Curt first introduced me to Dogbane during a butterfly count (NABA?) many years ago in Pennsylvania’s Laurel Highlands. Dogbane is one of those ubiquitous wild flowering plants that just seem to always go unnoticed. That day Curt said that many butterflies rely heavily on the nectar produced by Dogbane. That information stuck in my head, and every season since, when I am in a field or meadow, I look for dogbane. I look for it because it is a destination for butterflies frustrated after having had little success locating milkweed or bergamot or the other wildflowers that share the same bloom times.
This Dogbane was growing strongly in Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge on the Delmarva peninsula in eastern Maryland. It’s about 90 feet from the shore of Chesapeake Bay. A great place to grow. We’re seeing it in May 2014. Dogbane blooms in June and July. At this time in August, the tiny flowers have been replaced by longish fruiting pods.
A wildflower that grows alongside the Asclepias milkweeds, and bergamots and thistles and other superstar nectar destinations, and does its part to make sure that all the butterflies, bees, moths and flies that just need a bit more sugary nectar . . . have just one more selection, if they so wish.
Took a break mid-morning at Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge ( Rock Hall, Maryland). May 2014. The Ranger’s house was smack in the middle of their best butterfly habitat. After so much looking down and looking straight ahead, this tree drew my attention, and I look up. What did I see?
This American Holly tree ( Ilex opaca ) had dozens of butterflies flying around it. The Red-spotted purples were numerous among them. Problem was that I don’t bring binoculars with me, so I couldn’t ID the dozens and dozens of smaller butterflies that were up there. This is a 60′ tall tree, so the species zipping about were left to my imagination. Bees and flies were uncountable, and wasps and other predators flew about, on their hunt for prey.
I have seen heavy action around Paw paw trees, and several trees further South, but I don’t remember ever seeing a tree that was so supportive of butterflies, as this one was.
The field guides all cite this tree as equally valuable in the late Fall and Winter, its berries placing it among the Best Trees to Attract Birds (Stokes Bird Gardening Book, Little, Brown and Company).
A native tree that supports wildlife of dozens and dozens of species. Nice. Didn’t need to bring it here. It was always here.
Chrysalis photographed by Jeff Zablow at Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge, Rock Hall, MD
This little treat caught my eye on that trail just steps away from Chesapeake Bay. Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge fulfills its promise, wildlife abounds there.
Now I’ve got a lot to learn about chrysalises, so I stopped. I examined it from every angle. How did the animal that built this know what to do? How did they produce the material to construct it? How is the wholesome lump of protein found within it protected from the myriad predators that pass by?
What do you think? Moth? What possessed it to make this otherworldly structure out in the open, for all to see?
I tell you, it kept me there for several minutes, wondering. What a luxury, to be in my majority and standing there, wondering. . . like a kid.
Day 2 of 3 days in Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge. The diversity seen there was incredible . . . and that included this toad, hiding from me, no more than a foot from the edge of the trail i was working. Looked healthy, with a very beautiful interplay of browns arranged in various patterns. “Waste” film on this pookie? That debate lasted but seconds. Out came the little boy in me = Wow! this toad is amazing!
It posed (he, she ?). Good. I am, of course dedicated to photographing butterflies, and displaying the best of what I get. But this guy was special, and amidst all of the buzz about habitat encroachment, there it was, extraordinary (for me) and looking like a good indicator that the next generation was almost assured.
Now . . . what title for this post? Suggestions?