day 11 - 14 november - in the hills
We picked up a taxi from the hotel this morning and, en route to our destination, spent ten minutes checking the spot where we saw the Miami Blue Cyclargus thomasi yesterday. We saw a male and female again and got some more pictures before moving on. One of our favourite places in the area is a spot that Carlos first took us to about 5 or 6 miles inland to the south off the Holguin road. It is about 500ft up and is a stiff walk up a rough track but its worth it and we always see something of interest up here. On the walk up we saw both the endemic Cuban Kite Swallowtail Eurytides celadon and a beautiful Dusky Swallowtail Heraclides ponceana that came slowly floating past us at waist height but unfortunately didn't stop. This was the only one we saw on the trip. Our next find was even more of a surprise as it was another two Miami Blue, a male and female again but this time nectaring on Lantana. The height here was 140m so clearly this species is not just confined to the coast.
We came across a pair of Great Southern White Ascia monuste in cop and a female Cloudless Sulphur Phoebis sennae of a pale form that I hadn't seen before. In the same open area I photographed a Cornelius Skipper Euphyes cornelius nectaring on the low purple flowers of Stachytarpheta. We had seen this only once before at Soroa in June in very different habitat, but the biggest surprise and the only completely new species for us on the whole trip came when shortly afterwards a Southern Dogface Zerene cesonia appeared nectaring on the same flowers. I was frustratingly difficult to photograph as it spent only a second at each flower before moving on to the next and it had me running around for a while. It has been recorded in Holguin province before as Riley (1975) mentions it from here but most records come from the west of the island where it was said to be common though that appears not to be the case any more. It gets its name from the fact that some specimens show a dog's head in yellow on the forewing with the black dot as the eye - but on the one below you'd need a lot of imagination to come up with that name!
Eleven Calisto species have so far been described from Cuba and all are endemic to the island. As a group they are known only from the West Indies and there are many other endemic species on other islands. On Cuba there are at least two further species that have been found but not yet described. The commonest and most widespread species is the Cuban Calisto Calisto herophile. The Bush Sulphur Pyrisitia dina larva from Gibara pupated a couple of days ago so I spent a few minutes in the evening taking pictures and then went for a walk around the sewage works near the hotel. This comprises three lagoons with varying water levels and can be good for waders and ducks including Blue-winged Teal. Today there was a Short-billed Dowitcher and Least Sandpiper along with Lesser Yellowlegs, Black-necked Stilts and Killdeer but there was no sign of the Solitary Sandpiper that we saw here a few days ago. There were also a lot of Cuban Slider Trachemys decussata all around the shores of two of the ponds but they were extremely wary and would slide into the water as soon as they saw you.
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