Nick Morgan

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NickMorgan
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Nick Morgan

Postby NickMorgan » Thu Aug 05, 2010 5:55 pm

2010 has certainly been my best butterfly year yet, probably because I am slowly becoming a little more knowledgeable and certainly because we have been lucky enough to have had two European holidays this year. I will try to remember some of the highlights and hopefully there will be many new stories to add in the future.
Before any butterflies dared to show themselves after a long cold winter we headed off for some sun to the Algarve. Our holiday was supposed to be between the 3rd and 17th April, although it turned out to be longer than that. We went to a villa that we have visited a couple of times in the past, but this time I found an area close-by that must have been leveled for housing a couple of years ago. Luckily no houses had been built on the plot and it was covered in wild flowers. This proved to be a fantastic spot for butterflies and I made daily pilgrimages there to see what I could spot.

Swallowtail 3.jpg
This swallowtail was in the abandoned orange grove next door.

Speckled Wood 6.jpg
Speckled woods were very territorial and could be relied upon to be in the same place day after day.

Spanish Festoon 2.jpg
There were a lot of Spanish festoons about.

Spanish Festoon 3.jpg
I spotted a Spanish festoon laying eggs at the side of the road.

Clouded Yellow 9.jpg
The clouded yellows were quite obliging and stayed in place long enough for me to photograph.
Last edited by NickMorgan on Thu Aug 05, 2010 7:24 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Nick Morgan

Postby NickMorgan » Thu Aug 05, 2010 6:53 pm

I only spotted what I assume was the same brown argus in more-or-less the same area each day.
Brown Argus 1.jpg


These little geranium bronzes were found all over on window boxes and anywhere where ornamental geraniums were growing.
Geranium Bronze 2.jpg


I was delighted to find green hairstreaks flying amongst the cork oaks. I had never seen one before. They are truly beautiful.
Green Hairstreak 1.jpg


Western dappled whites were about the most common butterflies in the area...
Western Dappled White 6.jpg


...closely followed by green-striped whites.
Green Striped White 3.jpg


There were a few blues flying around. I think this is a black-eyed blue.
Black Eyed Blue 1.jpg


And I think this is a faded common blue.
Common Blue 3.jpg
Last edited by NickMorgan on Thu Aug 05, 2010 7:19 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Nick Morgan

Postby NickMorgan » Thu Aug 05, 2010 7:14 pm

There were a few different butterflies up in the mountains above Faro.
I think this one was a holly blue. [Edit: I have now been corrected - possibly it is a black-eyed blue.] It wouldn't let me get any closer and the family were getting impatient, so I had to make do with this picture.
Holly Blue 1.jpg


Others seen that day include a long-tailed-blue, painted ladies, large tortoiseshell, small heath, small whites and a wood white, none of which stopped for a picture!

Back near the house and I spotted this skipper. I think it is a red-underwing skipper, but I was interrupted just after taking the photo. My wife came and found me to say that some volcano had erupted in Iceland and they may be cancelling some flights to the UK!
Red Underwing Skipper 3.jpg


A Spanish marbled white teased me for a couple of days before I could get close enough for a picture.
Spanish Marbled White 2.jpg


Others seen, but not very well photographed included large white, meadow brown and small copper.

We had to move further along the coast to Rocha Brava for the next eight days until our flight was re-scheduled. Strangely, although the complex was in a more rural location than the villa there were very few butterflies in the area. However, the area seemed to be a hot-spot for marsh fritillaries.
IMG_2753.jpg


All together it was a great holiday, with plenty of opportunities to go butterfly watching in between family trips to the beach and water parks! A total of 25 [Edit: 24] species, many of which I hadn't seen before.
Last edited by NickMorgan on Thu Jun 09, 2011 5:26 pm, edited 3 times in total.

