Saturday, June 29, 2013

Swaths Of Purple Siberian Iris Within The Middle Meadow Garden Butterflies and Birds

Looking back over the month of June, iris sepals unfurl and fall creating waves of hues from lavender to deep purple . . . filling the Middle Meadow garden with hundreds of blooms lasting nearly three full weeks as new buds continue to open.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtails Papilio glaucus or Canadian Tiger Swallowtail Papilio canadensis add to the spectacle in complementary colors. On most days I count over twenty of these bright colored butterflies floating about the gardens and when they dip deep into the iris their wings become like sepals and petals.  

A wide angle lens makes everything seem smaller and farther away. 

Up close again a female Ruby-throated Hummingbird enjoys reaching in between the folds too.

Bluebird nestlings cry out above the iris from within their nest box. 

The parents are waiting for me to move on before taking their harvests to their young.

Silver-spotted Skipper feeding on Garden Heliotrope while a Spicebush Swallowtail dives into an iris.

I am guessing Eastern Tiger Swallowtail but whatever the name these creatures fill the gardens and fields in numbers during the month of June delighting in wildflowers, as well as, an array of blossoms from native and non native cultivated perennials and shrubberies. Swallowtails and other butterflies are eye candy for birds and it pains me to see their tattered wings as the days unfold. Such is life for those critters lower on the food chain.

Imagine these images with bright butterflies flitting about as birds splash and fly to and fro.

There seems to be a constant flurry of activity about the iris during the first three weeks in June.

A Spicebush Swallowtail Papilio troilus visits our gardens and this is my first sighting of this species here at Flower Hill Farm. I am not aware of the host plant Spicebush Lindera benzoin, growing on our land but perhaps a neighbor is cultivating it. I will be sure to add this native plant to our gardens soon.

Chartreuse leaves of native Thermopsis villosa offer a lovely contrast to the purple iris. 

A row of peonies falls down towards the display of iris. 
The weather was such that spring flowers all seem to come into bloom at once.

Purple from the folds of iris create a lovely backdrop for this Red-spotted Admiral as it sips the dreaded goutweed. 

Standing within the iris looking over towards a weeping cut-leaf Japanese Maple and beyond to the north garden where Rosa rugosa makes a show. More of the North Garden in mauves and pinks coming soon. "So long June!"

Friday, June 21, 2013

Flower Hill Farm Spring Butterflies ~ Part Two

Spring precipitates into summer and we can easily recognize the longest day of the year by how we measure time in our hurried lives. Spring or Summer Azure Celastrina ladon, Form violacea (and others) is another matter . . .  as the butterflies are difficult to identify.

The more experienced butterfly watchers of the invaluable Massachusetts Butterfly Club kindly share their knowledge and determine the butterflies below to be Summer Azures . . . and perfect for a Summer Solstice entry, though these jewels were eyed on June 18th. Butterflies do not adhere to our calendar ways. I have counted nearly thirty filling the gardens each day for the last couple of days, only today, looking out from where I write to the swath of lace-like blossoms, it is quiet.

This Summer Azure is as lovely as its name . . . with wings sometimes spreading into a dreamy blue. Its wing span is only 3/4 - 1 1/4".  They are so small and from a distance seem so blah or simple white that I may have seen them for many years without really taking notice. I did capture one last year in late summer but missed the flurry . . . if there was one . . . over the blankets of blooming goutweed . . .  as there is this spring . . . now summer.

These beauties only live for a few days with new butterflies emerging daily varying from two separate broods. Spring and Summer Azures are seen flying in plentiful numbers from April into May and then within June and July. They may be sighted flying into September in lesser numbers. I hope that many can survive their two or three days here, but I fear for them with all the birds, who have little nestlings and fledglings to feed.

These tiny fresh butterflies flit about in erratic and quick gestures (evolved that way to evade the birds no doubt) above and through the plants and shrubberies until they settle down to feed in earnest, upon, of all things, bishops weed. There amongst hundreds of every sort of bee, they hold their own dipping into teeny florets and allowing this butterfly lover and photographer a series of portraits.

