Butterflies in Sinai

Butterflies! I love them. I am enthralled by their process of metamorphosis. Over the years, I have raised dozens of them indoors and watched them grow and change from tiny caterpillars to delicate chrysalises to beautiful butterflies. Often I share this experience with my students, who are as fascinated as I am, learning along with them.

I am able to identify most of the butterflies I spot thanks to the book Butterflies of Egypt: Atlas, Red Data listing & Conservation by Francis Gilbert and Samy Zalat. You can download the book for free here. Many thanks to the authors for sharing this amazing resource!

Butterflies in Sinai

In the photo collection above, you can see:

Large Salmon Arab (Colotis fausta)
Grass Jewel (Chilades trochylus)
Small White (Pieris rapae)
African Babul Blue (Azanus jesous)
Saharan Swallowtail (Papilio saharae)
Dark Grass Blue (Zizeeria karsandra)
Desert White (Pontia glauconome)
African Caper White (Belenois aurota)
African Monarch (Danaus chrysippus)
Pomegranate Playboy (Deudorix livia)
Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui)
Long-tailed Blue (Lampides boeticus)
Scarce Green-striped White (Euchloe falloui)
Mediterranean Tiger Blue (Tarucus rosaceus)

Bees in Sinai

“Sinai is one of the very few places in the world (and it may be unique) where no social bees of any kind occur naturally, only solitary bees…Recently hives of domesticated social honeybees have been brought in from Egypt, and scientists are worried about their impact on the wild bees, and hence on the efficiency with which native plants are pollinated. ” ~ Gardens of a Sacred Landscape: Bedouin Heritage and Natural History in the High Mountains of Sinai by Samy Zalat and Francis Gilbert

Bees in Sinai

Pictured here:
Top Right: Carpenter Bee (Xylocopa sp), which you can learn more about in this post.
Bottom Right: Leafcutter Bee (Coelioxys sp), which you can learn more about in this post.

There have been several reports in the past year of hives of social bees in Dahab and Nuweiba. After reading the book quoted above, I have been fascinated about their possible impact on the native solitary bees and plants, so I did a bit of research and found two very interesting articles:

Human interference in the natural order of our ecosystems is not always a good thing. I’ll be thinking twice now about buying honey from St. Katherine’s…

Mantises in Sinai

Mantids in Sinai

Top Left: Giant African Mantis (Sphodromantis viridis)
Top Right: Desert Mantis (Eremiaphilidae sp)
Bottom Left: Cone-headed Mantis (Empusidae family)
Bottom Right: Egyptian Flower Mantis (Blepharopsis mendica)

The bottom two are in their nymph stage.

You can learn more about the Egyptian Flower Mantis in this post.

Beetles in Sinai

Beetles, forming the largest order of insects with nearly 400,000 identified species, account for nearly 40% of all insects. So I guess it’s no surprise that my collection of beetle images is one of my largest!

Beetles in Sinai

Here’s what you can see in this sampling:

Blister Beetle
Carpet Beetle 
Darkling Beetle
Red Palm Weevil
Seven-spotted Ladybug
Hairy Rose Beetle
Jewel Beetle
and a few unidentified beetles (the blue/green ones…can anyone help with an ID?)

Dragonflies in Sinai

A couple of months ago, my external hard drive malfunctioned and I lost thousands of my photos – mostly my pics of Sinai wildlife. Fortunately, my talented husband was able to recover a good chunk of the images. Recently, instead of wandering through wadis shooting new photos, I’ve been sorting and renaming all the recovered images. It’s a bit tedious and overwhelming, so I took breaks to put together different collections, like this one – Dragonflies in Sinai. I’ll be sharing some more of these over the next few weeks so stay tuned. 🙂

Dragonflies in Sinai

Top Left and Bottom Right: Violet Dropwing (Trithemis annulata)
Middle Left: Desert Skimmer (Orthetrum ransonneti)
Bottom Left: Slim Scarlet-Darter (Crocothemis sanguinolenta)
Top Right: Unknown

Hyena’s Fart ~ Desert Mushroom

Podaxis pistillaris

The Bedouin of Sinai call this desert mushroom (Podaxis pistillaris) “hyena’s fart” in Arabic because they seem to appear out of nowhere, just like the hyenas (used to) do. And they do indeed pop up suddenly! But their spores, which can live for many years without water, have been there all along, under the desert sands, waiting for rain.

