Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Sierra Nevada, Granada Province.

47 Butterfly species in a day and still counting.

I was meeting Steve Powell and his wife Elena at the Service area just after the end of the Sierra Nevada Motorway, whilst I was waiting (I was very early as usual) I picked up a few bits along the Rio Genil. In the near by willows a large family of Long-tailed Tits (Mito / Aegithalos caudatus) were feeding and flashing around between the low bushed near the road bridge and in the vegetation several Cetti’s Warblers (Ruisenor Bastardo / Cettia cetti) were heard and one individual sat out on a bare branch for 20 minutes preening after what must have been quite a bath! A dark phase Booted Eagle (Aguililla Calzada / Hieraaetus pennatus) drifted along the ridge opposite and both Grey (Lavandera Cascadena / Motacilla cinerea) and White Wagtails (Lavandera Blanca / Montacilla alba) flew along the shingle shore line and an immature Nightingale (Ruisenor Común / Luscinia megarhynchos) skulked in the dense cover.
Steve and Elena arrived and after Steve had filled up and I put all my stuff in his vehicle we set off heading through Pinos Genil before stopping at Embalse de Canales. We picked up Blue Rock Thrush (Roquero Solitario / Monticola solitarius) on the crags, a Peregrine Falcon (Halcón Peregrino / Falco peregrinus) which flew down the valley towards the city and several Jackdaws (Grajilla / Corvus monedula). Elena also had a Black Wheatear (Collalba Negra / Oenanthe leucura) back near the car park where we also heard and saw Blackbird (Mirlo Común / Turdus merula), Common Magpie (Urraca / Pica pica), European Bee-eater (Abejaruco Común / Merops apiaster) and Jay (Arrendajo / Garrulus glandarius). We carried on upwards passing Guéjar-sierra before stopping near a bar above the Rio Genil, we walked down a track to the river and stood on the bridge and immediately started to see some bird species. These included a juvenile Dipper (Mirlo Acuático / Cinclus cinclus), Spotted Flycatcher (Papamoscas Gris / Muscicapa striata), Robin (Petirrrojo / Erithacus rubecula) and Blackcap (Curruca Capirotada / Sylvia atricapilla). On the track we had the first butterflies of the day which were Marsh (Euphydryas aurinia beckeri) and Queen of Spain Fritillaries (Issoria lathonia), Iberian Marbled White (Melanargia lachesis), Sage Skipper (Muschampia proto), Spanish (Lobito listado / Pyronia bathsheba) and Southern Gatekeeper (Pyronia cecilia), Small Skipper (Thymelicus sylvestris), Small Copper (Lycaena phlaeas), Small White (Artogeia rapae) and Scarce Swallowtail (Chupaleches / Iphiclides podalirius feisthameli). Along the track we also had a singing Cirl Bunting (Escribano Soteno / Emberiza cirlus), flight views of a male Hawfinch (Picogordo / Coccotraustes coccotraustes), heard a calling Orphean Warbler (Curruca Mirlona / Sylvia hortensis) and had a couple of Red-rumped Swallows (Golondrina Dáurica / Hirundo daurica) do a fly past. We then walked back down to the bridge and saw a Pincertail Dragonfly whizz under the bridge and away remaining unidentified, picked up Common Golden Ringed Dragonfly (Cordulegaster boltonii subsp algirica) and very nice Large Tortoiseshell (Nymphalis polychlorus) which also flew up and down the river a couple of times before disappearing. Steve go shots of a very confiding Grayling (Hipparchia semele) before we walked back towards the car and having heard the Orphean again on passed to an area of dry but open grassland. Here there were lots more Iberian Marbled Whites, Small Skippers but there were also a couple of new species, a single Lesser Spotted Fritillary (Melitaea trivia) which sat for a second or two on a small white Field Convolvulus flower before doing a bunk and there were also several Knapweed Fritillaries (Melitaea phoebe) feeding on some large thistles.
Our second stop was just a couple of KM up the road and as soon as we parked we started to see more Marsh Fritillaries and down by the river (which was at a higher level water wise than on my last visit) there were plenty more. I had my sandals on but Steve had proper shoes on but this did not stop him getting to see the species that were coming down for the minerals a little way down stream as he just waded straight in. Here we added lots of Marbled Skippers (Carcharodus lavatherae), loads more Small Whites and Small Sippers, Holly Blue (Celastrina argiolus), Adonis Blue (Niña Celeste / Lysandra bellargus), Brown Argus (Aricia agestis cramera), Comma ("C" blanca / Polygomum c-album), Clouded Yellow (Colias Común / Colias crocea), Cleopatra (Cleopatra / Gonepteryx cleopatra), Meadow Brown (Maniola jurtina ssp hispulla), Spanish Chalk-hill Blue (Lysandra albicans), Common Blue (Icaro (Dos Puntos) / Polyommatus icarus) and a species which at the time had use baffled but from photo’s I have put down to being the first Mountain Argus (Aricia artaxerxer montensis) of the day.
