Not all butterflies are Painted Ladies

Painted Lady butterflies invaded Europe in their millions this spring, astounding many observers by the sheer volume of their migration. However, the usual time for a birder to be showing interest in butterflies is the summer: there’s more butterfly and less bird activity.

Ebro Delta, mid-July. With a young British birder, Max Levy and his parents. Over two days we saw at least a dozen of these handsome butterflies, which I initially identified as Monarchs Danaus plexippus.

Plain Tiger butterfly Danaus chrysippus

Max spotted the first one on 18th July and then we saw about a dozen the next day. I got rather excited and subsequently reported our “Monarch” sightings on a couple of forums. Luckily there are some diligent and knowledgeable forum-goers out there, and I was promptly redirected to the right identification: Plain Tiger Danaus chrysippus.

Both of these butterflies breed in the Canary Islands. On the Spanish mainland the Plain Tiger (Spanish: “Mariposa Tigre” or “Monarca Africana”) has been recorded from all around the coastline, parts of which it has colonized in the last decade or so. Currently it breeds at several localities, including the Ebro Delta. The Monarch is more restricted in range, but has bred alongside this species in the province of Málaga.

Here’s another spectacular butterfly, the Cardinal Argynnis pandora.

 Cardinal Pandoriana pandora

I feel pretty confident about its identification (please!), and that the photograph is my own, taken on the edge of the Montsant range in mid-June.  In Catalunya the Cardinal is is a rare and localised species which shows significant variations from year to year.

If interested in these attractive insects you could do much worse than download a pdf of Cynthia, the bulletin of the CBM scheme (Catalan Butterfly Monitoring).

Now you know what to do with those long, hot summers: when the birds go quiet, take a glance at the butterflies.

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