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Re: Nick Morgan

Postby Paul » Thu Aug 05, 2010 7:23 pm

Fantastic record, love to see them... your last set... that's no Holly Blue, ??? Black Eyed again??...Guy will tell us what though :D and the last one looks like Spanish Frit (desfontainii) to me ( Marsh Frit family)...
keep up the good work! :D

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Re: Nick Morgan

Postby NickMorgan » Thu Aug 05, 2010 7:39 pm

Thank you Paul. I only thought the blue was a holly blue after I saw the picture. Having recently seen a lot of holly blues in Menorca, I think that the underside of the wings may be too dark and too strongly marked.
I have attached a couple more pictures of the fritillary, which may aid identification, assuming they were all the same species.
IMG_2725.jpg
IMG_2706.jpg

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Re: Nick Morgan

Postby NickMorgan » Thu Aug 05, 2010 8:59 pm

Once we managed to return home from Portugal on 25th April the butterflies were out in East Lothian with a vengeance. Large, small and green-veined whites, orange tips and small tortoiseshells were flying in good numbers. My mission for 2010 was to try and get some better pictures of orange tips. I always seem to have problems with exposure and my wee Canon has a very narrow depth of field. I certainly managed to get some better pictures, but I am never satisfied, so will be out trying again next year!
A.JPG


B.JPG


I then decided to look for some eggs. I soon got my eye in and found an egg on most garlic mustard plants I looked at - just one per plant.
C.JPG


I kept an eye on these for a couple of weeks until they hatched, and then kept an eye on the caterpillars as they grew.
D.JPG


Unfortunately I haven't manage to find any chrysalises yet.

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Re: Nick Morgan

Postby Padfield » Fri Aug 06, 2010 9:51 am

The marsh fritillary is that - marsh fritillary - but the southern European subspecies beckeri, which does resemble the Spanish fritillary in many ways, as Paul pointed out.

The unidentified blue on the ground is most likely a female black-eyed blue (again, as Paul suggested), though I certainly couldn't swear to that without seeing a little more of it!

Great pictures - it must have been a wonderful trip!

Guy

EDIT - I forgot to say - yes, that is definitely a red-underwing skipper.
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Re: Nick Morgan

Postby Jack Harrison » Fri Aug 06, 2010 2:53 pm

Nice report.

Jack

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Re: Nick Morgan

Postby NickMorgan » Fri Aug 06, 2010 6:48 pm

Thank you for the kind comments and particularly for the identifications. I will have to edit my post for the "non-holly blue" and change the number of species identified to 24!


Having heard from Iain Cowe in the Borders that there is a colony of small blues on the Berwickshire coast, I asked him for directions to find them. He kindly send me very detailed information about where they were, so I headed down there during my lunch hour on 21st May. Despite me being able to take up to two hours for lunch, after driving down there and then walking into the site I only had about ten minutes before I had to leave! However, as soon as I arrived at the site near Eyemouth I spotted a small blue sunning itself on a rock.
Picture 003.jpg


In the short time I was there I spotted about ten individuals of this delightful species. They are such beautiful wee things.
Picture 046.jpg


On the 4th June I took the day off work so that I could have a more leisurely visit to the small blue colony. Amazingly, although the weather was beautiful at home and for 39 of the 40 mile trip, just as I arrived at the turn-off to the site, thick mist rolled in off the sea. Having travelled there, I thought that I should walk down to the coast just in case the sun broke through.
I wasn't to be disappointed. After seeing a couple of small heaths I managed to find a few small blue eggs on the kidney vetch.
Pictures 007.jpg


Then a very obliging small blue appeared and posed for me on a bramble leaf. After a quiet spell the sun came out and the number of butterflies at that spot was amazing. It was difficult to know how many there were as I stayed for about an hour and a half, but I guess there must have been about 30 small blues there. Sometimes I would be watching four at the same time. There was also a good number of small heaths, two small coppers and four walls appeared briefly and then vanished!
Pictures 016.jpg


Pictures 043.jpg


I then continued along the coastal path to look for northern brown argus and walls in areas that Iain had recommended. Sadly the NBA didn't show themselves, but a couple of kilometres further north a wall allowed me to get close enough to take a distant picture. Unfortunately there was quite a strong, cold wind coming in from the sea which must have deterred a lot of butterflies. But it was still a great day and I will now make an annual pilgrimage to the Eyemouth area to look for small blues.

