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Trip to Thabazimbi

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Posted 06-02-2009 at 02:53 PM by AfricanButterflies

Hi All

Jeremy Dobson very kindly took me up to Thabazimbi in the Waterberg on Saturday after a week of hard work in Johannesburg. We were after the Darker Commodore Precis antilope. When we got there it was very cold and not much was on the wing except these lovely little Orange Tiger moths Secusio strigata. They were extremely wary and this is the best shot I got; at least his orange hindwings were on show, which is not usually the case - they normally hide them under the forewings when at rest.

But then the butterflies started to come out. First we saw this male Bushveld Purple Tip Colotis ione:

Then an extreme dry season form Common Orange Tip Colotis evenina evenina f. deidamoides:

In the cool conditions the Pieridae were sitting very still and allowing us to get close. The Red Tip Colotis antevippe gavisa is normally almost impossible to approach, and this female was quite wary, but when a male came along she allowed me to get this one shot:

The male was a bit too close, and I had to preferentially sharpen him in PS.

We were walking along the bank of the Crocodile River. Hippo were grunting in the river, harrumphing like old Colonels in a London Club, deploring the modern world. Fish Eagles yelped in the sky. The banks were covered in the cat's-pee-smelling, viciously thorny Acacia schweinfurthi creeper. This is the foodplant of the Club-tailed Emperor Charaxes zoolina zoolina, and this female f. neanthes was hovering around it, probably looking for places to lay eggs - but we weren't risking our clothing following her into the thicket!

We were getting increasingly desperate to find a Darker Commodore, but it became more and more obvious we were going to dip. However, there is always something worth seeing in the bush, and I got a photo first - a female Black-banded Swift Pelopidas mathias. Not a rare butterfly but not easy to photograph. I managed to get both wing surfaces, and looked out for a male with his prominent forewing sex brand - but no luck!

The dry grasses were swarming with African Monarchs Danaus chrysippus aegyptius and both Spotted and Common Jokers Byblia ilithyia and B.anvatara acheloia. Here are a couple of shots, the first is the nominate Spotted Joker and the second is the lovely f.badiata with its chocolate and pearl underside:

They were feeding on grass flowers, something we've seen in this area before. Although grasses are wind pollinated these seem to have some nectar to offer the butterflies.

Having accepted that we'd lost out on the Darker Commodore we went down the road a way to look for the Black-tipped Scarlet Axiocerses coalescens. We dipped with this too - the flowers it frequents had been cut down - but I did get a digital first: Lemon Traveller Colotis subfasciatus. This male was nectaring on some Kalanchoe flowers; Jeremy was quite blase about him but I was really happy to get a shot of a butterfly we seldom see in KZN:

With this we gave up and drove off to watch the Blue Bulls give the Chiefs a hiding of note. The next day I got up betimes to drive back home to Durban via the Midlands forests. I hoped to find the Golden Flash Chrysoritis phosphor, which has been caught at Balgowan in June before. But this time all I saw were these rather nice winter form Vine-leaf Vagrants:

Finally I decided to call into Kranskloof Gorge near home to see what was on the wing in the afternoon. I was rewarded with a Commodore at last - not the elusive Darker, but the more common (and very lovely) winter form of the Gaudy Commodore Precis octavia sesamus.

All in all a fun weekend, just goes to show it doesn't really matter if you dip!

All the best

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  1. Old Comment
    JDArt's Avatar
    Love following your work.
    Posted 06-17-2009 at 06:50 AM by JDArt JDArt is offline
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