Monday 11 December 2023

Close Encounters in Fuerteventura.

 As with most trips I have, the smaller creatures that I encounter give me the biggest thrills. This can be  because many others would miss them perhaps. It's also a thrill finding creatures that are unusual and rarely seen, and that is the case with my favourite Grasshopper, a species that I have found twice now on Fuerteventura. A very colourful species, that I spotted on the first Naturetrek trip back in 2021. It took quite a while to pin down the name of the species that year, as it was a case of googling grasshopper with yellow legs, or white antennae. Eventually we found the name as Dericory's lobata luteipes, a subspecies of a desert grasshopper, and only found on Fuerteventura and Lanzarote. There are few photos of it too online, or indeed records of the insect.

The finding of it this year was very near the spot that I came across it in 2021, along Berranco de La Torre. The group had all headed back to the vans for our picnic lunch, with just Janet looking for a Sardinian Warbler that was calling in a bush. I stopped to see if I could help to spot the bird when the grasshopper jumped near where I was standing. Looking through the binoculars I realised it was the colourful species. Unfortunately, the rest of the group were far away by this time, but at least Janet had some great views of it. I quickly changed to the macro lens so I could get some more detailed images of it.

Dericory's lobata luteipes.

A new species for me this year was a spectacular fly, a Band-eyed Drone Fly. This was during a short session of trying to find some roosting Lang's Shot-tailed Blues in the hotel garden. I found it during a cloudier and cooler period, so it was actually asleep, so I was able to show it to some of the group and photograph it, although the light was at this time quite poor. The eye of his species is absolutely amazing!!

Band-eyed Drone Fly.

The Lang's Short-tailed Blues also gave me a few opportunities during the week. This was the only butterfly seen in reasonable numbers this year. Both butterfly and dragonfly numbers were well down on previous years, with only 2 Monarch seen, a handful of Plain Tiger, 2 Clouded Yellow, around 10 Painted Lady and a single African Grass Blue. On the dragonfly front, a few Blue Emperor and Red-veined Darter were found along with very small numbers of Sahara Bluetail and Broad Scarlet.

Lang's Short-tailed Blue.

Most of the small number of Plain Tiger were along the same Berranco as the grasshopper. There were also, as last year, plenty of larvae feeding on the Apple of Sodom plants, with the odd adult flying around the plants looking for egg laying leaves.

Plain Tiger larva moulting.

Plain Tiger larva.

Plain Tiger adult.

Female Red-veined Darter.

Last year a small colony of Banded Garden Spider were found at a different Berranco. With the tour being a couple of weeks later this year, I wasn't sure if they would still be around, but when we checked out the site we found several spiders as well as huge numbers of egg sacks. This spider is quite new to the island, with the first record coming from 2016. It is obviously doing very well at this particular site.  As with the grasshopper, I have kept an eye open for both species at different sites, but have only found both of them again at the same sites where I have had them before. The spider is a close relative to the Wasp Spider found in the UK.

Garden Banded Spider (Agriope trifasciata).

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