It makes me wonder about a section of the embankment along side the A1 near Haddington. When this was built about five years ago the embankment was seeded with wild flowers including kidney vetch. It seems to be doing quite well and it would be fun to introduce some small blues. Maybe they would just end up being splatted against the front of passing cars!

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Re: Nick Morgan

Postby NickMorgan » Sat Aug 07, 2010 11:36 am

On the 15th June I visited John Muir Country Park to see if there were any common blues about yet. Unfortunately the weather on the coast was cooler, overcast and breezy, so I was initially a little disappointed. However, half way down the main track I spotted my first common blue of the year. There were also a couple of small heaths and the common blue disturbed a small copper. In a clearing in the woods I was disappointed not to find anything until I spotted another five common blues in an area of taller grass. The cooler weather at least allowed me to get close enough to photograph them.
Later as the sun tried to break through a few green-veined whites, orange tips and another small copper ventured out.

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Re: Nick Morgan

Postby NickMorgan » Sat Aug 07, 2010 11:50 am

Having been inspired by the Walls I saw at Eyemouth, I thought that it may be possible that they could have managed to reach the East Lothian coast.
On the 18th June I went down to Bilsdean to have a look at a section of the John Muir Way along the top of the cliffs. There is a stone wall that runs along this section, offering protection from the coastal breeze, just like on the Borders Coastal Path. The first butterfly I spotted was a very faded painted lady, and then a little further along the path I saw a lovely red admiral. Then a small butterfly rose up and flew around me. It was a wall. A bit further along the path I saw a second and then a third. Having walked along to the waterfall, I returned along the same route and this time I spotted five walls and two red admirals. Also some green veined whites and a large white.
1.JPG


2.JPG

I am afraid that the pictures aren't very good, but at least they are a record of the butterflies being there. A wall brown was recorded on Traprain Law in 2005, but as far as I am aware these are the only other walls that have been recorded in East Lothian (adimtedly only just over the border!). I will head down to Bilsdean again in August to see if there are any second generation butterflies there.

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Re: Nick Morgan

Postby NickMorgan » Sun Aug 08, 2010 10:39 am

Our family summer holiday this year was to Menorca between 26th June and 10th July. We rented an old farm house more-or-less in the middle of the island and it came with about half an acre of orchard (my daughter counted 19 different kinds of fruit trees!). Next door was another orchard tended by Pedro, who would bring us baskets of pears or peaches most evenings. The rest of the area around the house was made up of small fields. The ground is very stony and I guess when they improve the soil the easiest way to get rid of the stones is to build walls, so each small field is surrounded by large wide limestone walls. Many of the fields are unused now, so many of the walls are covered in ivy and brambles and there are a lot of fruit trees with fruit just dropping onto the ground.

Before we went away I tried to research what butterflies occur in Menorca and it seems that up to 30 species have been recorded, but some of those were one-off records. I think that 25 species is probably more realistic. So, I went with low expectations of seeing much.

However, what Menorca may lack in variety it certainly makes up for in quantity!

The abandoned fields with their wild flowers, fruit trees and walls make perfect butterfly habitat. I really couldn't get over the number of butterflies in our orchard. At any one time between 8am and 8pm there must have been over 100 butterflies in the orchard. Over the two weeks, between family trips I went for various walks around the island. There is a coastal path right around the island, a nature reserve at Es Grau and the amazing Algendar gorge, all of which offer different habitats and potentially different butterflies. There was also a great selection of damsel flies, dragon flies and birds.

