Friday, December 1, 2017

Sarawak: Dragonflies and Butterflies

Water Lily (Nymphaea sp)
November 2014 found Eileen in Singapore to help out with our grandson Royce, who was continuing his cancer treatment, while I went back to Kuching to do the same for his older brother Ryan. Part of my job was ferrying Ryan back and forth from school.  That left me time, during school hours, for a bit of insect-hunting around town (specifically at Sama Jaya and the MJC Road, home to the Water Lily (Nymphaea sp) in this photo).  Here are some of the results, taken on November 13, 2014.

Anax guttatus
Let's start with dragonflies.  Photographing darners (Aeshnidae) during their daytime hunts can be a challenge (at least for me), because they seldom perch and catching them in mid-flight can be, to put it mildly, tricky.  This is the closest I have come to getting a recognizable photo of the commonest open-country species around Kuching, the Pale-spotted or Lesser Green Emperor (Anax guttatus), though I frequently see it coursing over the flooded lawn near the parking lot at Sama Jaya.

Ictinogomphus decoratus
Like the Aeshnidae, the family Gomphidae has many members in Borneo, but only one is likely to be seen flying around in open country in broad daylight.  That is this one, Ictinogomphus decoratus.  The other Ictinogomphus in Borneo, I. acutus, behaves similarly but is much rarer and more localized; according to Rory Dow, the expert on such matters, it is common at Maludam National Park, the only place I have seen and (rather badly) photographed it.

Nannophya pygmaea
The rest of the dragonflies in this little gallery are members of the largest dragonfly family, the Libellulidae.  We start with the smallest of the lot, the tiny Nannophya pygmaea.  This is a male, defending his little patch of territory.

Brachygonia oculataBrachygonia oculata
Not much larger and almost as brilliant: Brachygonia oculata, a skulker in dark corners (including, in Sama Jaya, around puddles at the base of fallen trees).

Neurothemis cf terminata
I believe this is a female parasol (Neurothemis), probably the abundant Neurothemis terminata, but I admit I have identifying some of these plain brown insects from photographs.

Rhodothemis rufa
The male Rhodothemis rufa, the Common Redbolt, is probably the reddest of Sarawak's dragonflies; even its eyes have a reddish tinge.

Rhyothemis obsolescens
Finally, here is the splendidly bronze-winged Rhyothemis obsolescens.

PS: For readers who share my fascination with dragonflies (and damselflies), I have set up a new blog that collects all of the photos of these insects that have been featured in A Wandering Naturalist (plus a few more besides) and displays them, family by family, with links to the blog entries where they first appear.  It's called Orenstein's Odonata (I'm partial to alliteration), and you can find it here.

Great Mormon (Papilio memnon)
Great Mormon (Papilio memnon)
Moving on to butterflies, here is the large and spectacular Great Mormon (Papilio memnon), a truly startling insect.

Spotted Grass Dart (Taractrocera ardonia)
Much less startling is this little skipper, probably a Spotted Grass Dart (Taractrocera ardonia) - recognizable, apparently, by the lack of the little thread-like projection, or apiculus, at the tip of the antenna, a feature of most other skippers.

Eggfly (Hypolimnas bolina)
The Great Eggfly (Hypolimnas bolina) must have one of the most unappetizing English names in the butterfly world.  It presumably refers to the somewhat egg-shaped white patches on the male's hindwings (the females mimic butterflies of the genus Euploea), but this is a much more attractive insect than its name suggests.  It is an extremely wide-ranging butterfly, found from Madagascar across southern Asia to Australia, New Zealand (where it is called the Blue Moon Butterfly, a much nicer name) and the South Pacific.

Jamides sp
Ceruleans (Jamides spp.), common little butterflies in the blue and hairstreak family (Lycaenidae), are easy to see but difficult to identify.  There are many very similar species, and in the absence of a thorough field guide to Bornean butterflies I do not know which one this is.

Purple Tit (Hypolycaena merguia)
This is another lycaenid, but one I do not recall having seen before: the Purple Tit (Hypolycaena merguia).

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