Bitter cold, bone-chilling wind, always the threat of snow flurries, or even more disarming, snow. This New York, cum Pittsburgh boy has known northeast winters throughout his life.
15 years of seeking butterflies, seriously, has added another negative to my winter list. No butterflies (wild).
Let’s share this as the first of a number of winter antidotes. After all, these Mourning Cloak butterflies (Nymphalis Antiopa) are generally the very first to be seen, and that’s often during the last week in February, sometimes with much snow on the ground.
So friends, for those go-getters who are willing, it may be just a modest 54 days plus or minus, until our first northeastern butterflies take wing.
How? Don’t most require a minimum of 60 F to fly? Yes, most do, but this butterfly flies when it is much colder than that. Then how can the manage without nectar about? Mourning cloaks enjoy sugary sap dripping from maples and other trees, and they food on scat.
Long-time visitors can readily picture the smile that exploded on my face when I saw this grouping on Nichol Road in Raccoon Creek State Park. The Anglewings are a loosely related group of butterflies that never fly too far from the tree-line. This is a popular horseback riding trail, and these Comma butterflies are contentedly sipping manure!
You’ve noticed that the edges of their wings are heavily angled. Others are the Mourning cloaks, Milbert’s and Compton tortoiseshells and the Question Mark Butterflies.
Getting back to that smile- this was a A+ opportunity to show two species of commas, in a side-by-side comparison. Good.
The comma on the left is an Eastern Comma (Polygonia comma). The comma in the center remains a mystery. The comma on the right is a Gray Comma (Polygonia progne). See the differences in color, color arrangement, patterns, wing shape, size, and shape of the “comma” that appears on the hindwings. If you return several days after this has been posted, you will be able to click to enlarge the image, and these differences will be easier to view.
We can presume that these 3 individuals are all males. We have recently discussed why males need to bulk up on nutrients (flying furiously here and there to find mates/protect their ‘territory’). This plop of horse scat seems to be just super for these guys. Even more attractive is the scat of carnivores (weasels, coyotes, bobcats, raccoons at times, hawks (?), etc.).
These species much prefer the northern states and Canada. 2014 will hopefully bring me up north, and I can’t wait to share the Anglewings that abound up north from Pittsburgh.
A trip to Toronto and I encountered this beautiful Acadian hairstreak butterfly in a Toronto city park. This trip to visit a friend showed me that Canada is rich in eye-popping wildlife.
Satyrium acidica is found in northeastern U.S.A. and in Canada. The butterflies in that park were fresh and included Mourning Cloaks, Painted Ladies and Hairstreaks.
This Acadian, as Striped hairstreaks and Gray hairstreaks will, remained stationary and approachable for 3 minutes or more. Their tiny size and my macro photography requirement made its cooperation much appreciated.
They are rarely seen south of Erie, PA. I have never seen another Acadian hairstreak. Meeting-up with this one, probably a male (he’s perched there hoping a female comes along), was nice, especially nice.