day 4 - 18 june - el yunque
One important sighting from Tuesday 16 June that I had omitted on the earlier blog for that day was that of a Mexican Sailor Dynamine postverta (mylitta) that we saw in the Alejandro de Humboldt NP. Important because this is the furthest east in Cuba that it has ever been seen by quite a large distance. It has been reported from Pinar del Rio in the far west for at least 140 years occasionally dispersing east into Habana province and then apparently receding and even dying out but reappearing sporadically, at times in abundance, on the Guanahacabibes peninsula (Smith, Miller & Miller). In recent years there has been just one more easterly record, one from Sierra Cubitas, Camagüey province (D. Fernández). On 16 June we were fortunate in that when a Dynamine sp. landed briefly on a tree some way ahead I got binoculars on it long enough to clearly see the extensive blue colouration of a male D. postverta. Coincidentally I had only been refreshing my memory on the differences between the two species and the sexes only the night before so I was immediately confident of the identification although it quickly flew and couldn’t be relocated. In later blogs I’ll talk about further sightings of this species in September/October 2016. The question in my mind is – has it already made its way to Hispaniola?
But back to today, this morning Leandro drove us to the start of the track leading to El Yunque which is a 575 metre high mountain located 7 km west of Baracoa. It has a table mountain shape that resembles an anvil, hence its name.
We stopped for some pictures and found a pair of Mesogramma Skippers Atalopedes mesogramma in cop. A female Zarucco Skipper Erynnis zarucco was taking moisture on the ground and we also saw Orange-barred Sulphur Phoebis philea, Orange-washed Sulphur Phoebis avellaneda, Androgeus, Lime and Cuban Kite Swallowtails. We also saw several Miami Blue Cyclargus thomasi, in fact they seemed very common on the north coast as we saw them nearly every day until we crossed over the hills to the south coast where we saw none - perhaps it is a little too arid for them there.
The walk up El Yunque is reckoned to be a half-day hike there and back but we had not started out very early and there is a river to cross which took us a while as we had to go barefoot over the stones (ouch!) and the water was up to a metre deep. Next time I'm going to take a pair of plastic shoes with me. Our progress is always fairly slow anyway as there are always things to find and photograph. Once across the river Douglas reckoned he saw a Cuban Hairstreak Allosmaitia coelebs flying around a flowering bush but it wouldn't settle and the disappeared - shame as this was a new species for us. He pointed out the distinctive feeding damage of Red-striped Leafwing Siderone galanthis on Casearia sp but despite searching we couldn't find the larva. The damage is distinctive because it leaves small fragments of leaf still attached to the foodplant.
It was interesting to see Cuban Sicklewing Eantis papinianus egg and larva. The egg was on Citrus and the larva was on Zanthoxylum in a shelter of two leaves spun together.
We did also see Cornelius Skipper Euphyes cornelius and a female Fiery Skipper Hylephila phyleus came and laid on a grass in front of us on the path.
We progressed up the trail for a while but saw few butterflies apart from a Cuban Mercurial Skipper Proteides mercurius that settled high in a tree. I had expected to see natural vegetation here but was surprised that this had been cut down and planted with fruit trees. It would have been nice to go to the top and see what butterflies were hill-topping there but the lack of natural vegetation near the trail meant that we headed back down. We'll save the hike to the top for another day.
We were booked in to the Rio Miel Hotel in Baracoa but on arrival we decided it wasn't really our cup of tea. The downstairs area was a smoky bar with the TV on showing football. It was on the seafront with a view over the sea but had no swimming pool and after a bit of investigation we decided to transfer, for only the slight difference in cost, to the Porto Santo Hotel on the edge of town but that wouldn't be till tomorrow so we had just one night's stay here.
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Here we will post interesting news about what we and others have seen in Cuba.