Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Butterflying along the foothills of Tam Dao (mid-May 2017)

Tam Dao, an island of biodiversity completely surrounded by agricultural plains with a high population density, is a very easy excursion northward from Hanoi. This isolated mountain ridge, that rises from the surrounding agricultural lowlands, runs 80 km from north-west to south-east. It has more than 20 peaks with the elevation over 1,000m, several surpass 1,300m and the highest, Mount Tam Dao Bac, is 1,592m.

A few decades back Tam Dao was a neglected backwater of tumbledown hotels and ruined French villas. Now this unique and beautiful place is much changed. Biodiversity has been ruined by excessive timber harvesting, inappropriate infrastructure developments, unsustainable hunting and poaching, resulting in a depletion of the vertebrate community - a phenomenon called the " empty forest syndrome ".

Tam Dao is one the best-inventoried protected areas in Vietnam. Concerning the butterfly fauna, the list is impressive with more than 360 species recorded (Vu Van Lien, 2013).

Below are some of my best photos from a recent one day trip at a place called "Tây Thiên" (lower foothills of the mountain range) and a bit of blurb. Many species were buzzing around everywhere. I added Doleschallia bisaltide and Dichorragia nesimachus to my ever-growing life list of butterfly species seen in Vietnam - unfortunately I couldn't get close enough to get a picture of the latter.

Checklist of the ca 80 species spotted at the location (May 13, 2017): 

Atrophaneura sp. +
Papilio nephelus ++
Papilio helenus ++
Papilio polytes ++
Papilio memnon ++
Papilio paris +++ 
Graphium sarpedon +++
Graphium doson +
Graphium antiphates ++
Graphium xenocles +
Lamproptera curius ++
Lamproptera meges +

Delias parasithoe ++
Delias hyparethe +++
Prioneris thestylis ++
Prioneris philonome ++
Talbotia naganum +
Appias lyncida ++
Appias indra ++
Appias albina +++
Cepora nadina ++
Hebomoia glaucippe ++
Eurema spp. +++
Catopsilia pomona +++

Danaus genutia ++
Parantica aglea +
Euploea mulciber ++
Euploea core ++
Euploea tulliolus +
Tirumala septentrionis ++
Melanitis leda ++
Lethe mekara +
Ethope norei +
Mycalesis mucianus +
Coelites nothis +
Thauria lathyi +
Stichophthalma suffusa +++
Faunis eumeus ++
Faunis canens +
Vagrans egista +

Athyma asura +
Athyma selenophora +
Cupha erymanthis ++
Lexias pardalis +
Cirrochroa tyche +++
Hestinalis nama +
Rohana parisatis +
Doleschallia bisaltide +
Kallima "inachus" +
Dophla evelina +
Symbrethia lilaea +++
Symbrenthia hypselis +
Juniona almana ++
Juniona atlites ++
Hypolimnias bolina ++
Vindula erota +
Lebadea martha +
Euripus nyctelius +
Pantoporia hordonia ++
Charaxes sp. +
Dichorragia nesimachus  +
Euthalia monina + 
Tanaecia julii +

Zemeros flegyas ++
Abisara fylla +

Heliophorus sp. +
Acytolepis puspa +
Udara cf. dilecta +
Celastrina lavendularis +
Prosotas dubiosa +
Nacaduba sp. +
Amblypodia anita +
Ticherra acte +

Parnara sp. +
Iambrix salsala +
Pirdana hyela +
Scobura parawoolletti +
Isoteinon lamprospilus +

(Abundance : + 1-2 specimens, ++ 3-5 spec., +++ more than 5 spec.)

Graphium doson & G. sarpedon

Graphium xenocles

Talbotia naganum

Eurema blanda - backlighting reveals nicely upperwing pattern

Catopsilia pomona, female f. catilla

A convivial congregation at an old fire pit, mostly Pierids, creates a colorful scrum: 1 Hebomoia glaucippe, 2 Appias albina, 3 Appias lyncida, 4 Cepora nadina, 5 Prioneris thestylis, 6 Prioneris philonome, 7 Graphium sarpedon, 8 Graphium antiphates, 9 Vindula erota

Another puddle party with Appias albina, Prioneris thestylis, Catopsilia pomona, Graphium antiphates, Graphium xenocles
I enjoy finding butterflies that are busy puddling, because they are so preoccupied with the task at hand that they allow me to get very close for photographs!

Faunis eumeus - subspecies incerta with a distinct broad yellowish subapical band on UpF (+/-marked depending on specimens)

Faunis canens arcesilas - seen side-by-side with F. eumeus

Coelites nothis

Stichophthalma suffusa tonkiniana - at Tam Dao common at all altitudes. S. howqua suffusa has been raised to species S. suffusa Leech, 1892 (Monastyrskii & Devyatkin, 2008).
S. fruhstorferi is also present at Tam Dao, but much rarer

Doleschallia bisaltide - a new species for me
The Indo-Australian genera Doleschallia and Kallima, and the African genera Kamilla, Mallika and Kallimoides are collectively known as "Dead Leaf butterflies". They are characterized by having a produced apex, and the hw tornus extended to form a short tail. The resulting shape, together with the cryptic dead-leaf coloration bears a remarkable resemblance to a dead fallen leaf, complete with a "midrib", and markings resembling patches of mould and leaf galls

Euthalia monina kesava, male

Cirrochroa tyche

Euripus nyctelius

Lebadea martha 
Two species of Lebadea are currently known – martha and alankara. The former is a widespread Indomalayan species whereas the latter is only known from Java, Sumatra, Borneo

Symbrenthia hypselis cotanda
There are about 14 species in the genus Symbrenthia, of which 4 are found in Vietnam - lilaea, hypselis, niphanda, leoparda. The former two are recorded in the north and center of the country, the latter two only from the north. S. lilaea and S. hypselis are the commonest members of the genus in Vietnam - but the latter have narrower habitat requirements and is much less often encountered.

Acytolepis puspa - with Udara cf. dilecta in background

Udara cf. dilecta

Prosotas dubiosa (top) and Nacaduba sp. (N. hermus?) - found on the same buffalo dung

Amblypodia anita

Isoteinon lamprospilus formosanus

Pirdana hyela rudolphii

Scobura parawoolletti
The Vietnamese populations were earlier listed as Scobura woolletti Riley, 1923, a Bornean species, but are most likely similar to the recently described S. Chinese Scobura parawoolletti

A female Giant Wood Spider or Giant Golden Orb Weaver (Nephila pilipes)
The small reddish thing is a male! He tried to mate several times, but the female rejected him. Around, several other males were waiting for a possible mating

It is one of the biggest spiders in the world (overall size up to 20 cm). You will find the female generally smack bang in the middle of this golden web which is thick and strong. The tiny male will generally be seen somewhere on the outskirts of the web and looks nothing like the female. 


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