Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Flower Hill Farm Butterflies of 2012 ~ Grand Finale

Twenty twelve was really an amazing butterfly year here at Flower Hill Farm in Western Massachusetts. In the early spring there was an influx of Red Admirals filling the apples trees and lilac bushes. Then later on  Painted Ladies were sighted here in large numbers during the summer months feeding on a diversity of blooms. Normally the Painted Ladies are more 'irregular emigrants' in Massachusetts but last year there were record numbers reported all over the northeast. 

Painted Lady

Painted Ladies

At times there were over fifty flitting about the gardens and fields . . . particularly striking when back lit by the sun.

Pearl Crescents

Pearl Crescents are in the same subfamily of 'True Brushfoots' (Nymphalinae), as the larger Painted Ladies and they too are often enjoyed here on our farm in numbers of over fifty during the summer. Tiny Pearl Crescents are utterly enchanting flying about the middle meadow garden and fields . . . especially when their brown-orange colors are enriched by the light of the sun.

Pearl Crescents

American Copper

Last year was a great year for first sightings too. 
Some butterflies are so tiny that they are easily missed. 

Eastern Tailed-Blue and American Copper

Little treasures fill our eyes when we take the time to look. 

Eastern Tailed-Blue

Painted Lady (folded wings), Eastern Tailed-Blue, Painted Lady (open wings),
Common Ringlet, American Copper, Giant Swallowtail,
Little Wood Satyr, Common Wood Nymph, Question Mark

All of the butterflies above were added to my list for the first time last year. 

Eastern Swallowtails

Eastern Tiger Swallowtails are always a delight in flight.

Giant Swallowtail 

The most spectacular in size and drama of my new sightings was this Giant Swallowtail. Our warmer climate is expanding the territory of these magnificent butterflies, as again record counts were reported throughout the northeast last year. This was the only giant that I was lucky enough to see in the gardens and I did worry for its safety as the Cat Bird's beak opened in awe, as did my mouth, at the strangeness and size of this swallowtail. I literally chased the Cat Bird away but that would have only been a temporary deterrent. I did not chance to see the butterfly again. 

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail  

The smaller Eastern Tiger Swallowtail not only differs in size but also has a very different pattern on its wings . . . the only time it might be confused with its cousin the giant is when the wings are folded.

Flower Hill Farm Butterflies of 2012

Other than a couple of skippers, this is the collection of butterflies I was able to catch sight of throughout last year in our gardens and fields. Twenty-two or so species is only a small amount of the one hundred three butterfly species known to inhabit Massachusetts. I will continue to work with my land and gardens to provide a more diverse habitat that hopefully will attract many new butterflies to Flower Hill Farm.

Learning to identify the caterpillars, their host plants and the overwintering habits of various butterflies, will go a long way to securing their success in our gardens. I am especially indebted to the Massachusetts Butterfly Club for their highly educational and beautiful website along with the invaluable Mass Audubon's Butterfly Atlas. I have been able to identify and learn about all the butterflies in this series by visiting the two websites above. I am thrilled to now be a member of the Massachusetts Butterfly Club which is a chapter of the North American Butterfly Association.

Connecting with other butterfly enthusiasts is a wonderful way to learn more about butterflies and how we can all help preserve habitat for these remarkable creatures.

Mourning Cloaks are not among the list above as I did not see one last year. This April did, however, bring at least six from their overwinter hiding places, but not one was close enough to capture with my camera. It is exciting to begin a new season of butterfly watching and I hope my list will grow along with my unbridled enthusiasm for these spirited gifts of nature.

Wishing all a happy May and a bountiful butterfly season!

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