Where Do You Find A Salt Marsh Skipper?

Saltmarsh Skipper photographed by Jeff Zablow at Harris NeckNational Wildlife Refuge, GA

Exactly! And that’s where I met this handsome example. This Salt Marsh Skipper was nectaring in the ‘butterfly’ garden at the Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge near Townsend, Georgia. We were at the coast, just moments from the nearest Saltgrass, their hostplant.

They fly in the salt marshes of the United States, from Massachusetts, along the coastline all the way to Texas. They among the grass skippers. They’re easy to identify, with that long horizontal pale strip on their hindwings.

They are very kind, much tolerating the intrusion of the Macro- camera lens, to just inches from them. It seems that nectar near totally dominates their being, and my approach, no problem!

They ground me in reality. We sometimes get too big for ourselves, asking why this or that creature ‘deserves’ to continue its existence. Would not a nice development of fine homes be more important than that  population of skipper butterflies that lived there for say, 200 years? Uh, NO. I’d say that there are some 200 or more good reasons to splat! that suggestion, as we do to Musca domestics on a July day.

Jef

Party Crashing Viceroy

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

That 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, wanted to meet them.

I saw them days later, along county and state roads, they 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 it. One of those natives Sumacs, and its flower buds were beginning to open. A first for me, native sumac, in bloom, at the edge of Woody Pond, and those alligators seen and . . . unseen . . . ?

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

I shot away, lots of film exposed. It was a clever one, 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, the party crashing Viceroy . . . on a McLaren day in Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge.

Jeff