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Sooty Orange Tip in northern Palencia

Teresa Farino
18/07/2010 11:59:38

On 2 June, whilst leading a day trip focussing on the butterflies of northern Palencia, I was absolutely amazed to observe a female Sooty Orange Tip (Zegris eupheme) close to the top of the limestone sculpture city known as Las Tuerces, south-east of Aguilar de Campóo.

Posted in: Butterflies and Moths | Castile-Leon | Mainland Spain, Northern Spain

Sooty Orange Tip - Zegris eupheme2 © Teresa FarinoFemale Sooty Orange Tip
Zegris eupheme
© Teresa Farino
We had been watching nectaring Moroccan (nowadays sometimes called Provence) Orange Tips (Anthocharis euphenoides) on Sisymbrium sp. along the southern edge of the pinewoods (at about 1,000m above sea level) when a much larger pierid appeared. I idly lifted my binoculars, expecting to see a Western Dappled White (Euchloe crameri), but was astonished to observe the characteristic black and orange apical markings of a female Sooty Orange Tip.

Although my only previous experience of this butterfly was in April 2009, in the Sierra de los Filabres, in Almería (see image here), a quick check in Lafranchis confirmed my suspicions. Although it was very windy, I managed to take a few pictures – as proof – before the butterfly disappeared across the plateau. No other individuals of the species were seen (… unfortunately, as I have yet to see the very handsome male!).

Sooty Orange Tip - Zegris eupheme1 © Teresa FarinoFemale Sooty Orange Tip
Zegris eupheme
© Teresa Farino
On returning home I checked the distribution of Sooty Orange Tip in various publications, and found that yes, indeed, its range extended much further north in mainland Spain than I had thought. Nevertheless, the 2004 Atlas de las mariposas diurnas de la Península Ibérica e islas Baleares (Lepidoptera: Papilionoidea & Hesperioidea), by García-Barros et al. (Monografía de la Sociedad Entomológica Aragonesa, 11) gives no records for the province of Palencia whatsoever, although the species appears to be widespread in Valladolid and has been cited from central Burgos and central León. In the excellent Guía de las Mariposas Diurnas de Castilla y León (Vicente Arranz y Hernández Roldán; 2007), the range of the Sooty Orange Tip is shown as occupying the centre of this comunidad autónoma, including southern Palencia, while mention is also made of a recently discovered colony in northern León, close to the Asturian border.

I was hoping to go back to see if I could find any more individuals, but owing to work commitments and the severely inclement weather of the next few weeks, I didn’t manage to return until the end of June, by which time the only pierids on the wing at the same location were myriad Western Dappled and Black-veined Whites. As the species is thought to fly between mid April and mid June, it looks like I’ll just have to wait until next year, but in the meantime I shall report this interesting sighting to the authorities in Castilla y León when I submit my Lepidoptera records at the end of the year.

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