Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Eighty Degrees Puts the Birds to Sleep but Wakes Up the Butterflies

I took advantage of warm temperatures yesterday to take a stroll through an undeveloped property in Matthews. Apparently the near-80 degree temperatures put the birds to sleep but as consolation, they brought out the first butterflies of the season.

Many birders also enjoy butterflying and will often keep butterfly lists just as they will for birds. Early spring is the only time of the year that some species can be observed on the wing. There is perhaps a window of just a few weeks to find some flying adults. If you miss out, there is a whole year to wait until another chance rolls around. Yesterday I encountered three species, American snout, questionmark, and sleepy orange.  All of those species will be around till fall, but it was still great to see them after a long, cold winter. Below are a few photos of the species observed yesterday.

American snouts are named for their elongated mouthparts, evident in this photo.

American Snout by Chris McEwen
Questionmarks are "anglewings", named for the irregular borders of the wings. They overwinter as adults and can be seen even in mid-winter if there is a string of days with well above average temperatures.

Questionmark by Taylor Piephoff

Questionmarks get their name from the silver markings on the underside of the hindwings. You can see two markings forming the shape of a question mark; with maybe a little imagination.

Questionmark by Taylor Piephoff
Sleepy oranges belong to group of butterflies called sulfurs. The primary colors are often bright yellow, orange of white. The colors are easily seen when the insect is in flight, but when at rest this group keeps the wings folded over the back, like in this photo. In flight the sleepy orange falshes a bright orange as it slowly flies past you.

Sleepy Orange by Taylor Piephoff