It was interesting, that having searched for butterflies in various areas of the island, all 20 species that I saw occurred in our orchard (I could have saved myself a lot of walking in the heat!).

The first butterflies we spotted when we arrived at our rented house at 8:30pm were speckled woods. There were two real hot spots in the garden, both around plum trees where there would regularly be 10 or more speckled woods.
Speckled Wood 06.jpg


Holly blues were the most common butterflies around the house. They were found along the track to the house and in the ivy on the walls of the orchard. It was really lovey to see so many. On an average walk around the place I would see about 40 on the track to the house (I think they roosted in the brambles) and as many again in the ivy around the orchard.
Holly Blue 02.jpg


It was funny finding wall browns there, having only just seen them in Scotland.
Wall 5.jpg


Clouded yellows were the most common of the whites. Apparently Berger's clouded yellow occurs there, too, but I believe that the best way to tell the difference is by looking at the caterpillars. There were some paler variants on the island and I watched one laying eggs in the orchard. Unfortunately, I didn't find any caterpillars.
Clouded Yellow 05.jpg


This painted lady (I assume it was always the same one) was the only one I spotted, but it was always in one small area of the orchard and was there for about 10 days.
Painted Lady.jpg


There were usually one or two large whites on patrol in the orchard.
Large White.jpg


And the occasional small white.
Small White.jpg


More common were the cleopatra. These were beautiful, with their orange tint to the upper wings and their ability to blend into the ivy when they roosted. I had never seen these before. Some web sites say that brimstones are found on the island, but as far as I am aware I only ever saw cleopatras.
Cleopatra 07.jpg


I chased after many common blues as I had read that adonis blues also occur on the island. Every one turned out to be a common blue and I believe that the adonis blue is very localised.
Common Blue 4.jpg


Other little butterflies that were in the grass amongst the fruit trees were brown argus ...
Brown Argus 2.jpg


... and small heath. I was interested to note that these behaved differently from the ones in Scotland. They just seemed to get on with their daily business and were usually nectaring whereas the ones back home spend much of their time tilting their wings towards the sun. An obvious reflection on the different climates!
Small Heath 3.jpg


Around the house swallowtails regularly visited the plants in the pots and flower beds. They rarely were still, hopping from plant to plant and continually vibrating their wings. Another regular visitor to the pot plants were geranium bronzes.
More familiar butterflies for me were small coppers and meadow browns.
Small Copper 3.jpg


Meadow Brown 2.jpg


I was so excited when my wife spotted a two-tailed pasha on a plum tree, feeding on the fruit. We saw one on three different occasions and it was amazing seeing its powerful flight and then gliding amongst the fruit trees. It is a spectacular butterfly and very alert, not allowing me to get close at all. I took this standing on top of a wall using full zoom!
Two Tailed Pasha 3.jpg


On my walk through the Algendar gorge I spent ages chasing after a southern gatekeeper without managing to get a picture. Luckily for me a couple of days later I found one in the orchard which was a little more obliging.
Southern Gatekeeper 5.jpg


A long-tailed blue also made an appearance in the orchard, but I wasn't quick enough with the camera. However, on our last day of the holiday I spotted a Lang's short tailed blue on a shrub next to the swimming pool. It was interesting that it stayed on that shrub for most of the day, obviously enjoying the nectar.
Langs Short Tailed Blue 2.jpg


It was a fabulous holiday, both as a relaxing family holiday and for people like me who are obsessed with butterflies! While we were there the island was experiencing unprecedented numbers of a particular moth. They flew in the day and night and there would be thousand of them around each street light. Apparently they experience large numbers of these on a four year cycle, but the numbers this year were exceptional.
Last edited by NickMorgan on Sun Sep 05, 2010 4:11 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Nick Morgan

Postby NickMorgan » Wed Aug 18, 2010 9:38 pm

There were so many butterflies in the garden of the villa in Menorca that on three occasions a butterfly landed close to me and laid an egg. First off was a clouded yellow that landed on some birds foot trefoil and quickly laid an egg. The egg stared off white and turned orange over the nex three days.
Clouded Yellow 10.jpg

The mother was a plale form, but unfortunately I never found the caterpillar, so couldn't determine if it was Colias croceus or alfacariensis.

