In search of rare insects (The Estcourt Blue and Dingaans Widow)
This weekend I am not continuing my posts on Macro tips. The next one will be posted next weekend. Instead I am going to chat about this weekends search for rare butterlfies. A few weeks ago I was chatting to Steve Woodhall (President of the Lepidopterists Society of South Africa http://www.lepsoc.org.za
) and he noted that the recent South African Butterfly Conservation Assessment (SABCA http://sabca.adu.org.za/)
work had shown that two of our local endemics, Lepidochrysops pephredo
(Estcourt Blue) and Dingana dingana
(Dingaans widow) had not recently been recorded in a number of the localities where they had been seen commonly 20 years ago. This could be either a result of local extinction or simply because people had not been there and looked. We decided to get a group of people together and go and look for them. On the morning of the 13th we (Steve, Clive Curtis, Taryn Henstra, Wolter Kaspers, Doug Morton, Stella and myself) met in Mooi River to look for these insects. They are Spring fliers and we were a little late but with the very dry start to the season we expected they would have emerged late.)
We chose two known localities and one that Steve had spotted as a potential spot on Google Earth. We visited the first two spots (the Mooi River Shooting Range and Steves new spot and found very little apart from some very common Nymphalids and Pierids and one or two “blues” ….. Aloeides susanae (Susans Copper), Lepidochrysops variabilus (Variable Blue) and L. ignota (Zulu Blue). The third spot was much more rewarding, Griffin hill was looking lovely with Watsonia pilansii and Erythrina zeyheri in full flower. Within minuted we came across a strong colony of the large brown Dingana dingana flitting among the rocks.
Below are a few pictures of the area (please excuse the pans, they were hand shot at midday so the quality is not great). I am sure that you will agree that our Midlands is very beautiful.
View from the top of Griffin hill toward Estcourt. Dingana dingana were flying among these rocks. A very beautiful area!!
The crew looking for Dingana dingana, (l to r) Clive Curtis, Steve Woodhall, Liam Kaspers and Stella Joubert (my daughter).
Dingana dingana (Dingaans Widow). These butterflies spend most of their time flitting between the rocks and sometimes settling to eat. We got there late and had very little time and this was the only pic I could get. Not great but a record.
Precis octavia sesamus, Gaudy Commodore, a common hilltop find.
Leptomyrina gorgias gorgias, Common Black-eye
Leptomyrina gorgias gorgias, Common Black-eye (another view)
Another little Painted reed frog shot before the trip.
Athrixia phylicoides, Bushman's tea. An aromatic shrub found in our grasslands
Erythrina zeyheri, this plant has a huge underground stem hence the name the "plough breaker"
Callilepsis laureola, Ox-eye Daisy. Another of our grassland herbs.
Another visitor to the hilltops
All is all a great weekend, we found one of the two species that we wanted. That said, I am sure Lepidochrysops pephredo will be found in all three localities as the food plant (Becium obovatum) was present at all three.