Thursday, July 28, 2011

Butterflies in the Sierra de Guadarrama

The Sierra de Guadarrama towers between Madrid and the ancient Roman town of Segovia (our next destination). Forests of pine and Holm Oak cloak the slopes. Any of several wide places in the road give access to hiking trails, and we find a couple of very rewarding walks: Pinar de la Barranca and Los Montes de Valsaín. Both are alive with birdsong and dozens of butterflies.

Pine forest at Pinar de la Barranca (Photos by Narca)

Although it is a treat to renew acquaintance with Spanish birds, the insects really grab my attention. Wendi spots this spectacular, bizarre beast: a Spoonwing, or Thread-winged Antlion. It is a relative of dragonflies. What fun to run across a category of creature that you never suspected to exist!

A Spoonwing, Nemoptera bipennis

The butterflies fall into recognizable groups: fritillaries, pierids, coppers, blues, swallowtails, skippers.

Marbled Fritillary, Brenthis daphne

Brimstone, Gonepteryx rhamni, is a close match to our angled-sulphurs.
(WHY was the venerable name of Brimstone abandoned? Not all of the angled-sulphurs even have angles, and the former name applied to one of ours, Ghost Brimstone, was so much more evocative!)

This lovely pierid, the Black-veined White, has translucent wings.

Leona finds a scintillating treasure trove of three copper species, most nectaring on a rayless composite.

A male Scarce Copper, Lycaena vigaureae, nectaring on Eryngium, is as lustrous as coppers come. (This one was photographed in the Pyrenees.)

A female Purple-shot Copper, Lycaena alciphron gordius

Female Purple-shot Copper

A male Small Copper, Lycaena phlaeas

Small Copper male

Iberian Marbled White, Melanargia lachesis, is actually a satyr.

Satyrs and blues are especially diverse in Europe. In contrast, the skippers are few and much more easily sorted than in North America.

Our short hike at Montes de Valsaín produced a Eurasian Dipper along the stream and this wonderful nymphalid. Those are serious eyespots, enough to startle any predator!

Peacock Butterfly, Inachis io

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