Sunday, August 30, 2009

Our Butterfly Yard List Grows By Two


I have lived here 12 years and have been keeping a butterfly list since I moved in. The list had been until last year stuck at 75 species for a few years. Last summer we were taking a break on the deck and saw a Gulf Fritillary on the butterfly bush, butterfly 76. A few weeks ago Appalachian Brown was seen in the neighbors yard then the next day I took photos of it at our compost bin. The next day a Tawny-edged Skipper showed up so boom bang we are at 78 species. The only reasonable butterfly left is Zebra Swallowtail.

Lets think about this number 78 species, it is big but you have to keep in mind that for 12 years I have taken surveys of the garden and driveway. And I know the butterflies I see from doing it so long. I'd think most of you that live in a good wildlife habitat could reach a number close to this or even higher. Down in south Texas this number could be a list of butterflies seen in one month!

Surveying butterflies are just are not done very often in many parts of the country. Many places have little or no public places to survey and no locals with the experience to perform a comprehensive survey. Here in North Carolina we cover it fairly well, our Orange County yard has seen more species than about 60 of the 100 counties in North Carolina. I'm not saying we have more species than those 60 or so counties, they just don't get surveyed and recorded. Orange County has 94 species on its list, 17 other counties have seen more species than we have.

The Appalachian Brown on our compost bin

Here is our yard list

1 Pipevine Swallowtail
2 Black Swallowtail
3 Eastern Tiger Swallowtail
4 Spicebush Swallowtail
5 Cabbage White
6 Falcate Orangetip
7 Clouded Sulphur
8 Orange Sulphur
9 Cloudless Sulphur
10 Little Yellow
11 Sleepy Orange
12 Great Purple Hairstreak
13 Coral Hairstreak
14 Banded Hairstreak
15 Henry's Elfin
16 Eastern Pine Elfin
17 Olive Hairstreak
18 White M Hairstreak
19 Gray Hairstreak
20 Red-banded Hairstreak
21 Eastern Tailed-Blue
22 Spring Azure
23 Summer Azure
24 American Snout
25 Gulf Fritillary "stray in 2008"
26 Zebra Longwing "stray in 1997"
27 Variegated Fritillary
28 Great Spangled Fritillary
29 Silvery Checkerspot
30 Pearl Crescent
31 Question Mark
32 Eastern Comma
33 Mourning Cloak
34 American Lady
35 Painted Lady
36 Red Admiral
37 Common Buckeye
38 Red-spotted Purple
39 Viceroy
40 Hackberry Emperor
41 Tawny Emperor
42 Northern Pearly-eye
43 Appalachian Brown new in 2009
44 Gemmed Satyr
45 Carolina Satyr
46 Little Wood-Satyr
47 Common Wood-Nymph
48 Monarch
49 Silver-spotted Skipper
50 Long-tailed Skipper "strays in"
51 Hoary Edge
52 Southern Cloudywing
53 Northern Cloudywing
54 Hayhurst's Scallopwing
55 Sleepy Duskywing
56 Juvenal's Duskywing
57 Horace's Duskywing
58 Zarrucco Duskywing
59 Wild Indigo Duskywing
60 Common Checkered Skipper
61 Common Sootywing
62 Swarthy Skipper
63 Clouded Skipper
64 Least Skipper
65 Fiery Skipper
66 Tawny-edged Skipper
67 Crossline Skipper
68 Southern Broken Dash
69 Northern Broken Dash
70 Little Glassywing
71 Sachem
72 Delaware Skipper
73 Zabulon Skipper
74 Dun Skipper
75 Pepper and Salt Skipper
76 Common Roadside-Skipper
77 Eufala Skipper
78 Ocola Skipper

My next posting will cover two new species of odonates I recently found the Eastern Ringtail dragonfly and the Burgandy Bluet damselfly. I also finally took photos of the Fawn Darner.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Durham Butterfly Count


Last Sunday Meg and I helped with the 11th annual Durham Butterfly Count. I have helped on this count 9 out of the past 11 years if I recall correctly. We covered the Little River Impoundment, Penny's Bend Nature Preserve, High Field and our gardens. Not many of the group leaders visited gardens as normally the best place to find butterflies is in wild places with native flowers in bloom. Sara P Duke Gardens was covered due to the large masses of butterfly friendly flowers there.