We then headed back to the car and headed further up the hill before stopping in the Sweet Chestnut woods at a spot I had called at about 3 weeks earlier with great success, what a contrast there was with hardly a butterfly to be seen. We did hear Golden Oriole (Oropéndola / Oriolus oriolus), Bonelli’s Warbler (Mosquitero Papialbo / Phylloscopus bonelli) and Short-toed Treecreeper (Agateador Común / Certhia brachydactyla). On we went to our next stop which was going to be a brief look at a rare Orchid called Epipactis fageticola, we found just 10 plants before having a short walk down the road back the way we had just driven as there seemed to be quite a few interesting looking things flying around. The first good find was a male Spanish Purple Hairstreak (Laeosopis roboris) which eventually sat nicely for some shots; we also saw a single Passenger Moth (Dysgonia algira), Cardinal Fritillary (Pandora / argynnis Pandora), Small Copper (Lycaena phlaeas) and again more Marsh Fritillaries. Again we continued up the road and stopped to look at another couple of Orchids, this time they were both a bit past their best, the first was Small-leaved Helleborine (Epipactis microphylla) which was growing right on the roadside and the second was Robust Marsh Orchid (Dactylorhiza elata) found in a wet flush. The only new species added here was Black-veined White (Banca del Majuelo / Aporia crataegi) but Elena picked up a very nice pale phase Booted Eagle that drifted around over us for a while. As we were driving up to the last stop before lunch we did an emergency stop for a couple of Great Banded Graylings (Kanetisa circe) which were chasing each other around a Sweet Chestnut tree. Our last stop was at an area of open grassland which was packed full of herbs which made the air smell fantastic as we walked through the area, butterflies included Blue Spotted (Mancha azul / Satyrium spini) and False Ilex Hairstreaks (Querquera / Satyrium esculi), Clouded Yellow and Meadow Brown.
Our next stop was lunch (thanks Steve and Elena) before we headed off up to the Ski resort, we parked by one of the hotels and walked out on to the green slopes. At the very first damp flush we picked up new species including a new one for my Spanish list the Dark-green Fritillary (Argynnis aglaja) several of this species were seen along side Meadow Fritillary (Mellicta parthenoides), Silver-studded Blue (Plebejus argus hypochionus) and a single Nevada Blue (Plebicula golgus subsp golgus) which I sorted later from the hundreds of shots taken. We then walked further along the track and a fast flying Apollo (Parnassius apollo subsp nevadensis) was the next species added followed quickly by a Black Satyr (Satyrus actaea). As we rounded the first corner we noticed a patch of Thyme about 2 foot square which was covered in butterflies including several more Apollo’s, Purple-shot Copper (Lycaena alciphron subsp gordius), several more Mountain Argus and masses of Silver-studded Blues but the prize find was a cracking Niobe Fritillary (Argynnis niobe) which was my second butterfly lifer of the day and who knows how many it was for Steve. We continued on along this track checking several wet flushes of the way but we did not pick up any new butterfly species but saw several nice conditioned spikes of Robust Marsh Orchid. We walked back to the car and drove up to the top car park and had a walk out along the start of the trail out to the Barranco de San Juan, on the way out we saw a couple of Small Tortoiseshells (Aglais urticae), several more Silver-studded Blues and a couple of Iberian Marbled Whites. Birds included a very nice Tawny Pipit (Bisbita campestre / Anthus campestris), Northern Wheatear (Collalba Gris / Oenanthe oenanthe), Rock Sparrow (Gorrión Chillón / Petronia petronia) and several high level House Martins (Avión Común / Delichon urbica). On the way back we picked up a couple of the days last target species the Spanish Brassy Ringlet (Erebia hispania) but as usual this species is a toad to get shots of and today was no different. We then walked back to the car and drove down the hill where Steve and Elena dropped me back at my car and I made my way home.
I thought that Pam and John Field and I had done well getting 33 species in a day a couple of weeks earlier but we certainly shot that total to bits today finishing on 47 with a few blues still to be checked. Thanks Steve for one hell of a day.
Photographs from the top: Knapweed Fritillary (Melitaea phoebe), Marbled Skippers (Carcharodus lavatherae), Small Whites (Artogeia rapae), Holly Blue (Celastrina argiolus), Comma ("C" blanca / Polygomum c-album), Mountain Argus (Aricia artaxerxer montensis), Steve by the River, Epipactis fageticola, Spanish Purple Hairstreak (Laeosopis roboris), Meadow Fritillary (Mellicta parthenoides) SP, Silver-studded Blue (Plebejus argus hypochionus), Nevada Blue (Plebicula golgus subsp golgus), Apollo (Parnassius apollo subsp nevadensis), Black Satyr (Satyrus actaea) SP, Niobe Fritillary (Argynnis niobe) and Tawny Pipit (Bisbita campestre / Anthus campestris) SP.
The shots marked SP were taken by Steve (thanks for letting me use them here).

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