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Thread: Butterflies of Sabah

  1. #1
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    Default Butterflies of Sabah

    Hello again. Back from another short trip, this time from Sabah. For anyone intending to visit the region, I highly recommend visiting Mahua Waterfall. It's easily accessible, has a great puddling spot at the carpark, a nice chalet to stay at, and overall pretty good butterfly diversity. I'll save the best find for last...but first..

    I'll start this thread off by posting some pictures of my target species this trip. Because I didn't have too many days here, and it wasn't peak butterfly season, I set my expectations pretty low. I wanted some endemics, but I also didn't want to expect too much. Graphium (Pathysa) stratiotes seemed like a perfect candidate to hunt, since the genus is notoriously fond of puddling, and I figured if nothing else would show up, at least these guys would.


    Graphium stratiotes

    I was not disappointed! These showed up on all days that I was there, and up to 3-4 at times. By far the commonest leptocircini.


    Graphium stratiotes

    another individual...


    Graphium stratiotes

    and another...


    Graphium stratiotes

    a glimpse of its upperside.
    Last edited by MinuteMaid; 13-Jan-2019 at 10:44 PM.

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    Graphium procles

    The beautiful Graphium procles also showed up. This is another narrow range endemic that's quite common in the Kinabalu region and much of the Crocker Range.


    Graphium evemon

    Picking them out from the more common Graphium evemon wasn't easy.


    Lamproptera meges

    The ever beautiful Green Dragontail also made an appearance.


    Pathysa antiphates

    Ironically, the Five-bar Swordtail was the least common papilionid. I only saw a single individual show up at the puddling ground across all days I was there.


    Graphium stratiotes & Pathysa antiphates

    Here's both swordtails puddling alongside each other. Forgive my inconsistent assignment of genera here between Graphium and Pathysa. I'll fix those later....after I have a look at the phylogeny of leptocircini.

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    Pachliopta antiphus

    These Black Roses were beautiful, and were new to me as well. Two specimens showed up on two separate days. I am aware some authors treat this as a subspecies of P. aristolochiae.


    Papilio acheron

    The stunning and very regal Papilio acheron. Another endemic species of the region, and not common. Only a single male turned up on the last day – though he stayed for hours, giving us numerous opportunities to play with our shots. A spectacular butterfly with a very commanding presence.


    Appias pandione


    Appias pandione

    These were the commonest pierids around, and in flight, resembled the Kinabalu Swordtail quite closely.
    Last edited by MinuteMaid; 13-Jan-2019 at 10:46 PM.

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    Cyrestis nivea


    Cyrestis maenalis

    These were the only two cyrestine butterflies I saw, and both were common (C. maenalis more so than C. nivea).


    Kaniska canace


    Kaniska canace

    The sensational Blue Admiral showed up on two separate days. The marbled, cryptic undersides is a facade for the arresting cerulean above, a sight that's revealed only with much reluctance. I'm glad I managed some decent shots of this species. It's one i've seen many times over the years, but never got a photo of. Interestingly, Kaniska has an inordinate fondness for exposed roads, parking lots, granite, and cement, and is more often encountered in these situations than anywhere else.

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    Athyma larymna

    A single Athyma larymna showed up on a pile of faeces. Its enormous, and nearly as large as the Charaxes beside it.


    Xanthotaenia busiris

    A very common species there. I saw at least half a dozen on all days.


    Ypthima pandocus

    This is by far the commonest satyrine to be found, and weirdly, the ONLY Ypthima I encountered. It's almost as if Sabah has no other species..

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    The entire grounds where we were at were bordered on the periphery by Polygonum, signalling the presence of Heliophorus. Indeed, these were everywhere, but would only show up for a short 1-2 hours in the morning at first light, and then disappearing again only to reappear in the evening.


    Heliophorus kiana


    Heliophorus kiana


    Heliophorus kiana

    The endemic Heliophorus kiana. A stunning beauty, but with rather unassuming looking uppersides.

