These photos were taken of a moth found in a semi-deciduous forest at San Diego de Los Baños, Pinar del Rio on 04 July 2021 by Dayron Breto Bernitez. It is a female of one of the Tiger moths in the genus Virbia. In Cuba there are just four species in the genus and all are endemic. There are no pictures of any of them on the internet that I can find and as I didn't know which of the four species it was, I sent the photos to Dr Rayner Núñez to see if he could help. He came back to me to say that he had only ever seen it once and that it was Virbia disparilis. So thank you to Rayner for the identification and to Dayron for letting use his photos.
A beautifully composed photo taken this time by Vladimir Mirabal of another scarce butterfly that we have only seen on a couple of occasions in Cuba. The Tailed Cecropian Historis acheronta is quite widespread in the southern part of the USA down to Argentina including many of the Caribbean islands. We also managed to see one in Bolivia when we were there in November 2019. Thank you Vladimir for allowing me to use your wonderful photo, which was take recently at Guanabo, just east of Habana.
Gundlach's Duskywing Chiomara gundlachi is one of the rarest butterflies in the world. It is endemic to Cuba and has only been seen on a handful of occasions. We have been fortunate and seen it twice, once at Guanahacabibes and also near Santa Clara. It is clearly widespread in its distribution from the sparse dots in the new Cuban Field Guide and even Luis Roberto Hernandez who wrote the previous Field Guide back in 2004 had only seen it at two places.
So it was lovely when Jose Alberto Perez Hechavarria posted the above picture on the Facebook page Mariposas y Polillas de Cuba asking for the identification. He took the photo north of Holguin on 23 March 2021. Nothing is known yet of the life cycle - there is so much still to learn.
The Sharp-shinned Hawk is rare resident in Cuba found mainly in forested areas. In much of North America it is a migrant which moves south in winter and some of those birds are said to move south through Cuba either to stay or to move on to S America. The ones found in the eastern forests are perhaps more isolated than the birds in the west. They are the smallest hawk in Cuba (and in N America too) and are about the size of a Merlin. They are rarely photographed in Cuba and the above excellent picture was taken by Roberto Jovel on 8 May near Baracoa. Thank you Roberto.
Cuban Nightjar (Antrostomus cubanensis) used to be known as Cuban Antillean Nightjar but several authorities now consider the bird that occurs in Cuba to be a separate species to the one on Hispaniola. It is a widespread resident though like all nightjars they are not often seen. I haven't knowingly heard it before though that's probably because we've never been to Cuba in the spring and rarely in the summer months. The call is very distinctive though and you can listen to it here. These wonderful photos were taken by bird guide Karlos Ross in Holguin province in the east. Thank you Karlos.
The Smooth-billed Ani is a gregarious species that is common in Cuba, Hispaniola, parts of Central America and much of South America. It also occurs in Florida but is declining there due to a loss of habitat and lack of protection.
They live in family groups of up to about thirty birds and build a communal nest in which the females of the group all lay eggs though the earlier ones that are laid often get buried and covered with a layer of leaves so only the later ones that are laid get to hatch. The young are then reared by all members of the group including earlier broods.
The wonderful photo above was taken by Roberto Jovel near Baracoa in the east of Cuba.
I have been adding to the Odonata featured here on the website mainly by using iNaturalist. So far I've now got 66 of the 87 species featured which comes to 75%.
And there are still more that I can use from that source too so I will keep adding as time permits. The hardest ones to get I think will be the remaining endemics but we'll see. There are six of these, all in the Zygoptera or damselflies and I've so far got pictures of three of them but the remaining three are very rare.
This is one of the endemics - Cuban Hypolestes Hypolestes trinitatis which we have come across a couple of times in the Alejandro de Humboldt NP in the east.
I monitor several wildlife Facebook pages and its wonderful to see the heightened interest in lepidoptera created in large part by the new Field Guide to the Butterflies of Cuba. This lovely picture of a Red-striped Leafwing Siderone galanthis was taken by Jehovanny Rodriguez who lives at Sabanilla a few km to the SE of Baracoa. It is a lovely area and he has been finding and photographing some great anoles near his home too but I'll post about those separately. We have seen this species occasionally on our travels and once at Santa Clara we even found one feeding on a papaya which allowed a close approach to within a couple of inches!
Larvae feed on the leaves of Casearia aculeata (Salicaceae) leaving distinctive small tell-tale segments of leaf attached to the foodplant (see below). When moving the larvae have a distinctive forward and backward rocking motion. And you can see why in the left-hand photo below where the small larva sits on the midrib of the leaf and the dead segments around it provide a good camouflage.
Another wonderful photo from Karlos Ross, the bird guide at Holguin, this time of an Antillean Nighthawk - a male I think from the white band on the throat. They are common summer residents in Cuba before departing to S America it is presumed for the winter months.
At the time of publication of updated checklist of Cuban Lepidoptera in Zootaxa back in 2012 there were 1378 moth species on the list. It was acknowledged that the micro-lepidoptera families had been poorly studied and that there was much sill to discover.
For the last week or two I have been adding photos of moths to the website and attempting to identify many of the species that Doug and I have photographed in the last few years. It turns out that this one Ornarantia dyari has not previously been recorded on the island. It is known from Florida and the Bahamas and the larvae feed on Ficus. It's in the Family Choreutidae of which there are 11 other species (4 endemic) but not this one.
And here are two more species that are not on the Cuban list either. The first is one of the plume moths Alucita sp but don't know what species and the second is a Gelechiid and almost certainly Perimede erransella though it would really need dissection I think to confirm it.
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Here we will post interesting news about what we and others have seen in Cuba.