Reader Bruce Lyon sent us a big selection of lovely bird and butterfly photos. His notes are indented:
Here is one last selection of photos from my June trip to the Kuankuoshui (KKS) Nature Reserve, China. I will include a couple of insects this time.
Below: A spectacular Mrs. Gould’s Sunbird (Aethopyga gouldiae), named after the wife of the famous 19th century bird painter John Gould. Since this is a male sunbird, I guess it is a Mr. Mrs. Gould’s Sunbird. Sunbirds are nectarivores (eat nectar), which makes them the ecological equivalent of hummingbirds in the Old World. I find it interesting that many sunbirds have iridescent plumage, just like hummingbirds, and in some species this shiny plumage is found on the throat and crown as it is in many hummingbirds. This seems like a case of convergent evolution to me. In both groups, males are often much more colorful than females, which suggests that plumage is likely favored by sexual selection. I am puzzled as to why sexual signals would be so similar in the two group—what is it about nectar eating or foraging that favors this specific type and configuration of conspicuous plumage?
Below: Another male sunbird reaching for nectar.
Below: A female sunbird.
Below: This Black-throated Bushtit (Aegithalos concinnusis) is a congener of the much duller American Bushtit familiar to people in western North America and also the more dapper Long-tailed Tit of Europe. All three of these species live in large groups and are cooperative breeders.
One taxonomic group that is well represented in China is the bulbuls (Family Pycnonotidae), which occurs throughout Asia, the Middle East and Africa. According to Wikipedia, the Asian members of the family tend more often to be found in open habitats, while in Africa the bulbuls tend to be rainforest birds.
Below: Brown-breasted Bulbuls (Pycnonotus xanthorrhous) were very common in the open areas like tea plantations. These birds seemed feisty and I often saw them bickering with each other.
Below: Brown-breasted Bulbuls like to nest in tea bushes and have gorgeous eggs.
Below: Another very common open habitat bulbul, the wonderfully named Collared Finchbill (Spizixos semitorques). Apparently these guys eat a lot of fruit; perhaps that explains their unusual beak.
Below: One last bulbul, this time the forest dwelling Mountain Bulbul (Ixos mcclellandii). I love the shaggy look on these guys—I guess it is part of the rugged mountain look.
A couple of butterflies. Below: A dense group of blues flushes up from bird droppings on a road. These blues were very common along the roads and invariably occurred at bird droppings, where I suspect they were going for some nutrient like sodium. According to Wikipedia, the blues, are in the subfamily Polyommatinae in the family of gossamer-winged butterfly family Lycaenidae.
Below: This male and female butterfly chased each other for ten minutes and at one point climbed to at least 500 feet, perhaps even 1000 feet, and then plummeted back to the ground. It was a spectacular display. It seemed like the yellow one (male?) was chasing the white one. My colleague Magne Friberg suggests that the species is likely to be the Lesser Brimstone (Gonopteryx mahaguru).
Bruce adds this: “If anyone is interested in seeing the entire annotated collection of some of the best of the images from my China trip, they are posted in a Picasa album.“