Thursday, 31 January 2019

Orchard Swallowtail Papilio aegeus

And now a garden butterfly.

There is no need to go bush in the heat to see butterflies as in the previous two posts. I was sitting on the verandah having a coffee when I saw this lady fly in over the shrubs and begin circling the lemon trees.

She was obviously looking for somewhere to lay her eggs as she was dipping into the foliage, landing here and there searching for the perfect spot. Then she took a break and caught some sun on her back for a few minutes. That was when I saw how ragged her wings were.

Especially her left hind wing. She was an old lady, probably laying the last of her eggs.

She concentrated her attention on the very tips of the youngest leaves, bending her abdomen as she clung to the leaf edges.

And that was where she left her eggs, precariously perched right on the edges. Out of reach of most predators, I expect.

This spot had been used before by someone else. She was busy on a leaf while an egg previously laid by another butterfly lay out of her sight - the tiny black speck. I think this was an egg laid by a butterfly I watched laying eggs on the same tree a few days ago - a Dainty Swallowtail Papilio anactus. The egg is dark because the larva inside is well developed and likely to hatch imminently. Both species of swallowtail are common throughout the east of Australia and we have them in the garden every year.

Meanwhile over on another leaf, once I began looking carefully for more eggs, I found this teeny weeny caterpillar, c3 mm long, a first instar of a Dainty Swallowtail, I think. It is so small I can hardly make out any characteristics. Although the colouring, like a bird dropping, fits that of a young larva of the swallowtail species. This one had probably only hatched that day, eaten its eggshell and was now on the prowl for fresh greenery to eat. Hence the adults selecting the freshest leaves to lay their eggs on.

After a while the old lady flew over to the shady trees and landed on the foliage, taking a rest after her hard work? I'll watch over her offspring for her.

Tuesday, 29 January 2019

More hot - more butterflies

It's still hot in Canberra, so over the weekend I was down at the coast where it was a little cooler, less hot. Snorkeling was good, nice and really cool, it's cool to hang out with fish. Otherwise, up on the land I went for a walk through the coastal heathland and found lots of butterflies. So, I have added here some photographs of the few I managed to photograph with the pocket camera, to complement the previous post. With thanks to Suzi Bond for identifying these for me. 

This Brown Ringlet Hypocysta metirius, like several others I saw, was basking on the path through the heath, always on a leaf which they so closely resembled. 

This is one of many Blotched Dusky-blues Candalides acasta that were sunning themselves in the herbage at the edge of the path, landing on sunlit spots, mostly on sedges or occasionally, like this one, on a dead casuarina twig. 

Her grey underwings fitted in well with the grey dead sticks and seadheads.

The best find of the day for me was out on the sunnier, shorter, and more luxuriant heath. That's where I saw a string of Eastern Iris-skippers Mesdina halyzia along the path. Each seemed to have a territory and would fly out whenever a neighbouring butterfly encroached on its stretch of the path. The open ground or more importantly, the open airspace above, seemed to be prime property. They behaved as if they had sorted themselves out though, as once I had passed they all settled back in their own stretch of the street.

I like the way skippers hold their wings in that ready-for-action pose.

Monday, 28 January 2019

Hot sunny weather - butterfly weather

Eye-spots on a Meadow Argus' Junonia villida wings

It has been hot in Canberra for the past month and much of the wildlife has been lying low to keep cool. But it has been good for butterflies and I have met hundreds, thousands, of them on walks in various parts of the bush around the city.

The mornings have been especially good to see them close up and still, before they warm up and fly about too quickly to identify. And footpaths make ideal sunny spots for them to spread their wings and bask in the sun. I was walking through clouds of butterflies in places.

The season is well on and some were a bit tattered with broken edges to their wings.

Once they had warmed up, I found it easier to sit still near a bush or herb that was in flower and wait for the butterflies to settle and feed. I am always amazed at how they can guide their long thing probosces into the narrow tubes of flowers to reach the nectar. Precision feeding.

A Chequered Copper Lucia limberia basks on a path. A male, as he has single spots on his upper-forewings. The females have two spots on each wing. These seem to have been especially abundant in Canberra this year.

The undersides of the Chequered Coppers' wings are similar to various species of blue butterflies, but the flash of orange on the forewings identifies them.

A Stencilled Hairstreak Jalmenus ictinus hangs from a grass flower-head, giving a clear view of the tails on its hind wings.

The tails are less obvious, and even the whole insect is hidden, when they perch in a cluster of flowers. This one had warmed up, so do go early for good clear views of butterflies when they are still either on the ground or plants.