Posts Tagged 'butterflies'

Breaking: Monarch Sighted in Brooklyn

Danaus plexippusI saw my second Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) of the year today. This was my first in Brooklyn; in Brooklyn Bridge Park, feeding on Joe-Pye Weed (Spotted JPW, I believe, Eupatorium maculatum).

As you probably know, we have done quite a number on this spectacular species, through deforestation in Mexico, reducing its food crops further north in the U.S., and poisoning its habitat everywhere; such blows make them even more susceptible to external pressures, like severe weather, in particular the drought in Texas (“external” if you don’t count our carbon-dirty hands in disrupting traditional weather patterns through global warming).

Here are some graphs of the shocking declines and here’s an interview with a biologist whose entire professional career has been about them disappearing. There’s nothing personal, of course, in this drive to extinguish one more species; we’ve done it to the whole planet, and even ourselves.

Can you do anything to keep this remarkable animal, which has a multi-generational, continent-spanning migration, around for your grandchildren? You can plant milkweed, stop the wide-spread poisoning of the environment through herbicides and pesticides, and drive less.. say what? The field-to-field cropping of corn to meet the ethanol demand means that “weedy” edges have been plowed under. We must all change our lives.


Papilio glaucusOne must really keep the eyes peeled and rolling in a fine frenzy. Look out! Down on the sidewalk, a little under 1.5″ long, easily mistaken for a turd or cigarillo butt. Papilio glaucusBut, actually, it’s the larva of the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus), that gloriously large yellow and black butterfly. Early instars, or stages, of this caterpillar look like bird droppings (that old camouflage trick!); middle ones are vivid lime green, with the false eye spots; the last before pupation will look like this. Tuliptree, magnolia, and black cherry are among the food plants for this species; this was next to a Tuliptree (Liriodendron tulipifera), which is an unusual street tree here. Like all caterpillars, it is a machine for eating, powering up for the biochemical alchemy of metamorphosis. Papilio glaucusShazam! I mean, shit into gold, the alchemical dream right here.

Flying Now

Vanessa carduiPainted Lady (Vanessa cardui). I’ve posted previously about separating these from the similar American Lady butterflies (Vanessa virginiensis); from this view, the four big wing spots mark the Painted; two big spots the American.Enallagma signatumOrange Bluet (Enallagma signatum) male. Small and slender, but striking when you see it: at Green-Wood’s Sylvan Water. Enallagma signatumAt the nearby Valley Water, the Orange Bluets were mating. Anax juniusCommon Green Darners (Anax junius) were also reproducing there. Here the male continues to hold the female as she deposits eggs. I have seen females of the species depositing eggs on her own, sans the grip.ThorybesNorthern Cloudywing (Thorybes pylades). Enallagama civileI wish there was a special place in hell for the people who just toss their butts any- and everywhere (take a look down street gratings some day). This Familiar Bluet (Enallagama civile) male seems to be less censorious. CercerisA couple of Cerceris genus wasps were hanging out on some rogue squash plants on the edge of the Long Meadow.Pholisora catullusCommon Sootywing (Pholisora catullus) hitting the light just right on pollinator-magnet Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis).

Silver-spotted Skipper

Epargyreus clarus1. The “silver spot” on the Silver-spotted Skipper (Epargyreus clarus) is on the other side of the wings and is more of a white splotch to the field observer. 2. “Rumba” is a variety of rose.

National Butterfly Center

National Butterfly CenterSouthern Texas is home to the greatest diversity of butterflies in the U.S., and the National Butterfly Center, in Mission, is in the thick of the action down there. November is the time to visit, but we didn’t do too badly. As a bonus, we flushed a pair of Bobwhite.

It was evidently emperor butterfly day the day were were there, with Asterocampa clytonTawny Emperors (Asterocampa clyton) galore.
Asterocampa clyton

Libytheana carinentaAlso associated with hackberries are American Snouts (Libytheana carinenta). They usually perch with wings closed, and so I was lucky to get this shot.

We saw various swallowtails, Red Admiral, Monarch, Gulf Fritillary, Mexican Blue-wing (wow!), American Lady, Pontia protodiceCheckered White (Pontia protodice)Danaus gilippusand one of the other milkweed butterflies, a Queen (Danaus gilippus). Actually, we saw a lot of these, a magical realist amount of them (pace, Gabo!) flying about the milkweed in bloom.Gymnetis caseyiSome Harlequin Flower Beetles (Gymnetis caseyi) was also attracted to the center’s butterfly “traps,” gooey-baited areas. As big as my thumb fingernail. Spectacular and scarab-y! Stenelytrana gigasAlso seen, these beetles, Stenelytrana gigas, intimately involved in making more of themselves; they are mimics of Tarantula Hawk wasps.

larvaI don’t know what caterpillar this is; didn’t want to trample the lovely wildflowers to get a shot from the other end. huskAnd this empty pupa was found elsewhere, but this seems like a good place to post it.

nbcI really liked their building and surrounds.

