Monday, September 28, 2009

Monarch Migration now underway!!!


Back in the fall of 2004 I was the Monarch Monitoring guy on the Eastern Shore of Virginia NWR. For 3 months I carried my camera and net and did surveys of the Monarch migration on the refuge and surrounding area. I tagged 550 Monarchs, though none of them were recovered in Mexico.

I was told by the people who had been monitoring the Monarchs in the years past that the Pine trees at the northern edge of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge was the best place to find the Monarchs before they made the 25 mile journey across the Chesapeake Bay. Yes I did find them there, discovered that the cherry trees (pictured here) was an even better place to find them some mornings. These photos were taken with a 400mm lens and a good tripod. Sorry to get to this site you need 2 permits one from the National Wildlife Refuge and another from the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Police.

Below are some scenes of the Monarchs on the Black Pines a non native species that tolerates salt from sea spray.

The most Monarchs I found on a given day was around 1500.

My job of monitoring also expected me to visit the Hawk Migration Platform 3 times a day, I saw thousands of migrating hawks some days. One day the hummingbird feeder had a Painted Lady and Monarch visit it, new for me. We also saw a Cloudless Sulphur on the feeder too.

Some of the Monarchs I tagged didn't make it like this one a Chinese Preying Mantis snagged the next day after I tagged it. That goldenrod is Seaside Goldenrod an amazing butterfly attractor.

Two male Monarchs on another species of goldenrod.

Close of male Monarch on goldenrod. I have hundreds of photos from this extended trip. I'd do it again but I was not paid enough to make my house payment, so it was a one time adventure.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Monarchs on the way, Sea of Sunflowers

Today I went on a local field trip to the Flat River Impoundments just outside of Durham. The day was gorgeous! I expected to see a lot of Monarchs, but instead we saw something like 40 Viceroys the butterfly that mimics the Monarch. Finally we found 3 Monarch caterpillars on milkweed that had only stems and pods left no leaves anywhere.

Tickseed Sunflower (Bidens) everywhere and they are native plants too!!!
We have a handful of them around our pond. Once blooming is past the tickseeds will cling to your clothing with the two hooks on the seeds.

One 5 foot wide plant in the rip rap rocks.

Just one of many fields full of Tickseed Sunflowers. The impoundments are somewhat wet and the sunflowers seem to do very well here. The aroma is nice, though I can't explain it.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

South Carolina Butterfly Trip

Last weekend Meg and I ventured into coastal South Carolina to do two butterfly counts I've wanted to do for over 10 years.

On Saturday we did the count in Georgetown County and we explored our way into Samworth Wildlife management Area. We found lots of butterflies and I found myself face to face with a Viceroy/Red-spotted Purple hybrid and the camera was in the car! I ran the fifty feet to the car and a huge truck went by and this hybrid took flight and never landed again. I'd seen photos of one found in Georgia back in 2004 and forgot about it. This hybrid had orange Viceroy hindwings and Purplish forewings that resembled the Red-spotted Purple. They are close relatives and both caterpillars feed on willows and look alike.

On Sunday Meg and I helped with the Francis Marion Butterfly Count. We hoped to find the first ever Dotted Skipper on the count but failed to find any. Amazingly we saw almost 500 Little Yellow butterflies, in NC 4-5 is a great number of these southern migrants.

Little Metalmark, Calephelis virginiensis These tiny butterflies always steal the show. We found three of them in Francis Marion National Forest. I'm corrected I found two and Meg found the big fresh one. These are small just a 1/2 to 3/4 inch wingspan and you have to be looking hard to find them. Lucky for use all the ones we found were along the roadside. These used to be not too hard to find in Croatan National Forest in NC, but are getting rarer and rarer every year.

Notice the foil like shimmer on the tiny bands along the wing edges, you have to see it in just the right light. Never seen these on "trash" plants like this Lespedeza, usually you find them on native plants in the pine woods.

Tropical Checkered Skipper, Pyrgus oileus We found 16 of these in Francis Marion National Forest, others found them as well. Never in almost 20 years of holding the Francis Marion Butterfly Count had they ever found them. I'm pretty sure the Count broke a state record high count on these. No recent records in North Carolina at all, maybe we'll have them soon, moving up from Florida.

Here is a male Yehl Skipper, Poanes yehl I had not seen one of these in two or three years. These photos are much better than what I have on my main web site.

Time to get away from this big eye staring at me!

See Ya!! Yeah right....

Gulf Fritillary, Agraulis vanillae These were fairly common, they tend to travel a good bit.

We saw at least 4-5 of these Green Treefrogs perched just like this.

Palamedes Swallowtail, Papilio palamedes We saw maybe 200 of these large swallowtails, on a good year 1000s can be seen in a day.

Here is a twin-spot Skipper, Oligoria maculata on Liatris Graminifolia
This Blazing Star is likely the best butterfly attractor in the pine woods.

OK and the guest dragonfly two different male Roseate Skimmers, Orthemis ferruginea
The pink body is normal for mature males on the east coast. These are coastal so I rarely see these. I found one in coastal Virginia back in 2004, it was the second record of this species in Virginia, the first records was just 2 weeks before mine..

Duh, I thought this was a Needham's Skimmer, but the thorax later showed it to be a male Roseate Skimmer.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Eastern Ringtail

No not an exotic cat from far away, it is a clubtail dragonfly. These Eastern Ringtails are a new species for me! I heard about them being found at Falls lake and headed over when I got the chance, it was not very sunny and I missed them on the first try.

I returned the next week on a very sunny day and found a fair number of them. The males are perching at the top of the dam and the females at the bottom.

Female Eastern Ringtail (Erpetogomphus designatus) isn't she beautiful?

male above and below Eastern Ringtail (Erpetogomphus designatus)

Above and below they are oblisking to cool off.

Female Eastern Ringtail (Erpetogomphus designatus) females do not have the club like shown on the males.

At around 2 inches I expected them to be larger for some reason. They blended in to the environment quite well and vanished when the clouds came over. Funny with over 10 years of hunting dragonflies I'd never seen them and these were found an hour away from here.