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The Birds and the Bees, er Butterflies

Updated on August 20, 2014

List mania

Birdwatchers, or birders, as they call themselves, are notorious keepers of lists. The life list is the most important one. It contains the names of all the birds a birder has seen in the wild in his lifetime. In addition, there is the Big Year list. This is when a birder makes special effort to go to many places, to see how many species he can log in a year. And then people keep lists of all the birds seen in one state, all the birds seen in one county, all the birds seen in his back yard, and all the birds seen in a single day, among others. I plan to go to a Big Sit today. (By the time you read this, it will be past tense, Deo volente, if I go, and see below: I did). A Big Sit is when you sit around with a bunch of people, to see how many birds you can see at that one location in one day. And people do census, where they go out and see how many birds they can find at a given location, with a team. All of these figures are collected, collated, reported, and used to analyze the migration of birds, which birds are being seen where, and so forth. Books on birds, such as Sibley's, include maps of where birds are seen frequently, and in what seasons. The maps also include little blue dots where a bird has been seen, usually by several people, but is not a regular. And there are different terms for how often a bird is seen.

As you can see, lists can serve some very important purposes. Studying which birds and how many visit an area over the years lets us develop programs for helping preserve their habitat and keeping populations healthy.

Just be glad I'm not giving you my bird Life List. I currently have 264 species on it. I have met people who have 500 or even 800 on their Life List!

In that spirit, I turn to butterflies. I don't know whether people who watch butterflies do the same things or not. I haven't gotten that involved. But I do go regularly to see a butterfly exhibit in town. It runs from October through April, and I try to go at least once a month. The butterflies are all from tropical regions, and many are very colorful. Surprisingly, many are predominantly black or brown. And some black butterflies have iridescence that gives them color, usually a deep, rich blue. These colors are caused by refraction, produced by the tiny structures in the fine details of a butterfly's wing.

So I present to you several lists of tropical butterflies. And one list of Arizona birds.

I am showing you the Black Vulture here, because for the moment, it is the only way I can guarantee you will see the whole bird.

All photos by me.

Butterflies Seen Last Week

This is a list of the butterflies I saw last week on a single day, with photos. Included are two moths. One was freshly "hatched out" and they had him in a little gauze box, but they didn't let him out while I was there. He was asleep, because it was daytime.

So here are the species I saw:

Heliconian - I don't know what species. I'll find out. * Resembles Heliconius erato or Heliconius clysonymus

Paper Kite - Idea leuconoe

Blue Morpho - Morpho peleides

Memnon Giant Owl - Caligo memnon

Common Mormon - Papilio polytes

Great Mormon - Papilio memnon

Peacock - Papilio bianor

Violet Clipper - Parthenos sylvia violaceae

Atlas Moth - Attacus atlas

African Moon Moth - Argema mimosae

Palawana Birdwing - Troides rhodamantus (female)

Mocker Swallowtail - Papilio dardanus (several patterns)

Thoas Swallowtail - Papilio thoas

Red Lacewing - Cethosia biblis

Great Eggfly - Hypolimnas bolina (female)

Orange butterfly, no close looks

Golden Longwing - Heliconius hecale

*Heliconians are from South and Central America, and some make it to the United States. There are many different patterns and colors, and it's downright confusing to identify them.

It was a rather sparse day, actually. But as usual, I got good photos of some species that were either new, or I hadn't gotten good pictures of before. I was able to get photos of the top side of the Mocker Swallowtail for the first time, in spite of the fact they're active as the dickens! The volunteer also helped. He had a dead one he laid out for me.

Note: the inside of the wings, seen when the butterfly is resting with wings open, is called "up". The outside, seen best when the butterfly has wings closed, is called "un".

Some of the Butterflies I Saw

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Heliconian. Probably Clysonymus Longwing. South America.Golden Longwing. South America.Thoas Swallowtail. North and Central America.Mocker Swallowtail. Africa.Mocker Swallowtail.Memnon Giant Owl. South America. They do not like to keep their wings open when resting. I was lucky.Violet Clipper. India, Australia.
Heliconian. Probably Clysonymus Longwing. South America.
Heliconian. Probably Clysonymus Longwing. South America.
Golden Longwing. South America.
Golden Longwing. South America.
Thoas Swallowtail. North and Central America.
Thoas Swallowtail. North and Central America.
Mocker Swallowtail. Africa.
Mocker Swallowtail. Africa.
Mocker Swallowtail.
Mocker Swallowtail.
Memnon Giant Owl. South America. They do not like to keep their wings open when resting. I was lucky.
Memnon Giant Owl. South America. They do not like to keep their wings open when resting. I was lucky.
Violet Clipper. India, Australia.
Violet Clipper. India, Australia.

