Lycaena hippothoe 1st July 2019. Picos de Europa. Spain. Nectaring in a high alpine meadow, this gorgeous male Purple-edged Copper posed most obligingly on an orchid flowerhead, making for an irresistable photo-opportunity! I am used to seeing this butterfly in good numbers in the Alps of south-east France, where the local form lacks the purple edging, so it was nice to find some examples such as this one, in the Picos, showing where the species gets its name.
False Mallow Skipper
Carcharodus tripolinus 30th September 2018. Cadiz coast. Spain. I was fortunate to find a reasonably fresh example of this butterfly during a late season trip out to south-west Spain in 2018. This species has a European distribution that is confined to the very south of Spain and Portugal, and is largely coastal.
Borbo borbonica 1st October 2018. Benalup. Spain. This skipper is a bit special! So special that I made a trip out to southern Spain in early autumn for the sole purpose of tracking it down. It is an African species that has managed to establish itself in a few remote areas of south-west Spain. It was quite a challenge to navigate the remote roads and landscape to reach colonies of this beauty, but I was lucky to find it in excellent numbers along the edge of agricultural land, besides rice paddy irrigation channels and in riverside habitat. It is a very fast, powerful butterfly, hard to approach, follow in flight and even harder to photograph. The bronze colouration of the underside is very distinctive. I was very happy to manage to get a few shots of this unforgettable species!
Borbo borbonica 5th October 2018. Benalup. Spain. See previous image for commentary.
Desert Orange Tip
Colotis evagore 25th March 2018. Almeria coast. Spain. I first saw this lovely orange tip back in 2016, in early April. I spent a frustrating hour or so trying to photograph a male that was flying relentlessly up and down a coastal hillside, landing fleetingly and generally testing my patience! Two years later at the same location I was fortunate to be able to get up close and personal with several males. In Europe it is confined to the extreme south of Spain, where it is quite localised, and generally commoner as the season progresses, with numbers peaking in late summer or early autumn. I was very happy to finally capture this image of a fresh male Desert Orange Tip.
Desert Orange Tip
Colotis evagore 25th March 2018. Almeria coast. Spain. The female of this species is possibly even more attractive than the male. A true beauty from the extreme south of the Iberian peninsula!
Danaus plexippus 1st October 2018. Cadiz coast. Spain. This is a hugely impressive butterfly, large, powerful and yet simultaneously graceful. There are few places in Europe where you are likely to find it, but the south of Spain is as good a place as any to search. I was fortunate to find a nice colony of Monarchs close to the coast in Cadiz province, west of Tarifa. The habitat was a damp gulley leading down to the sea, with abundant milkweed plants. This individual was kind enough to pose nicely!
False Baton Blue
Pseudophilotes abencerragus 5th May 2010. Andalucia. Spain. This photograph is of my one and only sighting of a False Baton Blue, taken along a rough track around the side of a mountain near the village of El Gastor in Andalucia. Ironically, I photographed it back in 2010, but only realised its identity when I was retrospectively reviewing some old photographs during 2020. I originally had this down as a Panoptes Blue!
Iberian Scarce Swallowtail
Iphiclides feisthamelii 27th March 2018. Sierra de los Filabres. Spain. Not particularly scarce by any means, the Iberian Scarce Swallowtail was only separated from the Scarce Swallowtail that is found across much of Europe relatively recently, and is only found in Spain and just across the border into France. These beauties are a delight to observe on the wing, as they glide and hang in the air, kite-like. I never tire of seeing them.
Polyommatus dorylas 5th July 2019. Picos de Europa. Spain. This butterfly is quite widespread in central and southern Europe, but I have never seen it in any numbers. It seems to turn up in ones and twos in a range of habitats and altitudes. It has a lovely sky blue upperside, and a subtly different underside pattern. This one was photographed quite high up in an alpine meadow, with the light catching the upperwings just right to show off its bright colouration.
Spanish Greenish Black-Tip
Euchloe bazae 6th April 2016. Hoya de Baza. Spain. It is hard to put into words just how exciting it was to meet up with this great rarity in its unique habitat in the "badlands" of the Hoya de Baza. The Hoya is a large area of sparsely vegetated hills, interspersed with patches of flatter agricultural lands. This butterfly breeds at low density across this large territory. Males gather at particular high points, waiting for mate-seeking females to appear, a pairing strategy known as "hilltopping", and it is these hilltops that give the best chance of seeing these beauties. They fly predominantly during March and April when the weather here can be cool and windy, but when the sun comes out, there is every chance that this small, intensely yellow butterfly will appear. The excitement when this happens is electric! The males are very aggressive defenders of their hilltop territories. I had the pleasure of seeing this species in early April 2016, and again in late March 2018. Truly unforgettable!
Cupido lorquinii 3rd May 2010. Andalucia. Spain. This is another species with a largely North African distribution, also found locally in parts of southern Spain and Portugal in dry grassland habitats. This example is the only one that I have seen, an attractive small blue butterfly related to our own Small Blue, and the similar Osiris Blue, but with the males having a rather different upperside.