The earth is tilting towards our longest day and the Summer Azure above is about to fall off the flower.

Luckily for both the Summer Azure and this onlooker, the butterfly maintains its balance by opening breathtaking wings. We both stay on course . . . my clicking away while the butterfly continues to sip the nectar of the plant I so detest, though I confess to not minding it quite so much this day. Not one flower will be allowed to develop seeds, however.

One is left on its own for awhile. 

The two Summer Azures soon reunite and do not notice my intrusion. Note the lovely fringe along the edges of the wings . . . how perfect it is. These are such delicately created creatures.

Courting between male and female Spring and Summer Azures begins usually in the afternoon and may continue into the twilight hours. Though I have noted earlier wooing and pursuits too. Having such a brief time to be a butterfly a female will lay eggs on the same day she emerges.

Female Spring and Summer Azure butterflies fasten one egg at a time onto flower buds of many trees, shrubs and plants, including: cherry, oak, viburnum, honeysuckle, lupine, clover and more. I gladly offer flowers to their creation but then the birds have other needs for the hairy "slug-shaped" larva in colors of white, beige, pink and green with stripes down their sides. 

Still, many caterpillars do survive the birds rigorous gleanings and form a symbiotic relationship with ants who 'milk' the mature caterpillars "seventh abdominal segment" for sweet honeydew nectar. Ants can be a mighty force against possible predation. Many of the chrysalises that overwinter here . . . hidden beneath litter on the ground or within tiny crevices . . .  sleep throughout the cold months and then, with springs return, emerge as butterflies adding beauty and nourishment to our gardens and imaginations.

A different form of Spring or Summer Azure captured June 20th in the lower garden. 
Again, a favored nectar source is the invasive goutweed. 

Sunlight coming through this Azure's wings reveals a darker version. 

As if dark clouds are floating in the blue sky . . . somewhat threatening . . . as the bird slashes along the edge of the upper wing. 

The wings of each Spring and Summer Azure butterfly are uniquely sketched as are the days of our lives. The lines that join us and divide us will hopefully come together to preserve the treasures that make up our world and our very existence on it.

The earth wobbles and tilts in a more precarious mode these days. The signs are all there but leaders of the world and those that control them do not heed the warnings. On this Summer Solstice Day I long for a saner world that might look more to the wonders all around us and one where its citizens might raise their voices and dollars to demand a change towards clean energy, humane and sane practices in agriculture and all the other steps necessary to make our earth safer for all life. I too long for a world of peace so that all may have the rights to the simple pleasures and wonderment of the natural world.

Lastly, I add another blue that at first might fool the observer into thinking it to be an Azure too. Yesterday, while walking in the north field where most of our resident Azures never fly, I found one solitary Eastern Tailed-Blue basking in the warm rays of the sun. Can you see the difference?

A Happy Summer Solstice to Everyone. 

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Flower Hill Farm Spring Butterflies ~ Part One

This year, early spring was dry and perfect for butterflies here in the fields and gardens. Of late we have had rain, rain and more rain that must be a great challenge for the survival of our exquisitely painted pollinators. Though butterflies are not the most efficient pollinators, they do aid in pollinating many of our wildflowers. Along with all the luscious blossoms of spring, butterflies add such joy to our lives.

This has been an amazing spring for Mourning Cloak Nymphalis antiopa, butterflies. Last year I did not see one here at Flower Hill Farm but this spring I sighted over eight before I capture my first image.  I have seen three more since these images and then yesterday found a very tattered and weak butterfly resting on a white iris. About fifteen sightings here in all . . . and that is only when I happen to be looking. 

The Mourning Cloak is the only butterfly that has been recorded flying through every month within Massachusetts. Since it overwinters in butterfly form, it can wake-up for awhile during warmer days. HOST PLANT - birches, poplars, American Elm, willows, hackberry and others.