Meg and I ended up finding 45 species of butterflies which is pretty good. The entire collective effort of the butterfly count tallied 58 species. Each group usually finds something the others don't find, ours was a fresh Painted Lady.

I talked the Will in the morning and his group had already found a Mourning Cloak, Nymphalis antiopa which is never found in our area in July or August as they are aestivating until it gets cooler. Anyway an hour later Meg found the above Mourning Cloak along the edge of the woods and it posed for several photos. So Mourning Cloak is now added to the count list.

This small frog gave me a small fit as its markings didn't match anything I have seen in the area. Experts tell me it is an immature Southern Leopard Frog. Usaully they are green with lots of spots.

Meg found this little red dragonfly in the shady woods. This is a Blue-faced Meadowhawk, Sympetrum ambiguum. These are a fall season dragonfly and it was several weeks early if you ask me.

This Mocha Emerald, Somatochlora linearis was found cruising a forested trail, and landed especially for me to take photos. These tend to fly with out landing so getting a photo is fairly good.

Halloween Pennant, Celithemis eponina we saw lots of these in one meadow we walked in.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail from our garden, not very many of these were found this year. The only butterfly we found only in our garden during the count was Hoary Edge and we found three of them.

Monarch, Danaus plexippus nectaring on Butterflyweed. meg found this one as I'm colored blind and missed seeing the ornage flowers. I would have seen the movement.

This female Monarch is laying eggs on Common Milkweed that had been mowed down and was growing back, good for her!
Some day I'll post some photos I took in 2004 during the 3 months I observed them on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. Oh WOW!

Cloudless Sulphur, Phoebis sennae These butterflies can be seen moving northward in large numbers on the eastern coast in a few weeks. This one was just resting. I've always believed that the Cloudless Sulphur was the butterfly where the name "butter" fly came from, it looks just like a pat of butter in flight.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Butterflies and weeds

My last post was about invasive weeds, bamboo grass. This post is about weeds that butterflies use as host plants. I used to madly pull up Pearly Everlasting and Pussytoes in my former yard. I did not know then that the American Lady used it as a food plant. Here in paradise there is not much of it in the lawn or garden, there is a lot in the road easement out at the main road though.

The female here is depositing eggs. These American Ladies are common here, rarely we get Painted Ladies to stop in.

American Lady on pussytoes see my page on American Ladies here.
These 2 photos were taken 2 doors down from me at an estate on 300+ acres, I now have permission to roam the estate freely. I found out there is the ruins of a pre-civil war mill called Old Turner Mill on the North Fork of the Little River beside the property. I'll be exploring that once the rainy weather quits.

Nothing to exciting you might think looking at this dull little skipper. Wait these are uncommon to rare and we get at least 2 broods of them here at paradise most years. This is an Hayhurst's Scallopwing, Staphylus hayhurstii and less than 1 inch across with the wings open. When the wings are closed it is the size of a pinky fingernail. More on this little skipper can be found at my Butterflies of the Carolina & Virginias Website.
Another testy weed you think, well yes it is Lambsquarters, Chenopodium album
Lambsquarters can be difficult to control. I pull out the ones in the way and leave a few for the Hayhurst's Scallopwing to use as a food plant.

Silvery Checkerspot, Chlosyne nycteis these brushfoot butterflies visit us once in a while. Wingstems and sunflowers are the food plants for these and there are lots of these native plants growing along the North Fork of the Little River not far from here. More at my web page on the Silvery Checkerspot.

Bonus image! Great Blue Skimmer, Libellula vibrans. This medium sized dragonfly likes landing on antenneas, any upright perch or as in this case a purple rope. Usually they like to hang around woodland edges and our gardens is that exactly.

Monday, August 10, 2009

The War on Weeds

Yesterday and today I launched an assault on the Bamboo Grass, Microstegium vimineum that is taking over the gardens here! Much still yet to be done but it does look like I made progress! The garden was looking pretty bad and we will be getting visitors next Sunday.

