Oman butterfly diary 6- Myrina silensus, Fig Blue…

The butterfly, Myrina silenus, (Fig Blue) is utterly striking once you catch a glimpse of it’s open wings.

My first and actually, only sighting of it was in late October 2019 when we were in butterfly heaven at Wadi Darbat, Dhofar, Southern Oman.

If you have read any of my preceding Oman butterfly diaries, you may have seen the beautiful waterfalls and scenery at Wadi Darbat, if not it’s worth a look at this post to see the landscape.

This small, vivid beauty was found in the lower level of Wadi Darbat on a single bush, which was full of these butterflies on that particular day, only. I returned several times during the week, but never saw them again. In retrospect, it was my lucky day!

Looking down from upper Wadi Darbat to the lower reaches. Note that the landscape looks quite burnt out, but once in the lower Wadi, it’s quite green.

I just had to include the biggest spider I have ever seen.

As I took the photo from the heights, my other half advised me to back off slowly and get my camera set up for a shot, without explaining what was hanging above my head… After a few seconds of a faster heart rate when I saw it, I calmed down to try to get the perfect shot!

After that “Oh my (insert expletive)” moment, we drove down to the lower reaches of the wadi and searched around, actually for dragonflies, but the bushes were full of butterflies and on one bush, right next to the water, I spotted a brown butterfly with an unusual shape…


I felt it was worth waiting for it to open its wings… I’m glad I waited, it was one of those “Ohhh, wow” moments…


Information on this butterfly is taken verbatim from the book “Butterflies of Oman” by Torben and Kiki Larsen.

This is a striking and absolutely unmistakable member of the Lycaenidae, which is found throughout Africa and Southern Arabia. Together with Coeliades anchises it is one of the most characteristic of the true African species which have managed to penetrate beyond Dhofar to Northern Oman. It has not been found in the Musandam peninsula, but may well occur since its food plants are plentiful there. Generally it is quite common except during the coldest part of the year in Northern Oman. As indicated by its vernacular name, the food plants are species of fig; experience in Africa shows that almost any species will do.

At least three species of Ficus are used in Dhofar. Adult butterflies are fond of sunning themselves on the leaves of the tree of their birth from where they fly off on brief sorties at great speed, often returning to the same perch. Flowers hold no strong attraction for silenus, but occasionally they will settle on ripe figs broken open by birds.

During my many Oman travels, I have only found this butterfly once in Wadi Darbat on a single bush, which doesn’t appear to be the case when the Larsens wrote their book in the 1980s. Maybe our world climate changes are affecting this species…


Oman butterfly diary 5- Colotis Danae, The Scarlet Tip…

Wadi Darbat is located in the Dhofar Governorate in Southern Oman.

It is a spectacular wadi which forms at Darbat lake where the water runs into the wadi from sinkholes, then wanders through the upper valley, then down a series of waterfalls and finally spills over the escarpment in a magnificent waterfall, cascading from a height of up to 30metres, which is at its best during the Khareef season (Monsoon).

In the lower wadi valley that runs to the sea at Khor Ruri, the river banks during and after the Khareef (monsoon) are green and resplendent with flowers and the whole area is a magnet for butterflies.

One, in particular, is striking for its Scarlet tips on the wings.

Colotis Danae, The Scarlet Tip is a beautifully marked butterfly but flies quite erratically and quite low, so it is easy to lose sight of them behind bushes and is hard to photograph.

One day, whilst were concentrating on these lower reaches of Wadi Darbat, I struck Scarlet Tip gold and came across several nectaring on plants very close to the edge of the water.

Butterflies of Oman, authors Torben and Kiki Larsen, for identification help.

Oman butterfly diary 4- Precis hierta, The Yellow Pansy…

My butterfly bible for Oman is “Butterflies of Oman” by Torben and Kiki Larsen, produced in 1980 in the Uk for the Office of the Adviser for Conservation of the Environment to the Government of Oman.

I haven’t found any recent updates, so possibly names have changed, there was a reprint in 1984, but I don’t have that version.

The binominal name is Junonia hierta, but Larsen uses the synonym Precis Hierta, and as I’m not up to the right level in the world of scientific classification, I’m following the Larsen’s identification!

This beautiful butterfly is described by the Larsens, as one of the most common butterflies in Dhofar (Southern Oman) on the coast and in the mountains. It had not been found in the North of Oman at the time of publishing and I have never seen in it during my forays into North Oman.

During my nature searching days in Dhofar, in October and November 2019, I only found two of these butterflies. They were up on the high escarpment above Mirbat.

We traveled the whole of the coastline, from the Yemen border to the north, and spent much time in areas where they should be prolific but, sadly only two sightings…

They are a beautiful species of butterfly.

