Monday, February 27, 2012

Flower Hill Farm BUTTERFLIES OF 2011 ~ Favorite White Admiral and Red-spotted Purple

White Admiral (left) and Red-spotted Purple on Beauty bush 2009

When I began this series, I had thought to just include photos for 2011, but with some butterflies, and especially these, I am including some from the past three years. 
The link between the White Admiral Limenitis arthemis arthemis and the Red-spotted Purple Limenitis arthemis astyanax is a fascinating one.  If I understand it correctly, here in Massachusetts, the more southernly Red-spotted Purple and northern White Admiral forget their differences and blend together, mixing genes and some traits.  
Many now refer to the two species as one with the name Red-spotted Admiral.

June 14, 2009

June 4, 2009

White Admiral sipping valerian June 4, 2010

Red-spotted Purple (without discernible red spots) on valerian June 4, 2010

White Admiral 2011

Red-spotted Purple on Spirea June 18, 2011

Often I capture these butterflies on the same day a few hours apart or a few days apart. 
I cannot imagine any bird that would be fooled, but the Red-spotted Purple is a mimic for the toxic Pipevine Swallowtail
The Red-spotted Purple caterpillars prefer the black cherry but will also use crabapple and poplar as host plants and both are abundant here at Flower Hill Farm. They have been sighted on other plants as well. The links in red on my posts will take you to more information. The White Admiral does not enjoy Black Cherry it seems . . .  but prefers poplar or yellow and sweet birch. They also may dine on shadbushes, hawthorns and a few other plants and trees. 
As adult butterflies these beauties will choose to sip from some rather repugnant sources. Clearly they also enjoy the power of flowers. We may see both butterflies flying around from May to early October with the second brood overwintering in the third instar state. 


I would like to share all of the nine butterflies I have featured in this series so far. 
The parade will continue on . . .  but for now . . .  I think you will agree with me that these gorgeous creatures look fabulous together in their varied vibrant frocks presented in garden mosaics.  
It gives me much joy to know that my gardens attract all these delightful pollinators. 
I have much work to do incorporating more native host plants and being more careful in how I manage the cutting of the fields, so as to protect the overwintering larva and chrysalises. 

Monarch, Eastern Black Swallowtail, Tiger Swallowtail, Common Buckeye, American 'Painted' Lady, Great Spangled Fritillary, Pearl Crescent, White Admiral, Red-spotted Purple

Can you match the open winged butterfly to its closed counterpart? 
I think these would make great puzzles.

Today is another sunny day . . . this winter the sun has been generous. Our resident bluebird is not alone anymore . . . I saw and heard two pairs this morning. They are becoming more animated with each day. Now (or earlier!) is the time to have those nest boxes in place. I have some new ones that must be put out this week. 
I do not recall ever seeing snowdrops this early . . .  there are a few showing a bit of their precious pendent white bells . . .  along the south facing trunk of a giant rock maple.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Flower Hill Farm BUTTERFLIES OF 2011 ~ Favorite Crescents

Now for some more of the lovely Brushfooted Butterflies of the Nymphalidae family.  
The wing patterns of the Pearl Crescent Phyciodes tharos, vary significantly as you will see in the three featured here. This butterfly was from a late May 2011 brood and is feasting on what I believe to be a Robin's Plantain Erigeron pulchellus

It is hard to believe that the third instar caterpillars of the last broods from September are wintering over out in the fields and gardens somewhere near their host native aster plants. I hope they are safe from the many juncos, goldfinches and robins who are constantly combing the snowless areas of ground. Though since the female butterfly deposits up to 700 eggs in groupings of 20 -300 on aster leaves, there may well be an abundance of surviving dormant caterpillars to spare a few tasty bites for the birds. Birds must survive the winter somehow too.

Male Pearl Crescent ~ Note Flat Tip of Abdomen
Another Late May Pearl Crescent Minus One Antenna

Another late May male, I am guessing,  but the outlines on all the wings are so much darker.  It might just be that I took this photo in a less sunny spot.  

These butterflies will nectar on most any flower. Above is a female enjoying marjoram flowers. Bright mid July sun washes out the more vivid colors of this  Pearl Crescent .

Female Pearl Crescent ~ Note Pointed Tip of Abdomen 

This female Pearl Crescent was captured feeding on a Rudbeckia in August of 2011. 

I find these butterflies even more difficult to identify than the varied Fritillaries. Sometimes just seeing the negative space can help us see forms. Each of these three different Pearl Crescents is on a different flower and I have them placed so as to show the varying patterns on the wings. By draining the color away in the top photos we can more easily see the patterns.

It is easiest to identify the Pearl Crescent by seeing her underwings. Note the pearly white crescent on the butterfly below. 

Flower Hill Farm 2010 ~ Note ~ Pearly Crescent on Underwing

In 2010 the middle garden/meadow was filled with hundreds of these tiny 1 - 1 1/2 inch wing span Pearl Crescents. It was magical walking amongst the multitude of sunlit wings flitting about the large stand of gooseneck.

Pearl Crescent 2009 in the spring garden

I found this image from the gardens of 2009. The variety of the wing patterns is so confusing but beautiful. I cannot believe anyone could call this small butterfly dull. 