Above is one of many wheelbarrows of Bamboo Grass I pulled from the gardens. The fence behind the wheelbarrow had the weeds going over the top of it! This pile is from the bed of flowers that we set up dog protection to, only to get taken over by the Bamboo Grass. On Saturday I was along the Eno River and I used to see lots of Jewelweed down there along the river, now mainly bamboo grass.

This coming Sunday the Durham Butterfly Count is going to take place. I'll be leading a team of butterfliers looking for as many butterflies as we can find. Our team will cover our garden and the neighborhood, we'll also visit several wild places like the Flat River Impoundment. Usually the Durham Count has about 5-6 team leaders and the combined teams gets about 60 or so species of butterflies. If you live anywhere near Durham, NC and would like to join us please let me know before Sunday.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Saturday Safari on the Eno

Today I went out and did a river walk by myself. I ended up on our local river the Eno River. Stupid me I had the camera set to 800 ISO instead of my normal ISO 200, likely I'll trash these photos as everything here I had taken better photos of in the past. Sadly most every interesting butterfly or dragonfly found in the parts I has gotten good or excellent photos of already.

American Rubyspot (Hetaerina americana) The red male is above and the greenish female is below. These Broad-winged Damselflies are found over most of the country, I have seen them in AZ and TX. If you want to find them you'll have to get right on the water as they like to live near moving water or rapids.

Below is an eye to eye encounter with the female American Rubyspot!

Blue-ringed Dancer (Argia sedula) male. I saw maybe 100 of these today they were all along the river and in the grasses along the Eno as well.

Little Glassywing, Pompeius verna on Swamp Milkweed. You can find more on the Little Glassywing skipper here.

Zabulon Skipper, Poanes zabulon male. This small woodland skipper is my favorite I have 4 photos of these guys in 6 books and I was paid each time for all the photos in each book! More on the Zabulon Skipper here.

Gemmed Satyr, Cyllopsis gemma We have a small population of these little satyrs here at Paradise. Satyrs are IDed easily by the bouncing almost comical way they fly. Telling this one from the more common Carolina Satyr on the wing is hard but once landed it is easy.

Northern Pearly-eye, Enodia anthedon I saw 10 of these today and that is a lot for this somewhat secretive satyr. There are three pearly-eyes Northern, Southern and Creole see my page on the Northern at this page. I know of a place where it is told you can find all three species together but my luck didn't work for me when looking for them.

Red-spotted Purple, Limenitis arthemis astyanax
found this freshly emerged butterfly on the shore of the Eno today. It was still drying it's wings so I got to take photos without it leaving town on me.

OK, some of you are going to have a fit, quiet Grace :-)
Here is a full grown female Chinese Mantis all 4 inches of here! The largest I have seen in some time. I once found one of these with a hummingbird as prey, it caught it by hiding on a goldenrod flower. I was to say the least stunned.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Chanterelles in the woods

Today while walking the dogs, Meg and I found a small cluster of Chanterelles. These are considered as edible mushrooms in fact rated delicious! We'll have them with dinner tomorrow. If you don't hear from me again they were Jack O lanterns and not Chanterelles.

Chanterelle cibarius these are one of the most famous edible mushrooms in the world. And to find them right here in paradise. We have also found a few Morels in the spring and Oyster Mushrooms can be found in large numbers on rotting tulip poplars.

They have a slight smell of apricots! Your looking at our harvest below.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Night Blooming Cereus Opened on Sunday

Back in 2007 Sharna's Night Blooming Cereus, Epiphyllum oxypetalum that she had bought in a tiny pot with a Avacado trees for 10 cents at a yard sale 10 years previously finally bloomed. These are the photos I took back in 2007. Sharna missed sheing the bloom as she was out roving as a biologist, then it bloomed in again 2008 she missed again!

Since 2008 we moved to "Paradise" and the plant came with us. It stayed in our living room during the winter at Meg's old place it was in the sun room. Anyway on Sunday night it bloomed for the first time at "Paradise". Now we have 3 plants as Meg rescued two plants in the hallway of her school.

