Sunday, March 22, 2009

Occoneechee State Preserve

Today I wandered over to Occoneechee State Preserve in Hillsborough, NC for a few hours. Hoping to find a Brown Elfin on the Brown Elfin Knob Trail. Meg was feeling sick and could not make it, so I went by myself.
I parked at the main parking lot and headed past the ponds to reach the intended trail from the bottom up. The first patch of mud produced my first Juvenal's Duskywing of the season, the next patch of mud gave me my first Dreamy Duskywing. I reached the Brown Elfin Knob hoping to find some hilltopping butterflies, nothing. Worked my way towards the main spot where the Brown Elfins hang out, found a Henry's Elfin instead on the Mountain Laurels.
Brown Elfins do not have tails on the hindwing, this Henry's Elfin clearly shows tails.
After taking a few photos I headed up towards the lookout tower at the peak of Occoneechee Mountain 867 ft I think. Our property in northern Orange County is at 660 ft if our topo map is correct. Bingo there was lots of butterflies hilltopping 6-7 Mourning Cloaks

Here is one of the better looking Mourning Cloaks that posed for my camera. Given that this butterfly is somewhere like 8 or 9 months old it still looks pretty good. If you did not know this is our longest lived butterfly, living as long as 10 months. They will start to lay eggs now on willows and elms and the next generation will emerge in May, those will be the ones we see this time of year.

The hilltop had these butterflies: a roving male Black Swallowtail, 3 Falcate Orangetips, 1 Henry's Eflin, 1 Spring Azure, 3 Spring "Summer" Azures, 6-7 Mourning Cloaks, 4-5 Juvenal's Duskywing.

Here is the Spring Azure I found today, telling them apart from the Spring "Summer" Azures is very difficult, it takes a trained eye. The Spring Azure is more gray and not as bright blue as the Spring "Summer" Azure, but there is more to it than that.

The hilltopping Henry's Eflin. See those tails!
Not much in the way of wildflowers, I saw some bluets along the picnic area and during the entire walk I only saw one blueberry in bloom. If I'd when down to the Eno River the wildflowers would have been rocking I'm sure.


Anonymous said...

Nice butterflies. It's hard to imagine that many out and about. You all are ahead of us.

Chandramouli S said...

I've never seen so many ever in my life. Even when I was a kid, I remember being around butterflies, but never so variegated. Awesome photos, Randy and Meg!

Just Jenn said...

The Mourning Cloak sure is pretty.
I also love how proud that last little Eflin looks - just like he's knows he's posing for his portrait.

Robin's Nesting Place said...

You are the butterfly whisperer! It amazes me that you know just where to find what you are looking for.

flowrgirl1 said...

Lovely! Thanks for sharing those beautiful butterflies with us.

Michelle said...

How wonderful to see so many butterflies! Great photos. There were very few butterflies to be seen on my last hike, but lots of wild flowers.

Hocking Hills Gardener said...

Wonderful!Butterflies that I have never saw before. The Mourning Cloak is so beautiful.

sweet bay said...

Great butterfly photos. The Mourning Cloak is especially pretty.

Meems said...

Hey Randy,
I have been doing some catching up here... and boy have I missed a lot in just a few days. What a fun trip this was to find the tiny butterflies. It always amazes me how the slightest detail changes and I.D.
I know where to come when I need help with an I.D.
Those swallowtails were really pretty -- love the pipevine. I would encourage never to assume we know anything ... that way you will give us all the good information about what you have found. LOL

I've never seen a mourning cloak-- very fascinating life span but the features are exquisite.

Keep them coming...
Meems @ Hoe and Shovel

Janet said...

Randy, these posts are very interesting. I know many plants, a lot of birds, but few butterflies. Hope I will retain this info once I am out in the garden and see one fluttering by. Again thanks for sharing some beautiful photos of these tiny jewels.

Kanak Hagjer said...

Simply love your butterfly shots!!