When we’re birdwatching or bug-hunting it’s very easy to see what we expect to see and miss some new or unexpected creature because of it. I am sure I do it quite often but here are two beautiful little creatures that I wasn’t quite tricked by.

In each case I was lucky enough to see other individuals from viewpoints that made their identity clearer.

Not a moth or butterfly…

Continue reading “Surprise!”

Swallowtail on Castle Hill

Swallowtail butterfly feeding on purple flowers
Dainty Swallowtail, Papilio anactus 

The Dainty Swallowtail, Papilio anactus, is apparently the smallest of our swallowtail butterflies but it is still quite large – much bigger than the Crow, Common Eggfly or Chocolate Soldier that I think of as ‘normal’ butterfly size.

Its closest relations,* other members of the genus Papilio, include the Orchard, Fuscous, Chequered and the magnificent electric-blue Ulysses (sad pic) Swallowtails. But ‘Swallowtails’ is a family (Papilionidae) which includes other genera and therefore includes the biggest of all our butterflies, the Cairns Birdwing, the smaller  Clearwing Swallowtail and a few others (see them all here). Several of them look similar enough to be confused for one another – in particular, the female Orchard, the Clearwing and the Dainty.

I caught this one feeding on a shrub in the carpark at the top of Castle Hill a couple of days ago, having gone up there for the second time in a week. The first time I went up was for a photo of Queens Gardens from above, which I wanted for a photographic competition (wish me luck!), but I saw lots of insects and had to return for more. Some of them are on Flickr already. e.g. bee-fly, bigger bee-fly, bee-eating wasp, black and gold wasp.

I don’t know any of them from my own garden, which of course is why it was worth going back. Then again, the micro-habitat on top of a huge granite outcrop is vastly different from a well-watered suburban garden.

Rocks and grass on top of Castle Hill
On top of Castle Hill

* This section edited for completeness a day after first posting.