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Archive for the ‘Butterflies’ Category

Last Sunday Andrew & I took our families for a picnic. We did however have an ulterior motive–chasing butterflies. We stopped at Kogelberg to hunt for the coastal subspecies of the Giant Copper Aloeides pallida littoralis. After a slow start in sunny but windy conditions we were quite successful. These butterflies are among the largest of the South African Copper group and like many copper species are quite variable in colour–ranging from dull brown to bright magenta.

Freshly hatched female Giant Copper Aloeides pallida littoralis – red form.

Giant Copper Aloeides pallida littoralis – brown form.

There were a few other common butterflies present:

Cupreous Blue Eichchrysops messapus

We then visited a spot further along the coast just before Kleinmond. Only present were common butterflies:

Aranda Copper Aloeides aranda – brown form

Dickson’s Geranium Bronze Cacyreus dicksoni

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Recently I accompanied a friend to du Toit’s Kloof Pass. I had been there back in January in pursuit of Holmes’ Skolly Thestor holmesi. It is too early for that butterfly and this time we were hunting a scarce butterfly called Irene’s Opal Chrysoritis irene.

Our first animal sighting was something completely unexpected, a Cape Grass Lizard Chamaesaura anguina. This was a herpetological lifer for me. These lizards are not easily seen as they usually inhabit montane grasslands where their serpentine body, reduced limbs, and rough, keeled scales, help them “swim” through thick grass.

Moving up the mountain we encountered several species of butterfly, there were plenty of common species like Painted Ladies (Vanessa cardui), Citrus Swallowtail (Demodocus papilio), and Western Hillside Browns (Stygionympha vigilans).

Climbing to the top of the hill we encountered Penninsula Blues Lepidochrysops oreas junae:

At the base of the cliff face we then encountered our target species, Irene’s Opal Chrysoritis irene. I was able to get shots of both a male and a female:

There were many beautiful flowers in bloom, including this Beautiful Gladiolus Gladiolus pulcherrimus:

There were plenty of other insect life too, many beetles including this Common Metallic Longhorn Beetle Promeces longipes:

and this spectacularly coloured Slug Moth caterpillar (Family Limacodidae) found by Andrew:

We then moved to a lower elevation and found more species. Freshly hatched were lots of the common but beautifully photogenic Aranda Coppers Aloides aranda:

I also photographed these Mouse Blues Lepidochrysops puncticilia:

This female is ovipositing.

All in all a fantastic day of chasing butterflies in the beautiful Cape mountains.

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Made a quick trip to Du Toit’s Kloof Pass last week in pursuit of Holmes’ Skolly Thestor holmesi. Special thanks to Andrew for the directions! I was towards the end of their flight season though Andrew has found worn specimens in mid-February. I found a total of 6 specimens in 90 minutes – some were very worn though some were quite fresh. They were reasonably cooperative for photos though no open wing shots (I never even saw one open its wings except to fly).

Nice fresh specimen.

A slightly worn specimen – see the scales missing on the hind wing.

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Last week  I went to Greyton in pursuit of three Thestor species: T. stepheni, T. kaplani, & T. braunsi. It turned out to be an extremely hot day – 37C? or so – and was a tough hike back. I saw a number of common species on the way:
Fynbos Blue Tarucus thespis
Meadow White Pontia helice
Cupreous Blue Eichochrysops messapus
Geranium Bronze Cacreus marshalli
Citrus Swallowtail Papilio demodocus
Cape Brown Cassionympha detecta

There were a lot of Mountain Sandmen Spialia spio flying on the track also:

I only found one Thestor – T. braunsi which is a species I’ve found before though I did not have decent photographs. I found a nice active colony and was able to get some good photographs:

One final interesting find was a few specimens of Grass Jewel Blue Chilades trochylus feeding. This may be a westerly range expansion for the species.

Here is the view back over the trail from about 5km in – the farthest I went:

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Last Tuesday I made another trip to Shaw’s Pass. This time I went with a friend, Pat. We had been trying to coordinate a trip for some time & finally found a day with good weather that suited us both. I had heard that a subspecies of the Boland Skolly Thestor protumnus aridus was flying and I wanted to get some photos. The day started a bit cloudy but the sun burned through and I had good success:

Once again there were Aranda Coppers Aloides aranda present:

These butterflies are becoming one of my favourites; this specimen had the most awesome coloration:

Once again there were Fynbos Blues Tarucus thespis present. These butterflies are ubiquitous and are seen on just about every single trip in the Western Cape. Here is a male:

There were also some flowers present:

We then headed to Hermanus in pursuit of some Lepidochrysops species. We were a little late however and I only found two worn specimens of the Monkey Blue Lepidochrysops methymna:

A spot just south of Kleinmond was the final stop for the day. I did see one species of Lepidochrysops – I think it was the Southern Blue Lepidochrysops australis but I messed up my camera settings and have no pics – ditto the unidentified species of Brown I saw. I did get some pics of the common and very beautiful Burnished Opal Chrysoritis chrysaor:

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Last Friday I went to Silvermine in the Table Mountain NP with Andrew in search of the Peninsula Skolly Thestor yildizae. This butterfly is found only on the mountains of the Cape Peninsula – it is the Cape Peninsula’s only endemic butterfly. Like all Skollys, the adults of this butterfly do not feed, and their larvae are associated with ants.

The butterflies were out and very active:

There were a few other butterflies about including the beautiful Peninsula Blue Lepidochrysops oreas, which was unfortunately quite uncooperative when it came to photography. This Burnished Copper Chrysoritis chrysaor was beautifully fresh and did cooperate quite nicely:

We moved on to a second spot where we found more Peninsula Blues Lepidochrysops oreas flying and I managed to get photographs of one individual – only closed wing shots though:

We then headed to Red Hill for a quick look but did not have great success. There were a few butterflies present including  Western Hillside Browns Stygionympha vigilans:

And Fynbos Blues Tarucus thespis:

There were a few other interesting insects around, including this Foam Grasshopper nymph:

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A couple of weeks back I travelled up the Gydo Pass near Ceres in search of a few special butterflies. I had directions to a spot on a farm called Die Kloof. After getting permission from the owners I set off. It was pretty rugged territory and a bit off a hike from where I parked the car at a dam (see below) near the end of the orchards:

I was looking for three species: Lepidochrysops quickelbergi and Lepisochrysops gydoae– both beautiful blues, Chrysoritis adonis, a lovely opal, and Thestor vansoni, a Skolly. As it turns out, I found none of these–which just means I get to make another trip!

I did find however find and photograph three species, one of which was new to me.

Duke’s Blue Lepidochrysops dukei (a lifer).

Rock Skolly Thestor petra a species which I had seen previously at Matroosberg.

Cupreous Blue Eichchrysops messapus female ovipositing on Thesium sp.

There were other insects and plants around to keep things interesting:

Queen Protea Protea magnifica on which I found this Green Protea Beetle Trichostetha fascularis:

Finally, I managed to photograph this dragonfly which has been submitted to the recently (September 2010) started Odonata of Southern Africa Virtual Museum.

It’s not a great photograph but hopefully it will allow an identification & therefore add to the Odonata data-set.

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