We left Villa La Lupe at Guantanamo this morning and set off for La Gran Piedra which lies south of the road to Santiago. We had already seen 101 butterfly species in eight days and the Parque Nacional de Gran Piedra has a long and varied butterfly list so we were looking forward to seeing some good things. As we drove out of Guantanamo there were amazing numbers of butterflies feeding on the flowers of the Ixora hedge in the central reservation!
I haven’t ever watched for butterflies on a dual carriageway before but this was too good an opportunity to pass up so we pulled over, dodged the heavy traffic and made our way to the central reservation. Heavy traffic here is one car every couple of minutes. We stayed for about 20 minutes and saw 15 species in that time. Most common were the endemic Orange-washed Sulphur Phoebis avellaneda and I spent some time seeing if I could get any flight shots. Most looked like this.. pretty rubbish although they do show the features of the males and females.
I did however manage one reasonable picture of a female in flight. The books I have show a bewildering and overlapping variation in this and the similar Orange-barred Sulphur Phoebis philea and I really hadn’t been clear on the identification criteria but from watching these and subsequent review of my pictures I can now see that the one constant criteria on both sexes of avellaneda is the dark broken bar crossing the under hindwing one third of the way from the base. On philea this is less distinct and more broken.
Next stop was to buy melon and pineapple. Whilst that was being sorted Doug and I looked on the flowers by the side of the road where there was a Cuban Crescent Anthanassa frisia.
Leandro took us to the large and very smart Melia hotel in Santiago to wait while he refuelled the vehicle. Then it was off to Gran Piedra. We stopped on the way for a photo by a river part way up. Some boys playing football with their bare feet! A Boisduval’s Yellow Eurema boisduvaliana was the best find here. Leandro then discovered that the dodgy tyre was now flat so he quickly changed it whilst we had our picnic lunch. It was a steep road up to our hotel at the top and the weather became murkier the higher we went. Our room was very good but Douglas & Leandro had to sort out the problem of the hotel saying that we were not booked in for lunches although our paperwork clearly showed that we had paid for full board including packed lunches. We asked them to phone our agent in Habana and sort it out with them but they wouldn’t saying that they couldn’t make long-distance calls from the hotel phone! So we had to get Leandro to phone the agent and get them to phone the hotel. It got sorted out eventually but it’s a fact that away from the all-inclusive hotels on the coast and in the cities the hotels sometimes have a bit to learn about customer service.
We were rearing several larvae that we had collected on our travels along the way and the Potrillo Skipper Cabares potrillo larva was now quite large and the Mangrove Skipper Phocides pigmalion larva had already pupated.
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Here we will post interesting news about what we and others have seen in Cuba.