Another time a cleopatra landed in a tree next to me for a split second and left an egg behind. A few days later I found a small green caterpillar, but I can't be sure it was a cleopatra.
Cleopatra 05.jpg


The best one was a swallowtail that landed on a small wild fennel plant. When I had a look it had laid a bright yellow egg.
Swallowtail 03.jpg

Three days later a brown line developed around the egg.
Swallowtail 10.jpg

Two days later when I looked it had hatched and the caterpillar was chewing on its egg shell.
Swallowtail 14.jpg

Sadly this was the last day of our holiday, so I wasn't able to watch "Barry" develop any further.
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Re: Nick Morgan

Postby NickMorgan » Fri Aug 20, 2010 10:14 pm

The weather here has been terrible since the first week of July. Having spotted some wall browns on the coastal path near Dunglass in June, I really wanted to see if they had managed to successfully breed. I visited the site several times over the last few weeks, but the weather was always cloudy and I didn't manage to see any. However, yesterday I was delighted when I saw ten second generation walls on a 800 metre section of the John Muir Way. Again the weather was very overcast, but being that little bit warmer there was a good variety of butterflies around.
So it seems that wall browns have extended their range north into East Lothian.
Pictures 341 - Copy.jpg


Pictures 359 - Copy.jpg


There were also quite a few green-veined whites, lots of peacocks, small whites, two small tortoiseshells, a comma and a small copper with small blue patches on its hind wings. Not bad for a cloudy day!
Pictures 351 - Copy.jpg

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Re: Nick Morgan

Postby NickMorgan » Wed Oct 20, 2010 10:19 pm

This morning was the first morning of the winter when I have had to scrape ice off the windscreen of my car, so well and truly the end of the butterfly season. Or so I thought until I was battling my way along the River Tyne doing a survey for a new path.
In a sunny sheltered spot a comma flew past and settled on a lime tree long enough for me to catch a few pictures.
IMG_1580 - Copy.JPG


A little further along the river a peacock flew by, but didn't stop for a photo.

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Caterpillars and Chrysalises

Postby NickMorgan » Sun Jan 16, 2011 11:01 pm

Back in September last year my wife arrived home with some cabbages for the hens that a friend had given her because they had caterpillars on them. Of course, as soon as I saw them I wouldn't let her put them in the hen run as they were covered in large and small white caterpillars. The cabbages sat in a bucket of water outside out back door, filling the house with a lovely smell and it cost me a small fortune in substitute cabbages for both the caterpillars and the hens!
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In early October some of the small white caterpillars started crawling up the walls of the house.
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They mostly chose sheltered areas such as under the windowcills where they sat for a couple of days and slowly became fatter and attached themselves to the wall.
105.JPG


By day three they had become proper crysalises. One day a couple of weeks later I noticed one of the crysalises twitching and flicking and I noticed a little black wasp on it. As you will see in the picture I squashed it and hopefully it didn't get a chance to lay any eggs.
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I found another little black wasp a few days later on another crysalis, which was also despatched. The other small whites didn't form crysalises until the weather had become colder, so hopefully they won't have been attacked by the wasps.
I found 12 small white crysalises on the house, but strangely no large whites. Last year we had four large white crysalises on the house after the kids found a whole load of caterpillars on some nastursiums in the street. Of course they collected them all and put them on the plants in the garden!!

