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Hipparchia alcyone

Rock Grayling

Field Notes

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Var, France, July 2010

 

Var, France, July 2009

 

Middle Atlas, Morocco, June 2005

 

Middle Atlas, Morocco, June 2005

 

Middle Atlas, Morocco, June 2005

 

Var, France, August 2004

 

Montes Universales, Spain, August 2003

 

Montes Universales, Spain, August 2003

 


This is one of three very similar species. Through much of its range it shares similar habitat with the Woodland Grayling, H. fagi. The current species is smaller on average. It's been speculated that the underside hindwing white band of alcyone has its internal edge essentially straight with a large "bite" out of it. In fagi the internal edge generally curves plus it has the same "bite". I don't know if this is always true, and it is a little subjective, but most of the smaller butterflies I've seen match this criteria. On the upperside the forewing eye spot is well defined in fagi by the white band in that surrounds it. In alcyone this eyespot may not be well defined above as the white band fades away - the eyespot merges into the background. This feature is difficult to see as these butterflies do not open their wings when at rest.

The third species in this group is the Eastern Rock Grayling, H. syriaca. This replaces alcyone in the southern Balkans. I think the same rules separating fagi from alcyone apply to fagi and syriaca.

The butterflies I've photographed above are alcyone - the Montes Universales are too far south for fagi so this is one of the few places that the usual confusion with fagi does not exist. They behave as most Hipparchia by hiding from the heat of the sun in trees and crevices in rocks.

 

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