Botanical Holidays and Wildflower Tours in the Picos de Europa, Spain
    Natural history holiday to see butterflies, dragonflies, flowers and more in Cádiz – south-west Andalucía
Two-tailed Pasha – Charaxes jasius Two-tailed Pasha Charaxes jasius © Teresa Farino

Autumn in Andalucía

An invertebrate extravaganza in Cádiz,
south-west Spain, with birds, reptiles, amphibians and autumn-flowering bulbs
on the side

Leaders: Teresa Farino and Jeff Clarke
2017 Dates: Weds. 11 October – Thurs. 19 October (9 days / 8 nights)
Price: 1,640€ per person (single-room supplement 170€), excluding flights.
 Click here for full details

A visit to south-west Spain in the autumn offers the travelling naturalist a unique opportunity for wildlife watching and photography, particularly of the 'macro' variety. Although perhaps best know among birdwatchers for the autumn migration across the Strait of Gibraltar, Monarch – Danaus plexippusMonarch Danaus plexippus© Teresa Farinowestern Andalucía at this time of year is also of major interest for invertebrates, ranging from moths to butterflies, beetles to dragonflies and mantises to grasshoppers and crickets, with a fine selection of reptiles, amphibians and autumn flowering bulbs thrown in for good measure.

The magnificent Two-tailed Pasha is undoubtedly the showiest of the butterflies on offer, and we should encounter obliging adults in several localities – especially if we take along a ripe banana or two! – along with other 'giants' such as Swallowtail, Scarce Swallowtail, Monarch and Plain Tiger. Among the smaller butterflies we should keep an eye out for African Grass, Long-tailed and Lang's Short-tailed Blues, Geranium Bronze, Spanish Brown Argus, Bath White and Mallow Skipper, with Striped and Tree Graylings and The Hermit possible among the satyrids (browns).

Zeller's Skipper – Borbo borbonicaZeller's Skipper Borbo borbonica© Teresa Farino

Perhaps the most sought-after butterfly of the trip for many, however, will be Zeller's Skipper. Known only from southern Iberia in Europe, this large, fast-flying skipper is something of a 'Holy Grail' for butterfly lovers. Despite its relative scarcity in Spain, over the past few years I have located no less than five separate colonies of Zeller's Skipper in this part of Cádiz, so we'll definitely be in with a good chance of finding this enigmatic butterfly again in 2017. It usually flies together with the superficially rather similar, albeit smaller, Mediterranean Skipper.

Nocturnal lepidoptera of note might include Mediterranean Tiger, Grass Eggar, Grass Processionary, the dinky little Codet's Shield Moth and chunky hawkmoths such as Spurge, Silver-striped and Convolvulus, with the striking noctuid Grammodes bifasciata, Crimson Speckled Moth, The Vestal, Grass Viridian, Tamarisk Heath and Hummingbird Hawkmoth abundant during the day. Among the noctuids likely to come to light are Porter's Rustic, The Sorcerer, Thalpophila vitalba and Small Wainscot, with geometers including Scalloped Barred, Light Magpie and Lefebvre's Bloom.

Silver-striped Hawkmoth – Hippotion celerioSilver-striped Hawkmoth Hippotion celerio© Teresa Farino

Dragonflies also provide one of the principal focal points of the tour. Given favourable conditions (i.e. waterbodies, streams and rivers with plenty of water), we should locate characteristic species of the season such as Blue and Lesser Emperors, Migrant and Southern Hawkers, Epaulet and Keeled Skimmers, Common and Red-veined Darters, Broad Scarlet and – one of my favourites – the showy Violet Dropwing. A respectable assortment of damselflies should include Copper Demoiselle, Small and Western Willow Spreadwings, Iberian Bluetail, Small Red-eye and Blue-eye, and there's also a chance of coming across the enigmatic Dark Spreadwing in the coastal saltmarshes.

Also on offer at this time of year are essentially African species with just a toe-hold in Europe, namely Faded Pincertail, Green Hooktail, Long Skimmer, Desert Darter, Northern Banded Groundling (Brachythemis impartita), Black Percher and Orange-veined Dropwing, the latter a recent coloniser of Spain from northern Africa.

Female Long Skimmer – Orthetrum trinacriaFemale Long Skimmer Orthetrum trinacria© Teresa Farino

Other invertebrates of note typically found in autumn in Cádiz are Two-spotted Cricket, Desert Locust, Egyptian Grasshopper, the gigantic Brown-headed Grasshopper (Acanthacris ruficornis citrina), Southern Sickle-bearing Bush-cricket and Lily Bush-cricket, as well as the gloriously marked Mediterranean Mantis, the diminutive Dwarf European mantis and the huge and rather intimidating Giant African Mantis. We'll also be looking out for a number of charismatic beetles, including the rhinoceros beetle Phyllognathus excavatus, the stunning – but introduced and immensely destructive – Palm Weevil, and the massive-jawed carabid Scarites cyclops, a two-inch long, fearsome predator of coastal sands.