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    I would see a couple of these everyday, but would never land. They were lofty in flight and would sometimes fly in pairs for what seemed like forever, before disappearing into the jungle again. I tried baiting these with banana, but nothing..


    Tanaeris horsfieldii

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    Some honourable mentions before I post the pièce de résistance

    1) The immaculate Troides andromache were present on all days, and the females, with almost entirely ash-grey forewings, were just spectacular. None provided any shooting opportunities, despite the numerous nectaring plants that seemed to be growing around...

    2) The nominate Trogonoptera brookiana ssp. brookiana. As above with Troides...see but no touch.

    3) On one day I saw a very unusual butterfly that was entirely new to me show up at the puddling site. It, however, never stayed, and I only saw it land for a split second. But the sight is burned into my brain, and I can't seem to identify it. Here's the description: A nymphalid, about the size of a Dichorragia, or a slightly larger Stibochiona; flight powerful and very erratic, just like Dichorragia; body and wings entirely black and unmarked, sans for a white dot on the tip of the forewing, much like Rohana, but behavior, size, and biology described as above ^. I want to believe its a Stibochiona, and the only Bornean endemic I can think of is S. persephone, but a photo of it is not available online. Aaron, or Dr. Seow, if you're reading this and if anything you know matches the description, i'd be interested in hearing your thoughts.

    4) The unique and peculiar Amnosia decora showed up on the first day. Both sexes were seen flying about and ducking under leaves. I didn't get any good shots.

    5) At a sunlit patch of forest created by a fallen tree, I saw, in the canopy, a myriad of amazing lycaenids just absolutely living their best lives. Jacoona, Neocheritra, Drupadia, Neomyrina, and the other usual long-tailed canopy dwelling lycaenids were to be found. I saw amongst the mix what I could have sworn to be Iraota abnormis. It was fairly large, white on the underside with some speckling of brown; flight was very territorial and purposeful. Alas without a picture, it will only remain a myth.....


    which brings me to this!


    Poritia plateni


    Poritia plateni

    Poritia plateni! Another "book species", and perhaps my best find so far (second only to Hypochrysops coelisparsus I posted some years ago). I found this freshly eclosed female fumbling down a tree like a moth, before resting on a very lofty blade of grass on a vertically inclined slope. For this I had to balance with one hand gripping onto a clump of vegetation, while climbing up the slope, and with my other hand stretched a full 180 degrees with my 2.5 kilogram camera gear. I had to use my tongue and fingers on one hand to change ISO settings! Needless to say sorry for the slightly out of focus shot, but I dare say what a find!

    Sabah turned out way better than I had hoped.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by MinuteMaid View Post

    3) On one day I saw a very unusual butterfly that was entirely new to me show up at the puddling site. It, however, never stayed, and I only saw it land for a split second. But the sight is burned into my brain, and I can't seem to identify it. Here's the description: A nymphalid, about the size of a Dichorragia, or a slightly larger Stibochiona; flight powerful and very erratic, just like Dichorragia; body and wings entirely black and unmarked, sans for a white dot on the tip of the forewing, much like Rohana, but behavior, size, and biology described as above ^. I want to believe its a Stibochiona, and the only Bornean endemic I can think of is S. persephone, but a photo of it is not available online. Aaron, or Dr. Seow, if you're reading this and if anything you know matches the description, i'd be interested in hearing your thoughts.
    Sounds like Stibochiona schoenbergi to me, which would have been very exciting. The male is almost entirely black. The female looks like this


    Very nice collection of endemics and nice shots of P. plateni, which is endemic only to Palawan and Northern Borneo. Makes me wanna revisit Sabah again!

    I'm thinking some of the Theclines you mentioned could have been Ticherra staudingeri or T. acte staudingeri which is a very beautiful species/subspecies endemic to Kinabalu
    Aaron Soh

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