Two species of Crow butterfly on the Common

Two dark butterflies on a treetrunk
Two species of Crow with not a feather between them

At least four species of Crow butterfly (Euploea) are found in the Townsville region, three in the immediate vicinity and the other at least as close as Jourama Falls to the north.

Here are two of them together: E. sylvester, the Two-brand Crow, is perched above E. core, the Common Crow. It is not too hard to tell them apart when they are seen together like this (the large white spots follow the edge of the wing in E. sylvester but cut straight across in E. core) and the third local species, E. tulliolus, (photo here) is even more distinctive. But they are all much the same size and coloration and in isolation are easily mis-identified.

I found them in a large mixed aggregation* on the edge of Townsville’s Town Common on my visit a fortnight ago. Peter Valentine tells us that this behaviour is normal in the Dry season but you have to be in the right location to see it – in this case, a patch of cool, dark, damp woodland at the foot of Bald Rock, just near the bird hide. Dozens of them, perhaps hundreds, were in constant motion, restless but never flying far. All they are doing, really, is passing the time until the Wet, their breeding season, arrives.

There were Blue Tigers, Tirumala hamata, in the same little spot but the Marsh Tigers, Danaus affinis, and Plain TigersDanaus chrysippus, preferred sunnier areas nearby.

Marsh Tiger, Danaus affinis, camouflaged in long grass
Marsh Tiger, Danaus affinis, amazingly well camouflaged in the light and shade of long grass

* Flock? Swarm? Wikipedia tells me that the correct collective nouns for butterflies are ‘flight’, which sounds okay, or ‘rabble’, which doesn’t and isn’t even dramatic like the collective noun for feathered crows, ‘murder’. None of them seem quite right.

The very red dragonfly

After my Morning on Mount Stuart I arrived in town at morning tea time. It was too nice a day to sit indoors without good reason and I still had some coffee and fruit with me so I stopped off in the parkland beside Ross River, looking back up to Mt Stuart (the lookout mentioned in my previous post is at the foot of the radio towers).

View of Mt Stuart from Ross River parkland
View of Mt Stuart from Ross River parkland

The insects were enjoying the sunshine as much as I was: innumerable tiny grass moths, so many that a dozen would fly up at every footstep; a couple of larger moths, Utetheisa and Nyctemera; half a dozen species of butterfly, including the Bush Brown and Eurema I had seen on top of the mountain; a couple of kinds of spider; a native bee, Amegilla sp., with its distinctive blue tail; green ants (I felt them before I saw them!); and several dragonflies.

One of the dragonflies was the reddest possible – bright red abdomen, thorax, face, eyes, and even some of the veins in its wings. Another, about the same size, was a dull orange-tan. When I got home I discovered that it was the female of the same species (the fine dark line down the abdomen, with wider blotches, was the confirmation). Here they are, then – the Scarlet Percher Dragonfly, Diplacodes haematodes, male and female. As usual, clicking on the pictures will take you to a larger image.

Bright red dragonfly, Scarlet percher male, on dry grass
Scarlet percher male
Scarlet percher dragonfly, female, on dry grass
Scarlet percher female

Marsh Tiger

Marsh Tiger butterfly, wings closed
Marsh Tiger, Danaus affinis

Another visitor: the Marsh Tiger, Danaus affinis, is common on the swampy grasslands not far from us alongside Ross River,  but this is the first time I have caught one in our garden. It’s about the same size as the Eggfly or the Migrant, and the sexes are very similar as you can see in this photo which I took near Ross River last year.

These Marsh Tigers are sometimes called Swamp Tigers, but a real Swamp Tiger is a very different beast and you wouldn’t want to get so close to it. There’s a YouTube video about them here, but my first introduction to them and their unique homeland was a fascinating novel, The Hungry Tide by Amitav Ghosh; it’s warmly recommended.