Monday, August 16, 2010

Las Mariposas

Confused Amberwing (Methona confusa)
Photo copyright
Scott Hein

We know the names of a few butterflies back in the U.S. of A., but did not make much of a study of these attractive and fascinating creatures. Here in the Republic of Panama, we have seen so many flying about lately that we feel compelled to make a serious effort to learn at least some of the common ones. There is no field guide to the butterflies of Panama or for this area of Central America, although Kim Garwood and Richard Lehman are currently working on a two-volume set, "Butterflies of Central America" - we can hardly wait! So we are using the two-volume set, "The Butterfles of Costa Rica", by Philip J. DeVries. We hear that both volumes are out of print and somewhat to very difficult to obtain. We were fortunate to procure a copy of Volume 1 through our friend Janet, who volunteers at the PRBO (Point Reyes Bird Observatory) library. While on a recent visit to Costa Rica, we bought Volume 2 of the DeVries at the Wilson Botanical Garden bookstore. Now we are running out of excuses for complete ignorance.

During our stay at the Wilson, we took a couple of baby steps toward butterfly ID. One of the other guests was a scientist named Chris (sorry - did not get his last name) who was conducting a study to determine what plants are pollinated by butterflies. He theorizes that there may not be that many, if we understood correctly. And two of the other guests (Nancy Gallaugher and Larry Simkins, from Gilbert, Arizona) were serious and well-versed butterfliers, as well as experienced birders.

One morning we heard Larry shouting for Nancy to bring the camera. He was standing in the street in front of our room looking at a male Blue-frosted Banner (Catonephele numilia), known also as a Stoplight Catone in the Glassberg "A Swift Guide to the Butterflies of Mexico and Central America", the book Larry was carrying. We ran out to have a look, and Marco got some good footage of this beautiful butterfly.

After the Costa Rica adventure, we stayed 3 nights at the Canopy Lodge (more blog posts on that forthcoming), where Tino Sanchez, one of their excellent guides, helped us take a few more butterfly ID baby steps. He also found a few lifers and many old friends for our bird list.

Below are the butterflies caught on video by Marco; first is the one at the Wilson, followed by those in El Valle near the Canopy Lodge.

We believe the IDs are:
1- Blue-frosted Banner or Stoplight Catone (Catonephele numilia)
2- Zebra Longwing (Heliconius charitonius)
3- Clara's Crescent (Eresia clara)
4- Sisamnus Dartwhite (Catasticta sisamnus)
5- Ardys Crescent (Anthanassa ardys)
6- Three-banded Crescent (Eresia eutropia)
7- Sara Longwing (Heliconius sara)

Help us out if you know these things and have some better ideas!

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