The Skipper You’ve Never Seen

Leonard's Skipper Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek State Park

Anyone ever seen this one? Few appear to have ever seen a Leonard’s Skipper. I met this one because one year, well into September, I wondered. What would I meet at Raccoon Creek State Park‘s Doak Meadow/Nichol Road trail?

That morning, on a trail cut through the high grass of Doak Meadow, I was startled (Yes!) to watch this large skipper fly out from the high grass and fly to rest on the cut grass floor of the trail? Excited does not enough describe my reaction to this unexpected reward for heading out the Raccoon Creek State Park, when y’all had already headed back to work, school and to all that folks do when summer ends and life returns back to normal.

Glassberg’s Swift Guide to the Butterflies of North America describes Leonard’s as LR-U (Locally Rare to Uncommon) and notes that in western Pennsylvania it flies from late August to September.

In Pennsylvania, September weather quickly cools off, and butterflies soon disappear. Leonard’s eludes most of us, for you’re back at your desk, shuttling your kids to school and oboe lesson and back to doing your research or continuing to work on your doctoral work.

Me? I was retired, and I think this was after my Frieda A”H passed, and I needed this, alot.


Question Mark Butterfly

Question Mark butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Raccoon Creek State Park

Aargh! I erred by not noting the date that I shot this slide. They show seasonal differences, helping us identify this as a “Summer form” Polygonia interrogationis. These Summer brood fliers have darker markings and shorter hindwing tails. If it were a Spring or Fall generation, the coloration would have been lighter and more orangey, with longer tails. So this must have been a late June or July photograph. I’ve got to be more careful with such things.

I notice often that my posted images differ from those of other photographers. This one here shows the butterfly resting in the high grass, a preferred morning situation for this butterfly. Many who share their butterfly images show the butterfly occupying nearly all of the image, with very little habitat included. I’ve given this much thought over time. The scientific extreme closeup photo or a photo like this one, showing the butterfly along with a good deal of its surroundings. I’m often tempted to pitch these into the trash, perhaps to conform to the general influence of those other field photographers.

But then I decide, Nah! I’ve always marched to my own drummer and I sometimes wonder how others got so, so close to these wary imagoes (That 19th century term for adults)? I’m also reminded that I don’t like it when media or movies bring their cameras right up to someone’s face. That seems too personal and shares skin features and blemishes that should remain hidden.