Wet Meadows in Early Summer

Seasoned wet meadow habitats are usually a tangle of shrubs and herbaceous plants in a mosaic of thickets and openings. They’re transitional habitats, evolving from grassy, weedy meadows to woodlands. A dominant, overstory tree canopy is absent, although increasing numbers of young trees forecast a very different landscape in the decades to come. Wet meadows are places where one is likely to get wet or muddy feet, even when it hasn’t rained for awhile. They’re also places that support rich wetland communities of plant and animal life, all begging to be observed and photographed!

These images were all captured last week while exploring  just a few acres of wet meadow habitats.

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Baltimore Checkerspot on Birdsfoot Trefoil; the primary host plant for caterpillars is Turtlehead, a wetland wildflower

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Virginia Ctenuchid moth on dogwood; Silky and Red-osier Dogwood are dominant shrubs in aging wet meadows and important wildlife habitat

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The Browns or Satyrs are signature butterfly species in wetlands; adults feed at bird droppings and sap flows – not flowers

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Twelve-spotted Skimmer, a common hunter in open habitats

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Swamp Milkweed, a popular source of nectar in wetlands

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Northern Pearly-eye, resting on a favorite tree in the transitional zone between wet meadow and forested swamp.

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Baltimore Checkerspot

Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

 

“Butterflies….the essence of cool in the insect world”

My title is from the opening line of an article in the Washington Post by Darryl Fears, published in the Syracuse Post Standard, a local newspaper, on 9July13. Fears connects the health of butterfly populations with that of the environmental with alarming statistics and quotes from experts around the country. Habitat loss, pesticides and other mortality factors are decimating butterfly populations. Nineteen species and subspecies are now listed as endangered or threatened in the U.S. alone; at least one species and two subspecies are presumed to be gone. I think that means forever.

I spend a lot of time observing and photographing butterflies and feel compelled to engage in this environmental wake-up call by blogging about my butterfly experiences in the Northeast, largely New York state. July is butterfly month. I’ve see six or eight species in as many days (a lot for this area), nectaring, perching, chasing and breeding in meadows and brush lots.

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Baltimore Checkerspot, perching on an unoccupied songbird nest box.

My first dedicated butterfly post features the Baltimore Checkerspot (Euphydryas phaeton), one of the more abundant and accessible species in early July.

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Baltimore Checkerspot caterpillars on Valerian (Valeriana officinalis), an alien wildflower

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Baltimore Checkerspot; emergence coincides with the bloom of Knapweed (Centaurea; the pinkish glow in the background)

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Baltimore Checkerspot

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A pair of Baltimore Checkerspots; they’ve just perched together following an aerial chase/courtship and are about to mate

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Baltimore Checkerspots, mating

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Turtlehead (Snapdragon family; Chelone glabra); wetland wildflower; preferred species for adult egg-laying and caterpillar feeding.

Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.