Commas and Question Marks

Eastern Comma

On Sunday my fiancé and I attended Ottawa’s first ComicCon, so I wasn’t able to go out until late in the afternoon. This time I headed over to the Bruce Pit, hoping to find some shorebirds, marsh birds, and maybe even some early odonates. I didn’t see any shorebirds (though I did hear a Spotted Sandpiper calling “weet, weet, weet” at one point) and the only dragonflies I saw were Common Green Darners, but a pair of Virginia Rails near the bridge helped to make up for their lack. I didn’t hear or see any other migrants or unusual species, although one very distant duck looked suspiciously like a male Green-winged Teal to me. By the time I walked around the pit to where I had spotted him, he was gone.

Red-winged Blackbirds were conspicuous, of course, and as I was quite close to this fellow I stopped to take his picture. I liked the background of the water and marsh vegetation.

Red-winged Blackbird

I saw a blue butterfly (Silvery Blue perhaps?), a duskywing and a Clouded Sulphur (my first of the year) on my walk, but I didn’t come across anything spectacular until I reached the bridge. When I saw the first Question Mark sail by me and land on a tree at eye level I didn’t think anything of it. When I saw a second one land on the same tree I took a look. I photographed this fellow before realizing there were at least six Question Marks feeding on the sap.

Question Mark

This picture shows four of them:

Question Marks

Every now and then one butterfly would fly off only to return moments later. One landed on my leg before posing for me on the ground!

Question Mark

I noticed that all of the Question Marks had dark hindwings, so when I saw an entirely orange butterfly land on another tree I took a closer look. This is an Eastern Comma, which also has a dark “summer” form where the hindwings appear almost black. This dark summer form doesn’t appear until June, however. The easiest way for beginners to tell the difference between the Eastern Comma and the Question Mark regardless of whether they are in summer or winter form is to count the spots on the top wing. Both have a rectangular vertical mark at the top of the wing, with three round spots on the inside of this mark and two more round spots below forming an “L”. The Question Mark, however, has an extra spot at the end of this line on the outside of the wing. This extra spot is often rectangular in shape as seen in the photo above.

Eastern Comma

This is the first really good photo of an Eastern Comma that I’ve taken, and I was really pleased with how it – and my outing – turned out. I’ll be visiting the Bruce Pit again in the near future, especially once the dragonflies emerge.

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3 thoughts on “Commas and Question Marks

    • I’m glad my post was helpful! I just took at a look at your journal and your butterfly does appear to be a Question Mark. I’ll take a look at your blog in depth later, but I have to say… no photos from Pelee? 😦

      • Nope, no Pelee photos. My original plan had been to take photographs on the point on Friday, and then do just binoculars for the rest of the trip. That was a complete bust: the point was much less teeming with migrants than two years ago, and all the migrants there were staying buried in thick foliage (thicker than usual for the time of year, as *everything* happened ahead of schedule this year.) Basically, we got to Pelee too late.

        By Saturday morning I was having increasingly severe back problems, so I had to minimize the weight I was carrying. Carrying both camera and my heavy porro-prism binoculars was right out. So no photos from Rondeau either. Sorry to disappoint. Hopefully I’ll have more to show from my Cape Hatteras trip this summer.

        I’m looking forward to hearing about your adventures in Jasper!

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