Butterflies and Migrants at Hurdman

Silvery Blue

I returned to work after enjoying an extra-long weekend in Nova Scotia, and I couldn’t wait to visit Hurdman at lunch on Friday to see what had changed in the days since I had last visited. Another large wave of Red Admiral butterflies had migrated north while I was out of the province, and this wave contained a larger proportion of Question Marks, American Ladies and Painted Ladies. I was looking forward to seeing whether any new butterfly species had arrived and/or emerged, and whether any of the usual breeding flycatchers, warblers and vireos had returned to Hurdman while I was away. I was also hoping to find some more migrating warbler species, as the Hurdman woods have been very productive for warblers these past two springs.

I hadn’t even reached the woods when my attention was caught by my first butterfly. It was very dark in flight, almost black, and when it landed I was surprised to see a Dreamy Duskywing. In the three years I’ve been visiting Hurdman I’ve never seen any duskywings here before, so this one was a new species for my list. The Dreamy Duskywing has no white spots on the forewing, unlike the common Juvenal’s Duskywing.

Dreamy Duskywing

A little further along I spotted a relatively large blue butterfly flying close to the ground. Upon closer inspection I identified it as a Silvery Blue….the dark spots on the underside of its wings form a single, curving line, unlike the scattered markings of the smaller Spring Azure. These are one of the prettiest butterflies, especially when they reveal the bright blue wings.

Silvery Blue

Along the feeder path I found a couple of Red Admirals, a Cabbage White and migrants! A male Rose-breasted Grosbeak was singing prettily from the treetops, and a female Scarlet Tanager was flitting about in the canopy. A Least Flycatcher was hawking for insects near the beginning of the feeder path and a Gray Catbird was singing from within a dense thicket near the end of the path. Migrating warblers were scarce, with about a dozen Yellow-rumped Warblers and one Black-throated Green Warbler along the trails, but several breeding Yellow Warblers, American Redstarts and Warbling Vireos had arrived and filled the area with their songs.

I found a Cabbage White nectaring on dandelions and a Red Admiral nectaring on Garlic Mustard and stopped to photograph both.

Cabbage White

Garlic Mustard is an extremely invasive plant and will colonize an area very quickly. It out-competes native plants, reducing the biodiversity of any area it takes over. It is spreading quickly at Hurdman, much to my dismay.

Red Admiral on Garlic Mustard

Closer to the river I found two Baltimore Orioles singing, a White-crowned Sparrow, and two Barn Swallows hunting for insects on the wing. These latter two species are new for my Hurdman list. Three Brown-headed Cowbirds squeaking from on top of the telephone wires were not.

Along the bike path a shiny green beetle landed in front of me; this was my first Six-spotted Tiger Beetle of the year.

Six-spotted Tiger Beetle

There was little to see on the river, so I turned around and headed back through the woods to the bus station. I saw a reddish-brown butterfly drifting along and thought it looked too big to be a Red Admiral. When it landed I noticed the orange forewings and black hindwings above; however, I was only able to photograph it with its wings closed. Although it lacked the silvery dot on the underside of its hindwing that turns the comma into a question mark there is no doubt that it was a Question Mark.

Question Mark

I was thrilled to see my first Question Mark of the year; this species gave me my first five-butterfly-species day, which isn’t bad considering I haven’t been able to get out butterflying since the season began. Hopefully this is just the beginning of a great summer to come!

2 thoughts on “Butterflies and Migrants at Hurdman

  1. Gillian,
    These are lovely pictures! I am admittedly a little jealous of your skills, as well as your five butterfly day. So far this year, I’ve topped out at three. I have a new butterfly container garden in the works, so my camera is ready.

    Thanks for sharing!

    • Thanks Melinda! We’ve had some great weather this past week, so more and more butterflies are emerging every day. I hope to top five species when I go out this weekend….I’m sure you’ll be able to as well, once you find a spot with good habitat (gravel country road with lots of wildflowers growing along the verge are great spots for butterflies) and once your container garden is ready!

      Thanks for reading!

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