Ode To Harvesters

Harvester butterfly photographed at Raccoon Creek State Park, PA

My English profs would be disappointed in me, if they opened this post and found that I no longer remember what an Ode is. What I do recall is that an Ode was often melancholy, written for something missed.

Well I so miss seeing Harvester butterflies. Those tiny gems that startle you when you see a puddle in the middle of a favorite trail, and at the edge of that puddle you see a geometric form, always the first indication that you have seen a butterfly, usually hairstreaks on a leaf or a very tiny skipper or blue butterfly.

I spotted this one on the Nichol Road trail in Raccoon Creek State Park in southwestern Pennsylvania. I loved that trail, rich as it was in habitat and butterflies. On that trail I experienced a trifecta, over the years seeing Mourning Cloaks, Milbert’s Tortoiseshell and Compton Tortoiseshell. MY eyes registered something, a triangular shape at a tiny puddle formed. by the rain the night before. What’s that?

I made the most robotic of all approaches, and knew that was something special! I every so carefully got down on my belly (Park vehicles do sometimes use this road!), confirmed Harvester!! and crawled inches closer. Not wanting to spook this Harvester butterfly, I did not make a full approach and I shot away.

The original Pookie, this butterfly is a favorite of field guide writers, for its caterpillar is the only known carnivorous caterpillar in North America.

Ode to Harvesters? Truth be told, I’ve seen 2 of them, on that stretch of trail over the years, I’ve not seen another in some 20 years. Twenty years! I so miss the Rush! when you meet a Harvester.

Jeff

My Harvester Butterfly

Harvester butterfly photographed at Raccoon Creek State Park, PA

Someone yesterday posted their image of a Harvester Butterfly, on FBook. It is so rare that I see an image of this certified Pookie butterfly, that I stopped and examined the good image, and that led to a lot of daydreaming and reminiscing.

It’s been so many years since I enjoyed my 2 (Yes, only 2) meetings with Harvesters. Both times I was just where A Swift Guide to Butterflies of North America (Glassberg) wrote you’d have to be, “in or near wet wood, with alders.” I was on that favorite trail of mine, Nichol Road Trail, in Raccoon Creek State Park in southwestern Pennsylvania. There was a small creeklet running slowly some 12′ away, it had rained the day before, and the Harvester, the solitary Harvester was calmy taking moisture at the edge of a little puddle.

They are excellent models, holding their poses nicely and not fleeing. The thing is that they are tiny, and my Macro- lens necessitated that I get down on stomach. No complaint there, so willing a model a Harvester is.

The problem with finding a Harvester is they are so LR-LU (Glassberg’s Locally Rare to Locally Uncommon). Seeing 2 in 24 years or so attests to that.

I’ve got to add though, that when you scan a puddle that’s on a trail and near a streamlet, and you see a Very unfamiliar butterfly shape there . . . OMG!!! what’s that! Maine to the Florida Panhandle to eastern Texas and north to North Dakota. This is one of the ‘Needle in the Haystack’ butterflies, no doubt.

Jeff

The Results?

Harvester Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow on Nichol Road Trail, Raccoon Creek State Park in Pennsylvania

Where have I sought out USA butterflies? The northeastern states (New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Massachusetts), the southeastern states (Maryland, Virginia, Georgia, Mississippi, Florida), Arizona, and last week, Texas’ Rio Grande Valley.

I’ve found many butterfly fans reticent (reluctant) to discuss their field experiences. Lately in the company of birders, they freely tell of what they’ve seen and where they saw it.

Interested in knowing what butterfliers have seen, I usually choose the right moment, and pose my question: What butterflies would you like to see?

This one, shared here, ranks up there as the one many with extensive field time have not yet seen. The Harvester.

I take much pleasure hearing this, for I have not yet (Yet!) climbed the southeastern mountains of Arizona, scoured the Keys for amazing finds, hiked big, Huge Alaskan tundra or climbed the mountains in California.

I have seen Harvesters, three times in southwestern Pennsylvania, but so many of my friends and bare acquaintances have not.

Is that raw of me? I hope not.

Jeff

Harvester Butterfly

Harvester butterfly photographed at Raccoon Creek State Park, PA

Ah, the Harvester Butterfly. Undeniably one of my favorite butterflies.

This teeny, tiny butterfly is usually found on gravel covered trails that are close to running creeks or streams.

You spot a very small flier, approach slowly, and when you are close enough to make-out wing detail, you conclude with certainty, Ah, a Harvester!

They are usually loners and once you have successfully approached one, it will allow you to watch it.

Those wings! I love the rich coffee brown broken up by their almost haphazard white rings.

And those elfin eyes. Oops, I’d better stop here.

We’ve left no space to discuss how the Harvester differ from all other butterflies]?

Jeffrey