Winter Flutterbys

The Three Kings, which is a 12th night present bonanza and a bigger deal in Spain than Christmas, is done and dusted and things are now returning to relative normality, whatever that is. We are currently enjoying a spell of very fine weather and, though early morning temperatures can hover around 0°C, or even just below in the frost hollow that is our valley, Francine and I have been out and about stretching our legs.

Most of our leg stretching has been with a couple of walking groups, though we have been out by ourselves a time or two. Either way it normally involves puffing and panting up one of the mountains in or around the valley, trying to force our lungs to remember how to work in addition to our knees. We’re getting there.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAJC190075 Lang's Short-tailed BlueThere are five species of butterfly that over winter as adults in the UK which can be seen out foraging if a warm, bright spell occurs. [Go ahead, you can do it.] It may be that warmer, brighter spells in Spain are more frequent but we’ve been spotting a few here whose flight seasons don’t mention winter in the books, either. Because butterflies indulge in a habit called hill-topping, scaling the odd height or three tends to bring us into contact with some. Most common at the mountain tops have been Wall Brown (Lasiommata megera) and the delightful, rather diminutive Lang’s Short-tailed Blue (Leptotes piritous).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOne of the UK’s winter-flying butterflies is the Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta), so it is perhaps no surprise that we’ve seen one its relatives, the Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui), feeding on the Red Valerian behind our property.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe only other winter flier that I’ve managed to capture on pixels so far, though not necessarily very well, is the Bath White (Pontia daplidice). This species is a rare migrant to the British Isles and the rather curious English vernacular name apparently comes from a piece of needlework allegedly depicting a specimen taken in or near Bath in 1795. Vernacular names can be very odd things. It was originally known in Britain, I read, as Vernon’s Half Mourner, which sounds even more curious, so I think I’ll continue with Bath White.

Missed completely on pixels, we have also seen several Clouded Yellow (Colias croceus) specimens flying through. Tis is a rather frustrating species at the best of times since, when and if one does settle, it invariably instantly snaps its wings shut. The underside is very attractive, though, so I’ll keep trying.

I believe I had a brief glimpse of a single Long-tailed Blue (Lampides boeticus) but my attempt at driving the new camera was so clutzy that it disappeared before I got photographic evidence. This one, at least, is said to fly all year in the Canary Islands, so it seems reasonably likely.

With any luck, both species of Swallowtails may appear before our Spanish visit is over so I’m keeping my fingers crossed for those.

Posted in 2018-2019 Winter

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