The task of ‘checklisting’ butterfly fauna in tropical rainforests usually demands a lot of hours spent in the field. Armed with a good camera, a pair of binoculars and sometimes a hand net or fermented fruit bait.
Around 20-30% of the local butterfly species can be sampled in 5-7 days in the height of the flight season and in the correct habitats. These are mostly common or easy to spot species, associated with natural or manmade disturbed and transition environments.
In the tropics the number of species is high but the same does not apply to the number of individuals found and populations, which can be quite scarce and elusive. That is why developing a more complete list can take over five years of intensive field sampling.
The checklist starts with the big showy butterflies (Brushfooted, Whites, Swallowtails, Skippers), but with time it is the elusive tiny hairstreaks, metalmarks and skippers that slowly grow the list. A close look at them really shows how intricate and beautiful the patterns of some of these creatures are.
At REGUA, new records for the butterfly checklist usually come from the ranks of Hairstreaks (Lycaenidae) and Metalmarks (Riodinidae), two closely related families.
The last new records have been mostly the fruit of our Lodge Guests’ photographic skills. Often these species are more easy to see and photograph on hilltops feeding on flowers, along forest hedges or trails, while sunbasking at early morning, after sunrise and in sunny spots inside the tropical forest (clearings, streams and river margins). Metalmarks are famous for coming back and perch on the same exact spot at a particular hour of the day, year after year.
In REGUA, some places where these rainforest jewels can be seen more frequently are: hilltops (for example the trees around the Lodge swimming pool and at the top of the Red Trail), clearings and trail edges (i.e., parts of the Green Trail, Valdenoor’s open area, the São José Trail) and some old forest fragments (like the Onofre Cunha and Lengruber areas).
The Caledonia mountain excursion is another highlight for higher altitude species of Hairstreaks and Metalmarks, especially from February to late April.
Another interesting issue contributing to the checklist growth is the occurrence of very similar patterned species, sometimes even in very distinct genera, which once the confusion is sorted out can add another record to the list!