The earlier pictures were taken on my wee compact Canon ixus 970IS, which involved sneaking up on the butterflies. This can be very frustrating when they fly off, but very rewarding when they don't!

Since 2012 I have been using a Panasonic Lumix FZ150, which allows me to zoom in to the butterflies from a couple of metres away.



Sunday, 6 January 2013

St Lucia - Butterflies - December 2012 (2)

The first butterfly I was able to photograph on our holiday was a White Peacock, Anartia jatrophae jatrophae. I was surprised how small this was (about the size of a Green-veined White back in Scotland) as I had expected it to be about the same size as our own Peacock. This one was being harassed by a Great Southern White, but it was one of the few butterflies that I managed to take a picture of with its wings open.

It is missing a bit of its rear wings, but it turned out to be the only one I saw during our holiday. In fact it gave me a bit of a false impression of what I was going to see on my holiday. This was on my first walk around the resort to specifically look for butterflies and here was a White Peacock, a Great Southern White and a Hanno's Blue all within a couple of feet of each other.

There seem to be two different blues and six different hairstreaks occurring on St Lucia. I didn't manage to spot any hairstreaks, but there were a few Hanno's Blues, Hemiargus hanno watsoni, flying around the resort we were staying on. These were really small and difficult to spot, but at least they allowed you to approach them fairly easily.

These are so small - the forewing is only 10mm long. This one is feeding on Coatbuttons, Tridax procumbens (as is the White Peacock above), which seems to be a favoured nectar source for butterflies there.


The other blue I saw was the Cassius Blue, Leptotes cassius chadwicki. When they were flying they actually looked like a white butterfly as much of the upper wing on the female is white. I had expected these to be really common from what I had read on the internet, but I only saw two individuals. There was a lot of Plumbago growing at the resort and in the towns, which I thought would have been covered in Cassius Blue, but that wasn't the case. (In Europe, and Africa when I see Plumbago it very often has a close relative of this butterfly - Leptotes pirithous - feeding and laying eggs on it.) Maybe it would be different at a different time of the year.
  
On a few occasions I saw a Buckeye. Both the Caribbean Buckeye, Junonia evarete michaelesi and the Mangrove Buckeye, Junonia genoveva occur on St Lucia. I think it was the Mangrove Buckeye that I saw each time, but I find it very difficult to tell the difference between the two species. It seems that until recently they were thought to be two sub-species of Junonia evarete. It was interesting that the one I saw at our resort didn't settle for long at all, but later during our holiday we did a Segway trip near Rodney Bay, where I saw several of them just sitting in the grass sunning themselves. It makes me wonder if the plants in the resort were treated with insecticide or something to make them less attractive to insects.


There could be up to 21 different Skippers occurring on St Lucia. I only managed to identify three, although I saw a lot more that just didn't stop to let me identify them!

This one is a Southern Broken Dash, Wallengrenia otho ophites and it seemed to be the most common Skipper I saw. 
Again, they rarely settled at our resort, but this one was happily sitting on a flower on our Rodney Bay trip. The guide was starting to get a little tired of my jumping off the Segway to photograph butterflies by this stage, so this one was quickly snapped!!

The other Skipper I managed to photograph was the Canna Skipper, Calpodes ethlius. This was on some Bougainvillea at the resort in an area they say was planted to attract butterflies.
  
The other Skipper I identified was the Common Long-tailed Skipper, Urbanus proteus domingo, but sadly I didn't manage to photograph it.

It seemed that the more spectacular butterflies were less inclined to stop for a picture. Amongst those I saw were the Gold Rim, Battus polydamas lucianus, a dark, tailless swallowtail, the Painted Lady, Vanessa cardui (it gets everywhere!!), and the Julia Heliconian, Dryas iulia lucia. This is a beautiful bright orange long wing. They would fly around tantalizingly close to me, one time circling my feet, but just never seemed to stop! Another common orange butterfly was the Gulf Fritillary, Agraulis vanillae vanillae. Again, these are really beautiful, but I didn't see one land at all. On more than one occasion I also saw a Monarch, Danaus plexippus megalippe. This is a sedentary sub species that occurs in much of the Caribbean. It is slightly different in appearance from the migratory Monarch, but of course, I didn't see it for long enough to notice!!

During a trip into the rain forest I only saw two butterflies - a Cloudless Sulphur and a Great Southern White. Not surprising really, I suppose, as there were not as many flowering plants as there were in the more inhabited and coastal areas of the island. However, I had thought that I may have seen a Leaf Wing or St Lucia Mestra in the shade of the trees. Certainly the best area I explored was along the tracks above Rodney Bay. It would have been good to have had more time to explore such areas. Still, I'm not complaining. I identified 20 species during my visit with 18 of them being new to me.


St Lucia comes highly recommended. I have never been to such a lush vegetated place. There are plenty of areas to explore, although you have to have permission before entering any of the trails in the rain forests. Looking at the excursions that were offered from our resort, it is possible to visit the botanical gardens and a few large estates where cocoa beans are grown or where you can explore the native flora and try out native fruits and plants. I am sure if I had been to any of those places I would have seen more butterflies.

I'm certainly not complaining, though. It was lovely being there. Such a beautiful island, with much of it completely unspoilt. The people there are so friendly, too. Don't expect anything to be done in a hurry, but it will be done with a smile!

Another time I would love to hire a car (which would be an adventure in itself!) and explore more of the island. The Segways were great fun, but my 14 year old son demonstrated how it is possible to run yourself over with one! I am sure the scars will eventually fade!

I would certainly love to go back to St Lucia. Maybe at a different time of year and maybe to a different part of the island. For me, it is just about the perfect destination.

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