The brand new butterfly gallery is now available here. After several months of observing butterflies in Shanghai, it’s time to document the butterflies seen in East China but majority of them will be from Shanghai and nearby provinces. The butterflies of China begins with a huge bummer as there are no known English field guides available. It took years of study, efforts to publish the ground-breaking Mackinnon’s field guide to the birds of china two decades ago. Eventhough, Mark Brazil’s field guide currently serves as a Bible for the birders in East China, there is no proper field guide in English covering the entire mainland. That being said, i doubt there will be any field guide focused on the butterflies of China. There used to be a pretty good site mybutterflycollection.com covering a good no of Chinese butterflies but that has fell out of the grid recently. It’s about time to put a digital footprint for the butterflies of China.
The recent obsession of butterflies were fueled by Kevin Pickering’s new found passion as he did some dedicated butterfly tours in UK and France over the year. We started with a slow pace of combining birding and butterflying during our weekend trips which certainly gave us a steady knowledge of common species around Shanghai. As the palearctic winter is cold, no butterflies during winter (November-February), though on some warm days in late January/Early February, there are few Small Whites and Asian Comma’s show up.
Some of the common species found along the coast (Jiangsu, Shanghai). Pale Grass Blue (Pseudozizeeria maha) is the most commonest butterfly found throughout the year(except winter) followed by the Small White (Pieris rapae) though their peak fly time is spring.
Asian Comma, Indian Red Admiral, Painted Lady, Asian Swallowatail are observed in good no’s during the fall and spring migration. Eventhough they are resident butterflies of inland, they are mainly seen along the coast during the migration.
Long-tailed Blue or Peablue butterfly is mostly abundant in autumn but there are couple of individuals seen during spring and summer.
Earlier this year, we were onto a mega-sized Chinese Peacock (Papilio bianor) at XiaoYangshan island and so far it has been the butterfly of the patch.
Totally gripped by the new found passion, we took couple of “Off the field” butterfly trips to the nearby Zhejiang and Jiangxi provinces which kept our expectations on the par. The trip reports can be found here (Jiangxi, Zhejiang). The trips certainly made us understand that how difficult to ID some of the species. We were back to the same square where we started as we were not able to put a name to most of the species even with a very good photo. Finally, Kevin and i decided to bite the bullet and go splurge on the expensive “Butterflies of China” handbook.
The Handbook comes with a hefty pricetag (RMB 2800 for 4 volumes) but definitely made our life easier, only a bit. The handbook is fully in Chinese except for the Latin names. The first 3 volumes covers all the 1400 species of butterflies occur in China, the 4th is a photographic guide. There are no distribution maps however the distribution range is described in words. The later part inspired me to learn the names of Chinese provinces and now i can figure the province names in Chinese. However, some of the distribution ranges are mentioned as “South of Qingling mountains” , ” South of the Yangtze river” which drives me to insanity.
This post was long due and by the time i managed to complete, i got few more on the Shanghai Butterfly list with the latest being Plains cupid (Chilades pandava). While i was returning from my new apartment complex, a flowering lantana bush had an assortment of butterflies and moths. Below are some poor phone shots but clear enough for an ID. They are almost the size as the Peablue’s and i may have overlooked it.
Earlier in the scorching summer, an early morning produced Lesser Purple Emperor (Apatura ilia) and Small Copper (Lycaena phlaeas).
The “Butterfly Page” is still a work in progress. At the moment it has mere 69 species and i hope to add over the time. As an ongoing trend among “budding Authors” for field guides, may be i will setup a “Donate” page in the future asking the visitors to donate for my “Field Guide” and butterfly expeditions.