We begin this holiday with a flight to Gibraltar from where we make the short drive to Huerta Grande, a delightful eco-resort in a beautiful wooded valley which has accommodated Naturetrek groups for several years. Now, in collaboration with our tour leaders and local naturalists, we’ll be looking at the lepidoptera of the area for the first time. The region’s proximity to both the Mediterranean and the Atlantic Ocean creates a warm, humid micro-climate which nurtures an abundant and diverse flora that in turn supports and attracts numerous butterflies and moths. Situated at the southern tip of Europe, the fauna here also enjoys the influence of two continents and, as well as encountering a wide range of southern European species, we are likely to see a variety of migratory and vagrant moths and butterflies which have crossed the 14-kilometre Strait from Africa.
Monarch butterflies are visible in the grounds of our eco-lodge and are among the first butterflies we may see. A highlight, though, will be the moth species attracted to the moth-traps we set in the evenings and inspect in the mornings. We should attract several species of hawk-moth common to the area, Lime and Eyed Hawk-Moths amongst them, as well as Vestal and migrants such as Old World Webworm. During the day we’ll explore such sites as the Alcornacales Natural Park, where we should encounter a wealth of butterfly species including Moroccan Orange-tip, Green-striped White, Knapweed Fritillary, Queen of Spain Fritillary, Tree Grayling and Ilex Hairstreak. In the Alameda Botanic Gardens on Gibraltar we’ll look for the Two-tailed Pasha, one of Europe’s largest and most spectacular butterflies, which is abundant and easily seen here, as well as such other interesting species as Lang’s Short-tailed Blue, Long-tailed Blue, Clouded Yellow and Cleopatra, plus the introduced Geranium Bronze. Many rare and interesting plants are found here too, including the quasi-endemic carnivorous species Drosophyllum lusitanicum. We’ll also take the cable-car up ‘The Rock’ to enjoy the stunning views it affords and observe the antics of the resident Barbary Macaques. Back on the mainland, in Spain again, we’ll spend a day assisting with butterfly transects across clifftop meadows where we should encounter Swallowtail, Scarce Swallowtail and Spanish Festoon.
As well as the butterflies and moths we’ll be enjoying during this holiday, we should also see plenty of the breeding resident birds of these woodlands, amongst them Hawfinch, Short-toed Treecreeper, Crested Tit and Firecrest, plus such raptors as Short-toed and Booted Eagles and Griffon Vulture, making our natural history exploration of this region a rich and fulfilling one!