It was the Spring of 2014, after a very wet winter, that we spotted scores of these mushrooms dotting the sandy desert plains. A relative of the puffballs, this mushroom, sometimes called a Black Powderpuff, can grow up to 15 – 20 cm high. It has a large white cap that protects the inner blackish tissue. This tissue contains the spores, and when the mushroom reaches maturity, the cap will split open and fall away, allowing the spores to be dispersed by the wind.

Other common names in English for this mushroom include Desert Shaggy Mane and False Shaggy Mane.

Sinai Rosefinch

Although the national bird of Jordan, this finch is named after Egypt’s Sinai and lives in our dry, rocky desert areas. The male Sinai Rosefinch (Carpodacus synoicus) is easily identified by its crimson-pink plumage. Females and juveniles are a greyish brown color.

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Sinai Rosefinch
Sinai Rosefinch by Alastair Rae, CC via Flickr

Sinai Rosefinches eat seeds and are often seen in groups. I spotted this group on top of Jebel Musa.
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These finches grow to about 14 – 16 cm and breed in a small area of Sinai, southern Israel, and southern Jordan.

As I’ve mentioned before, photographing birds is not one of my talents, so check out this page with some beautiful images of Sinai Rosefinches and the video below.

Ornate Spiny-tailed Lizard

It was tough deciding which cool creature I should feature first, but recent discussions on Project Noah had me thinking about Dhabb lizards, so they won!

Ornate Spiny-tailed Lizards (Uromastyx ornata), also called Dhabb Lizards, are one of the larger animals you’ll come across in the wadis of South Sinai, their bodies growing up to 20 cm in length. Dhabb lizards like to bask in the hot desert sun. Males choose a highly visible position to declare their territory to other Dhabbs and to be on the lookout for intruders. If you’re on the lookout while hiking, you can sometimes spot these lizards ahead of you on the rocky sides of the wadis.

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If you proceed slowly and quietly, the lizards will sometimes let you approach and get a closer look.

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But often, when they hear you coming, the lizards scramble on their short, powerful legs into a rocky crevice and all you see is their very distinctive spiny tail.

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Male Dhabbs, like those pictured above, have blue heads and greenish blue backs with bands of black-edged yellow spots. The female and juvenile lizards sport a similar pattern but in reds, browns, and greys. Their coloration overall, however, can vary quite a bit depending on age, sex, and breeding condition.

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Ornate Dhabb lizards are active during the day and they are most active at midday during the hottest months of the year. They are herbivorous, munching mainly on the leaves, seeds, and flowers of desert plants. Occasionally, they might feed on invertebrates like insects and spiders.

A few years ago, while hiking one of our regular routes, my husband and I came across a Dhabb lizard feeding on the lush desert plants underneath an acacia tree. (There had been a bit of winter rain so the wadis were quite green with vegetation. And Dhabbs are strongly associated with acacias.) The Dhabb did not seem bothered by our presence and carried on eating as I sat on a nearby rock with my camera . What a treat it was to be able to watch!

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Ornate Spiny-tailed Lizards are listed as a species of Least Concern on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. However, the Red List justifies this classification, recognizing that the lizard has gone locally extinct in parts of Egypt and Israel but continues to thrive as a species in Saudi Arabia. The lizards are heavily collected by animal traders despite the fact that exporting this species is illegal in Egypt. In Sinai, Dhabb lizards are also threatened by loss of habitat due to tourist activities, removal of acacia trees for charcoal making, quarrying, and general development.

So, please remember, when visiting Sinai’s spectacular deserts:

Take nothing but pictures,
Leave nothing but footprints,
Kill nothing but time.

Geocache Dabb (46)

References:

Wilms, T. & Sindaco, R. 2012. Uromastyx ornata. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2012:e.T198538A2531743.http://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2012.RLTS.T198538A2531743.en. Downloaded on 08 May 2016.

Baha El-Din, Sherif. (2006).  A Guide to the Reptiles and Amphibians of Egypt. Cairo: The American University in Cairo Press.

Ornate spiny-tailed lizard (Uromastyx ornata)  on Arkive.org