August 2012 - 484 species photographed in 14 days!
A non-profit small group butterfly
watching holiday in Peru, led by Adrian Hoskins and Emily Halsey in
conjunction with local guides.
Our tour began at Lima where we
were welcomed by our host Manuel, driver Julio, and cook Josué. We
headed across the Andes, and spotted several
Colias Clouded Yellows and various unidentified whites as we
ascended the dry western slopes. At midday we stopped for lunch at a
restaurant at 3650m altitude near La Oroya. Nearby we found a small
colony of Punargenteus lamna, an
unusual Satyrine with metallic silvery forewings. We watched in
fascination as a female used the tip of her abdomen to excavate tiny
holes in the soil in which she deposited her eggs.
We arrived at our hotel at Satipo
that evening. Next morning we drove to the picturesque village of
Puerto Ocopa where we crossed the Rio Tambo by car ferry and then
drove towards Atalaya.
Puerto Ocopa car ferry
© Tony Hoare
Along the Atalaya road we found
clusters of Rhetus arcius,
Rhetus periander and
Pereute charops mud-puddling by a small
stream. We suffered a minor delay when our vehicle broke a track
rod. While arrangements were being made to get it repaired we walked
to the nearby Ashaninka Indian village at Pauti where hordes of
butterflies including Philaethria dido,
Hesperocharis nereina and
Pterourus menatius were puddling at the edge of a stream. We
spent about an hour studying and photographing the butterflies but
then the local Ashaninka Indians suddenly appeared. Unfortunately
they were unprepared for our arrival and when they spotted our
cameras and long macro lenses they panicked, fearing that we would
use them to steal their souls, so to avoid upsetting them we headed
back to our vehicle.
By now the light was beginning to
fade, so we set up our moth lights at the roadside and enjoyed a
camp dinner while arrangements were made to obtain alternative
transport for our onward journey. We were soon collected by a couple
of local drivers who delivered us to our next destination Shima.
Reaching our campsite at Shima
involved a 40 minute walk along an abandoned logging track, and
wading across a shallow but fast running stream. It was a hot day so
it was a huge relief to get our feet into the clear cool water! As
we rambled along the track we encountered a mass migration of
butterflies, all heading in the opposite direction. A quick count
indicated that at least 100 butterflies per minute were passing us.
The migration continued for several hours, and comprised of perhaps
10,000 butterflies, of which about 50% were
Marpesia furcula. The remainder consisted of about 20 other
species including Heliconius melpomene,
Phoebis neocypris, Eueides aliphera,
Doxocopa agathina, Panacea prola,
various Eunica and
Adelpha species, and several Pierids.
argante, Anteos menippe
aggregating with Marpesia,
Siseme, Melete etc at Rio Shima
With so many butterflies emigrating
from Shima we wondered if there would still be any there when we
arrived. We were not to be disappointed!! Around the edges of a
shallow pool near the campsite we found literally thousands of
mud-puddling butterflies including about 2000
Marpesia furcula, 500 Monethe albertus,
10 Lyropteryx apollonia, 20
Caria mantinea, over 30
Rhetus arcius and dozens of other
beautiful species among which were Heraclides
astyalus, Lasaia agesilas,
Doxocopa laurentia, Doxocopa griseldis
and Parelbella peruana.
Within a few metres of our forest
hut we saw somewhere in the region of 350 species of butterfly, and
each evening our MV lamp attracted hundreds of moths ranging from
tiny but very beautiful Pyralidae and Geometridae species to wasp
mimics, huge hawkmoths and giant silkmoths.
Rio Shima, Junin, altitude 450m ©
After 4 wonderful days among the
butterflies at Shima our repaired vehicle arrived and we drove to
the beautiful waterfall at Catarata Bayoz. Butterflies are normally
abundant there but the climate in Peru has been unusually dry this
year due to El Nino so there were few to be seen. We did however
have a great time around the waterfall before heading back to our
hotel at Satipo in the evening.
The next day we had a long drive
through spectacular Andean scenery, with a couple of
butterfly-watching stops along the way, before reaching our next
destination, a coffee plantation at 1300m altitude near Villa Rica.
We stayed there for 2 nights and saw some gorgeous Arctiidae at our
moth light. During the daytime we visited the nearby Bosque Sho'llet
cloudforest. At an altitude of about 2300m we saw several very
attractive Pronophilines including Lymanopoda
rana, and the stunning Riodinid
Necyria bellona. While in the area some
of us also enjoyed a spot of rowing on the tranquil Laguna Oconal.
cloudforest, altitude 2300m ©
Leaving Villa Rica we headed for
our final destination Tingo Maria, but as we were running late we
stopped to spend the night at Velo de la Novia at the base of the
Andes. There we enjoyed further mothing, and saw some stunning
Notodontidae, Geometridae and Arctiidae species. The next day we
visited a riverside spot near Tingo Maria where one participant was
lucky enough to photograph the stunning long-tailed green hairstreak
Although butterfly numbers were low we saw several other interesting
hairstreaks, metalmarks and glasswings.
Our last full day of butterflying
was spent at the beautiful Rio Onolulu gorge, where we found many
beautiful metalmarks including Rhetus dysonii,
Amarynthis meneria, Caria sponsa
and Chorinea amazon. Finally it was
time to head back over the Andes and return to Lima. We only had
time for a brief stop en route, but enjoyed an hour at a high
altitude altiplano site where we found numerous
Colias euxanthe, Peruvian Skippers
Hylephila peruviana, and
Punargenteus lamna nectaring at
Compositae by the roadside. The prize species at this site however
was a tiny brown butterfly which at first glance appeared to be a
Pronophiline, but turned out to be an as yet un-named species of
Lycaenidae in the genus Penaincisalia.
Our final day was spent in the
capital Lima where we visited an excellent Peruvian market where we
bargained for souvenirs, before having a farewell lunch and driving
to the airport for our return flights to London.