Hypolimnas bolina Common Eggfly

May 2019 : Butterflying at Mount Annan

See also my blog post describing the Mount Annan Botanic Gardens site.

Most years I try to get out to the Mount Annan Botanic Gardens during April or May, as in my experience that’s the best time to go looking for butterflies there. 2019’s trip was on 21st May, which turned out to be a warm and sunny day, with very light winds until they began to pick up just a little in the early afternoon.

It currently takes me about 90 minutes to get there via public transport, requiring 2 trains and a bus to reach Narellan Road close to the entrance to the Gardens. I arrived around 9:45am to find that it was already quite warm; enough to energise the grass blues on the roadside verge.

Saltbush Blues

Upon entering the gardens I followed the road for a few hundred metres then taking a left before the Woodland Picnic Area. I followed this unsealed path up the hill towards Mount Annan Drive, soon reaching an area where I hoped to find plenty of Saltbush Blues (Theclinesthes serpentatus). This butterfly is very common at Mount Annan, but I’ve never taken very many photos of it (at least compared to some other species) because once it warms up it becomes quite hyperactive, fluttering around endlessly at ground level but rarely settling for more than a couple of seconds. 

There were scores – probably hundreds – of them within quite a small area, and although the temperature was rising nicely a small number of the serpentatus still hadn’t had their second cup of coffee, so they were happy to bask in the sunshine while I photographed them.


Saltbush Blue
(Theclinesthes serpentatus)

Saltbush Blue
(Theclinesthes serpentatus)

Saltbush Blue
(Theclinesthes serpentatus)

Saltbush Blue
(Theclinesthes serpentatus)

I was keen to get to the Connections Garden, so after about 30 minutes I left the serpentatus alone and continued following the path to the Mount Annan Drive entrance, then I walked alongside the road until I reached the T-junction at which point I headed right. That’s one advantage of being on foot; I’m allowed to go the wrong way on the one-way road system 🙂

Lesser Wanderers

I continued on the road a short distance until I reached the smaller sealed path that leads up to the water tank. The grassy areas either side of this path contain a lot of Milkweeds and so, unsurprisingly, quite a lot of Lesser Wanderers (Danaus petilia). This is one of those species which loves to taunt me by flying slowly around and landing often, but rarely staying settled if I get within about 10 metres. It’s the butterfly version of kids ringing the doorbell and then running away.

Several of these petilia were playing this fun game, but my task was made much more difficult by the several hundred very bolshie Meadow Argus (Junonia villida) butterflies that also inhabited this area. The villida were constantly battling with each other, and they took exception to any petilia that dared to settle even for a moment. 

I wasn’t able to get any photos at all here, thanks to the efforts of the villida, yet when I got back to the path I found about half a dozen petilia sunning themselves on low vegetation right next to the path. As the villida didn’t seem to know about this spot I spent a couple of minutes getting record shots of a basking Lesser Wanderer before carrying on up the hill.


Danaus petilia
(Lesser Wanderer)

Danaus petilia
(Lesser Wanderer)

The path continued along the crest of the hill, in front of the water tank, where more Saltbush Blues were to be found amongst the vegetation. I looked around to see if there were any Chequered Coppers (Lucia limbaria), having once seen that species at this spot, but as usual they were conspicuous by their absence.

Autumn Lycaenids

I had a good look around the trees in this area; those on the Connections Garden side of the path had a sprinkling of Lycaenids. They were too high to get a really good look, or any worthwhile photos, but so far as I could tell they were all Short-tailed Line-blues (Prosotas felderi), a common butterfly at Mount Annan.

Taking the left turn to head down into the Connections Garden proper, I stopped near the corner to see if any beasties would show themselves. After about 15 minutes a female Hairy Line-blue (Erysichton lineatus) appeared, flying slowly around the trees before settling too high up for my liking. I edged around the tree to improve the angle, at which she took umbrage and moved to a higher perch. I took a couple of shots of her just for the record, but they were terrible.

