Trip Reports
Butterfly-watching Holidays
August 2013
a non-profit small group tour organised and led by Adrian Hoskins
Our next tour to Colombia departs 29th January 2015 - please contact me for details.
Trip report | SPECIES LIST | Amazon & Andes galleries - 100's more photos!
The view from our lodge at Tatama national park Adrian Hoskins

Things don't always go according to plan in South America, but it all adds to the sense of adventure! This was our first trip to Colombia, and when we arrived we found the country was in the middle of a national strike which caused disruption and road closures on major routes. Fortunately with the aid of our excellent local guides Dora and Hernan, and our safe reliable driver Mauricio we were able to rearrange the schedule to avoid the road blocks, and a fantastic time was had by everyone! Delicious food, comfortable accommodation, stunning scenery, gorgeous butterflies, great company and wonderful Colombian hospitality made this a very special tour!

Heliconius charithonia

Marpesia corinna

Epiphile eriopis

Heliconius cydno

Oxeoschistus simplex

Fountainea nobilis

Ithomia hyala

Adelpha serpa

Doxocopa laurentia

After spending a night at Medellin we flew to Pereira to avoid the road blocks, and then had a short drive to our first butterfly site Otun Quimbaya. Our lodge there was located amidst cloudforest at an elevation of 1900m, and most of our butterfly-watching and photography took place on the little-used forest road that stretches from the reserve entrance at 1800m up to about 2300m where the road ends. We also explored the riverbanks, and walked along the narrow trails that led from the lodge into the surrounding forest, where we saw the clearwing Satyr Pseudohaetera hypaesia, and a good selection of Ithomiine glasswings. The latter are fascinating to watch, fluttering secretively with deep slow wing beats, and occasionally settling on leaves to pose for photographs. Downhill from the lodge we explored a grassy track at the edge of the river, which produced the stunning zebra hairstreak Arawacus leucogyna, several very attractive red and metallic blue-black Altinote species, and a huge red skipper Yanguna cosyra.

Cloudforest at Otun Quimbaya Adrian Hoskins

After 2 full days of butterfly photography at Otun we then had a long drive to our next destination at Tatama national park. Our lodge was set at an elevation of 1350m at the edge of this magical and wonderfully scenic cloudforest. Our explorations took place mainly along the rough stony road that winds up from the lodge to an elevation of almost 3000m. Tatama is in the Choco ecological zone and receives some of the highest rainfall in South America, but it also happens to be one of the richest butterfly sites on the continent. Cloud cover and light drizzle discouraged us from exploring the highest elevations, so we spent most of our time between 1350-1800m where it generally remained warm and dry. Some of us elected to be taken uphill by vehicle and to walk slowly down back to the lodge, while others preferred to walk all the way up to 1800m and back again - a tiring trek but extremely rewarding, with many Callicore, Diaethria, Memphis, Heliconius, Dismorphia, Catasticta, Perisama, Adelpha, Doxocopa, Mesosemia, Catonephele, Epiphile, Hypanartia, Marpesia and Corades species, plus the huge Owl butterfly Caligo oedipus and 3 dazzling blue giant Morpho species. The highlights for most of us were the stunning pink Fountainea nobilis; the delightful little metalmark Necyria bellona zaneta - marked with metallic blue bands and red spots on a jet black ground colour; and the magnificent black, red and white Epiphile eriopis which basked obligingly with wings outspread on the track.

Cecropia tree at dawn, Tatama national park Adrian Hoskins

Although our tour was primarily focused on butterflies, we often found ourselves distracted by the many other wonders of Tatama - stunning scenery, hummingbirds galore, beautiful orchids, moths of every shape and pattern imaginable, gorgeous dragonflies, and magnificent bugs!

Unidentified bug, Tatama national park Adrian Hoskins

Following our 6 wonderful days at Tatama we drove to Rio Claro, where we stayed for 3 days at a nature resort on the banks of the river at an elevation of 350m. Although butterfly abundance here was relatively poor the diversity of species was high, and we saw and photographed many species that do not occur at the higher elevations visited previously. Among these were several stunning metalmarks among which were pristine examples of Sarota chrysus, Ancyluris jurgensenii, Caria mantinea, Caria rhacotis, Lasaia agesilas and Rhetus periander.

Our next destination was Arrierito Piha reserve at Antioquoia. The comfortable lodge there is set on a quiet forest road at an elevation of 1700m. This was a wonderful place to stay, especially for those who love hummingbirds - sometimes as many as 40 of these amazing creatures occupied a favoured small tree in the lodge garden! Along the roadside we saw many fabulous butterflies such as the dead-leaf mimic Consul panariste, the dazzling metallic blue-banded Emperors Doxocopa cyane and Doxoxopa laurentia cherubina, the lovely white-banded Oressinoma typhla, and the blue tailed metalmark Rhetus dysonii. Trails through the cloudforest interior produced the huge and very attractive Ithomiine Elzunia humboldt and the delightfully graceful longwing Heliconius clysonymus. Another highlight was the white-banded ringlet Splendeuptychia ackeryi, which was described to science for the first time in 2009.

Oressinoma typhla

Hypanartia lethe

Anartia jatrophae

Cyanophrys longula

Panthiades bathildis

Callicore tolima

Rhetus dysonii

Sarota chrysus

Necyria bellona

After our 2 days at the Piha reserve we drove the short distance to Santa Fe de Antioquoia, where we had a long roadside stop which produced the bright orange and black striped longwing Dryadula phaetusa, several species of Urbanus long-tailed skippers, and a horde of attractive hairstreak species. Another site in the same area produced Monarchs Danaus plexippus, and the magnificent banded hairstreak Panthiades bathildis.

Our final day was spent with two friends Juan and Martin who live and work in Medellin. They are both very knowledgeable and keen butterfly photographers, and are in the process of producing an illustrated database of Colombian butterflies. They took us in the morning to an uninspiring patch of relict cloudforest at an elevation of 1400m on the edge of Medellin. To our surprise this turned out to be one of the most productive sites of the entire trip! Liquidised fish bait spayed liberally over foliage almost instantly attracted hordes of butterflies including the metallic blue Heliconius erato chestertonii and several attractive Adelpha species. The butterflies which thrilled us most however were the unusual Eyemark Skipper Cyclosemia leppa and the stunningly attractive furry-legged Jewelmark Anteros kupris. In the afternoon we were taken to another nearby site at an elevation of 1800m where we saw the pretty green hairstreak Cyanophrys longula, several glasswing and tiger-pattern Ithomiines, and a variety of pronophiline Satyrs among which was a Forsterinaria species which is new to science.

Pueblito de San Jose, near Medellin Adrian Hoskins



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