Friday, 3 August 2012

Sierra Nevada, Granada Province.

A day of Plants, birds, butterflies and wind!

I started off by walking out from the barrier above the main car parks and walking to wards the head of the Barranco de San Juan looking for Birds and Butterflies but mostly for the endemic wildflowers which this area is famous for. The wind which was very strong whilst I was loading the kit into my pocket meant that any photography was going to be hard going particularly of the butterflies. I started the walk and was amazed by the number of Black Satyr (Satyrus actaea) which were flushing up from along side the track and disappearing down the hill at a rapid rate of knots. Also seen along the first stretch were several Silver-spotted Skippers (Hesperia comma), Spanish Brassy Ringlet (Erebia hispania), Small Tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae) and a single Dark-green Fritillary (Argynnis aglaja) which also must have broken some sort of record for the speed of a butterfly in flat flight. The first interesting flowers we soon showing up with large patches of the rare Nevada House-leek (Sempervivum vicentei ssp lainzii), followed by Armeria splendens ssp splendens and Nevada Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea var nevadensis). In an area of bolder scree there were a few more birds showing up as at this point I had walked around a large knoll in the hill side and the wind had died down, they included a party of immature Rufous-tailed Rock Thrushes (Roquero Rojo / Monticola saxatilis), Rock Bunting (Escribano Montesino / Emberiza cia), Linnet (Pardillo Común / Carduelis cannabina) and Northern Wheatear (Collalba Gris / Oenanthe oenanthe). The Black Satyr Butterflies were still flying in masses and they were joined by more of the Silver Spotted Skippers which I eventually managed to get some shots of and several Oriental Meadow Browns (Hyponephele lupinnus), Bath White (Blanqiverdosa / Pontia daplidice) and a number of very tatty Silver-studded Blues (Plebejus argus hypochionus). I eventually reached the wet flushes that are the area where the stream call the Barranco de San Juan begins, an area I have visited on several occasions but never this late in the season. There were lots of the dead spikes of the earlier flowering Nevada Spring Gentian (Gentiana sierrae) along with the rosettes of the over with endemics Nevada Plantain (Plantago nivalis) and Nevada Butterwort (Pinguicula nevadensis). But on the plus side there were lots of the small but beautiful Gentiana boryi which I had only seen a single plant of before and some trumpets of the much larger and showier Gentiana pneumonanthe subsp depressa which I had only seen in tight bud in the past. In the Borregulies (wet flushes) Saxifraga stellaris ssp alpigena and Epilobium alsinifolium were still flowering along with the second new plant of the day for my Spanish list, Grass of Parnassus (Parnassia palustris) which was growing commonly in all the wetter areas. Around the same patch I also added Arenaria tetraquetra subsp amabilis and Campanula herminii. I then started the walk back and the first thing I saw was a striking little Ocellated Lizard (Lacerta lepida) but of the Nevada greyer form, this was followed by a Tawny Pipit (Bisbita campestre / Anthus campestris), Rock Sparrow (Gorrión Chillón / Petronia petronia) and a couple of Griffon Vultures (Bultre Leonado / Gyps fulvus) which drifted through to the West. I got back to the car and headed down through the Ski resort (it must look much better in the snow, I am sure) and stopped at a track out on to the slopes. Here the wind was still quite strong but there were plenty of butterflies still feeding on the mint plants in the wet flushes, the commonest by far was still the Black Satyr which were there in there hundreds and Silver-spotted Skipper, also in the area I picked up a few Adonis Blues (Niña Celeste / Lysandra bellargus), Bath Whites, Clouded Yellow (Colias Común / Colias crocea), Purple-shot Coppers (Lycaena alciphron subsp gordius), Mountain Argus (Aricia artaxerxer montensis), Iberian Marbled White (Melanargia lachesis), Dark-green Fritillary, Queen of Spain Fritillary (Issoria lathonia) and Small Copper (Lycaena phlaeas). The only new birds were a pair of Common Whitethroats (Curruca Zarcera / Sylvia communis), Wren (Chochin / Troglodytes troglodytes), Thekla Lark (Cogujada Montesina / Galerida theklae), Serin (Verdecillo / Serinus serinus), Common Stonechat (Tarabilla Común / Saxicola torquata) and Crested Tit (Herrerillo Capuchino /Parus cristatus). I then started the drive back down the hill calling at a small flush where I found a dozen or so spikes of Robust Marsh Orchid (Dactylorhiza elata) still in flower along with Salvia lavandulifolia, Throatwort (Trachelium caeruleum) and White Flax (Linum suffruticosum).
Photographs from the top: male Black Satyr (Satyrus actaea), female Black Satyr, 2x Silver-spotted Skippers (Hesperia comma), Bath White (Blanqiverdosa / Pontia daplidice), Gentiana boryi, Gentiana pneumonanthe subsp depressa, Wet Flush, Grass of Parnassus (Parnassia palustris), Purple-shot Coppers (Lycaena alciphron subsp gordius) and Queen of Spain Fritillary (Issoria lathonia).

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