Thursday, December 6, 2007

Summer Reflections: Butterflies

Giant Swallowtail
This December seems to have come in like a lion, so I thought I would talk about butterflies in the summer to warm things up. Birding has been slow this week anyway!

In early to mid summer, I like to look for butterflies. It is as fascinating as birdwatching and is an alternative to getting outdoors when birding can be slow. In fact, in recent years many birdwatchers have turned to looking at butterflies in the summer, and participating in butterfly counts. The counts are just like Christmas Bird Counts, only you are looking at butterflies.

I participate in at least four butterfly counts every summer. The main ones near me are Pinery/Port Franks, Skunk's Misery (Newbury-Bothwell), Rondeau, and Clear Creek (Highgate). In 2006, I worked the Windsor count at Ojibway. That one was the most fascinating ones ever. Our party found 51 of the 52 species recorded for the entire count! We had lots of good finds, including many different hairstreaks. Hickory Hairstreaks were in large numbers that day. The hairstreaks are tiny fast-flying butterflies that are my favourites.
On Ojibway, I spotted a Baltimore Checkerspot (see photo). They feed on Turtlehead.

I always take my camera along, and have managed to get a lot of good shots of butterflies.
Here is an Edwards' Hairstreak at Windsor on Butterfly Weed.

One of my favourite spots not too far from home is Moore Wildlife Management Area. It is about half way between here and Sarnia. There is a variety of habitat there included river valley floodplain with mature forest, open prairie area, and shrubby areas. I have seen at least 40 species of butterflies there.
Hairstreaks can be found from early to mid July. Lots of Coral Hairstreaks seem to be there (see photo of pair). They have all orange spots.

The hairstreaks are all similar, but do have distinct differences for which you must look for. I have found lots of Coral, Striped, Banded, and a few Edwards' and Hickory (see left).

There are lots of Hackberry trees there, so you do find Tawny Emperor (see below). I did finally see a Hackberry Butterfly there last summer.
A Gray Comma was a nice find one day in 2006.
In the woodlands, you do get the browns, such as Eyed, Appalachian, and Northern Pearly-eye.

There are some skippers, but I have not done very well with those. The most common of course, is Northern Broken Dash. I did find a Mulberry Wing once though.

I have lots of photos, but too many to post here. So here are a couple more...

Fiery Skipper at Rondeau (left)
American Copper at Windsor (right)

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