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2011

Postby NickMorgan » Mon Mar 21, 2011 11:16 pm

At long last I have spotted my first butterflies of 2011. A short walk from the office at lunch time along the River Tyne in Haddington is a sunny, sheltered spot, which I thought would give my only chance of seeing anything on this windy day. I wasn't to be disappointed as what I thought were two leaves fluttering in the wind turned out to be a comma and small tortoiseshell having a bit of a dispute over this small area.
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They landed long enough for a quick picture and then vanished. Had I arrived a couple of minutes later I wouldn't have seen them!
I try to co-ordinate the butterfly records for the Countryside Ranger Service here and they had already spotted a peacock on 22nd February and a small tortoiseshell on 2nd March during an unseasonable warm spell. Today they also reported a peacock and two small tortoiseshells on the coast.
I seem to have been waiting a long time to see my first butterflies this year, but checking back this is the earliest record of a comma I can find for East Lothian. I think that I have just been very impatient having read about the other sightings reported on this forum!

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Re: Nick Morgan

Postby NickMorgan » Thu Mar 24, 2011 10:12 pm

Another great day here today. 16°C and not a cloud in the sky and I managed to spend most of the day out of the office. This morning I was on the coast up at Dunbar. As well as a lone small tortoiseshell on the coastal path I came across a peacock and four small tortoiseshells on a small patch of celandine. I can't remember the last time I came across four tortoiseshells together like that. It's great that so many have come through such a harsh winter.
This afternoon I was rather disappointed to only see two peacocks while I was surveying the route for a path. Only three days ago I hadn't seen any butterflies, now I'm getting complacent! Last year I didn't see my first butterfly until April!
IMG_1782.JPG

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Costa Blanca

Postby NickMorgan » Sat Apr 16, 2011 7:45 pm

We spent a week in an apartment in Torrrevieja, on the Costa Blanca from the 7th to 15th April. This was a cheap family break, so not ideal for searching for butterflies, but I did manage to explore the surrounding countryside on a few occasions. Sadly there were not many butterflies around, in fact there were very few insects as evidenced by the lack of splats on the front of our hire car. Everything was very dry and I wonder if I was a little late in the season for seeing butterflies there. This is a very flat region and I guess that there would have been more to see up in the hills much further inland.
The first butterfly I saw was a white that I spotted from the plane as we taxied along the runway (!) and on the journey to the apartment I saw a couple more from the car. As seems to be the case in many of the towns and villages in southern Spain and Portugal geranium bronzes were occupying the geraniums at our apartment. I have to admit to feeling slightly resentful towards these immigrants.

Spain 018.JPG

Lee Hurrell had kindly recommended some likely areas to hunt for butterflies and so I spent a few hours walking along the Rio Segura from Rojales to Guardamar. Sadly this was the only cloudy day of our holiday and there was a stiff breeze blowing, so the butterflies hid away. I only managed to see three speckled woods and a handful of small whites. However, there were quite a few black-winged stilts and little egrets at the edge of the river.

Spain 067.JPG

Spain 073.JPG
Taken at maximum zoom on my wee compact camera.

As Lee recommended I also followed a small track into some farmland where I found a small colony of black-eyed blues. I guess there were about 30 of them occupying a scrubby knoll. I was very pleased to be able to get such a good view of them.

Spain 075.JPG

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A solitary swallowtail and a couple more small whites flew past while I was there, but I was surprised not to see other species there. On the way back I stopped the car to look at a text and spotted my first Bath white. I chased after it and tried to photograph it, but it didn't stop for any length of time, so I only managed a few out-of-focus shots!
Last edited by NickMorgan on Tue Jun 28, 2011 9:17 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Nick Morgan

Postby Padfield » Sat Apr 16, 2011 8:00 pm

Sorry you didn't get your African grass blues, Nick - but the black-eyed blues are great! And the stilt shot brings back happy memories for me too...

I don't think you were too late in the season - perhaps the hotspots are just few and far between now, on the overdeveloped Costa del Sin. I hope I hadn't built up your hopes too much with my diary from Málaga. Quite by chance I think I found one of those hotspots.

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