I hope when I finally am able to return I will have more success in finding the numbers previously indicated…


Oman Butterfly diary 3-Charaxes varanes bertrami (Riley, 1931), Pearl Charaxes…

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.

Oman Butterfly diary 2-Byblia ilithyia, Joker…

Oman diary, October 2019: We had decided to travel along the coast from Salalah to the Yemen border, retracing steps from previous years, but it’s a fantastic drive with many unexpected sights, so it’s always a pleasure to retrace, but that’s for another post.

One deep wadi, Wadi Sayq is the last major road construction hurdle before you get to Sarfayt, the town before the Yemen border.

Quite how this road was constructed amazes me, carved down the sides of the towering cliffs, hairpin bends, horrifying drops and, with the effects of the previous year’s cyclone and the rains just before we arrived, landslides and road cave-ins littered the route down.

The wadi is inaccessible from the coast, towering heights plummet down to the shore on either side and unless you are fully equipped and ready for some serious boulder climbing, there are few places you are able to access the wadi where the road crosses it.

But it is worth trying to find those few places. Wadi Sayq is remote, inaccessible and home to a huge variety of flora and fauna, not least the Arabian leopard, according to papers from many different biodiversity expeditions to this Wadi.

It’s where I found my first and so far, my only find of a Joker butterfly.

Byblia ilithyia is unmistakable. The underside, a honey color crisscrossed with pattern and the upperside a deep orange with black bars, it’s a strikingly, beautiful butterfly.

The distribution of ilithyia stretches from Niger/Burkina Faso to Ethiopia, Southwestern Arabia and Dhofar; it reappears in dry Southern India and Sri Lanka.

In Dhofar, this butterfly is quite common in the dense vegetation of the scarp and in the valleys of the coast

it was an unexpected sight to stumble across, but I had my camera to hand!

It didn’t stay around too long, but I took my shots… very gratifying to stumble across this beauty!



Habitat Information from the “The Butterflies of Oman” by Torben and Kiki Larsen.


Oman travels, October 2019…Up on the heights of Jebel Samham …

You are able to drive to a viewpoint on the edge of the reserve to gaze over the coastal plain and surrounding wadis.

On arriving we were alone in this remote place. There is a small path, with barriers to a certain point, the drop is sheer and I didn’t go to the certain point, my head for heights has gone with my youth.

The views are magnificent…

Suddenly we heard voices and were surrounded by tourists. Unexpected, and overwhelmed on this narrow path with teetering drops, we headed back to the car to be greeted by a long row of 4-wheel drives and their drivers, taking a rest.

Our invading tourists were on a tour, time to speed off and hope we didn’t bump into them again..


Passing through a small village, which I ( obviously) renamed One-Cow town.

We headed back down off the plateau to the coast. As we turned a corner, we screeched to a stop.

In front of me, a Dhofar Chameleon was just starting to make it’s pausing, balletic walk across a very large road.

Time to make sure it made it across. Luckily it started to run as I got out of the car, then spent a few minutes on the other side of the road contemplating this large human with a camera, Lucky me! I love to see a chameleon and also watch them change colour to match their surroundings and mood. If they start to turn black, they are stressed, this one just blended it with all the different backgrounds.

My saved-from-the road Chameleon posed perfectly for me, but then it decided it head back across the lethal road.

I had to save it, stop it somehow, so I leant in to enfold it within in my hand so I could move it away from the terror of the road corner, but it didn’t really like my saviour role.

It bit me very hard, tore into my skin, and I couldn’t get it off my hand and it started to bite my hand deeply, the OH had to prise it away, it had its teeth in deeply and ripped off a load of skin…lesson to self…Do not pick up a chameleon, however nature-kind you are…

As we were travelling remotely, had health insurance, but limited resources in that area and little availability for health care , I did a quick google on Chameleon bites when we got back to the room. Luckily a disinfectant wash seemed to be all that was required, they do not seem to carry bacteria…. Anyhow, I’m here to tell the tale, with no missing digits!



Oman Butterfly Diary-1 Papilio demodocus, African Lime Butterfly.

In October 2019, we headed down to the Dhofar region of Oman primarily for our sea shell obsession…oops, hobby sounds better, less geeky really!

The first morning walk along the beach made me realise that it was far too hot to spend all day outside on the beaches and, as over the year, I had been become involved with a Dragonfly recording group in Cyprus and had also discovered the pleasure of photographing both dragonflies and butterflies, we decided to split each day into discovering which species of each we could find in the Ayn’s (valley), khors (inlet) and escarpments along the southern coastline of Oman.

Armed with “The Butterflies of Oman” we set off each day exploring the countryside.

I had occasionally seen a fairly large butterfly, mottled black and white with flashes of red and blue.

The book told me it was the African Lime Butterfly, Papilio demodocus, a member of the Papilonidae family.