Moving down the path I descended the short set of steps to reach an area where I’ve had some success in previous years. There were a lot of butterflies here, 99% of which were Prosotas felderi.  They were all over the place, but particularly attracted to the wattles at the southern end of this patch, which was a real sun trap at that time of day. It was warm for late autumn (26C in the shade) so the butterflies were becoming very active; felderi is one of those species that can’t sit still at the best of times, which was exacerbated by the sheer number of them, as they were constantly disturbing each other.

The males, as usual, were rather drab. They’re mostly a nondescript brown on the upperside, with a dusting of dark blue which wears off within a few days. The females are more colourful, but the only one prepared to sit with her wings looked to have narrowly survived an encounter with a hungry predator.


Short-tailed Line-blue
(Prosotas felderi) – male

Short-tailed Line-blue
(Prosotas felderi) – female

Short-tailed Line-blue
(Prosotas felderi) – male

Short-tailed Line-blue
(Prosotas felderi) – mating pair

I’d been watching and photographing the felderi for about 30 minutes when I spotted something different flying about 3 metres above the ground. It was obviously a Glistening Line-blue (Sahulana scintillata), a species I’ve encountered quite often here during the autumn. This specimen was distinctly undersized, being noticeably smaller than most of the felderi (and felderi only has a wingspan of about 19mm).

The scintillata made a few fly-bys before landing above head height; he turned and sat with his wings open for a few seconds, then closed them and sat perfectly still for about half an hour. I took some video and a succession of photographs, though all the photos were essentially identical since never moved a muscle. He didn’t even move his hind wings up and down in the typical Lycaenid manner.


Glistening Line-blue
(Sahulana scintillata) – male

Glistening Line-blue
(Sahulana scintillata) – male

Hoping to be able to get some different shots, I eventually gave the scintillata‘s leaf a gentle nudge, which I don’t think he was happy about since he streaked off to the tree tops at top speed. He did come back to the wattles an hour or so later, but he landed much higher up.

The flower beds

The walk down through the Connection Garden was pretty uneventful as all the action was in the higher parts. I saw very little until I reached the flower beds opposite the Visitor Centre, where a number of butterflies were making the most of the free feed on offer. They were mostly Saltbush Blues and Meadow Arguses, with the occasional Lesser Wanderer and one Orange Palm Dart, of which I managed just one photo (and that was just as useless as the shot I’d taken of the Hairy Line-blue earlier).

Cephrenes augiades (Orange Palm-dart)
Orange Palm-dart
(Cephrenes augiades)
Hairy Line-blue
(Erysichton lineatus) - female

 

Just as I was starting to think about walking to the bus stop on Narellan Road, a large dark butterfly swooped past and landed on a daisy. It was a male Common Eggfly (Hypolimnas bolina), which despite the name is not a common species around Sydney. Another male bolina was the very first butterfly I photographed way back in February 2004; he landed at the side of my backyard swimming pool and stayed long enough for me to get a few shots with my original digital camera, the mighty Canon Powershot A70. I saw Eggflies in 3 or 4 locations around Sydney during 2004, but I hadn’t photographed any here since then.

Apart from missing a chunk from his right hind wing this butterfly was a fresh-looking specimen, with the ground colour of his uppersides being a rich, velvety black. When he sat with his wings fully spread his markings appeared to be plain white ovals, but when he partially closed them change of light revealed the gorgeous purple/blue colour.

He alternated between being very skittish, making it hard for me to get anywhere near him, to being extremely docile. I was able to get plenty of shots of him, and some quite decent video too. He was my last butterfly of the day, so as of now my earliest and latest butterfly photos feature male Common Eggflies. 


Common Eggfly
(Hypolimnas bolina) – male

Common Eggfly
(Hypolimnas bolina) – male

Common Eggfly
(Hypolimnas bolina) – male

Common Eggfly
(Hypolimnas bolina) – male

Other species seen

Although I saw a lot of butterflies, the vast majority of them belonged to just 3 species : Meadow Argus, Saltbush Blue and Short-tailed Line-blue. I was very surprised at the complete absence of Monarchs (Danaus plexippus), which are usually seen around the Milkweeds and the flower beds.

I only saw a few species other than those I’ve already mentioned, namely :

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