A first of life sighting here on the second of May was an Eastern Pine Elfin Callophrys niphon, flitting about in the blueberry field. I am sure it has flown about the fields and gardens for years . . . only I did not notice due to it being so tiny and my being more impressed by the larger and bolder patterned butterflies. What a world of wonder I had missed for years. The first photo was too blurred to share. I had seen the first sighting right before I went out to North Truro for a week getaway, where I saw many more Eastern Pine Elfins. Upon returning home I did see the butterflies in the images above among the Lilacs and in the blueberry field. HOST PLANT - Pines, White Pine, Pitch Pine, Red Pine

Another first sighting for me here in May is this Eastern Comma Polygonia comma. You can see clearly the little white comma on its wing that helps to identify this butterfly. It overwinters here as a butterfly along with the Mourning Cloak and both may come out of hibernation for awhile during warmer days. You can see the tattered wing in the photograph above. Birds are very busy butterflying too.

This was my first ever sighting of an Eastern Comma seen in North Truro May 8, 2013 just days before I was able to find one at Flower Hill Farm. This photograph helps to illustrate what the butterfly looks like with wings fully opened. Another tattered gown . . . hard to be a butterfly. HOST PLANT- American Elm, Stinging Nettle, False Nettle, Wood Nettle, Hops.

Little Pearl Crescent Phyciodes tharos, live and breed in this habitat in large numbers. On any given day, except of late with all the rain, I see more than twenty or so flitting about in the fields of wildflowers.

I have come to really admire these bright and lively butterflies. HOST PLANT- Asters

Around mid May these Sulphurs began to show up among the wildflowers . . . the birds took notice too. 

It can be hard to determine a Orange Sulpher Colias eurytheme, (above) until the butterfly opens its wings revealing a bright yellow painting with bold orange spots . . . all darkly outlined.

Clouded Sulphur Colias philodice is finely outline in pink.  HOST PLANT - Vetches, Alfalfa, White Clover, sweet clovers, and legumes.

Black Swallowtails Papilio polyxenes and Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Papilio glaucus, butterflies enjoy both garden blooms and the wilder ones out in the fields. HOST PLANT - Black Swallowtails - Carrot family. Tiger Swallowtails - Black Cherry, Magnolia, Beach plum, Chokeberry, Apples, Poplars and more.

I am allowing more of the grasses here at Flower Hill Farm to grow undisturbed and have paths mowed around large swaths. The Common Ringlet Coenonympha tullia, really appreciates my efforts and I have the delight of seeing their rich rusty orange wings, on most sunny days, as they fly about the gardens and fields.

Exquisite creatures, that may often be overlooked, thrive in our grassy areas. HOST PLANT - Grasses

American Copper Lycaena phlaeas, is now one of my all time favorite butterflies. This tiny butterfly is painted as beautifully as any larger butterfly and is plentiful here in our wildflower fields.

It is easy to fall in love with the teeny gem American Copper butterfly . . . especially when back lit by the sun. HOST PLANT - Sheep Sorrel and sometimes Curled Dock

Yet another first ever sighting this Hobomok Skipper Poanes hobomok, form Pocahontas, was enjoying our wildflowers on a sunny day in May. Thanks to Frank of the Massachusetts Butterfly Club for identifying this one for me. HOST PLANT - Various grasses

The very first sighting here of a Juvenal's Duskywing Erynnis juvenalis, sighted on the same day not far from the Skipper above. I had seen many of these butterflies while visiting the cape earlier in May.

The Duskywing butterflies may be duller than many butterflies but the intricate designs of their markings are quite stunning. It is interesting to observe these butterflies, as they are very territorial. HOST PLANT - Various Oaks

I nearly missed the Little Wood Satyr Megisto cymela, as it flew about the garden. We only met for the first time last year. I imagine we have co-existed for many years, I simply never noticed. HOST PLANT - Various grasses and sedges.

There are four first time sightings here at Flower Hill Farm in this group of May butterflies for this butterfly enthusiast. I am hoping that June will bring more first time discoveries and that I continue to grow as a butterfly steward enhancing the habitat to attract many more species of butterflies . . .  whether I notice them or not.  Now, I have thirty species of butterflies recorded as sharing this habitat with me. Hopefully that number will climb upwards by this butterfly seasons end.

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