Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Windsor LaSalle Butterfly Count 2014 (v2)

Monarch on Butterfly Milkweed - Butterfly watchers are happy to see a slight population rebound from last summer

Last July, I did a review of the Windsor LaSalle Butterfly count for 2013 [link]. So I figured I would continue tradition this year. This year's count took place on July 5th, 2014. I actually didn't officially take part in this year's count. My son had a soccer game on that Saturday morning but I was able to catch up with the butterfly census about an hour after it started at Brunet Park in LaSalle.

Its always fun to see a bunch of Hairstreaks nectaring on Butterfly Milkweed

Interesting Notes from this years survey:

  •  1,787 individuals of 49 species for the 2014 butterfly count (1,471  of 52 species in 2013)
  • 19 Monarch butterflies as opposed to last year's 3 Monarchs [link]! The 10 year running average for Monarchs is 32 for this count (source: http://www.ojibway.ca/nabc2012.pdf). I actually have finally seen a few Monarchs this year (starting with this recent count) at Ojibway and Point Pelee.
  • No American Coppers this year (I did see one earlier in the season though)
  • No Mulberry Winged Skippers this year- A species that I was going to really try to catch up with...
  • A worn Northern Oak Hairstreak was found at Brunet Park a new species for the count!
  • Edwards, Acadian, Coral and Banded Hairstreak are pretty easily found at Spring Garden area, and huge numbers of Hickory Hairstreaks were seen at Brunet Park in LaSalle this year (100+)
Here are some pictures I took while butterfly watching on or around the butterfly count...

At one point of our walk, we noticed a giant bumble bee nectaring on milkweed flowers, and then a second giant bumble bee... No... A Snowberry Clearing Moth nectaring on the same plant as a bumble bee! The Snowberry Clearwing moth is a bumble bee mimic and it was cool to see them nectaring side by side!

My son and I also went to Point Pelee after the butterfly count (July 6th) to see what we could find along East Beach ... Lots of butterflies were to be seen but highlights included 1-Pipevine Swallowtail and 4-Striped Hairstreaks.

Good Butterfly Watching!

Friday, July 4, 2014

Late June Lepidoptera Observations around Windsor

 Lepidoptera is a term coined by Carl Linnaeus in 1735. The term is derived from greek origins meaning "Scaled Wing". The photo above (Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lepidoptera) shows a scanning electron microscopy view of the scales on a butterfly wing at 50X through 5000X. The scales on the wings of butterflies have many functions: to attract mates, camoflage, mimicry, thermoregulation, insulation and pheromone production (wikipedia). (A small area on male butterfly wings called 'stigma' glands is what actually produces pheremones if I'm not mistaken). So when I go out birding, if I get a chance to get a good look at a butterfly, I take it! With the right optics, you can really get amazing views of the details, colours, patterns that butterflies provide. Some butterflies will allow close looks where you can almost grab them, and others will flutter away and keep a safe distance never to be seen again. I recall trying to find Hackberry Emporer butterflies at Point Pelee one summer, and while searching for one, one landed on me! I had another land on the dash of my car!

"Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better" - Albert Einstein.

Even with a cheap 55-250mm lens, you can actually see scale detail on butterflies if you get a good exposure. Do you know what butterfly this is?
My latest nature walks have focused on our local endowment of about 40-80 species of butterflies that can be found in Essex County (there are 174,250 species worldwide in the order of Lepidoptera). Right now (July) is prime time to go out and get a look at these fluttery beasts*! 

Red Admiral Butterfly - Dorsal and Ventral Composite

Red Admiral Butterfly. It took several exposures and adjustments on ISO, Aperture and shutter speed to get this shot! Once in a while a butterfly will afford you some time to capture it. This is the exception, not the norm though.

Hickory Hairstreak.  This rarity is pretty easily found at Brunet Park in Lasalle. This one only gave me 3 seconds of viewing.

This photo was of an obliging Banded Hairstreak. It was fresh and was nicely perched  at the forest edge sunning itself. Its hard to describe the colours you get from a fresh hairstreak. While moving its hindwings, it gives off a sheen of blue, purple and reddish copper colours. Brilliant!

The "hairstreaks" of a hairstreak butterfly is an example of self mimicry. A hungry bird wanting to eat this butterfly might be fooled into biting the wrong end of this butterfly - its non-vital hindwing, giving the butterfly one more chance to fly away and see another day.

Banded Hairstreak

Red Spotted Purple - A butterfly that mimicks the bad tasting Pipevine Swallowtail.  Its really a colour morph of the White Admiral butterfly!

Baltimore Checkerspot

Great spangled Fritillary on Purple Milkweed

My latest birding efforts have been good but nothing outside of what would be expected. I have seen and heard a great number of Great crested Flycatchers this summer at Ojibway, as well as Orioles, Indigo Buntings and Eastern Wood Peewees. One highlight from the third week of June was a group of five fledgling Green Herons at Ojibway (see below).

Five Green Heron Fledglings at Ojibway Park
American Toad 
So next time you're out in nature, take a second look at the lepidopteric gems that flutter about you. You just might be amazed at what you see! If you don't know what you are looking at consider getting a good field guide [link] .

Interested in joining a butterfly count in Essex? Read below for details of the Essex County butterfly count:

The Windsor Butterfly Count is being held Saturday, July 5 (2014). If you would like to attend we are meeting at 9:00 am at the Ojibway Nature Centre. We will then divide up into groups to cover the various parks and natural areas for butterflies.

Good Birding!

* "Fluttery Beasts" was a term coined by Ohio Blogger Jim McCormac. I must give him credit for that lexicographically brilliant description of butterflies.


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