Hackberry Emperor (In the Delta)

Delta Blues? Not on this Trip. This time, it’ll be Delta Browns and greens . . .

Winged Beauty Butterflies

Hackberry emperor butterfly photographed by Jeffrey Zablow at Greenville, Mississippi

We drove nearly 900 miles from Pittsburgh, down to Greenville, Mississippi. It helped that my grade school teachers made the spelling of this beautiful state an absolute must. You had to be able to spell M-I-S-S-I-S-S-I-P-P-I. Greenville was a bustling cotton town, cotton brought to the docks was loaded on ships and sent to all corners of the globe. Although Greenville no longer thrives, the wildlife in the Mississippi delta region was all new to me.

Well, almost all new. Asterocampa celtis is also found in Pennsylvania. We have posted several images of our northern hackberrys. The Hackberry emperors and Tawny emperors (Asterocampa clyton) flying in western Mississippi were impressively rich in color. Their appealing coloration often led to confusion, i.e., was this one here a Hackberry or a Tawny? Leroy Percy State Park offered both hackberrys. Ours here is a Hackberry emperor.

A trip…

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Which are the Southerners? The Northerners?

Red-Spotted Purple butterflies photographed by Jeff Zablow

Two of what you see were photographed in Raccoon Creek State Park in southwestern Pennsylvania. Two were taken in Leroy Percy State Park in Hollandale, Mississippi. 980 miles separate these 2 parks.

Ok. Try this. Which images are the Southern (Mississippi) butterflies? Which are the Northern (Pennsylvania butterflies)?

Red-Spotted Purple butterflies (Basilarchia astyanax) are familiar to us through most of the United States, generally from the Rocky Mountains east to the Atlantic Ocean. A huge expanse of territory.

Millions of square miles apart from one another. Surely that much separation produces lots of difference.

The National Audubon Society Field Guide to Butterflies (North America) (Knopf, 2012) advises that “Eastern populations have some red in FW [forewing] tips above. Butterflies of the East Coast by Cech and Tudor (Princeton University Press, 2005) notes that a “series off red-orange marks near the FW [forewing] apex is more prominent in the female.” Is that helpful?

Answer: The top 2 images are Pennsylvania red-spotteds . . . the bottom 2 images are Mississippi fliers.

Jeff

Red-Spotted Purple . . . in Mississippi

Red-Spotted Purple butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Leroy Percy Park, Hollandale, MS, 9/08/09

My first trip to Mississippi. We visited family in Greenville and bivouacked in Leroy Percy State Park, in nearby Hollandale. This was 2011, many years since I met a fellow soldier, Gywnn, who spoke fondly of Mississippi, as we killed time in our bunks at Ft. Sill, Oklahoma. But Gwynn was correct, Mississippi was a whole lot different from Brooklyn, New York, and from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Flat for as far as you could see, alligators in the park’s lake, and chiggers! I sought butterflies throughout Leroy Percy Park, and on returning to our log cabin, itching, a sudden onslaught of itching, not just here, or there, but just about everywhere? I did see mosquitoes. Mississippi does not lack mosquitoes. This itching came from  places that mosquitoes couldn’t have gotten to. And . . . I sprayed myself before I left, with Off! Back home, Off! is very effective. The Park Office hadn’t closed for the day, so I walked over there and asked the man and woman there about this almost unbearable itching (I’m starting to . . . itch). Immediate explanation. Chiggers! Tiny insects that get onto you in the high grasses. Our tough Pennsylvania winters make us chigger proof! Yay! for that.

Limenitis arthemis astyanax here in central western Mississippi is remarkably similar to those that we have posted here, from Pennsylvania. Though more than 900 miles apart, they sure look  like one another. Can you imagine that? Mississippi and Pennsylvania are so, so different. Their Red-spotted Purples are so, so similar.

Cech and Tudor (Princeton University Press, 2005) notes that the red marks near the forewing apex are more visible in  the females. Is our example here a male?

Jeff

Hackberry Emperor (In the Delta)

Hackberry emperor butterfly photographed by Jeffrey Zablow at Greenville, Mississippi

We drove nearly 900 miles from Pittsburgh, down to Greenville, Mississippi. It helped that my grade school teachers made the spelling of this beautiful state an absolute must. You had to be able to spell M-I-S-S-I-S-S-I-P-P-I. Greenville was a bustling cotton town, cotton brought to the docks was loaded on ships and sent to all corners of the globe. Although Greenville no longer thrives, the wildlife in the Mississippi delta region was all new to me.

Well, almost all new. Asterocampa celtis is also found in Pennsylvania. We have posted several images of our northern hackberrys. The Hackberry emperors and Tawny emperors (Asterocampa clyton) flying in western Mississippi were impressively rich in color. Their appealing coloration often led to confusion, i.e., was this one here a Hackberry or a Tawny? Leroy Percy State Park offered both hackberrys. Ours here is a Hackberry emperor.

A trip back to Mississippi included several mornings at Yazoo National Wildlife Refuge. Unfortunately, the Rangers there declined my request to show me the most promising trails? Of course that little damped my enthusiasm to find and photograph new butterflies. Find them I did. Several species I had never seen before. After once seeing (I have not doubt about that) a Goatweed Leafwing (Anaea andria) in Raccoon Creek Sate Park in southwestern Pennsylvania (no photo and I was not expecting to encounter it, and it certainly was startled by me and zoomed away), early in the morning at Yazoo, I had one of those, Am I seeing what I am seeing? experiences. There was a Goatweed leafwing perched on a tree trunk, in the shade of the morning. I regained my head, looked, looked, looked and when I remembered, Duh! You are a photographer, I began to raise my Canon. Whist! it disappeared into the forest. Mississipi. Mosquitoes, moderate. Chiggers, Uh oh!

Jeff

Phaon Crescent Butterfly

Phaon Crescent Butterfly photographed by Jeffrey Zablow in Leroy Percy State Park, MS

We were down visiting family in Greenville, Mississippi. Leroy Percy State Park was nearby and it was a treat for me to be introduced to new, southern-based species of butterflies.

Phyciodes Phaon flew very low, keeping close to the edge of the lake. Similar to the closely related Pearl Crescent, they fly and descend on foliage, repeatedly. So we were able to photograph the Phyciodes Phaon.

Our individual here I believe is a female, and sports the characteristic whitish median forewing band.  Others may be creamy or yellow.

A wetland butterfly, Phaon crescents never flew far from the lake shore. Phaons prefer wetland habitat. Pearl crescents don’t. Related species, different habitat.

Jeff

We enjoyed the hospitality of this Mississippi state park. In the west-central part of the state, it offers comfortable cabins. It’s a sight for us Pittsburghers, sitting near our cabin, at lakeside, watching the herons, egrets and alligators. Nice. Very nice.