Banded Hairstreak Butterfly

Banded Hairstreak Butterfly photographed by Jeffrey Zablow in Raccoon Creek State Park

Funny how things are. A really good field guide cites Satyrium Calanus as the most common and widespread of hairstreak species. In this particular field guide, the accompanying map key shows that western Pennsylvania is squarely in this butterfly’s primary range (Cech and Tudor, Butterflies of the East Coast, Princeton University Press). Still, I’ve only seen and photographed 3 of them in the last 13 years. We can consider that Satyrium Calanus much prefer to be well off the ground in oaks, walnut and hickory trees.  This behavior explains in part why we’ve rarely seen them.

It’s reported that they do eat nectar, especially from asclepias (milkweeds) and dogbane. We’ve not seen that. I did find this beautiful specimen on a June 23 morning in Raccoon Creek State Park in Southwestern Pennsylvania, luxuriating in the morning sun, thankfully not too high over the trail. This is another butterfly that prefers the forest’s edge.

With its 2 pairs of hindwing tails, and one pair much shorter than the other, this butterfly is certainly not a Hickory hairstreak (Satyrium Caryaevorum). 

It helps if you’re an esthete. The outer forewings and hindwings deliver this yummy palette of rich, brownish, tanned leather, rich sky blue and reddish-orange splash. I love that concentration of strong, warm color. But that’s me. This is probably a male. They venture out more readily and probably bask more often. Females, are perhaps camera shy?

This is our second Banded hairstreak photograph. It’s not a bad one, having seen so few of them.



Rich Chocolate Colored Wood Nymph Butterfly Reminds Me of Fine Leather and Hershey Bars

Wood Nymph Butterfly at Raccoon Creek State Park Enlarged

Ah the Wood Nymph butterfly. The rich chocolate color of fine leather or of a scrumptious Hershey bar. These medium sized butterflies capture the hiker’s imagination because from May to late September they are the trail markers that we encounter as we enjoy our way alongside forest edge, fields and most cut edges. Some zip away and out of sight, some fly ahead just 15 feet, while others hesitate and stand their ground.

Cercyonis pegala offers another benefit. They display fascinating diversity. While the markings of most other butterflies show hardly any variety, those of wood nymphs present a great deal of difference. Large eyes or smaller eyes, yellow, orange or   intermediate colors, blues, or whites or indeterminate pastels in the eyes. Rich browns to a host of brown variations in the wing. You notice these things when you pause to examine your trail sentries. It just makes for fascinating travel.

I have been straining my brain to remember having ever seen a wood nymph butterfly nectaring at a flower. If I have and can’t remember, then even so I’ve spotted hundreds over the years, and though I’ve seen them at scat, and attracted them to traps of banana/fruit, visits to flowers elude my memory.

Our instant individual was on Nichol Road trail in Raccoon Creek State Park in southwestern Pennsylvania. On my approach it quickly flew off, straight to a nearby tree. It perched on the opposite side of the trunk. I approached very slowly, saw it there…and it allowed my to shoot quite a few macro- images. Probably  a female, with larger eye spots and larger in size

I kept and now use this image because it effectively shares the real time look of wood nymphs and because of the nice interplay offered by bark and butterfly.