Valencia region, in East Spain, is considered one of the most diverse European areas for butterflies in all Europe. A staggering 159 species of butterflies have been recorded, that means a 70% of all the species found in the Iberian Peninsula.
The key of this diversity is due to its variety of habitats. In the South and West, the climate is much dryer, with a semi-desert habitat. Here we find some beautiful butterflies from the Euchloe genera, i.e. Green-striped White (Euchloe belemia), Portuguese Dappled White (Euchloe tagis) and Western dappled white (Euchloe crameri). Besides, in the same area but close to the cereal crops where the larva host plants grow, we can see the Sooty Orange-tip (Zegris eupheme).
During April, if we visit the Mediterranean scrubland we might find a nice variety of Lycaenidae such as: Panoptes blue (Pseudophilotes panoptes), the stunning Adoni’s blue (Polyommatus bellargus), the colourful Provence hairstreak (Tomares ballus), Black -eyed blue (Glaucopsyche melanops) and Panoptes blue (Pseudophilotes panoptes). Other species we might encounter include Spanish Festoon (Zerynthia rumina) and Moroccan Orange tit (Anthocharis belia) among others. Later in the season, the butterfly diversity changes giving place to Spanish Gatekeeper (Pyronia bathseba), Southern Marbled Skipper (Carcharodus boeticus), Mallow Skipper (Carcharodus alceae), Dusky heath (Coenonympha dorus), Striped Grayling (Pseudotergumia fidia), False Ilex hairstreak (Satyrium esculi) and the blue-spot hairstreak (Satyrium spini) among others.
In the valleys, are found mainly 3 different groups of butterflies. The first group is formed by species with a marked Ethiopian origin; Two-tailed Pasha (Charaxes jasius), Mediterranean Skipper (Gegenes nostrodamus) and African grass blue (Zizeeria knysna), being the three of them more abundant towards the end of the summer. The second group are butterflies with a migratory tendency: Desert Orange Tip (Colotis evagore) and Plain Tiger (Danaus chrysippus) which is very common species in marshes. Finally, the third group is for the invasive species such as the Geranium bronze (Cacyreus marshalli).
Two mountainous systems cross the Valencian Region, the Baetic and the Iberian. The Baetic System comes all the way from Sierra Nevada, which is the highest mountain in the Iberian Peninsula. It follows a NE direction and once the system arrives to Alicante, it gives place to numerous mountains ranges reaching over 1500 m.s.s.l such as Aitana or Mariola, the latest being has its higuest 1390 m.a.s.l. In May, the mountains of the region are covered by a carpet of aromatic flowers mixed with thyme, sage and chamomile, this is heaven for butterflies! Then, we can easily find Spanish Marbled White (Malanargia ines), Knapweed Fritillary (Melitae phoebe), Silver studded Blue (Plebejus argus) and Western Marbled White (Melanargia occitanica) in good density.
On the other hand, the Iberian System follow a SE direction colliding with the Baetic system in the Monduver mountain, near Gandia (Valencia). The Iberian range is different in terms of climate and altitude allowing also a nice variety of butterflies. Here can be found the Apollo (Parnassius apollo), the Small blue (Cupido minimus), Escher’s blue (Polyommatus escheri), Purple-shot copper (Lycaena alciphron), Spanish argus (Aricia morronensis) and Meleager’s Blue (Meleageria daphnis) among many others. There will also beautiful Fritillaries like the, Spotted Fritillary (Melitae didyma), Provençal fritillary (Mellicta deione), Meadow Fritillary (Mellicta parthenoides) and Spanish Fritillary (Eurodryas desfontainii).
When these mountains range decrease in altitude and become dryer and warmer, we find a good habitat for Great banded Greyling (Brintesia circe), Silver-washed fritillary (Argynnis paphia) and Oberthür’s Anomalous Blue (Polyommatus fabressei).
We post regularly photos of this beauties in our Instagram page. Join one of our day butterfly walks around Valencia Region or be a guest in any of the butterfly trips we regularly organise to Picos de Europa or Sierra Nevada mountains.
Today I have prepared for Jan and Robert an interesting itinerary which combines wetland birds, with butterflies and orchids in Costa Blanca. The last weeks has been very warm for March (max, temperature of 31ºC!) and butterflies are already very active. In addition, we are at the peak of the Mediterranean orchids so I expect to see a good number and variety of them.
After picking Jan and Robert up in Jávea we set off to Pego marshes. The paddy fields are being drying out and the number of birds is amazing. There are thousands of Little and Cattle Egret, White Wagtails, Pipits, Gulls, etc. Very soon we find 19 Common Cranes feeding in a field and Pau spots a couple of Little Ringed Plover and a Bluethroat popping out from the reeds. As we drive around, we find a stunning male Hen Harrier. It is probably the same bird seen last week by Pau. Other common birds seen include Hoopoe, Serins and Tree Sparrows.
In the North part of the park, we spot 2 Booted Eagles, several Marsh Harrier and 5 Common Buzzard migrating above the Montanyeta verda. Later, we find over 100 Audouin’s Gulls, joined by few Mediterranean Gulls feeding on the invasive american crayfish in a paddy field.
After a rewarding coffee stop in Pego, we continue driving to the near valleys to look for butterflies and orchids in Costa Blanca. In our fist stop, Pau show us 3 spikes of Mirror Orchid (Ophrys speculum) and a couple Sawfly Orchid (Ophrys tenthredinifera). Our next stop is on the shade of a stone oak to have lunch. Soon we have to stand up to see a nice Firecrest and a stunning Moroccan orange tip butterfly. Once we finish and pack up the picnic table and chairs back in the boot, we drive few km more. A short walk reveals few tens of Early purple orchids (Orchis olbiensis). We find from white ones to magenta, a nice variety of colours!
Later we drive to an area near Vall d’Ebo where Pau has found previously orchids and his favourite butterfly, the Spanish festoon. There, we see lots of spikes and basal rosettes of two species: Sombre-bee Orchid (Ophrys fusca) and the endemic Ophrys dianica. Regarding butterflies, we have superb views of Spanish festoon, Bath white and Provence Hairstreak among others. Along the road, we find a Cirl Bunting.
Finally, on the way back to Jávea we make a quick stop to add some cracking orchids: Giant Orchid (Himantoglossum robertianum) and Woodcock Orchid (Ophrys scolopax). Furthermore, we add two hybrids Ophrys x castroviejoi (O. scolopax x O. speculum) and Ophrys x pielteri (O. scolopax x O. tenthredinifera). Regarding butterflies, we add an extra 15 species more of butterflies, including Scarce Swallowtail, Cleopatra, Western Dappled White, Mallow Skipper and Holly Blue.
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