Thursday, April 19, 2012


Blackburnian Warbler, a neotropical migrant wintering in southern Central America and northern South America, is now moving though in droves here in Honduras. Practically anywhere I go these days, I run into flocks of them. The only migrant warbler still outnumbering the Blackburnian around here is Black-throated Green. The latter is present for a good part of the year, but right now is particularly numerous, as migrants pass through the area.

Yesterday we found a flock that contained no fewer than 7 Blackburnians, and today I saw 3 together in a mixed warbler flock, in the company of 12 Black-throated Green Warblers.

The first Blackburnian we saw on 8 April. They seem to be peaking here this week. In a couple of weeks, they will all have passed through.

The handsome Blackburnian Warbler was named in honor of Anna Blackburne (1726 - 1793), an amateur botanist from Orford Hall in Lancashire, England. A beetle and a plant were also named after her.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Another new butterfly for Honduras

Hot on the heels of last week's first country record for Honduras of Megisto rubricata (Red Satyr) comes another first for Honduras: Autochton cincta, or Chisos Banded-Skipper. I photographed this individual today on Montaña de Isopo, at an elevation of 1630 m in oak forest with scattered open areas, about 15 km south of Tegucigalpa. The Annotated list of the Lepidoptera of Honduras (Miller et al. 2012) lists five Autochton skippers, but not this one (1). An email to its first author resulted in her confirmation of the identification.

This expands the known range for this species from West Texas (USA) south through Mexico and Guatemala to Honduras (previously thought to occur south to Guatemala and El Salvador only) (2).

Naturally, I submitted my photo to the Butterflies and Moths of North America site, for which I am now the reviewer for Honduras and El Salvador. It appears that the lepidopteran fauna of these countries is still not fully known, and that with a bit of luck, new country records can be found.

As the rainy season progresses here in Honduras, more and more species will be flying. I'll regularly report back on noteworthy butterflies here on the blog. There are of course older butterfly entries on this blog (to find them, simply click on the label "Butterflies" in the list of labels on the right), and I maintain a Butterflies of Central America Facebook page, which you can find - and hopefully like - if you type "Mariposas de Centroamérica" in the Facebook search bar.


Sunday, April 15, 2012

New butterfly species for Honduras

Last Wednesday I photographed what appears to be a first country record for Honduras of Megisto rubricata, or Red Satyr. This species is known from southwestern USA (central Arizona, central New Mexico, east Texas, and south-central Kansas), Mexico and Guatemala (1). It does not appear on the recently published Annotated List of the Lepidoptera of Honduras (2). Thus my photos indicate an extension of the known range for Red Satyr.

I found this individual on Cerro de Hula, a mountain about 12 km south of the outskirts of Tegucigalpa, the Honduran capital. The elevation there is 1630 masl, and I found it on a grassy slope, in farmland with scattered oaks and harvested corn fields.

Its NatureServe Global Status is Secure - Common: widespread and abundant (1). Here in Honduras, at the edge of its range, it is likely uncommon.

In the field, I did not realize the rarity of this observation, and thus did not collect the specimen. The photos, however, appear to be sufficient for identification to species level. 

Photo documentation, while long accepted for verifying rare bird sightings, is just starting to gain acceptance in the entomology community. An ambitious 'new' project, of which I am proud to be a contributor, is Butterflies and Moths of North America (BAMONA). It is somewhat similar to eBird, in that it collects distributional records submitted by professionals and amateurs alike, though a major difference is that each record requires photo documentation, which is then reviewed by a regional expert. 

I know many birders also enjoy butterflying, and I would encourage anyone with an interest in butterfly conservation to photograph the butterfies and moths they see in the field, and to submit their documentation to BAMONA. Your sightings will help expand knowledge of Lepidoptera, and may serve to document range extensions, as in this particular case for Red Satyr.