Holidays and Tours for Butterflies and Moths in the Picos de Europa, Northern Spain
    Natural history tours in the mountains of the Picos de Europa, Northern Spain
White-line Blush - Compsoptera opacaria © Teresa Farino White-line Blush
Compsoptera opacaria
© Teresa Farino

Autumn Moth Weekend in the
Picos de Europa

A five-night stay in a superb locality for nocturnal lepidoptera, with daily excursions in search of autumn butterflies, flowers and other wildlife

Leader: Teresa Farino
2018 Dates: Thurs. 6 September – Tues. 11 September
(6 days / 5 nights)
Prices: 990€ per person (single-room supplement 110€), excluding flights.
  Click here for full details
2019 Dates: Please enquire for dates and prices

Catocala optata, Red Underwing (Catocala-nupta) and French Red Underwing (Catocala elocata) © Teresa Farino From top, clockwise: Catocala optata,
Red Underwing (Catocala nupta) and
French Red Underwing (Catocala elocata)
© Teresa Farino

This tour is timed to coincide with the dark of the moon and thus the best of the autumn macromoth fauna of the Picos de Europa, which is the primary focus of these trips. Since Teresa launched the Picos de Europa Lepidoptera Study in 1989, she and her team of recorders have cited more than 820 species of macromoths in the region, with new ones coming to light every year. We started participating in European Moth Nights in its third edition, in 2006, with Teresa's terrace in Pesaguero consistently placed among the top localities right across Europe in terms of the diversity of macromoths recorded, most notably coming second in 2010, fourth in 2011 and (provisionally), first in 2012.

Previously at this time of year we have recorded many species of Catocala, including the magnificent Clifden Nonpareil (see image in box), Oak Yellow Underwing, Red, French Red and Rosy Underwings, Minsmere, Dark and Light Crimson Underwings, and the very distinctive Catocala optata, with the more southerly Catocala dilecta an addition to our list in 2013. Other autumn noctuids of note that we should encounter include Figure of Eight, Oak Rustic, Merveille du Jour, Dewick's Plusia, Golden Twin-spot, Great Dart, Dumeril's and Sandhill Rustics, Orache Moth, The Satellite, Beautiful Arches, Flame Brocade and many chestnuts, quakers, wainscots and sallows. Eye-catching non-British noctuids often found in the Picos in September and October include Cleoceris scoriacea, Ammoconia caecimacula, Olivenebula xanthochloris, Thalpophila vitalba and Allophyes alfaroi.

Convolvulus Hawkmoth - Agrius convolvuli © Teresa FarinoConvolvulus Hawkmoth Agrius convolvuli© Teresa Farino

Among the more attractive and notable autumn-flying geometrids are White-line Blush (see image at the top of the page), Smoky Bloom, Jersey Emerald, Cloaked Carpet, Weaver's and Portland Ribbon Waves, Feathered Thorn, The Streak, Lace Border and The Vestal, with Plum Lappet, Grass Eggar and Castilian, Autumnal and Eastern Eggars – the latter an extremely rare moth in Spain (click here for more information) – of interest among the lasiocampids. Convolvulus Hawkmoths are often seen nectaring at dusk around the village, and sometimes come to light too. Not surprisingly, photographic opportunities abound!

We will be based at El Hoyal, a friendly family-run hotel in Pesaguero, just 50 metres from Teresa's home, so we can run the principal moth trap and congregate for pre-dinner drinks and discussion of the day's findings on her terrace. Additional traps can be set in different habitats nearby (riverine forest, limestone screes, dry holm oak forest, etc,) according to the energy levels of the participants!

Great Banded Grayling - Brintesia circe © Teresa Farino Great Banded Grayling
Brintesia circe
© Teresa Farino

During the day, we will explore the forests, haymeadows and subalpine habitats of the valley of Liébana, on the southeastern flank of the Picos de Europa, in search of butterflies, of which there are about 40 species on the wing at this time of year. Given good weather we should encounter Brown and Purple Hairstreaks, Sooty and Scarce Coppers, Adonis, Long-tailed and Lang's Short-tailed Blues, Great Banded and Tree Graylings, Cleopatra, Berger's Clouded Yellow, Mallow, Oberthür's Grizzled and Red-underwing Skippers, and even a few Swallowtails, Scarce Swallowtails and Camberwell Beauties. Autumnal day-flying moths include the spectacular Jersey Tiger and the ubiquitous Hummingbird Hawk-moth.

