An “Up Close” search for the Silver Xenica

An “Up Close” search for the Silver Xenica

On March 23 2014, an enthusiastic bunch of butterfly spotters from both sides of the SA-Vic border joined naturalist Bryan Haywood from ForestrySA for a day out at Donnybristle – near Dartmoor – as part of the 2014 Up Close events. The day was all about learning to identify some of the region’s amazing butterflies, and in particular the Silver Xenica (Oreixenica lathoniella) which is a rarity in the adjacent areas of the South East of South Australia.

Sword-grass Brown

While there have been three known Silver Xenica sites in SA, they haven’t been seen since 2007; hence the focus of this event was for those in attendance to hopefully get a good look at one in Victoria before following up with some surveys around their previous locations in the South East of SA.

Bryan rallies the troops

After meeting at Dartmoor, Bryan took us through his brilliant collection of specimens before a short journey to the survey site. It looked like a dull day was on the cards with only one or two butterflies spotted on the way in. After enjoying a walk through the bush – but not many butterflies – the spotters congregated in a clearing to chat. Suddenly the sun broke through the clouds and the effect was almost instantaneous, as the group stayed in the same spot and the butterflies came to us!

A few Xenicas were spotted and it was a challenge to tell the Marbled from the Silver, but Bryan pointed out the more orange upper side of the Silver Xenica, and its scalloped stripes under the wing. The Marbled is similar but without the underside stripes, and the Striped appears more black than orange from above…

Silver Xenica upperside

Silver Xenica showing the scalloped under-wing stripes

Shouldered Brown

8 species were spotted for the day:
Common Brown
Shouldered Brown
Striped Xenica
Silver Xenica
Barred Grass-Skipper
Sword-grass Brown
Cabbage White
Common Grass Blue

With the Silver Xenica not being spotted in SA since 2007, Bryan is looking for a hand with surveying sites including Honan’s, Kangaroo Flat, Wandillo, Hackett Hill, Piccaninnie, Overland and McRosties. If you’re interested in doing some follow-up surveys with Bryan or on your own, you can contact him on (08) 8724 2765 for further information. Although you need to look sharp, it really is a walk in the park!

Jonathan Tuck
Jonathan Tuck