Close up using a tripod and my Canon 20D with the 180mm macro lens and 550EX speed light.

This flower is 7-8 inches across it makes a water lily look small. The aroma knocks one down from 10 foot it is very fragrant. It 2008 we had 2 blooms one night the fragrance was double, could you imagine what 20 flowers would be like?

The flowers last only one night a year that is all.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Western Crescents and Fritillaries

These are photos I took out in the Yosemite area (California) back in June. Given I'm an eastern US butterfly guy. Western fritillaries and crescents are very hard to ID even with good photos. Hoping some of my western butterfly friends will chime in on these IDs.

No ID for this fritillary above and below on Purple Milkweed. Any suggestions? This one was found in Maraposa County, CA along a dirt road in a very open mixed forest near a cattle ranch. It was near the county line which was unmarked and I do not have current access to my DeLorma map which Sharna still has in Yosemite..

This fritillary above and below was found inside of Groveland a small town outside of Yosemite Park. I'm stumped on where to begin IDing this one.

Fritillaries out west are very hard, I think this is a Coronis Fritillary, Speyeria coronis. This one was found along the Old Yosemite Rd where the road just ended in the woods. There was a clearing filled with clover and the road intersected 3 different ways and the road sign was laying in the woods. All the roads at this point were overgrown with trees and not passable with our rental car.

This small crescent I believe to be a Mylitta Crescent please correct me if I'm wrong?

This small crescent I believe to be a Mylitta Crescent, Phyciodes mylitta . Found along Evergreen Road in Toulomne County, CA.

Mylitta Crescent, Phyciodes mylitta again??

I think this is a Field Crescent, but western crescents can fool you especially when your from the eastern US. Correct me if I'm wrong will ya? This one was found along Evergreen Rd along the Toulomne River in Toulomne County.

Thanks to help from an western expert this is Northern Checkerspot. I found it along a mud puddle in a trashed out road inside Toulomne County, Groveland, CA.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Cordless Battery Operated Lawn Mower


Back in mid May I was just sick of having starting problems with the old gasoline lawn mower. So I went out looking for a new mower. We have 3.75 acres here but only have about 1/2 acre to mow so when I found out that a cordless battery operated lawn mower would run for an hour on one charge I knew it was something we needed. Meg and I are always looking for greener ways to live our lives and not having to deal with the carbon and pollution released by a gasoline mower seemed to fit our lifestyle perfectly. So I bought the 20 inch Homelite 24 volt cordless battery operated Lawn Mower.

After 2 1/2 months of testing it once a week or so, I thought I'd fill you in on the pros and cons of having a cordless.


#1 Starting it is way too easy, just pull out the handle, it does have a safety key in case you have children. To stop it just let go.
#2 it is light and moves easily over level ground, edging with it it does well.
#3 The battery does last an hour if the grass is not too high. Deeper grass will reduce the mowing time on the battery.
#4 Meg lets me store it in the basement, no gas fumes or fire hazards.
#5 We don't have to buy gas or worry that it gets water in the gas. Also no trips to buy gas and deal with the gas can in your car.
#6 No emissions virtually pollution free.


#1 It will only mow about an half acre a day on one battery charge.
#2 The battery takes 15 hours to get a full charge. You can get about a 70% charge in 5-6 hours.
#3 Seems rather cheaply made, how available would parts be to get it fixed?
#4 It cost about $100 more than gas mowers of it's size.
#5 Not self propelled.
#6 You have to charge it and remember to unplug the charger after it is charged.

Starting the mower is easy just pull the trigger below. Notice the plastic key for safety.

So you might ask what are those tall grass like plants I've mowed it through?
Bamboo Grass, Microstegium vimineum Our worst nightmare here in North Carolina. This patch of it was dirt after we re did the septic field in the woods a year ago. Now it grows 2 foot tall in about a month. Our garden has it everywhere, it creeps up and grows 4 times faster than anything.

We pull this by the wheelbarrow full all season when we have the energy. Since our garden is organic we don't use Roundup or anything like it. I have a friend that used Roundup on it and shortly after it all died it just came back.