We are still living out the mild winter of 2012 and though there are no beautiful butterflies flying about, there are plenty of birds that gather each morning atop Michael's Black Cherry to await the rising sun. The colors of the goldfinches are beginning to turn yellow again. 
One solitary bluebird seems to hangout with nearly fifty finches. I hope they help keep him warm at night.

The golden sun is climbing farther to the north each day along Walnut Hill. March is nearly here and spring will not be far for this corner of New England. 

It is time to visit Gail for Wildflower Wednesday! 
Katarina is offering the word Color this week. 

Friday, February 17, 2012

Flower Hill Farm BUTTERFLIES OF 2011 ~ Favorite Fritillaries Part Two ~ Surprise Ending!

Flower Hill Farm's Fritillary parade ends with Great Spangled Fritillaries dipping into purple petals. Buddleia Black Knight, considered a noxious weed by many, barely survives in my northern garden. It is a magnet for butterflies, thus its common name of Butterfly bush. The complimentary colors are very striking enhancing the longwing butterflies beauty. 

There are many old-fashioned ideas and ways of being that I aspire to. I do not, however, care for the old-fashion nets that people take out into nature to capture butterflies. I rather like the way we capture butterflies in our photos and let them live out their lives in the gardens. Studying a creature while it is animated and alive is a far better way to observe and understand its life. Collections of dry, brittle and lifeless butterflies with pins stuck through them is one old-fashioned collection I can do without.

Ironweed is another favorite for butterflies and this Great Spangled Fritillary takes advantage of the nectar hidden within the last tiny florets.
Do you ever wonder what became of the fifth and sixth legs of some butterflies? If you look closely you can see one of those tiny legs next to the spotted eye of this fritillary. I am not as familiar with these as I am with monarchs, who use those tiny legs to prick and taste milkweed for freshness. Some scientist believe butterflies are evolving to have only four legs. I think those tiny legs come in pretty handy to aid in balance and . . . well we will see what time tells.

Back in a mostly drab color time . . . 
Purple sunrise skies are still a treat many a chilly morning. 
Yesterday, winter gave me a particular surprise! 
White . . .  like the snow falling outside right now . . .  and orange tones similar to the Fritillary butterflies appears on a familiar bird. But something is off? 

A sneak peek at a bird post coming up soon. 
Can you identify this bird? 
Meanwhile it is Friday and time again to fly away to Sweden to visit Katarina and join in on the old-fashion prompt. 

Monday, February 13, 2012

Flower Hill Farm BUTTERFLIES OF 2011 ~ Favorite Fritillaries

Fritillaries fritter away their days sipping nectar and flitting about the gardens. 
Not a bad life . . . as long as they can escape beaks of birds and other predators.
Echinacea is a favored flower for these Aphrodite Fritillary Speyeria aphrodite, 'NOT' butterflies. 
Throughout my blog, I have wrongly identified these butterflies. Thanks to Randy I finally get it! 
It is so funny how something can stare us in the face and we just never see it. 
Each of these composites is of a different butterfly on a different day. Three July days . . Four Great Spangled  Speyeria cybele, butterflies . . . many frames.  

Fritillaries busy themselves placing their probosces in tiny florets between the flaming darts of coneflowers and are not bothered by my coming in rather closely. They are in constant motion, however, making it difficult to clearly capture them. 
The Great Spangled Fritillary has one brood . . .  in flight from the end of June through the first week of September. They overwinter as first instars . . . tiny caterpillars who never have known the taste of violets, for they have not taken a bite before hybernating. 
I do get dizzy trying to identify Fritillaries. 
Fritillaries are listed under the Family Nymphalidae or Brushfoots along with all the Milkweed butterflies, Admirals, Emperors, Satyrs and Wood Nymphs to name but a few. The Subfamily is Heliconiinae or LongwingsThere are even different classifications for Aphrodite and the Great Spangled Fritillary butterflies. It is fun to sort them all out according to families too . . . but I go cross-eyed trying to identify and remember it all. 

Fresh Female? Wings
These two Great Spangled Fritillary butterflies share nearly the same patterns. The fresher one above dons white edges . . . perhaps the more faded butterfly below had them earlier on? The brighter ovals above the white edges are more pronounced in the fresher butterfly too. The entire abdomen in the butterfly below is thinner and has less hair. Could this be a male and female? Or are they two different kinds of Fritillaries? 
Older Male Wings ?  ~ A repeat of the third photo from top.

Sadly I read that tiger patterned Aphrodite Fritillaries are less common these days. Perhaps due to climate change. Great Spangled Fritillaries are much more common now in Massachusetts. Most all Fritillaries here in New England prefer violets as a host plant. Rabbits are so numerous here that I fear for their survival in my gardens. 

There are more Fritillaries to come . . . today the butterflies and skies are in the pink.

Our winter continues to be milder than most I can recall. Sunrises are simply stunning. 
Light stretches and lengthens our days.

May your romance always flutter.
May your love always give you butterflies. 
Happy Valentine's Day Dear Readers!

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