This is a butterfly that has eluded my camera on previous visits to Dhofar, Southern Oman, or so I thought.
The presence of this butterfly in Oman is limited to the Dhofar region. It is common in Africa, but there are no current records from Southwestern Arabia and Yemen, however, any investigation is not easily possible in Yemen.
As it stands the population in Dhofar seems to be quite isolated and the subspecies found locally is named in honour of explorer Bertram Thomas who caught the species in Dhofar, whilst preparing for his Rub Al Khali expedition in 1930. The butterfly seems to be relatively common in open parts of the scarp. Both sexes are fond of fermenting fruit, rotting crab or shrimp and patches of urine.
We had seen them, fluttering past on scarp tracks, stopped the jeep, but I chased in vain as they tauntingly settled, then flew away fast whenever I thought I had one in focus for THE shot. They are fast on the wing and often fly high. Fairly frustrating, but then sometimes an unexpected opportunity arises.
In October 2019, we decided to have a day visiting the various Ayn’s (valleys) which form at the base of the Dhofar escarpment.
Usually, there are spectacular waterfalls during the Khareef (monsoon) season and the Ayn’s are lush and emerald green, home to a variety of endemic and migratory birds, butterflies, dragonflies, and flora.
Khareef had finished a month previously but owing to some unusual weather in the region, the drying out of the environment hadn’t quite reached its usual barren state.
In one of the Ayn’s we started to climb up towards the escarpment and I spotted the Pearl fluttering from branch to branch. We noticed there were two, but only one settled on branches.
Sadly, it was torn and ragged, probably at the end of its flying season, but I managed to catch some shots.
Whilst looking through photos from 2018 from a location 20 km away, I found I had photographed this butterfly before and in much better condition. Only one photograph, but a good catch. It was fairly gratifying to stumble across the photograph, two years later!
Habitat Information from the “The Butterflies of Oman” by Torben and Kiki Larsen.