Three members of this family are found in Oman, Papilio machaon-the Swallowtail, Papilio demoleus- the Lime Butterfly and Papilio demodocus-the African Lime butterfly.

They are amongst the largest and most beautiful butterflies in the country.

The Swallowtail and the Lime are known from the north of the country.

I have not been lucky enough to photograph the Lime butterfly in Oman. I have seen it, but, without my camera.

However, it is also found in the UAE  and I was lucky enough to photograph a resting one on a beach in Fujaraih earlier this year, in this linked post.

In Oman, the African lime is only found in Dhofar. The African lime is common in most of tropical Africa and in Southwestern Arabia, as far north as Jeddah.

It is very similar to the Lime butterfly, but they may be told apart through the broader central band and the larger orange spot in the anal angle of the hindwings of demoleus.

After a few mornings of finding lowland butterflies, we headed up the towering escarpment that broods above the coastal plain.

Randomly heading down a small track high above the coast, we gave one local lady quite a shock as she was heading out.I don’t think many Europeans have headed down the little track to her house.

Passing her, suddenly I saw my African Lime heading into nectar, in a little cranny of flowering plants amidst the rocky heights.

The African Lime spent awhile hovering and nectaring, so I could manage to chase after it with my camera..

A wonderful and lucky experience….

Butterfly of the day…

Plain Tiger (Danaus chrysippus) butterfly.
Taken at Ayn Athum, Salalah, Dhofar region of Oman in November 2018.
There is a waterfall, in the Khareef (monsoon) season and a park is under construction where the river begins.
It’s a place to spot birds, butterflies, dragonflies and fish.
We were there just after Cyclone Luban, the area was lush and green with plenty of wildlife to keep me busy with my lens!
It’s a lovely place to visit…

October 2018, Travelling in Oman and surprises on the roads…

I’m back in one of my favourite places for a few weeks. There is something about Oman that draws me back time and time again, the pace of life, the people, the incredible scenery and the sheer vastness of the country never fail to excite me as I cross the border and we start the extremely long drive to the South.

Currently, I’m spending time in Dhofar.

The Dhofar Governorate is the largest of the eleven Governorates in the Sultanate of Oman in terms of area. It lies in Southern Oman, on the eastern border with Yemen. It is a rather mountainous area that covers 99,300 km (38,300 sq mi) and has a population of 249,729 as of the 2010 census.The largest city, as well as the capital of the Governorate, is Salalah. Historically the region was the chief source of frankincense in the world.

On my first trip here in 2013, the roads were poor outside of Salalah.

A major road building project has been taking place during the subsequent years to upgrade the route from Salalah towards the north of the country through the small villages and coastal communities that lie so far from major towns.

The difference this visit is quite amazing, the road is nearly finished and it is now a far smoother and faster journey, however, as with all road travel in the Middle East, the camel is a road danger.

Our drive down to Dhofar continued through the night. At god o’clock in some remote part of the central plains, we rounded a corner, luckily having just slowed down to look at a flare from a nearby oil-field (this sort of observation is a way of passing time on the 14-hour car journey) and out of the dark a pair of camels came leaping onto the road…screech, slam of brakes, disaster averted, you really don’t want to hit a camel, even in the beast of a Nissan patrol that we are driving. More caution was required for the rest of night!

No photo of the night encounter but here are some camels along the roadside near Hasik.

Down here in Dhofar, cows also roam freely…

The new road, complete with cow, looking for her herd, a bit of a traffic impediment!

Here were the rest of the herd, on the other side of the cow-proof barrier…

I was a little surprised to see a whole herd making their way down the dual-carriageway. From physical evidence left on the ground, it appeared that they had joined at the previous slip road, possibly an easier route than the surrounding terrain…

On the return journey back down the dual carriageway, we then came across a camel herd being marshalled to their destination on the wrong side of the road by the familiar Toyota pickups that every Omani farmer seems to possess…

Then entering the town of Mirbat a herd of goats on the trot through town…

Laid back and typically Omani, life goes on, even if an enormous road has just cut through the grazing grounds. I’ll just remember to look out for herds when I’m driving at night…

Weekly Photo challenge: Layered…

In Oman, you get the chance to see how our Earth is layered and wonder how it happened all those millenniums ago… was it a swirling maelstrom of fire and upheaval? Was it a gradual happening?

Driving through the landscape you ask yourself a lot of questions…. a photo from the incredible road from Hasik to Ash Shuwaymiyyah in the Dhofar region of Southern Oman, layered with strata…



Oman road trip: The Dhofar coastline and a midnight visitor…

Leaving the comfort of the Salalah Marriot, we headed up the coast. Oman is doing some major road expansion and the road from Mirbat to Hasik, which winds through crinkly foothills, is being straightened and expanded to meet up with the incredible road constructed from Hasik to Ash Shuwaymiyah, linking these two towns through a mountainous range.  Continue reading