Butterflying Brazil

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.

Marica Sunset

Marica Sunset

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.

Hard at Work

Hard at Work

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.

Marmoset

Marmoset

Another fun surprise there was getting a close-up view of a Chestnut-backed Antshrike working its way through the bushes by the deck.

Chestnut-backed Antshrike

Chestnut-backed Antshrike

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.

White-throated Manakin

White-throated Manakin

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.

Neotropic Cormorant

Neotropic Cormorant

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.

Golden Lion Tamarin

Golden Lion Tamarin

Two of our best butterflies in Marica were the Parides ascanius

Parides ascanius

Parides ascanius

and a Zebra Kite-Swallowtail, Protesilaus stenodesmus.

Zebra Kite-Swallowtail (Protesilaus stenodesmus)

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.

Periander Beautymark (Rhetus periander)

Periander Beautymark (Rhetus periander)

A mating pair of Echydna chaseba, the Starry Night Metalmark, was another highlight for the area.

Echydna chaseba

Echydna chaseba

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.

Saffron Finch

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.

Damippe Firetip (Sarbia damippe)

Damippe Firetip (Sarbia damippe)

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).

Xanthippe Firetip (Sarbia xanthippe)

Xanthippe Firetip (Sarbia xanthippe)

Most impressive of the four species we’d see there, however, was the Versicolor Skipper (Mimoniades versicolor).

Versicolor Skipper (Mimoniades versicolor)

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.

Giant Anteros (Anteros kupris)

Giant Anteros (Anteros kupris)

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.

Thales Blackstreak (Ocaria thales)

Thales Blackstreak (Ocaria thales)

Another one that came out pretty well is Tmolus venustus.

Tmolus venustus

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.

Memphis Butterfly

Memphis Butterfly

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.

White-eyed Parakeet

White-eyed Parakeet

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.

Toco Toucan

Toco Toucan

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,

Polygrapha suprema

Polygrapha suprema

and then the colorful dorsal view.

Polygrapha suprema

Polygrapha suprema

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.

Epiphile orea

Epiphile orea

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!

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About joeschelling

Birding, butterflies, nature photography, and travel blog from right here in Albuquerque New Mexico.
This entry was posted in Birding, Butterfly, Critters, Photographs, Travel. Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Butterflying Brazil

  1. Eric says:

    That Giant Anteros’s picture is really awsome.

  2. vickbird says:

    Oh what amazing creatures you’ve photographed. Just spent an hour in delight and astonishment. Had no idea there were butterflies with transparent wings, and some appear to have translucent wings. Is that the case? And how can that be? I thought butterfly wings had scales, but that one whole series looked more like dragonfly wings or panes of thin glass. The birds and mammals equally astounding. I love how closely you look, the photos of men on knees and belly with their cameras. The butterflies and moths photographed against the backdrops that camouflage them must be so difficult to see. What a gift your photos are! Thank you!

    Vicki

  3. joeschelling says:

    Wow, thanks, Vicki. Glad you enjoyed them. And, yes, those clearwings, mostly in the neotropics, are very cool, but you can imagine hard to photograph with those transparent wings and usually close to the ground in deep shadow.

  4. Mike Powell says:

    What a cool collection of photos. You were obviously really busy and came away with some amazing shots. I am always amazed when I see the abundance of bright colors in the tropics in the birds and insects. My senses, which have atrophied a bit due to the dullness of the winter months, are in overload. My favorite is probably the Versicolor Skipper.

  5. joeschelling says:

    Thanks, Mike. It was great leaving winter behind and visiting a new place like that. Take enough pictures and some have to come out good (right?). Certain moments on that trip clearly went above and beyond expectations.

  6. WOW – don’t even know where to start — great story and walk along your travels! Loved the fishing Neotropic Cormorants and the fandango at the end. Wonderful that butterflies have so many personalities – going from clay-colored-incognito to striking hang-glider-star!

    fabulous writing even for us un-informed!

  7. Beautiful beautiful captures Joe! I love all the bold colors, very striking. Always nice to visit somewhere new to see ‘new’ wildlife. 🙂

  8. Cliff Gibbons says:

    Great photos! I can only imagine what a trip that must have been! And to think I was tickled just to see Dainty Sulphurs and Orange Sulphers out and about this past weekend in the Sandia foothills! I am ready to do some butterflying with you when you have some time (and the weather decides to stay warm).

  9. joeschelling says:

    Hi Cliff. About mid to late March, the Sandia Hairsreaks and Orangetips should be flying in Embudito, so yeah, let’s plan on meeting there sometime.

    • Cliff Gibbons says:

      Sounds good. I will be closing on a house in Rio Rancho in mid March so I will be ready to go late March! I will keep in touch.

  10. jnikiel says:

    And my favorite is….the Parides ascanius! Wow, what colors. Love “joining” you on your travels!!

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