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Trip Reports
Butterfly-watching Holidays
Trinidad & Tobago
April 1992
trip report by Adrian Hoskins
 

I had dreamt since childhood of visiting a tropical rainforest, but it had always seemed an impossible dream. However in 1992 I decided to plough all my savings into fulfilling the dream. I had seen the Asa Wright Nature Centre advertised as the perfect place for an introduction to the rainforest, and hoped that the trip might allow me to see a few rainforest butterflies, but really had very little idea of what to expect.

My first 5 days were based at the Asa Wright Nature Centre, in the Arima valley located in the Northern Range mountains. Early on the first morning a guide knocked on the door and told me that he would take me on a guided tour of the trails. After the introductory tour I decided that I would prefer to continue my exploration of the area alone. The entire trail system could easily be walked in a couple of hours

Even though this trip took place 15 years ago, I still vividly remember standing alone in the rainforest, surrounded by the haunting siren wail of cicadas, a sound which seemed to be initiated by slight increases in temperature, and began as the "crick-crick" of a single cicada, and then swept in a wave across the forest, rising in frequency and volume over a period of 2 or 3 minutes, and then quickly fading. Sometimes the sound of the cicadas, and of the thousands of tiny frogs was almost deafening. 

The gorgeous gurgling call of oropendola birds was one of the most characteristic and beautiful sounds of the rainforest. Also very characteristic was the omnipresent and far from unpleasant smell of rotting fruit and fungi. The birdlife was truly wonderful - hummingbirds hovered just inches away as they fed from feeders on the nature centre verandah. Beautiful tanagers, kiskadees, motmots, jacamars and honeycreepers were seen regularly, and deep in the forest I heard the strange ringing call of bell birds. Further memories were provided by the appearance of a huge monitor lizard which periodically strolled across the garden, and by the gorgeous views across the rainforest clad mountains of the Northern Range. 

Early one morning as I departed in a minibus for a bird-watching field trip, an Owl butterfly Caligo brasiliensis flew past the vehicle. I begged the driver to stop, and managed to fall into a ditch as I scrambled excitedly out of the vehicle to find the butterfly. I spotted it at rest on a tree trunk, and fully expected it to fly off as I approached, but luckily it stayed long enough for a photograph. 

The holiday was a wonderful introduction to neotropical Lepidoptera. As well as the fabulous Caligo, I had my first sightings of the huge dazzling blue Morpho helenor, which were glimpsed periodically as they patrolled along water courses. Fascinating Glasswings Ithomia agnosia enticed me away from the security of the trails into the undergrowth, where imaginary snakes waited to pounce. Mosaic butterflies Colobura dirce, sat on tree trunks, and surprised me when they scuttled squirrel-like around to the other side of the tree when approached. More amusement was provided by the cheeky Arawacus aetolus, a zebra-striped Lycaenid which sat motionless until I pointed my camera at it, whereupon it slowly but very deliberately rotated to present me with a view of it's posterior !

Other favourites included the stunning red back and white Coolies, Anartia amathea; the fabulous Red Daggerwing Marpesia petreus, with its beautiful deeply sculpted wings; and pretty black and red Postman butterflies Heliconius erato which fluttered around flowers as if suspended by an invisible thread.

Another very appealing species was a gorgeous skipper, with chocolate wings fringed with gold; and bright carmine red legs and eyes. This was a species which took 10 years to identify ! The illustrations in Lewis and Seitz are very poor, but I eventually concluded that it was probably Orses cynisca, and this was later confirmed via e-mail by Andy Warren, the neotropical skipper expert from Carnegie Museum in USA. 

The most fascinating species of all was a wonderful little moth, with the most amazing dead-leaf camouflage. I spotted it out of the corner of my eye as I was photographing a Parides Cattle Heart. At first I thought it was a dead leaf, with a spider positioned symmetrically upon it, but closer examination revealed that the "dead leaf" was the wings of a moth, and the "spider" was it's body and legs. It adopted an extremely odd posture, with it's body, legs and outstretched wings held in a vertical plane, and had a strange mesmerising effect on me as I watched it. I gave it the nickname "Sit on it's bum moth". For many years I was completely mystified by the insect, but it was was finally identified 10 years later by Mike Shaffer of the Natural History Museum, as Siculodes aurorula, a member of the Thyrididae. My specimen was the first ever recorded in Trinidad.

