cia), Crag Martin (Avión Roquero / Ptyonoprogne rupestris) and Jay (Arrendajo / Garrulus glandarius). John and I continued up the valley while Pam got out the pencils and did some drawing; on a swifter part of the stream we located a male Common Golden Ringed Dragonfly (Cordulegaster boltonii subsp algirica) which was defending its territory vigorously against a couple more Large Pincertails. On this stretch there were lots more Beautiful Demoiselle’s and they were joined by a single male Copper Demoiselle (Calopteryx haemorrhoidalis) and in the scrub along the shore we found several Common Blues (Icaro (Dos Puntos) / Polyommatus icarus), some very tatty Black-veined White (Banca del Majuelo / Aporia crataegi) and a couple of Blue Spotted Hairstreaks (Mancha azul / Satyrium spini). On the walk back down to Pam we added Great (Carbonero Común / Parus major), Long-tailed (Mito / Aegithalos caudatus) and Blue Tits (Herrerillo Común / Parus caeruleus) and Grey Wagtail (Lavandera Cascadena / Motacilla cinerea) to the seen list and heard a Common Cuckoo (Cuco Común / Cuculus canorus). New butterflies for the day were Bath White (Blanqiverdosa / Pontia daplidice), Cleopatra (Cleopatra / Gonepteryx cleopatra), Cardinal Fritillary (Pandora / argynnis Pandora) and Brown Argus (Aricia agestis). We also saw several of the common day flying moth the Chimney Sweeper (Odezia atrata).
We then made our way back to the car and moved on to a site deeper into the Sierra called Fuente de los Potros where there is a large picnic area and a Casa Forestal. Here we followed a short walk which had been laid through the woods from the far end of the car park finding several spikes of Robust Marsh Orchid (Dactylorhiza elata) and Bug Orchid (Orchis coriophora). There we more butterflies, some were coming down to the water side made them easier to see, they included Grayling (Hipparchia semele), Spanish (Lobito listado / Pyronia bathsheba) and Southern Gatekeepers (Pyronia cecilia) and Wall Brown (Lasiommata megera). We also saw another Common Golden Ringed here along with Robin (Petirrrojo / Erithacus rubecula), Woodpigeon (Paloma Torcaz / Columba palumbus), Firecrest (Reyezuelo Listado / Regulus ignicapillus) and Common Chaffinch (Pinzón Vulgar / Fringilla coelebs).
We then started the drive through to La Alfaguara where we were going to have lunch on the way we stopped a couple of times, the first was when I got views of a Swallowtail (Papilio machaon) but by the time we got out of the car it had moved on and we just picked up more Black-veined Whites and added Subalpine Warbler (Curruca Carrasquena / Sylvia cantillans) to the bird list. A little further on our second stop was again because of a butterfly I had picked up in flight as we drove passed an area of open grassland, this time I had thought that it was a Rock Grayling (Hipparchi alcyone) but very quickly realized that it was actually my second ever Great Banded Grayling (Kanetisa circe), we had good views of it as it skirted the Cistus plants that lined the edge of the clearing. We followed and eventually it perched very briefly in an Oak tree, just as it took flight again my attention was drawn to a small brown and red butterfly which was flitting around in the Cistus plants, after a couple of brief views the insect sat out and let us identify it as the hard to find Nettle-tree Butterfly (Libythea celtis) before zipping off into the distance. Here we also added Sage Skipper (Muschampia proto), Dusky Meadow Brown (Lobito / Hyponephele lycaon) and Scarce Swallowtail (Chupaleches / Iphiclides podalirius feisthameli) along with a couple of singing Woodlark (Totovia / Lullula arborea) and a calling Great Spotted Woodpecker (Pico Picapinos / Dendrocopos major).
Lunch was our next port of call at the Venta at Alfaguara and after having a plate of Tomato’s with Garlic, Poor-mans Potato’s and Broad beans mixed with Eggs and Ham we were set up for a walk in the woods nearby. We did not get any new butterflies here but had good views of Short-toed Treecreeper (Agateador Común / Certhia brachydactyla) and Crested Tit (Herrerillo Capuchino /Parus cristatus) and found around 20 spikes of the uncommon Red Helleborine (Cephalanthera rubra).
From here we moved on to our last site of the day at Cerro de Fuente Fria, where I was hoping we would find Rock Grayling. We started the walk up to the Civil war defenses which have been rebuild around the summit of the hill, on the way we had a male Escher’s Blue (Agrodiaetus escheri) and a single Rock Grayling which behaved very well and sat on the trunk of a pine tree so that John could get nice views. Here we had several calling Coal Tits (Carbonero Garrapinos / Parus ater) and then a bit of a surprise when a Hobby (Alcotán Europeo / Falco subbuteo) flew out of a nearby tree, a species that I see occasionally on passage but this was far to late in the summer to be passing through.
We then headed back to the house where Jayne had prepared us a very nice meal, which we ate out on the terrace and spent the rest of the evening chatting and watching Stone Curlews (Alcaraván Común / Burhinus oedicnemus) and Red-necked Nightjar (Chotacabras Cuellirrojo / Caprimulgus ruficollis) flying over the olives. The tally of butterflies for the two days in the field came to a vert pleasing 44 and of these 21 were new for Johns list and 3 were new for my Spanish list.
Photographs from the top: 2x Beautiful Demoiselle (Calopteryx virgo), Large Pincertail (Onychogomphus uncatus), Iberian Marbled White (Melanargia lachesis), Knapweed Fritillary (Melitaea phoebe), male Escher’s Blue (Agrodiaetus escheri), Sage Skipper (Muschampia proto) and Rock Grayling (Hipparchi alcyone).