The trail from Chapman State Park to State Game Lands #29 offered up few butterflies. That’s until I startled a . . . White Admiral (Limenitis Arthemis). I had not seen one for many years. ‘For many years’ because my field work rarely takes me north of Pittsburgh, and these beauts are most common to our north.
Took the requisite moment to stare, and then began a long, relentless effort to photograph them. White admiral descends onto trail (slightly moist after rain a few days before), I make a robotic approach (necessary for I shoot macro-, and need to ideally be within 2 feet of butterfly) and . . . it flees, fast, into trailside cover. This was repeated over and over, with the 5 or so that were present along about 90 feet of trail. I never gave up and they usually returned within a handful of minutes.
These Limenitis are closely related to Red-spotted Purples and also to Viceroys. They are exquisite, sporting blue, white, black and reddish-orange, all stark and tightly grouped.
Meeting White Admirals on this trail in northwestern Pennsylvania is electrifying, for the next ½ hour, that’s all you think of, not pressures, tensions, bills to pay, family issues, politics, ISIS – all washes out, as you appreciate the artistry of this butterfly.
Seven years is a very long time. Yesterday morning, June 3rd, I checked out of my cottage at Chapman State Park (in the Allegheny National Forest Reserve) before check-out time, and worked the trail that begins in the park and then continues in a State Game Land. Tiger Swallowtails (all male) flying at top speeds, Little Wood Satyrs, Pearl Crescents, then Red-Spotted Purple butterflies, almost all of them taking minerals on the trail floor.
Whoa! One of them is not a red-spotted purple, but instead their more northern relative, the White Spotted Admiral. Breaking my own rules, I continued photographing well after noontime. To the end of that fieldwork, along came Jeff, geocaching. He rode a bicycle, and we stopped and talking. Both of us retired teachers, me city schools and he in a small western New York high school that graduates 20 seniors each year. He recalled Sally’s (a friend) sad battle with cancer, and I Frieda’s (A”H) sad battle with cancer. Then he biked on, and I continued finding white admirals.
I saw about 5 or 6 of them. I would approach them on the trail, robotically (see our Technique feature) and almost ever time it would fly low to another place, some 30 feet away, or fly in nearby bushes. Sometimes one would fly on a low hanging branch and that was much appreciated.
This image was taken in Toronto, Ontario on July 17, 2008. My new images from today’s shoot at Allegheny National Forest Reserve must first go to Kansas, then be scanned here in Pittsburgh. If I have captured any good ones, I’ll surely share them ASAP. Ah the joys of shooting Fuji slide film.
Toronto! The city was so much fun to see. My camera was along for the trip, so our good friend supplied directions to a park in the middle of the city. Early the next morning we prepared for who knows what?
Jackpot! West Don Park on July 17th. Let’s set the scene. Milkweed and thistle were in bloom and reaching peak. Butterflies, where? Everywhere!
Limenitis arthemis arthemis and Red admirals are very, very closely related.
Our instant butterfly here may well be a female. Females visit flowers much more frequently than males do.
After enjoying so many Mourning cloaks, Monarchs, Tiger Swallowtails, Sphinx moths and countless skippers, the appearance of this White Admiral was dramatic. It was as if a member of the royal crown family suddenly entered the hall.
As the field guides note, when Limenitis arthemis arthemis powerfully flies in, there is no doubt as to which species it is.
This is our 2nd post of a Red Admiral butterfly. After having been rousted from the trail moments before, it flew to this tree and perched on it for quite a while. This is routine behavior for this species.
Each year the numbers of Red Admirals vary. 2011 produced a moderate number of these butterflies. 2010’s flight was much greater in number. The population fluctuations of this and most other butterflies remain an excellent subject for doctoral studies . . . too bad few have been done.
Red Admirals are like people who appear unexpectedly, chat you up energetically for several minutes and then carom off seeking their next pliable ear. These butterflies swoop in to where you are standing/working, fly from one spot to another as you move about and are soon seen winging it to some unknown destination.
The red submarginal bands, white spots and blue spots at the rear of the hindwings are the clinchers that assure you that you’re seeing a Red Admiral Butterfly.
So when you look up from planting those salvia, agastache, coneflowers or tomatoes and see this distinctive color pattern, you can be sure that during your brief break . . . you’ve been fortunate to have been in the company of a Red Admiral butterfly. And no sooner do you realize this, then you see . . .