Siculodes aurorula THYRIDIDAE, Asa Wright Nature Centre, Trinidad, April 1992 Adrian Hoskins

Day trips from Asa Wright included a boat trip in Caroni Swamp where I saw mudskippers, and flocks of scarlet ibis and white egrets alighting on the distant mangroves as the sun set. Trips to an abandoned USA airbase Wallerfield and to Aripo savannah produced a few additional species, but I was always glad to return and spend as much time as possible at the Asa Wright Centre. 

After leaving Trinidad, I flew to Tobago for 4 days based at Arnos Vale on the north coast of the island. Each morning I was awoken by the very raucous calls of dozens of parrots. The hotel grounds had dozens of large crabs scuttling about all over the place.

Flowering bushes attracted passing Phoebis Sulphurs, but butterflies on Tobago were always scarce. A short walk away from the hotel however was a patch of farmland with a small stream. There I had my first ever sightings of the Monarch Danaus plexippus.

Day-trips included a very scenic round-the-island car tour, seeing beautiful beaches, and villages with fascinating little wooden stilt houses; and various walks through coastal hillside forests and the lovely Louis d'Or valley.

Species list
All species listed below were identified by Adrian Hoskins using the d'Abrera volumes, Lewis, Smart, DeVries etc. Nomenclature follows Lamas, 2003.

