It’s been nearly a month since my last posting because I’ve been off on another two-week butterfly adventure this time to Southeast Brazil mostly in the state of Rio de Janeiro, and spent another week going through the more than 2,000 pictures that made it home with me. So far, I’m pretty confident in the identification of about 110 of the butterfly species we had on the trip, and the total will likely reach 150-200. The trip was arranged by Adrian Hoskins, a well-known British expert on butterflies around the world, and coordinated by Richard Raby, a local British guide who leads birding and butterfly trips in Brazil. Leaving the cold and dark of winter behind, we enjoyed excellent weather and long, sunny days in the middle of summer down there.
Met at the airport by Richard a day early, the three Americans on the trip (myself, my friend Rebecca, and new acquaintance, Frank) drove to Richard’s home and ecolodge in the small town of Marica about an hour east of Rio, where we stayed for the next few days.
It was in Marica that we’d meet Richard’s friends, Eric and Elisangela, who run the fabulous small Italian restaurant, Avolta da toca, we’d patronize regularly, and who took us around the first day while Richard was off to the airport to pick up Adrian and another British guy, Dave. On his final holiday before heading off to college, Eric came along on the rest of the trip to help with interpretation and driving directions while practicing his English. It was fun having him along, although I’d imagine it was difficult understanding our wide-ranging accents. One can only imagine what his friends would think when he explained how all these people came from all over the world to spend weeks totally engaged in hunting down butterflies.
While hanging out on the deck at Richard’s house, common marmosets passed through the trees on regular visits and seemed nearly as common as squirrels back home.
Another fun surprise there was getting a close-up view of a Chestnut-backed Antshrike working its way through the bushes by the deck.
Although our focus was almost entirely on those butterflies, there were plenty of other birds, colorful flowers, and interesting bugs and critters that caught my attention. In Marica, for example, a group of White-throated Manakin were calling from their lek along one of the trails. These cool little birds are usually hidden away deep in the forest, and are known for their impressive mating displays, but one came out in the open for a quick drink.
One day at the Marica lagoon, a few Neotropic Cormorants were having great success at fishing, diving down and coming up with a nice snack almost every time.
Although I never did spot the troops of Capuchin monkeys seen by others later on the trip, we were all surprised to spot a small group of Golden Lion Tamarins on one of our outings, an endangered species native to Brazil’s coastal Atlantic Forest, and of which the wild population is only around 1,000.
Two of our best butterflies in Marica were the Parides ascanius
and a Zebra Kite-Swallowtail, Protesilaus stenodesmus.
Another very cool butterfly Frank spotted hiding under a leaf one day is the remarkably colorful Periander Beautymark, Rhetus Periander.
A mating pair of Echydna chaseba, the Starry Night Metalmark, was another highlight for the area.
After several days in Marica, we headed off to Bocaina, near the town of Bananal, where we stayed in the delightfully rustic Estalagem da Bocaina. A regular visitor to the bird feeders there in addition to several other good birds, was the Saffron Finch.
Bocaina turned out to be fabulous for firetips, among the most colorful of the family of skipper butterflies. The first of the four species we’d see there was the Damippe Firetip (Sarbia damippe), covered in morning dew on its overnight roost.
After seeing that firetip, as we were heading back to breakfast, we spotted a mating pair of another firetip, the Xanthippe Firetip (Sarbia xanthippe spixii).
Most impressive of the four species we’d see there, however, was the Versicolor Skipper (Mimoniades versicolor).
A highlight for me at Bocaina, and probably the best photograph I got on the trip was the Giant Anteros (Anteros kupris), one of those fabulous furry-footed metalmarks of which I’d only seen one in Ecuador and three species in Panama.
After several delightful days in Bocaina, we next headed up to the lower elevations of Itatiaia National Park, where we stayed at Hotel Donati inside the park. This area was excellent for a variety of clearwing butterflies, many of which I’m still trying to identify, and several good hairstreaks. It was great spotting the Thales Blackstreak (Ocaria thales), a new one for me, after seeing a picture of one Dave had seen a couple of days earlier.
Another one that came out pretty well is Tmolus venustus.
I’m also a big fan of the Leafwing butterflies, such as this Memphis that we haven’t yet nailed down to species.
Common pretty much everywhere we went on this trip were the morning and afternoon flyovers of White-eyed Parakeets, one of which posed rather nicely in the shade of a tree one morning.
After several good days of butterflying in this area, we moved on to our final stop at Pousada Riberirao do Ouro near Itamonte to check out higher elevation habitats of Itatiaia National Park. One morning, I happened to notice some Toco Toucans perched in a dead tree up the hill from the lodge, and looking closer, saw that there were at least seven hanging out there. This was pretty amazing to me, as in the past I’d never seen more than maybe two sharing a tree.
It was fun pointing them out to Eric, who’d mentioned the day before that he had yet to see a toucan in his home country.
Although we started out a little surprised at not seeing many butterflies at these higher elevations, toward the end of our first day there, we’d get spectacular looks at two very cool butterflies. Very special to see was the very local and rare Polygrapha suprema, and we had two different individuals of this species hang around for quite awhile allowing all of us to get good photographs. Here’s two different views of it, first the closed ventral view,
and then the colorful dorsal view.
Shortly after that amazing experience, while driving back down the mountain Richard spotted another fantastic butterfly, the Epiphile orea, which also hung around for a few minutes for pictures.
I’ll have lots more pictures on my website at sandianet.com/rio soon – it’s a work in progress that I’ll be updating as we identify more of the butterfly species. Another excellent trip – can’t wait for the next one!