Fauna, it has to be said, had been notable mostly by its scarcity back up in Jalón prior to our Andalucian visit. Dragonflies had proved particularly difficult to find, despite my best efforts. Also, rather curiously since we had quite a crop of Red Valerian behind Casa Libélule, Butterflies had been scarce. Lugging a camera and specially purchased 18-300 travel lens with me on hot days up gradients, I was hoping to do a little better. Things weren’t looking good to begin with, though.
There were certainly a good number of Spanish Gatekeepers (Pyronia bathseba) flitting about and, once I mentioned them, a few other folks began to take a little more notice. We’d seen them in southern France before, which is the only reason I recognized them. Things were a bit slow, though. At one point, we saw a positive swarm of them – there must’ve been 50 – feeding on a low mass of small flowers beside one of those all-too-frequent stony 4×4 tracks.
They remained slow until on one walk I saw a flying insect shoot away from me quite quickly. I thought I saw a flash of yellow and formed a suspicion but it’d gone. On a later walk, I saw the same thing again but this time for longer and it had company. My suspicions were confirmed, my flash of yellow had been an Ascalaphid. These are fast flying relatives of the Ant-lions and really are completely fabulous. We’d encountered them only once before in Southern France. I was hoping that these in Spain might be a different species but, alas, I fear they were the same as those we’d seen in France, Libeloides coccajus.
We’d been warned by our leader to keep our eyes peeled for wild boar and/or Ibex but nobody spotted anything. At least, not until we were on our best walk up to the summit of Cerro Verde. About half way up, our leader, Mick, stopped; his eyes were attuned to watching for these beasts and he’d seen a couple of Ibex standing on a rock part way down our hillside. They were at some distance but at least we got a reasonable record shot of one of them.
Once at the top of Cerro Verde re-stoking the boilers with our lunches, we were entertained by a couple of lizards, one of which had a very fetching long red tail. This rejoices in the name of a Spiny-footed Lizard (Acanthodactylus erithrurus) whilst its plainer but also delightful friend was Psammodromus algirus (or words to that effect).
Ever since my association with Spain, there’s a butterfly that I’ve wanted desperately to see but we’d not been there until now during its main flight season. Now we were and my fingers were very firmly crossed. This made holding the walking poles very difficult. Not only that but it didn’t appear to be working. It continued not to work right up until our final walk to Sayalonga. Finally, as we descended a hillside before, of course, having to struggle up again to our target village, my target came into view and settled on some trackside flowers. Not the greatest of shots but it WAS a Spanish Festoon (Zerynthia rumina); they do always seem to sit with wings shut. This alone made all that lugging of a camera up and down completely worthwhile.
We did see a couple of Booted Eagles (Aquila pennata) but they were flying too high in a blue sky for our pictures to be of any use other than for identification, and only just at that. Still, oh that butterfly!