Erebia zapateri 5th August 2019. Montes Universales. Spain. This is another Iberian speciality, with a very restricted range in central-eastern Spain. It flies in grassy clearings in pine woodlands, usually in limestone areas. It is a very attractive member of the "ringlet" group, having a bright orange forewing patch that shows really nicely in flight. I was fortunate to be shown an excellent site for it by David M, where several dozen were on the wing. A very friendly butterfly, fond of landing on rucksacs, boots and clothing!
Aricia morronensis 5th August 2019. Montes Universales. Spain. Photographing this butterfly was one of several highlights during a week spent in the Montes Universales in 2019, where I picked up a number of "life-ticks", this being one of them. This individual was nectaring on the larval foodplant, a species of storksbill, on an arid rocky scree slope. There were about a dozen flying around. I am indebted to David M for informing me about the location where this rarity flies. It is a very difficult butterfly to find, occurring across Spain in a number of separate regions. Within each region it flies in just a small number of colonies, and several different races or sub-species occur. Apart from Spain, the only other place where it flies is the French Pyrenees, where it is also very rare and localised.
Spanish Chalkhill Blue
Lysandra albicans 7th August 2019. Montes Universales. Spain. This species is slightly larger than our own Chalkhill Blue, and considerably whiter in colour, something which is very apparent when it is in flight, making it easy to identify from a distance. I photographed this individual along a dry, rocky stream bed, not far from the beautiful walled medieval village of Albarracin, where I stayed for a week in early August 2019, on a most memorable butterfly trip.
Southern Mountain Argus
Aricia montensis 5th August 2019. Montes Universales. Spain. Until recently this butterfly was considered to be a sub-species of the Mountain Argus, but it is now classified as a species in its own right. The individual photographed here was flying at the same site as the Spanish Argus, on a dry, open scree slope, bordered by some pine trees and low-growing Juniper bushes. I saw both this and the Spanish Argus at almost exactly the same time, both "lifers". It's not often that I have managed two life ticks within minutes of each other!
Chazara prieuri 10th August 2019. Montes Universales. Spain. This is another Spanish rarity, confined to a few localised areas in eastern and southern Spain, where colonies are few and far between. I couldn't have wished for a better pose than this, a hard to obtain near-perfect photograph showing the butterfly with forewing raised, revealing the full pattern. A great moment, a fantastic memory of a day spent following these butterflies about in a dry rambla close to Albarracin. These butterflies spend a lot of time just resting up, but when they do take to the wing they are distinctive in flight. Activity seems to peak in late morning, and as temperatures rise into the 30's in the afternoon, they almost completely disappear. Stunning insects!
Oriental Meadow Brown
Hyponephele lupina 5th August 2019. Montes Universales. This is a species with a rather patchy distribution across southern Europe. I have kept my eyes out for it in south-east France and Greece over the years, but it wasn't until a trip to the Montes Universales in Spain in early August 2019 that I finally found it in some numbers.
Iberian Sooty Copper
Lycaena bleusei 5th August 2019. Montes Universales. Spain. Confined to the central Spanish sierras, this used to be considered as a sub-species of the Sooty Copper, but is now a species in its own right. Rightly so, as it is subtly but beautifully different. I saw several dozens of these beauties during my trip to the Montes Universales. They are typically copper-like in their habits, being pugnacious and lively with a rapid flight, and very fond of nectaring for prolongued periods.
Zerynthia rumina 29th March 2018. Granada province. Spain. These are quite exotic-looking butterflies, found throughout most of Spain, and also more locally in the south of France. This individual was one of about a dozen flying along a flower-rich roadside verge to the north-east of Motril, the only one that sat still for long enough for me to get my camera onto it. A delightful species!
Chazara briseis 10th August 2018. Montes Universales. Spain. Widespread but very localised across central and southern Europe, and declining rapidly in France and elsewhere, this is a species of hot, dry, rocky habitats, often amongst scrub. I have seen it in the Dordogne, in the alps of south-east France, and also in the Montes Universales, where this male was photographed along a dry river bed. A very distinctive species in flight, when the white bands of the upperside become highly visible.
Polyommatus amandus 5th July 2019. Picos de Europa. This example of Amanda's Blue was photographed to the south of the Picos de Europa in amongst some flower-rich scrubland on the edge of a lake. The species has a curious distribution in Europe, being widespread but local, and absent from the north-west for reasons that are not clear. The photograph shows the nice neat clean underside markings.
Azure Chalkhill Blue
Lysandra caelestissima 8th August 2019. Montes Universales. Spain. Another Spanish endemic, found only in the Montes Universales in dry grassland and pine-woodland clearings. It is a quite stunning colour, almost half-way between a Chalkhill and and an Adonis Blue. Photographs do not do it justice. Despite its very limited range, it can be numerous where it occurs. The male photographed here was one of the first Azure Chalkhill Blues that I saw during my trip to this part of Spain. Just a lovely butterfly!
Pyrgus cirsii 4th August 2019. Montes Universales. Spain. The Cinquefoil Skipper is confined to south-west Europe, and is declining rapidly in Germany and also in France. It maintains a stronghold in parts of Spain, in particular in the Montes Universales where it remains very common, being the most numerous of the "grizzled skippers" at many sites in this area. It is one of the easiest of this group of skippers to identify. I was delighted to be able to photograph many of these during my trip to this region. This one was especially fresh!
Pyrgus cirsii 7th August 2019. Montes Universales. Spain. See previous image for commentary.