"Life List" of Tropical Butterflies

Every year, the Tucson Botanical Gardens publishes laminated pages of the species you are likely to see in their butterfly exhibit. I buy one every year, and keep track of the species I have seen in the years I have been going there. I have nearly 100 species. (If you add local species I have seen in the wild, my Life List of butterflies is over 100.) This is a largely complete list of what I have seen there (I will give you a few nice images of some of these next):

Blue Clipper - Parthenos sylvia lilacinus

Brown Clipper - Parthenos sylvia philippensis

Violet Clipper - Parthenos sylvia violaceae

Archduke - Lexias dirtea

Red Lacewing - Cethosia biblis

Leopard Lacewing - Cethosia cyane

Orange Lacewing - Cethosia penthesilea

Zebra Longwing - Heliconius charithonia

Clysonymus Longwing - Heliconius clysonymus

Cydno Longwing - Heliconius cydno

Doris Longwing - Heliconius doris

Golden Longwing - Heliconius hecale

Postman - Heliconius melpomene

Sapho Longwing - Heliconius sapho

Sara Longwing - Heliconius sara

Gulf Fritillary - Agraulis vanillae

Silverspot - Dione juno

Julia - Dryas iulia

Bamboo Page - Philaethria dido

Common Leopard - Phalanta phalantha

Cruiser - Vindula arsinoe

Red Rim - Biblis hyperia

Mexican Catone - Catonephele mexicana

Spotlight Catone - Catonephele numilia

Blue Wave - Byscelia cyaniris

Red Cracker - Hamadryas amphinome

Variable Cracker - Hamadryas feronia

Starry Night Cracker - Hamadryas laodamia

Great Eggfly - Hypolimnas bolina

Lurcher - Yoma sabina

Autumn Leaf - Doleschallia bisaltide

Asian Dead Leaf - Kallima inachus

Scarlet Peacock - Anartia amathea

Rusty-tipped Page (aka Chocolate Malachite) - Siproeta epaphus

Malachite - Siproeta stelenes

Zebra Mosaic - Colobura dirce

Red Admiral (or Painted Lady) - Vanessa atalanta (Vanessa cardui)

Giant Charaxes - Charaxes castor

Flame-bordered Charaxes - Charaxes protoclea

Pearl Charaxes - Charaxes varanes

Jazzy Leafwing - Hypna clytemnestra

Tiger with Tails - Consul fabius

Queen Owl - Caligo atreus

Giant Owl - Caligo eurilochus

Memnon Giant Owl - Caligo memnon

Owlet - Opsiphanes sp.

White Morpho - Morpho polyphemus

Achilles Morpho - Morpho achilles

Blue Morpho - Morpho peleides

Harmonia Tigerwing - Tithorea harmonia

Thyridia Clearwing - Thyridia psidii

Costa Rican Clearwing - Greta oto

Paper Kite - Idea leuconoe

Queen - Danaus gilippis

Monarch - Danaus plexippus

Tiger - Tirumala septentrionis

African Moon Moth - Argema mimosae

Luna Moth - Actias luna

Atlas Moth - Attacus atlas

Forbes Moth - Rothschildia lebeau forbesi

Sleepy Orange - Abaeis (Eurema) nicippe

Orange-barred Supphur - Phoebis philea

Great Orange Tip - Hebomoia glaucippe

Lemon White - Ganyra (Ascia) limona

Tailed Jay - Graphium agamemnon

Batwing - Atrophaneura semperi

Pipevine Swallowtail - Battus philenor

Polydamas Swallowtail - Battus polydamas

Priamus Birdwing - Ornithoptera priamus

Rose Swallowtail - Pachliopta aristolochiae

Transandean Cattleheart - Parides iphidamus

Helena Birdwing - Troides helena

Palawana Birdwing - Troides rhadamantus

Peacock - Papilio bianor

Thoas Swallowtail - Papilio thoas

Mocker Swallowtail - Papilio dardanus

African Citrus Swallowtail - Papilio demodocus

Blue-banded Swallowtail - Papilio nireus

Green-banded Peacock (aka Peacock Swallowtail) - Papilio palinurus

Blue Mountain Swallowtail - Papilio ulysses

Great Yellow Mormon - Papilio lowii

Great Mormon - Papilio memnon

Common Mormon - Papilio polytes

Scarlet Mormon - Papilio rumanzovia

Mime - Chilasa clytia

Sample Butterflies

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Not sure what this is.Great Orange TipCruiserGiant CharaxesStarry Night Cracker. Male.Zebra LongwingOrange Lacewing.TigerLeafwing of some kind. I don't know why it's green.Rusty-tipped PageBamboo PageBlue MorphoPaper KitePriamus Birdwing. Male.Harmonia TigerwingSara LongwingLurcherBlue Clipper
Not sure what this is.
Not sure what this is.
Great Orange Tip
Great Orange Tip
Cruiser
Cruiser
Giant Charaxes
Giant Charaxes
Starry Night Cracker. Male.
Starry Night Cracker. Male.
Zebra Longwing
Zebra Longwing
Orange Lacewing.
Orange Lacewing.
Tiger
Tiger
Leafwing of some kind. I don't know why it's green.
Leafwing of some kind. I don't know why it's green.
Rusty-tipped Page
Rusty-tipped Page
Bamboo Page
Bamboo Page
Blue Morpho
Blue Morpho
Paper Kite
Paper Kite
Priamus Birdwing. Male.
Priamus Birdwing. Male.
Harmonia Tigerwing
Harmonia Tigerwing
Sara Longwing
Sara Longwing
Lurcher
Lurcher
Blue Clipper
Blue Clipper

Lists

What do you make or keep lists of?