Brooklyn Update

PrunusWhen my plane descended into LaGuardia last Monday, there were a lot of gray/brown still-wintering trees in evidence. I’d just come from southern-most Texas, where spring was fully in motion, but things are stirring here, too.Polygonia interrogationisQuestion Mark (Polygonia interrogationis) amid the weeping cherries, which were throbbing with honeybees, and an occasional bumble.Bellamya chinensisThe nacreous heart of a Chinese Mystery/Trapdoor Snail (Bellamya chinensis). Who doesn’t like saying “nacreous heart”?Mergus serratorI don’t think I’ve ever seen a Red-breasted Merganser (Mergus serrator) out of the water. Note those large feet, set rather far back, and good for diving. Quiscalus quisculaTotally fell for the Great-tailed Grackles down south, but the Common Grackle (Quiscalus quiscula) still has a place in my heart. Falco peregrinusYou may know that I live between two Peregrine falcon scrapes. (Geography is relative.) There is something going on in the 55 Water Street location, either a youngster already or an adult moving. And there this one — note the band/ring — is perched on the construction site across the street from the House of D. Keeping an eye on the home front amid the grooming.Gownus CanalThe Superfund Gowanus Canal. Habitat.Megaceryle alcyonA male Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon) was fishing in that industrial toilet, diving for the little fish that come in with the tide. Prunus

Field Trip: Cape May

sunriseRothko sunrise on the big beach at Wildwood Crest on the Cape May peninsula, hanging down from New Jersey’s southeastern end like an appendix. I was on the beach about 50 minutes before sunrise, with a long row of mostly-empty-in-the-off-season motels behind me, and the Sanderlings already working the edge of the waves in the near-glooming dark. big bird boardA migratory bottleneck, Cape May is renown for birding in the fall, when southbound birds funnel along the coast turn right at the end of the peninsular, continuing over the mouth of the Delaware Bay. The place was simply swarming with bird-watchers, showing, incidentally, their economic if not yet their full political potential. We — a NYC Audubon tour led by Joe Giunta — visited the famed hawk watch on Saturday and Sunday, both times under unusually hot and muggy conditions. That’s crappy weather for migration; birds want a tail-wind behind them, and in October that’s a cold wind from the north. Still, birds were moving: 443 Sharp-shinned Hawks were seen there on Saturday. Our highlights included a mature Bald Eagle passing overhead, as well as numerous accipiters and falcons, giving me an opportunity to refine my sense of the differences between Sharp-shinned and Cooper’s, as well as between Kestrels, Merlins, and Peregrines.Hyla chrysoscelisHiding from the brutal sun, two Southern Gray Treefrogs (Hyla chrysoscelis) no bigger than my thumb joint, were tucked into the hawk watch’s woodwork. This is an endangered species in NJ. Elsewhere, we heard tree frogs and cicadas (and mosquitos!), giving a rather tropical feeling to the woods at Higbee Beach WMA, except for the masses of black walnuts going to rot and squirrels at our feet.Sterna caspia, Larus atricillaThere are a number of ponds around the hawk watch, luring in ducks and waders (among many others, we saw Wood ducks, a Eurasian wigeon, Stilt Sandpipers, Black Skimmers, plenty of egrets). Here are some Caspian Terns (Sterna caspia), a new species for me, amid a scrum of immature Laughing Gulls (Larus atricilla).Junonia coeniaBuckeye butterfly (Junonia coenia). Cape May is also noted for its Monarch butterfly congregations, channeled down the peninsula during migration like the birds. A volunteer was capturing and tagging the distinctive orange and black fliers with tiny little stickers; but it was a slow day in bad year for Monarchs (beset as they are at both ends of their epic migrations: their Mexican habitat is ever more chopped down and we continue to mow and pave over our grasslands, including the all important milkweeds).

An especial highlight of the trip was at sunset in the heavy fog on Nummy Island. Black-crowned Night Herons were leaving their diurnal roosts. Their bark-like “kwok” calls echoed in the fog, then the birds began to take flight to their nocturnal feeding grounds in the marshes and tidal flats around us.


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