Autumn is also a great time to locate a wealth of mature crickets in the meadows and forested habitats of the Picos, among which we might encounter Great Green, Southern Sickle-bearing, Speckled, Asturian and Lusitanian Bush-crickets, as well as an abundance of grasshoppers (which are rather more difficult to identify!). These are complemented by dragonflies and damselflies such as Blue Hawker, Western Spectre, Beautiful Demoiselle and Common Winter Damsel.

Male Asturian Bush-cricket - Steropleurus asturiensis © Teresa FarinoMale Asturian Bush-cricket
Steropleurus asturiensis
© Teresa Farino
Characteristic autumn-flowering plants of the Picos de Europa include Fringed Gentian, Grass-of-Parnassus, Crocus nudiflorus, Merendera, Meadow Saffron and Autumn Lady's-tresses, as well as many 'left over' from the summer. And, of course, we'll also be keeping an eye out for any reptiles, birds or mammals that might cross our path.

NB For the duration of the tour, you will be covered by Teresa's permits both to catch butterflies and trap moths (a legal requirement for Spain). All the lepidoptera records we collect will be submitted to the Cantabrian and Castilla y León regional governments, as well as to the Picos de Europa national park authorities, as part of the Picos de Europa Lepidoptera Study, initiated by Teresa in 1989.

"Thank you so much for showing us so much of the wonderful scenery and varied habitats around Pesaguero this last long weekend: we really packed in so much. The hotel was lovely and the food excellent-and then there were the moths and other insects as well! // Many thanks for a great weekend: the moths were great, with many new species for me. Having recently started doing orthoptera, the wide variety of grasshoppers and crickets was most impressive. Identifying them all will keep me busy over the next few months. The wildcat sighting had to be the highlight, though, and quite amazing that we were able to see it from such short range. Although you told us of their presence in the area 2 years ago, I never imagined I would ever have the opportunity to photograph one!"

Helen B. / Chris P.; September 2014
Clifden Nonpareil - Catocala fraxini © Teresa Farino Clifden Nonpareil Catocala fraxini © Teresa Farino

Autumn Moth Weekend in the Picos de Europa

Leader: Teresa Farino

2018 Dates: Thurs. 6 September – Tues. 11 September (6 days / 5 nights)

Price: 990€ per person sharing a room, including half-board, en suite accommodation at Posada El Hoyal, picnic lunches, minibus/4WD transport throughout, all entry fees and the services of Teresa Farino as leader. A single-room supplement of 110€ 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: For this tour, clients will be booking their flights independently. Teresa will be meeting the British Airways flight from London Heathrow to Bilbao, which gives us by far the most convenient flight times for these dates as well as almost six full days in the field. Details are given below:

20 September (BA0466)
Departs London Heathrow at 08.35
Arrives Bilbao at 11.30

25 September (BA0469)
Departs Bilbao at 19.40
Arrives London Heathrow at 20.30

Alternatively, those travelling to the Picos independently can arrange to meet the group at El Hoyal on the first evening.

Group size: maximum 8 clients.

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

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

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  Fringed Gentian - Gentianopsis ciliata © Teresa Farino Fringed Gentian
Gentianopsis ciliata
© Teresa Farino

Other tours in the Picos de Europa:

A Feast of Flowers in the Picos de Europa
Natural History of the Picos de Europa & Páramos of Northern Castile
A Family Wildlife Holiday in the Picos de Europa
Daily wildlife excursions in the Picos de Europa

Reports from past trips to the Picos de Europa:

Butterflies & moths of the Picos de Europa - 2008 trip report
Butterflies & moths of the Picos de Europa - 2006 trip report
Butterflies & moths of the Picos de Europa - 2005 trip report
Picos de Europa trip report 2013
Picos and Páramos trip report 2012
Picos de Europa trip report 2011
Picos de Europa trip report 2010

Related information:

Summary of the Picos de Europa Lepidoptera Study, 2010
Summary of the Picos de Europa Lepidoptera Study, 2009
Summary of the Picos de Europa Lepidoptera Study, 2008
Picos de Europa - a naturalist's paradise
Complete list of butterflies for the Picos de Europa
Complete list of orchids for the Picos de Europa
Read about Teresa Farino
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