Dragnet For A Duskywing

Duskywing butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek Park, PA, 5/06/08

Here’s one of my images that has long been prodding me, urging me to use it for a wingedbeauty.com post. Why have I kept it locked away from your sight? Try as I will with field guides, I cannot be sure which Duskywing butterfly it is?

A beauty it is, seen in Raccoon Creek State Park in Hookstown, Pennsylvania, about one hour west of Pittsburgh, and about 20 minutes or less east of the West Virginia-Pennsylvania line.

I dislike admitting, but Duskywings and many Skippers, well, they challenge, alot. Curt, Harry, Ken, Dave, or Jeff or Mr. Pyle, they’d all know.


Horace’s Duskywings Coupling

Duskywings Indelicata photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek Park, PA, 5/05/08
May 5th on Nichol Road trail in Raccoon Creek State Park. I almost missed seeing this. Male and female, after completing their appraisals of one another, now successfully coupling. Minutes went by. They remained motionless.

Provide butterflies and all other creatures with undisturbed habitat, fostering the host plants their caterpillars feed on, and the nectar or alternative food (scat, fruit, sap) that nourish the adults, and they will replenish their numbers. No need for corporate, or volunteer or government intrusion. Just don’t destroy the land they call their home, don’t indiscriminately release pollutants to the air and water, and … voila! generation after generation of amazing and beautiful butterflies.

No instruction manuals or how to videos, or coaches were to be seen. Vital, necessary behavior, after the ravages of a long, hard winter of zero degree temperatures.


Duskywing on Blueberries

Duskywing butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek Park, PA, 5/06/08

You can’t not like Duskywing butterflies. These little brown bombshells are just about everywhere when you hike the woodland trails in the Spring. Every so often one will accompany you part way on a trail, flying 10 feet ahead of you each time you reach it, and repeating this again and again. Springtime also finds certain beloved plants in active bloom. Among those are wild blueberries. They evoke such warm memories and many recollections of mouth-watering blueberry muffins and . . . blueberry pies. Pause to regain my composure . . .

This sunny morning on May 6th AOTA (all of the above) were right before me in Nichol field in Raccoon Creek State Park (southwestern Pennsylvania = arrive at Kennedy Airport in NYC and drive your rental car 8.5 hours to the southwest). Juvenal’s Duskywing (Erynnis juvenalis) nectaring seriously on Lowbush Blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium).

An image that I sought for some time. Catching a good one seemed achievable, though each time I positioned myself, he would move to the next tiny bloom, and I’d have to refocus my macro lens.

This is one of those reminders of how crucial it is to conserve places like this. Duskywing butterflies, happily nectaring on blueberry bushes. Sweet. Naturally connecting the dots of happy memories.


Horace’s Duskywing Butterfly (RCSPark)

Horace's Duskywing butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek Park, PA, 5/08/07

May 8th and we’re not alone as we travel Nichol Road trail in Raccoon Creek State Park. These pert, excitable little Duskywing butterflies flank me on either side of much of the trail. Some hold their position, others flee, only to set down 15 feet ahead or back. Very territorial, are these butterflies. Female Duskywing butterflies are more brightly decorated, this one here an especially well-adorned miss.

That she’s a Erynnis horatius is fairly certain… but not guaranteed. Juvenal’s, Wild Indigos and possibly other Duskywings are also flying here in May.

Duskywings, when they are as fresh as she is, remind me of certain men’s haberdashery shops that used to line spiffy Madison Avenue in New York, New York in the 1980’s. Enter those hatters and you’d enter a world of the richest chocolate-brown hats that could be imagined. A well dressed, confident man in a rich brown hat…

Good little butterflies, keeping you company, and keeping you sharp  and aware, ready for the Leps that your camera lens is aching to capture. Good.

Funny too about Duskywings… I’ll bet that only 1 in 20 who hike these trails, notice our tiny Duskywings. As I meet hikers on these trails, to my question, ‘What butterflies have you seen?” Answer (guaranteed): None. Me, I’m thinking, actually you have probably set your eyes on dozens, though few such nerve impulses have made it all the way to that locus in your brain that….


A Duskywing Butterfly Feeding on Animal Scat

Duskywing at Raccoon Creek State Park

Duskywings! Little Skipper butterflies that meet and greet as you hike trails through wooded habitat. Several species can be met on the trail and they can be maddeningly similar.

Our Horace’s presented herself on May 8th, though she was too busy sampling scat to notice us. Erynnis horatius favors us with the spectrum of tans, yellows and browns that you now know that we love.

Just yesterday a friend offered that such butterflies really should be called moths. Uh uh! The differences are stark and genetic.