Continuous Bloom for Butterflies

When the cool nights and shorter days of late summer arrive, priorities shift dramatically to subjects like white-tailed deer and preparation for winter. Aside from the occasional Monarch flitting about in fields of asters and goldenrods, butterfly photography is an afterthought.

A recent field trip and opportunity to observe butterflies in a cultivated landscape reminded me that there’s still a lot going on in butterfly world! And, most important, a landscape with continuous bloom into late summer can attract and nourish a wide variety of insects at a critical time. The host plants in this post are Sedum (‘Autumn Joy’) and Butterfly Bush.

TigerSwallowtailSedum28Aug17#2636E2c4x6

Tiger Swallowtail on Sedum (1 of 2)

 

TigerSwallowtailSedum28Aug17#2543E2c8x10

RSPurpleSedum28Aug17#2579E5c5x7

Red-spotted Purple on Sedum (the red spots are on the underside of the wing)

 

SulphurSedum28Aug17#2615E2c8x10

Sulphur butterfly in a sea of plenty

BlackSwallowtailBB28Aug17#2458E2c5x7

Battle-worn Black Swallowtail on Butterfly Bush

FritillaryBB28Aug17#2524E5c5x7

Fritillary on Butterfly Bush

MonarchSedum28Aug17#2604E9c5x7

Monarch on Sedum

Photos by NB Hunter (August 26-27, 2017). © All Rights Reserved.

Advertisements

Fields, Knapweed and Insect Visitors

Hopper30July17#1021E2c5x7

Old fields, forest edges and road corridors harbor an impressive variety of summer flowers, many of them alien. Knapweed is one that I have grown to appreciate due to the tremendous insect activity associated with its flowers.  On a hot, muggy summer afternoon it is possible to hear a field of knapweed in full bloom before you see it….bees! I liken the sound to that of the faint hum of traffic on a distant highway.

Bee29July17#0987E2c8x10

I appreciate the importance of this bloom as a food source for bees, and couldn’t walk away from a serving of knapweed honey. However, the main reason I trudge through the matted, thigh-high tangles of knapweed in the mid day heat is butterflies.

Skipper29July17#0952E2c8x10

Skipper

Fritillary30July17#1086E2c8x10

Fritillary

PaintedLady29July17#0937E5c8x10

Painted Lady

TigerSwallowtail21July17#0741E5c8x10

Tiger Swallowtail

Viceroy29July17#0918E2c8x10

Viceroy

Photos by NB Hunter (late July, 2017). ©All Rights Reserved.

A Milkweed Project

Several years ago I discovered a group of milkweed plants growing at the edge of the property. They were in the shade of a 60-foot-tall Norway spruce and lacked the vigor and floral production of open-grown plants. Mindful of the decline of Monarch butterflies and their habitats, I transplanted about 15 plants to better sites in full sun. This was done in the spring of 2015 and 2016.

Most plants survived the stress of transplanting but they didn’t become fully acclimated and established until this year. I’m now pleasantly surprised with the results, and plan to continue the project. The new colonies are producing root sprouts as well as flowers, and the response of nectaring insects was immediate.

Here is a small sample of milkweed visitors last week – and several plants have not reached full bloom yet! This is a wildlife manager’s dream scenario: one action, with multiple benefits.

HairstreakID5July17#0269E2c4x6

Banded Hairstreak butterfly (milkweed flowers are a preferred food source)

VaCtenuchaMoth6July17#0274E2c3x5

Virginia Ctenucha moth

TigerSwallowtail7July17#0358E2c8x10

Tiger Swallowtail butterfly

Given the insect activity, I wasn’t surprised to find a common 8-legged predator lurking in the flower clusters: the Flower Crab Spider (I had to gently lift the flower cluster and shoot one-handed to get the image).

FlowerSpider6July17#0312E2c5x7

Flower Crab Spider

Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

Late Spring Scenes, 2016

Becoming immersed in the continuum of spring scenes from March to June is a bit like viewing a blog post that features an endless gallery of world-class images. Each phase of spring has exceptional, defining visual qualities and it’s virtually impossible to pick favorites.

Young Red Squirrels are maturing rapidly, but still show the fearless curiosity of a juvenile.

RedSquirrelJv10June16#0097E2c8x10

Buttercups are in full bloom…

Buttercups10June16#0078E2c5x7

Buttercups10June16#0086E2c8x10

As are the Dame’s Rockets…..

DamesRocket6June13#050E2c4x6

Tiger Swallowtails, our most common, large butterfly, liven up the June landscape as they follow the sequence of bloom.

TigerSwallowtail10June16#0025E6c5x7

Tiger Swallowtail on hawkweed

And it’s not all about youngsters and flowers: large herbivores seize the moment, feasting on succulent new plant growth (throughout the day if undisturbed).

Doe10June16#0060E6c8x10

A young doe (yearling) foraging in a brushy meadow

Doe10June16#0056E6c8x10

Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

Mid Summer Nectaring

Fritillaries on Milkweed

Fritillary on Milkweed

Fritillary on Monarda

Tiger Swallowtail on Day Lily

Tiger Swallowtail on Day Lily

Photos by NB Hunter 20July2015. All Rights Reserved.

Late Spring Highlights, 2015

This post is for the eye specialists of Central New York, the surgeons and their wonderful supporting cast who I have gotten to know all too well over the past 6 months. I must be nice to them, because our journey isn’t over yet.

Green Frog (Rana clamitans melanota)

The month of June began with Dave and I disconnecting from the outside world, tent camping and fly fishing for trout in a “dead zone” in the mountains. We’ve been doing this for a long time. The destination, campsite and length of stay haven’t changed, but the journal entries are never redundant and each trip is better than the last.

Destination: a freestone trout stream in a mountainous, forested watershed

Camp life is a trip treat in and of itself, but the main objective of these adventures is to float a fake bug high and dry so it drifts, bobs and skitters with the current, drag-free….and fools a trout. Fly fishing is a repetitive process, a fluid continuum of false casting, presentation, catch and release (on the good days). The rod becomes an extension of the arm, and the stream an endless source of pleasant sights, sounds and expectation.

Mayfly5June14#362E4c5x7

Green Drake mayfly (Ephemera guttulata) drifting along on the surface film; a favorite in the diet of trout

A parachute dry fly, one of many imitations of the Green Drake. To the human eye, an insult to the fragile beauty of the real thing. But, it works, seriously.

We fish for hours on end, especially when the trout are “looking up” and can be tricked into taking one of our flies. However, there are also windows of opportunity for exploring and photographing.

In this part of the world, Wild Columbine thrives in the moist soils and partial sunlight along forested mountain roads. Rocky woodlands, rock outcrops and ledges are also suitable habitat.

Wild Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis)

Late spring marks the onset of butterfly season, and in these extensive deciduous forests the activity can lead to a sensory overload. Virtually everything in bloom is visited by nectaring butterflies, and swarms of puddling butterflies are a common sight. Damp, sunlit sites with exposed mineral soil – such as roadside mud puddles – sometimes attract dozens of butterflies. Swallowtails are the featured attraction, but a half dozen or more species may be involved. The visitors are mostly males, searching for soil minerals that might enhance reproductive success.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus) nectaring on Dame’s Rocket (Hesperis matronalis)

Tiger Swallowtails (and other butterfly species) puddling on on a muddy site

A Spicebush Swallowtail (Papilio troilus) searching for a suitable place to puddle. The iridescent hindwing and spoon-shaped tails are diagnostic.

Spicebush Swallowtail probing damp soil for minerals

Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

Fleabane (Erigeron)