Black Percher – Diplacodes lefebvriiBlack Percher Diplacodes lefebvrii© Teresa Farino

Despite bordering the Atlantic shores, the flora of this part of Cádiz is essentially Mediterranean in character. Broad swathes of Stone Pines can be found near Barbate, with an understorey of Prickly Juniper, Holly Oak, Wild Olive, Lentisc, Strawberry-tree (larval host plant of the Two-tailed Pasha), Rosemary, French Lavender and Dwarf Fan-palm. Clumps of autumn-flowering bulbs – Sea Squill, Autumn Snowflake and Autumn Lady's-tresses – brighten the forest floor.

Mediterranean Mantis – Iris oratoriaMediterranean Mantis Iris oratoria© Teresa Farino

Coastal sand-dunes will be studded with the huge white trumpets of Sea Daffodils at this time of year, while field margins inland are decorated with rosettes of white- or mauve-flowered Mandrakes, Autumn Squill, the Iberian autumn crocus Colchicum lusitanum, Autumn Narcissus and the delicate yellow Tapeinanthus (Narcissus humilis).

Warm days bring out many of the typical reptiles of the region, including Spanish Terrapin, Spiny-footed, Ocellated and Andalusian Wall Lizards, Large Psammodromus and Western Three-toed Skink,Sea Daffodil – Pancratium maritimum © Teresa FarinoSea Daffodil Pancratium maritimum© Teresa Farino while a little extra effort might also reward us with the newly-described worm-lizard Blanus mariae (endemic to south-west Iberia), Mediterranean Chameleon and several species of snakes, including Montpellier, Western False Smooth, Viperine and Lataste's Viper. Come dusk, myriad Moorish and Turkish Geckoes emerge to hunt, and the chorus of Iberian Water Frogs and Stripeless Tree Frogs commences.

The volume of migrant birds that floods into the region as a prelude to crossing the Strait of Gibraltar en route to their wintering quarters in sub-Saharan Africa is nothing short of incredible. Whilst waiting for perfect weather conditions to make the crossing, huge numbers of Short-toed and Booted Eagles, Black Kites, Honey Buzzards and Black Storks, and all manner of passerines can be seen wheeling around the coast and inland hills.

Blanus mariae © Teresa FarinoBlanus mariae© Teresa Farino

At this time of year, western Andalucía's coastal wetlands, shallow inland lagoons and rice paddies are literally heaving with waterbirds, notably huge numbers of White Storks plus Glossy Ibis, Purple Gallinules, Yellow Wagtails and waders galore, with Marsh Harrier, Hobby and Black-winged Kite among the most typical raptors. Although birds are not the principle focus of this tour, we'll definitely be impressed this super-abundance of avian life, which comes in all shapes and sizes.

Last but not least, if weather conditions allow we will also be joining the ethical whale watching company FIRMM on a boat trip from Tarifa. This section of the Straits of Gibraltar is famous for its variety and concentration of cetaceans: Long-finned Pilot Whales are pretty much guaranteed, as well as Common Bottlenose and Striped Dolphins, and there is a good chance of connecting with Orca too. While we are out there we will also have an excellent opportunity to get close to Cory's Shearwaters and other seabirds.

Male Phyllognathus excavatus Male Phyllognathus excavatus © Teresa Farino

Autumn in Andalucía

Leaders: Teresa Farino and Jeff Clarke

2017 Dates: Weds. 11 October – Thurs. 19 October
(9 days / 8 nights)

Price: 1,640€, including half-board, en suite accommodation at the comfortable, family-run Cortijo de los Monteros and Casa de las Piedras, picnic lunches, hired minibus transport throughout, all entry fees and the services of the leaders. A single-room supplement of 170€ is applicable.

Although the cost of the tour is given in euros, clients may pay in sterling, the exchange rate to be calculated at the time of payment using

This is a land-based tour. Flights and travel insurance (obligatory) are the responsibility of the client.

Pick-up details: Unfortunately, the nearest airports to our destination – Jerez and Seville – are not well served from the UK, so in order to provide the best selection of flights from a range of British airports we will be starting and ending the tour at Málaga.

Mediterranean Chameleon – Chamaeleo chamaeleonMediterranean Chameleon
Chamaeleo chamaeleon
© Teresa Farino

Airlines offering direct flights to Málaga from the UK include British Airways, Iberia, easyJet, Ryanair, Monarch and Jet2.

All that we ask is that you select a flight that arrives in Málaga before 12 noon on 11 October 2017, and one that departs after 16.00 on 19 October 2017. If you choose flights that fall outside these times, you may well have to make your own way to the hotel. If in any doubt, please contact Teresa or Jeff before booking your flight.

Alternatively, those wishing to travel to Cádiz independently can arrange to meet the group at the Cortijo de los Monteros on the first evening.

Group size: maximum 14 clients.

Booking information: please contact Teresa Farino for further details and a booking form, or if you have any queries about this tour.

Office phone: (+34) 942 735154
Mobile phone: (+34) 656 337129
Address:  Apartado de Correos 59
39570 Potes

  Butterfly Conservation donation ad Scarites cyclops © Teresa FarinoScarites cyclops© Teresa Farino

Other natural history tours in Andalucía:

Early Summer in South-west Spain

Related information:

Sierra de Grazalema
Read about Teresa Farino
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