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Yellow-banded Skipper Pyrgus sidae in W Gredos: June 2014

John Muddeman
06/07/2014 22:23:02

Nearly a year after visiting the area too late in mid-July, a brief stop in the W Gredos mountains en route to a weekend away looking for dragonflies in the Hurdes mountains came up trumps.

Posted in: Flora, Butterflies and Moths, Endangered Wildlife and Habitats | Castile-Leon, Extremadura | Mainland Spain, Western Spain, Central Spain

Yellow-banded Skipper may not be that rare A Yellow-banded Skipper - Pyrgus sidae © John MuddemanA resting Yellow-banded Skipper
Pyrgus sidae
© John Muddeman
in many parts of its rather wide range, which extends from WC Spain to C Asia, but it is a rather local butterfly in most of its range in S Europe, and there appears to be a fair degree of discrepancy on just how widespread it is from C Turkey eastwards. Maps on the EOL and FUNET sites illustrate this well.

In Europe the principal part of its range extends in a band from extreme SE France across N Italy and through the Balkans (see Captain's European Butterfly Guide), including very locally in Rumania, but it remains extremely local and rare in the Iberian Peninsula.

Indeed, while variously listed as being present in 3 100km squares in Spain, the latest map and accompanying text data in the Atlas and Red Data Book for threatened invertebrates in Spain (click on the Pyrgus_sidae link for the pdf file) illustates just how rare and localised it apparently is... The only extant sites being in the general area between Hervás (Extremadura) and Candelario (Salamanca). The text goes further to state that research has shown that the principal population Yellow-banded Skipper map in Spain © John MuddemanYellow-banded Skipper distibution in Spain© Min. Medio Ambiente is found patchily over an area with a diameter of 14km, covering just 25 ha in total!

I also say apparently, since there would appear to be quite large areas with potentially suitable habitat across the N flank of the Sierra de Gredos, and the unconfirmed single outlier site in blue on the map refers to the record in the Butterflies of Cáceres book, from the vicinity of the Puerto del Pico pass on the EC Gredos mountains (in Ávila). I have also been told of another site in between these formal records, but naturally do not want to release this information.

One of the fortunate things about looking for the species is that it is one of the largest skippers, with a relatively slow flight. It is also closely tied to sites with an abundance of the larval food plant, Potentilla erecta and only flies for a relatively short period, during June and the first half of July, making it easier to restrict searching for the species if wanted. Yellow-banded Skipper habitat in the Sierra de Gredos © John MuddemanYellow-banded Skipper habitat in W Sierra de Gredos;
flowering Potentilla erecta in the foreground
© John Muddeman

That said, it's been a number of years since I started to think about trying to see the species and it's the first time I've been able to find the opportunity to go and look for the species at the right time. We were also lucky in going on a warm but cloudy day, meaning that once we'd finally located one in flight, the cloud which blew over immediately after it settled meant it went into antenna-down resting mode, allowing a very close and protracted approach.

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