The Great Butterfly Conundrum

For no reason other than idleness I opened up a lot of my old folders on a back up drive that has been untouched in many months. As always I was surprised at the rubbish I had taken the trouble to photograph in days gone by. Equally I was delighted to find some forgotten gems. Amongst the latter was a photograph of a butterfly. I do not recall having seen this species so it is evidently not one that visits any of my regular haunts in any great numbers. Either that or I am simply blind to it. My initial examination left me ignorant of where I took this photo. The folder is dated September 09 and it appears I took it at 6pm on the 27th. Closer review made it obvious where it was taken as the butterfly was resting on a window pane and behind the pane I could clearly see a pair of my wife’s shoes. That clinched it. It was taken at our old home in Clearwater Bay. Never have I been so grateful to my wife’s shoe collection.

The hard bit done, I wanted to identify the species. Easy. All three of my butterfly guides confirmed it is Tagiades litigiosus. The Water Snow Flat. An Hesperiidae or Skipper. And that is where the fun started. How common is this species. I started in Paul Lau’s Butterflies of Hong Kong. Actually I started with some rude words as the glued binding rent asunder and I was left with an ugly gap between the two parts of the book. PL describes it as Uncommon, Hard to get close, very rapid and erratic (Flight). Hmmm. Not bad for a flutterby resting on the dressing room window camouflaged against my wife’s shoes.

So let’s try the AFCD’s Hong Kong Butterflies, a snappy title if ever I saw one. First improvement – the binding remained intact. It agrees that TL is a swift flyer but often seen resting. So not hard to get close then? Distribution: Most country parks.  Doesn’t sound that uncommon.

Third go – the mighty Butterflies of Hong Kong, Bascombe, Johnston & Bascombe. This is a serious scientific tome that retails for about GBP150 I believe. I bought my copy many years ago on E Bay, where it was described as a lavishly illustrated coffee table book. Under 50 quid. A bargain. BJB also plumbs for erratic flight but uses brisk as well. A nice variation. BJB says it is fairly common and found in small colonies. So there we are. It is common where you find it but uncommon everywhere else.

Problem solved.

Tagiades litigiosus

The only question remaining is whether it was worth the effort and the broken binding. Of course it was. It is indeed a very poor quality shot. At best a record shot. It does however add another species to my (known) image collection and more importantly it illustrates perfectly the value of backing up your files and keeping the stuff that would otherwise be just another speck of detritus floating somewhere out there in Ether Ether Land along with Peter Pan and Wendy. Or do I mean Peter, Paul and Mary.

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