Unbelievable?; Agrias butterfly appears in Lodge gardens !!!

by Richard Raby on January 8, 2011

It has been a most memorable week at The Marica lodge. We were visited by maybe the most spectacular and the most difficult to observe butterfly occurring in South Eastern Brasil?

On the 6th January 2011 The Marica lodge was visited, at 11.15hrs Brazilian summer time, by a very freshly hatched male? Agrias claudina butterfly. It stayed for 15mins, feeding on half rotten banana and settled at a height of approx 2.5 meters above ground level, on a wooden fruit feeding-table mounted in trees, before flying off.

The habitat at the Lodge is marginal, extremely marginal, for forest butterfly species.
example; I get only one or two visits to the garden, in a typical year, from the commoner Prepona and/or Anaea genera also of the Charaxinae sub-family, and also forest Nymphalidae. This area although wooded and “green” could no-way be described as “forestest”, which makes this event all the more amazing!

How it happened;
I was sitting at my computer involved in trip reporting and future trips planning when my eye was caught by a flash of vivid red and glossy black fluttering around one of our garden fruit-feeding tables. This was an unusual enough event to make me immediately grab for my camera and head closer to see what had diverted my attention. I immediately suspected a largish Nymphalidae butterfly and probably a Callicore or less likely, a Siderone both encountered reasonably regularly in nearby forest. What ever it was, it was settled on the feeder and eating rotten banana and asking to have it’s picture taken.
The weather had just started to clear up late on the preceding afternoon, after a prolonged spell of overcast & rainy weather, typical of the time of year. There were a number of half rotten skins & some half-eaten fruit on the table, left by my marmosets and garden-birds.
As luck would have it I had a small stool to hand (from the kitchen) so, after taking my first “record shots” for identification purposes, I decide to creep closer and on the same level, as this “very strange looking Callicore” to get better shots. Firstly I noticed that it was big, I was slowly becoming aware that it was much too big to be a Callicore, secondly the colour of the under-wing central marking was unlike any Callicore markings that I new, and thirdly I was now begining to imagine all posibilities, It was slowly dawning on me that what I was photographing, from my precariously position( balanced on the kitchen stool) was a new species for me, a species deemed extinct in the close-by Rio de Janeiro municipality for the last 50years, and a new species to be recorded in the MARICA municipality, and and it was here in my very garden!
I rarely classify something as “impossible”, but the impossible was just occurring in front of my very eyes, AND, most importantly, before my camera; If I had not been taking pictures, checking the results for exposure & focus, before adjusting and taking the next shots, then I WOULD HAVE THOUGHT THAT I WAS DREAMING.
After the event I am left with a lovely warm feeling; that my efforts to preserve as many native trees in my garden as possible, and also fighting to preserve the lagoon-edge green-belt that boarders my garden and has been threatened with developemrnt, are being amply rewarded! This is now the 4th Rare species of butterfly to be recorded by me in the Garden, but this latest spectacular appearance is without doubt the most bizarre and unusual so far….

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