Viceroy Butterfly Crashes the Party

Viceroy Butterfly on Sumac (Woody Pond) photographed by Jeff Zablow at Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge, GA

During this very same week, the Georgia Native Plant Society (GNPS) shared a FB post, letting us know that native Sumacs were just about ready to bloom. Back up in Pittsburgh, all one heard of was a “poison sumac.” Ellen of the GNPS sung of two native sumacs, and I was interested, wanting to see these trees.

Days later, along county and state roads, I saw them– just hinting of the telltale dark rust indicative color.

Sunday I drove to Townsend, Georgia, and arrived at Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge the next morning. Coastal Georgia is wondrous, and Oohs and Aahs! reigned. Great blue herons, Wood storks, Glossy Ibis, Lots and lots of alligators, Clapper rails, maybe 3 species of snow-white egrets, Zebra heliconians, Palamedes swallowtails, Anhingas, Salt marsh skippers, the biggest spiders I’ve yet to see and the sense that snakes were at hand, but hidden out of sight. It was a dreamland for folks like us.

I think it was Wednesday, along the Wood Pond Trail that I saw one of those natives Sumac trees. Its flower buds were beginning to open. A first for me to see, a native sumac in bloom, at the edge of Woody Pond, with all those alligators seen and unseen.

A shadow flew in. What! It was a fresh, deeply hued Viceroy butterfly. They are always “Uncommon” and hard to find compared to Monarch butterflies. (Glassberg’s Swift Guide to the Butterflies of North America) I see them rarely, and always briefly, they have something more important to do, with some other wetland to visit, that’s how it seems.

I shot away and exposed lots of film. It was a clever butterfly, remaining within the inner bounds of the sumac. When it flew, I just stopped, and cynically laughed, at how, with all that was around me, this likable Viceroy came in and stirred the pot. It was a party crashing Viceroy butterfly on a McLaren day in Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge.

Jeff

Gulf On Liatris

Gulf Fritillary Butterfly on Liatris photographed by Jeff Zablow at Harris Neck National Wildlife, GA

That August trip to Townsend, Georgia was fantastic. I photographed butterflies and more in Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge (a national birder destination) and at Ft. Federica on St. Simons Island.

Go back in 2019? Oh, I hope. Little Metalmark butterflies and Eastern Pygmy butterflies eluded me, and I so miss these tiny winged beauties.

The coast of Georgia features a ‘necklace’ of very special refuges, and I never did get to Sapelo Island, Jekyll Island and . . .

My life will be forever richer for the sights and critters that I saw those 6 days, alligators, wood storks, egrets, great blue herons, green herons, rails and maybe 1,680 butterflies.

This was a big year for Gulf Fritillary butterflies, like this one, nectaring on resplendent Liatris blooms.

Good for you Georgia, successfully preserving so much of your Rich coastal habitat!

Jeff