Saturday 11 November 2017

Butterflies and moths of the Peruvian Amazon: writing Mama Amazonica

I've been meaning to collect all my photos of butterflies, moths and caterpillars taken in Tambopata National Reserve last year, so here they are, some taken by me with my iPhone and some by Brian with his camera. Of course these are only the ones we managed to capture, and don't include the zipping morphos like a blue lightning flash, or the clearwings transparent as glass, or the moths that sometimes bumped into our flashlights on nightwalks, the leaf butterflies that resemble dead crumpled leaves. But I've looked up their names and labelled them as well as I could. Some were big as my hand. 

The clouding ones, that gather on the clay riverbanks to suck minerals, greeted us almost every time we walked the narrow plank off the boat and climbed the slippery mud steps then endless steep and rickety wooden steps up the sheer bank. What a contrast they made, with the dirt of the mud and leaf litter and their silky luminous colours. In my poem 'Black Caiman with Butterflies' in Mama Amazonica, butterflies are "the beauty of the world", but it's a beauty that needs to drink mud and caiman and turtle eyes, that, like the metallic morphos, must feed on rotting fruit.  

There were times too when our guides, Berli Carpio on our first trip and Jungle Paul on our second, did not know the names of the butterflies, and there might well have been ones we saw that have no names, that have never been seen before. In our lodge at Tambopata Research Center entomologists are cataloguing new species every month.

 Phoebis philea and Anteos menippe butterflies feeding on minerals in mud

 Lasaia agesilas butterfly on the riverbank


 Caterpillar seen on nightwalk in forest trail

 Uranius dayflying moths on riverbank

 Lasala agesilas with 88 butterfly and horsefly on riverbank

 Hummingbird hawkmoth

 Sphinx moth I saw on the dinner table, large as my hand

 Dyson's blue doctor with 88 butterfly (see also first pic of Blue doctor)

 small morpho?

 Owl butterfly seen near the pond in the island

Red-barred Amarynthis 

 Mystery caterpillar on nightwalk in forest

 More Uranius moths (and why not?)

 Julia butterflies or flambeaux on an oar in oxbow lake

 Flambeaux and snowy-whites drinking caiman tears