We were looking for another somewhat gentle leg stretcher and chose the hilltop above Senija again. Hopefully this time I wouldn’t get another puncture. Having seen Swallowtails (Papilio machaon) there on our previous walk, I was wondering if my beloved Southern Scarce Swallowtail (Iphiclides podalirius) might be ready to put in an appearance. We were also keen to check on progress of an orchid patch where some large-booted Spanish workmen had been brushwood cutting.
Keeping the pace gentle to lessen the risk of any strains, we were soon up by our orchid patch. My eyes are like those of T. rex (according to Jurassic Park): attuned to movement. Francine’s eyes, on the other hand, seem to home in on colour variation. She spotted a tiny Woodcock Orchid (Ophrys scolopax) Sawfly Orchid (Ophrys tenthredinifera) that must have been only about 3cms tall. We both did our best to crouch and record it on pixels. Happy camper #1. I’d forgotten how small they can be. I’m the same after every winter with damselflies, forgetting just how small they are. This specimen, though seemed particularly short. Recognizing that the ground had been trampled recently, this was perhaps more likely due to a lack of water – it has been an unusually dry winter in Spain.
Continuing, Francine spotted a couple of further examples at a turn in the track. Further up again was a rosette of leaves of a Giant Orchid (Himantoglossum robertianum). This latter is listed in the threatened flora catalogue of the Valencian community but is reportedly doing well at the Sierra Bernia and Javéa areas. A cutting we’ve been given says it is now flowering – we should try to find some.
A little further and we had made it to the newly thinned scrub surrounding the cross atop the mountain. I immediately saw a couple of Swallowtails duelling in the sunshine. They are a delight to watch. In the UK, a Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta) looks like a large butterfly but up here, in the company of Swallowtails, which it insisted on disturbing whenever they settled, it seemed dwarfed. Eventually a Swallowtail posed advantageously and I managed to snag it.
I was considering calling it a day when a Southern Scarce Swallowtail appeared and settled. Regrettably it had already lost one of its tails and didn’t look particularly fresh. I’m not sure whether this species may over-winter as an adult in this part of the world. I suppose it could have been the result of a near miss by a bird, though. I was very pleased to have seen one but a little upset about its condition. Turning to begin our descent I saw what I thought was the same individual zoom by when I realized it appeared to have a matched pair of tails. Better! That delayed my descent yet again as I patiently waited for a good opportunity. These characters are truly striking. Happy camper #2.
Francine had found a lone orchid at the summit on our earlier visit and it now looked as if it were going to seed. Good, that means it has successfully done its job. Finally, we made a contented descent.