Site

Family

sub-family

Genus

species

Asa Wright

Hesperiidae

Hesperiinae

Apaustus

gracilis

Asa Wright

Hesperiidae

Hesperiinae

Callimormus

alsimo

Asa Wright

Hesperiidae

Hesperiinae

Calpodes

ethlius

Asa Wright

Hesperiidae

Hesperiinae

Eprius

veleda

Asa Wright

Hesperiidae

Hesperiinae

Hylephila

phylaeus

Asa Wright

Hesperiidae

Hesperiinae

Orses

cynisca

Asa Wright

Hesperiidae

Hesperiinae

Polites

vibex

Asa Wright

Hesperiidae

Hesperiinae

Pompeius

pompeius

Asa Wright

Hesperiidae

Hesperiinae

Saliana

triangularis

Asa Wright

Hesperiidae

Hesperiinae

Talides

sergestus

Asa Wright

Hesperiidae

Hesperiinae

Vehilius

inca

Asa Wright

Hesperiidae

Pyrginae

Aguna

albistria

Asa Wright

Hesperiidae

Pyrginae

Astraptes

fulgerator

Asa Wright

Hesperiidae

Pyrginae

Autochton

itylus

Asa Wright

Hesperiidae

Pyrginae

Autochton

neis

Asa Wright

Hesperiidae

Pyrginae

Bolla

cupreiceps

Asa Wright

Hesperiidae

Pyrginae

Chioides

catillus

Asa Wright

Hesperiidae

Pyrginae

Gesta

gesta

Asa Wright

Hesperiidae

Pyrginae

Heliopetes

petrus

Asa Wright

Hesperiidae

Pyrginae

Nisoniades

bessus

Asa Wright

Hesperiidae

Pyrginae

Phanus

vitreus

Asa Wright

Hesperiidae

Pyrginae

Pyrgus

oileus

Asa Wright

Hesperiidae

Pyrginae

Quadrus

cerialis

Asa Wright

Hesperiidae

Pyrginae

Staphylus

ceos

Asa Wright

Hesperiidae

Pyrginae

Urbanus

dorantes

Asa Wright

Hesperiidae

Pyrginae

Urbanus

proteus

Asa Wright

Hesperiidae

Pyrginae

Urbanus

simplicius

Asa Wright

Hesperiidae

Pyrginae

Urbanus

teleus

Asa Wright

Lycaenidae

Polyommatinae

Cupido

comyntas

Asa Wright

Lycaenidae

Polyommatinae

Hemiargus

hanno

Asa Wright

Lycaenidae

Polyommatinae

Leptotes

cassius

Asa Wright

Lycaenidae

Theclinae

Arawacus

aetolus

Asa Wright

Lycaenidae

Theclinae

Calycopis

isobeon

Asa Wright

Lycaenidae

Theclinae

Electrostrymon

endymion

Louis d'Or valley

Lycaenidae

Theclinae

Pseudolycaena

marsyas

Asa Wright

Lycaenidae

Theclinae

Siderus

leucophaeus

Asa Wright

Lycaenidae

Theclinae

Strymon

albata

Asa Wright

Lycaenidae

Theclinae

Strymon

megarus

Asa Wright

Nymphalidae

Biblidinae

Biblis

hyperia

Asa Wright

Nymphalidae

Biblidinae

Callicore

astarte

Asa Wright

Nymphalidae

Biblidinae

Diaethria

clymena

Asa Wright

Nymphalidae

Biblidinae

Dynamine

theseus

Asa Wright

Nymphalidae

Biblidinae

Hamadryas

laodamia

Asa Wright

Nymphalidae

Biblidinae

Marpesia

petreus

Asa Wright

Nymphalidae

Biblidinae

Mestra

dorcas

Arnos Vale

Nymphalidae

Danainae

Danaus

plexippus

Asa Wright

Nymphalidae

Heliconiinae

Agraulis

vanillae

Asa Wright

Nymphalidae

Heliconiinae

Dryas

iulia

Louis d'Or valley

Nymphalidae

Heliconiinae

Eueides

aliphera

Asa Wright

Nymphalidae

Heliconiinae

Heliconius

charithonia

Asa Wright

Nymphalidae

Heliconiinae

Heliconius

erato

Asa Wright

Nymphalidae

Heliconiinae

Heliconius

ricini

Asa Wright

Nymphalidae

Heliconiinae

Heliconius

sara

Asa Wright

Nymphalidae

Heliconiinae

Laparus

doris

Asa Wright

Nymphalidae

Ithomiinae

Greta

andromica

Asa Wright

Nymphalidae

Ithomiinae

Ithomia

agnosia

Asa Wright

Nymphalidae

Ithomiinae

Mechanitis

lysimnia

Asa Wright

Nymphalidae

Ithomiinae

Mechanitis

polymnia

Asa Wright

Nymphalidae

Ithomiinae

Melinaea

lilis

Asa Wright

Nymphalidae

Limenitidinae

Adelpha

cytherea

Asa Wright

Nymphalidae

Limenitidinae

Adelpha

iphiclus

Asa Wright

Nymphalidae

Limenitidinae

Adelpha

plesaure

Asa Wright

Nymphalidae

Morphinae

Caligo

brasiliensis

Asa Wright

Nymphalidae

Morphinae

Morpho

helenor

Louis d'Or valley

Nymphalidae

Nymphalinae

Anartia

amathea

Asa Wright

Nymphalidae

Nymphalinae

Anartia

amathea

Asa Wright

Nymphalidae

Nymphalinae

Anartia

jatrophae

Asa Wright

Nymphalidae

Nymphalinae

Colobura

dirce

Asa Wright

Nymphalidae

Nymphalinae

Hypanartia

lethe

Asa Wright

Nymphalidae

Nymphalinae

Janatella

leucodesma

Asa Wright

Nymphalidae

Nymphalinae

Junonia

evarete

Asa Wright

Nymphalidae

Nymphalinae

Tegosa

anieta

Asa Wright

Nymphalidae

Satyrinae

Chloreuptychia

arnaca

Asa Wright

Nymphalidae

Satyrinae

Hermeuptychia

hermes

Asa Wright

Nymphalidae

Satyrinae

Magneuptychia

lea

Asa Wright

Nymphalidae

Satyrinae

Pareuptychia

ocirrhoe

Asa Wright

Nymphalidae

Satyrinae

Pierella

hyalinus

Asa Wright

Nymphalidae

Satyrinae

Posttaygetis

penelea

Asa Wright

Papilionidae

Papilioninae

Battus

polydamas

Asa Wright

Papilionidae

Papilioninae

Heraclides

thoas

Asa Wright

Papilionidae

Papilioninae

Parides

anchises

Asa Wright

Papilionidae

Papilioninae

Parides

neophilus

Asa Wright

Pieridae

Coliadinae

Eurema

albula

Asa Wright

Pieridae

Coliadinae

Eurema

arbela

Asa Wright

Pieridae

Coliadinae

Eurema

daira

Arnos Vale

Pieridae

Coliadinae

Phoebis

philea

Arnos Vale

Pieridae

Coliadinae

Phoebis

sennae

Asa Wright

Pieridae

Coliadinae

Pyrisitia

leuce

Asa Wright

Pieridae

Coliadinae

Pyrisitia

venusta

Asa Wright

Pieridae

Pierinae

Melete

lycimnia

Asa Wright

Riodinidae

Riodininae

Charis

anius

Arnos Vale

Riodinidae

Riodininae

Detritivora

hermodora

Asa Wright

Riodinidae

Riodininae

Isapis

agyrtus

Asa Wright

Riodinidae

Riodininae

Mesosemia

minos

Asa Wright

Riodinidae

Riodininae

Nymphidium

cachrus

Asa Wright

Riodinidae

Riodininae

Synargis

calyce

 

 

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