See results

Bird List

Big Sit, Paton House, Patagonia, Arizona

Sunday, I participated in a Big Sit for the first time. A Big Sit is when everyone sits in a circle 17 feet in diameter, for anywhere from an hour to all day, just to see what birds show up. It has contests and stuff attached to it, and people can get pledges. It is sponsored by a birding magazine.

When I was there, I was pretty much by myself most of the afternoon. Most birders look for birds in the morning, because birds tend to be more active then. But I am not a morning person, and I have discovered it is actually life-threatening for me to drive during the hours I normally sleep, and switching my schedule hasn't happened in a half century, so it won't be happening now. I did add three birds to the list of 42 that everyone saw. I also got good photos of a Black Vulture for the first time, and mediocre pictures of a Lazuli Bunting (better luck next time). My own list was 17 birds. I'm listing those here, and will include some photos below:

Gambel's Quail - Callipepla gambelii

Black Vulture - Coragyps atratus

Sharp-shinned Hawk - Accipiter striatus

White-winged Dove - Zenaida asiatica

Mourning Dove - Zenaida macroura

Anna's Hummingbird - Calypte anna

Broad-billed Hummingbird - Cynanthus latirostris

Violet-crowned Hummingbird - Amazilia violiceps

Acorn Woodpecker - Melanerpes formicivorus

Gila Woodpecker - Melanerpes uropygialis

Ladder-backed Woodpecker - Picoides scalaris

Common Raven - Corvus corax

White-crowned Sparrow - Zonotrichia leucophrys

Pyrrhuloxia - Cardinalis sinuatus

Lazuli Bunting - Passerina amoena

House Finch - Haemorhous mexicanus

Lesser Goldfinch - Spinus psaltria

Oh, and the fellow who manages the place also pointed out a spider near the house, so I'll include a photo of that as well. It's an orb spider of some kind, but I haven't tried to identify the species yet.

Big Sit Birds

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Gambel's Quail. Male. Common bird in Arizona.Violet-crowned Hummingbird.Ladder-backed Woodpecker. Male.Ladder-backed Woodpecker. Female.Gila Woodpecker. Male. He wants some of that suet.Gila Woodpecker. Female.Acorn Woodpecker. My favorite. They're so funny!Black Vulture.White-crowned Sparrow.House Finch. Female.House Finch. Male.Orb Spider.
Gambel's Quail. Male. Common bird in Arizona.
Gambel's Quail. Male. Common bird in Arizona.
Violet-crowned Hummingbird.
Violet-crowned Hummingbird.
Ladder-backed Woodpecker. Male.
Ladder-backed Woodpecker. Male.
Ladder-backed Woodpecker. Female.
Ladder-backed Woodpecker. Female.
Gila Woodpecker. Male. He wants some of that suet.
Gila Woodpecker. Male. He wants some of that suet.
Gila Woodpecker. Female.
Gila Woodpecker. Female.
Acorn Woodpecker. My favorite. They're so funny!
Acorn Woodpecker. My favorite. They're so funny!
Black Vulture.
Black Vulture.
White-crowned Sparrow.
White-crowned Sparrow.
House Finch. Female.
House Finch. Female.
House Finch. Male.
House Finch. Male.
Orb Spider.
Orb Spider.

What is on your bucket list?

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    The Birds and the Butterflies

    Field Guides, mostly

    Tropical Butterflies of the World

    by J. Duane Sept

    Butterflies and Moths (Golden Guide)

    by Robert T. Mitchell, Herbert S. Zim

    Birds of Arizona Field Guide

    by Stan Tekiela

    National Geographic Field Guide to Birds: Arizona & New Mexico

    Birds of Southeastern Arizona

    by Richard Cachor Taylor

    Here's for Any Other Relevant Comments

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      • Pat Goltz profile image
        Author

        Pat Goltz 3 years ago

        @DreyaB: Thank you very much for your kind words. We get up to 30,000 Sandhill Cranes who overwinter in a place about a hundred miles from where I live. They are delightful!

      • DreyaB profile image

        DreyaB 3 years ago from France

        Having recently moved just over The Channel I'm amazed by how many butterflies that are here in France that I don't know! I love spotting birds and butterflies wherever I am. Our favourite discovery since we've been here are the migrating Cranes. Just waiting for their return flight overhead now. Lovely page patgoltz. :0)