These are small to medium sized butterflies, that look rather like a cross between a butterfly and a moth. There are 129 known Australian Skipper butterflies but not all live this far south or as high as the Dorrigo Plateau. Whilst some of them are colourful most are various shades of brown often with orange or white markings. They are mostly small fast flying butterflies with stout bodies and powerful wings.
Their caterpillars are predominantly grass and sedge feeders so you will often see Skipper butterflies flying close to the ground near where these plants grow. Their fast and low flight makes it difficult to identify them in the air. However they do tend to settle in sunny spots often which provides good opportunity for photographs, necessary to assist identification without the need to kill them.
This patch of Scaly Buttons and the collapsed Parsonsia vine (left) are particular favourites of Skippers
There are many very similar Skipper species and it can be difficult to tell them apart even with the aid of enlarged digital photographs and the help of a good reference book. Identification frequently entails a close examination of small markings and colour shades on their wings, both upper and underside - at times tedious work but necessary to ensure correct identification. We also gain further opinions if unsure of our identification.
As a result of the large number of similar looking Australian Skipper butterflies we do not attempt to identify many of them from memory.
Because of their small size and their fast flying habit Skippers are often not closely studied or recorded. This suggests that there may be much more to discover about their breeding range and habits.
This adds to the excitement whilst attempting to learn which Skippers live on our property. There is always the opportunity that with patience and care one can discover species living outside the previously known range. New knowledge may assist conservation of the less common species.
Patches of Scaly (or Batchelor) Buttons (Leptorhyncos squamatus) are establishing themselves in our rainforest regeneration paddock, initially creating a meadow effect which the small Skippers enjoy, visiting the small yellow flowers in good numbers on warm or sunny days.