Thursday, July 30, 2009

The shrub

The Regal Greatstreak that I found a couple of days ago and reported in the previous post was found on a shrub that is turning out to be very productive for me. I'm here at the Laguna de Apoyo in Nicaragua to make an inventory of the butterflies that are in the reserve, and I've found many species that weren't on the reserve's species list. But once you pass 200 species, it gets harder to find any that you haven't already seen.

That is, until you find a bush that is so incredibly attractive to butterflies that you can go there three days in a row and find several 'new' species every single day. This really is a treasure trove of butterflies, and I've told the folks at the biological station that they should get this plant in their yard. Its flowers produce a lovely fragrance, and attract a ton of butterflies.

The biological station I'm staying at is also a Spanish language school, and the students there now ask me over breakfast "Are you going to the Magic Bush again?" Well, yeah! It's about an hour's walk away, but it's such a productive spot that it's hard not to.

The butterfly at the very top of today's post is a Carousing Jewelmark. (Gotta love those names!) I saw it on the bush yesterday only.

And this beautiful thing is a Hackberry Greenmark. Had it there today.

This is a Clytie Ministreak. It fed methodically and seemingly unperturbed for more than 15 minutes in one spot.

More or less the same goes for this Dusky-blue Groundstreak.

Here's an Orange-spotted Skipper, rather a colorful species for a skipper. I saw one individual on the shrub yesterday, and again today.

This finally is a Many-banded Daggerwing, a common species throughout the reserve, and found in large numbers on the shrub.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Regal Greatstreak

Today a few shots of a Regal Greatstreak (Evenus regalis) that I found this morning on a shrub here in the reserve.

The blooming shrub had a deliciously intoxicating fragrance, attracting over 25 different butterfly species, including this stunningly beautiful Regal Greatstreak.

I have never seen this species before, and was quite taken in by its beauty. It's fairly big too for a hairstreak.

Even head on, it looks good.

Tomorrow, I'm going back there with a net to try a collect a specimen for the biological station's growing collection.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Butterflies in Laguna de Apoyo

I've been at the Laguna de Apoyo in Nicaragua since early June looking for butterflies, so I figured it's high time for an entry on what I've found so far. I'm here to make an inventory of the butterflies found in the reserve, and I go out practically each day armed with binoculars and camera, and sometimes hand nets or butterfly traps.

Back in 1995, a group of entomologists from the University of Maryland published an inventory of butterflies they found at the Reserva Natural Laguna de Apoyo in a Nicaraguan scientific journal. They collected periodically over a series of five years during the rainy season (when species diversity is highest) and found 108 species of diurnal butterflies to be present in the reserve, including 3 species new for Nicaragua.

Their list formed the basis of a list to which Nicaraguan field biologists have added since then, and to which I am now adding as well. Since early June, I have added approximately 30 species to the list, and revised the list's taxonomy for several others, to reflect recent work on butterfly taxonomy. The current list stands at 174 species, but I'm still finding new ones every day, and I'm starting to wonder how accurate parts of that list really are. To give an example: the 1995 publication mentions a Cissia satyr as new for the country: Cissia calixta. But the species in that genus are notoriously difficult to separate, and this particular record - of a species with a known range from Costa Rica south to Ecuador, and with an elevational range between 800 and 3,000 m - may very well represent a misidentification. Laguna de Apoyo is outside its normal geographical as well as elevational range. However, abundant here right now is Cissia themis (Nicaraguan Satyr), which is very similar to Cissia calixta but is not illustrated in the guide used by the U of Maryland team, and curiously absent from their 1995 list.

Here's a picture of Cissia themis (undina) mating.

The butterfly at the very top of today's post is a firetip, Elbella scylla, or Red-collared Firetip. Then an underside of a scintillant, Calephelis sp., another notoriously difficult genus. The purplewing is a male Eunica sydonia, or Plain Purplewing. Both the firetip and the purplewing were new to the list. I found the first purplewing four or five days ago. The next day, I saw two or three individuals, and now it appears to be fairly common. Every day, I see certain species a little more or a little less abundant than the day before, or new ones adding to the mix. But that firetip remains the only individual I have found so far.

Stay tuned for more on the butterfly community at Laguna de Apoyo.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

On Volcan Mombacho

Last weekend, Xavier, Marissa and I visited Volcan Mombacho near the Nicaraguan town of Granada. Near the top of the volcano, there's a biological station where we stayed overnight. Saturday night, we went out on a guided tour of the area around the biological station, and encountered the above salamander, Bolitoglossa mombachoensis, the Mombacho Salamander, one of a few endemic species described so far for this volcano. Also here and nowhere else in the world are a butterfly and an orchid, and probably yet unfound representatives from other taxa. We saw the orchid the next day, but strong wind and cloud and rain prevented us from seeing the butterfly - or indeed much else. Mountain Elaenia's were common there, we did see several of them.

This frog, also there, is more widely distributed. It is called the Red-eyed Tree Frog.


I am not the only field technician doing field work at the biological station at Laguna de Apoyo in Nicaragua. Xavier, a Quebecker, is here also, working on bats.

Today a few shots of the bats he's caught with a regular mist net. Couple of nights ago, after he took measurements, he hung them on the clothesline, where they went into a brief torpor, before taking off.

I haven't written much about my butterfly studies here, but I'll try to get around that soon. With the rainy season well underway, diversity and numbers have greatly increased, and I'm still finding new species for the reserve almost every day.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Eat, eat, eat

Here in Nicaragua, the rainy season has been underway for about a month, with rain on most nights now, sometimes heavy and/or prolonged rains. This has turned Laguna de Apoyo's Tropical Dry Forest into a lush, green world where everyday there are more butterflies out and about.

All those butterflies were eggs first, then caterpillars. This caterpillar will eat, eat, eat, and eventually metamorphose into a Mexican Fritillary (Euptoieta hegesia), a small to medium-sized orange butterfly that's common from the southwestern US into South America. As usual, click on the photo for a detailed view.

Here's a little video of it eating.

When it's done eating, it will retreat to secluded spot, usually under a leaf, and metamorphose into a chrysalis, from which the adult butterfly will emerge. It will then look like this: