This male sachem skipper was erroneously identified as a Peck’s by myself in a post on the CT butterfly list serve. I was informed that is infact Atalopedes campestri (sachem). This species is known as a more southernly species but in recent years there have been numerous sightings in the state. Last year I saw a good sized population at work and then this year there were even more. The previous late dates listed for the state were 10/27/2007 and 10/31/2009. I took this cellphone picture on 11/6/2012 making for a NEW STATE RECORD. wahoo. Records are kept by the Connecticut Buttlerfly Association. Check them out!
I know it sounds like this should be a blog about flowers, but it’s not. It’s about butterflies. This week has brought an onslaught of butterflies moving across Yale West Campus. The listserv has been alive with reports of bird watchers on the shore amazed at the number of ‘angelwing’ butterlies moving onshore. On campus we are just over 1 mile away from the West Haven beach (as the crow or butterfly flies) and the butterflies are moving North.
Thanks to a great book called the Connecticut Butterfly Atlas I have recently discovered that a couple of butterflies in the ‘angelwing’ group don’t overwinter in CT but actually move north in the spring. With the amazingly warm weather this week it seems like this has begun.
The cabbage white butteflies have been around on campus since March 8th (the first sighting of the year). A few of weeks after that we had sulphur butterflies and on April 4th we had our first skipper of the year, Juvenal’s duskywing.
I finally grabbed my camera today and got a couple pictures of some of the butterflies moving through campus. Most of the time they are not stopping but just heading straight through making it difficult to photograph. But I managed to find a little patch of flowers that slowed a couple down.
Three species have been seen this week to add to our list. Eastern comma, red admiral, Eastern tiger swallowtail and question mark butterflies have all been seen on campus and are all first of the year. The first two listed are actually new to our total list that we started midsummer last year. It’s a fun time to be outside!
During a monarch tagging session at Lighthouse Point Park in New Haven this morning a couple other species made an impressive showing. Common buckeye butterflies were in huge numbers at the park this morning. Almost anywhere you went there was a buckeye. Walking across the field I stirred up another one almost every 5 feet.
The other species that was unique was the fiery skipper, a vagrant southern species that has been consistently seen at Lighthouse the past week. I’m not quite certain of the total number of individuals but I did see up to 4 at one time. A beautiful bright orange skipper, this was the first time I had ever seen it since I started IDing butterflies 2 months ago. 🙂
I could go in depth right now about what pollination is and how it helps the world but I honestly will save that for another day. Maybe some cold miserable winter day when things are quiet outside and I have a few second to draw some stick figure drawings for illustrative purposes. Now, it’s the middle of summer and the woods and fields are buzzing with activity. (Pun intended). The last blog I posted some wildflower pictures and promised to get some images of pollinators. I faithfully went out at lunch the other day with that objective and failed.
Two things slowed me down, one was the lawn mowers that have taken out two of the flowers that I had posted about last, the Hawksweed and the Trefoil. The other thing that made getting any pictures was just a lack of activity where I was, I think I needed more sunshine. Finally, I was also in a bit of a hurry so I would approach a plant and zooooom, there went the insects.
Instead I got some pictures of other pollinators just to illustrate the diversity of insects that are attracted to flowers (wild and otherwise). The one I was really trying to get a picture of was of the wasps that sit on the Queen Anne’s Lace flowers. They are what I would call an accidental pollinator. The wasp is really visiting the flower to find a caterpillar or other insect for a snack or to lay eggs in and will accidentally pick up pollen from one flower and bring it to the next.
What you can see from the pictures is that a lot of different insects visit flowers. Some very large and showy butterflies will come to flowers to nectar. The Eastern Tiger Swallowtail is feeding at a small patch of Knapweed that the lawn mower missed. There is a green bottle fly (Callophoridae) visiting another small purple flower that I haven’t identified yet. This family of fly is the same that visit corpses and lay their eggs on them for the larvae to feed on as the bodies decompose. The bee is a Carpenter Bee, Xylocopinae, who tunnels into wood to lay their eggs. The last image (below) is of a Sphinx moth specifically a hummingbird clearwing moth. This moth is unlike most other moths being diurnal (active during the day) and nectars on flowers in a similar manner to hummingbirds.
As mentioned in an earlier post, I spent Sunday outside with a very pleasant group of people completing a butterfly count. A butterfly count is very similar to … a Christmas bird count, where participants go out and try to inventory the species and numbers of butterflies within a set geographic range. This group hit about 5 spots in Redding, CT (our count area).
The difference from say a bird count is that these butterfly people are much more strict! Counting can go in only one direction at an area (like a field) so that there isn’t any doubling of numbers and the counters pretty much need to stick together. Another difference??? At bird counts shouting out of species and numbers is generally not ideal since it can scare away the birds. Butterflies don’t hear so well, lacking ears, and so the day was filled with a chorus of counters yelling out their finds and numbers.
3 European Skippers, 2 Great Spangled Frittilaries, 5 Cabbage Whites. The only thing more dreamy than their names are the insects themselves. Below is an assortment of photos I took from the day. Since my ID skills are not all that good I decided taking pictures would be a better use of my time. It was my first time using this borrowed lens, so these are definitely practice images. But with critters so beautiful, even a bad picture is still a good one.