by Michael P.T. Gillett
(The following article appeared in the Al Ain Newsletter of March 1994)
A short trip to acquaint one of my daughter’s school friends with Oman and
its wildlife led from "Fossil Valley" to the gravel plains around
Mahdah and culminated in a visit to Wadi Masah. By the time that we arrived at
that locality, the day had warmed up and it was pleasantly sunny. Winter
butterflies were the order of the day and the following were recorded:
Asiatic Citrus Swallowtail
Many examples were seen flying around lemon and other Citrus trees at the edges
of the date plantations. This butterfly, originating from the Iran/Pakistan
region, seems to be present in numbers all the year round in W. Masah and, of
course, it is also a common butterfly in the gardens of Al Ain, when these
contain the larval foodplant.
Just a few seen flying along the wadi or in sunny clearings amongst the
cultivated areas. Several other white pierid butterflies seen flying in the
distance might also have been this species, but could not be positively
Only one example seen, a very salmon pink male, at the side of the wadi.
Small numbers were viewed at the edges of the wadi, where they were sunning
themselves amongst the rocks.
One example seen at the side of the wadi – a forerunner of the untold
thousands that will gather in the area in March/April before beginning their
Common at the edges of the plantations and at the sides of the wadi, wherever
the larval foodplant, Calotropis procera, grows. Also seen in small numbers
flying across the Buraimi-Mahdah road near to Fossil Valley, where there are
large numbers of mature Calotropis bushes.
Little Tiger Blue
Fairly common on the wadi floor and in deserted fields, flying about various
The most satisfying sighting of the day, not just because it is a very beautiful
butterfly, but also because it is seen so much less often than many of the other
local butterflies. On this day, the insect was seen in good numbers around its
larval host, Ficus salicifolia
, with as many as six or more
butterflies associated with a single tree. The insects were seen in courtship
flight around the upper branches, as well as sunning themselves on the leaves of
lower branches or on the ground. All specimens were in fine condition and
appeared newly hatched (indeed in a slightly earlier visit to the same site on
December 17, the butterfly was absent). Wadi Masah is well provided with
Willow-leaved Figtrees, which suggests that there is probably a sizeable
population of this pretty butterfly in the wadi. I have previously recorded the
insect from W. Masah (April, 1993) but not from neighboring wadis, such as
Aboule, which has few figtrees.
The early sighting this year indicates that the species must have at least
two generations each year. Incidentally, the bright orange and blue coloration
of this butterfly is fairly accurately depicted on one of the lattice-work
decorative devices that have been set up around Buraimi; look for the bottom
right-hand-side butterfly on the last of these plaques as you drive back towards
Al Ain town center from Buraimi.