Another New Hairstreak

Coral Hairstreak

After getting my day off to a late start and running some errands, I decided to skip the Queensway traffic and stay close to home. It was already 27°C by the time I was ready to hit the trails at 10:30, so I decided to do a short trail; the Beaver Trail is small and has a nice variety of habitats, which made it a perfect choice. Fortunately, a nice breeze was blowing, which made the heat tolerable; however, the breeze was strong enough to keep the insects from flying, so butterflies and dragonflies were difficult to find. I found two butterflies right near the parking area, a Question Mark resting on the dirt surface of the parking lot and a large fritillary (likely a Great-spangled Fritillary) zooming back and forth above the Common Milkweeds beneath the hydro towers.

The woods were quiet; the only bird I heard singing in the woods was a Red-eyed Vireo. I stopped by the small clearing where I had seen the Henry’s Elfin earlier this year, but found only one butterfly there – a small skipper. It wasn’t a European Skipper, so I stopped to take its picture to see if I could identify it later. Indeed, once I got home and looked at my photos I identified it as a Tawny-edged Skipper. This butterfly has a brown or olive-coloured hindwing, sometimes with a pale, faint crossband, that contrasts sharply with the orange leading edge of the forewing. All of these characteristics are visible in this photos:

Tawny-edged Skipper

I found another later on, after visiting both boardwalks. The first pond had no water in it, and a Mourning Cloak was obtaining nutrients from the muddy bottom; there was plenty of water in the second pond, but no birds on the water. I found the Tawny-edged Skipper further on in the the meadow, and when it landed it slowly unfolded its wings.

Tawny-edged Skipper

A number of fritillaries were also flying in the meadow. The larger ones – likely Great-spangled Fritillaries – flew by at high speed and kept going, while the smaller ones landed on what few flowers were in bloom, allowing me to identify them as Meadow Fritillaries, a species I had never seen here before.

Meadow Fritillary

They were quite content to nectar on the flowers despite the wind, so by staying close to the flowers I was able to get some good shots:

Meadow Fritillary

Meadow Fritillary

Meadow Fritillary

Two Fritillaries

In the woods I came across this large feather which looked like it had come from a Wild Turkey. This isn’t surprising as I had seen two Wild Turkeys near the beginning of the trail and found another one in front of the Wild Bird Care Centre.

Wild Turkey Feather

I didn’t feel like going home right away, and wanted to look for some more butterflies; I thought I would check out the trail beneath the hydro towers on Richmond Road to see if I could spot any Harris’s Checkerspots or Indian Skippers. The skippers I did see looked very worn, so I wasn’t able to identify any; the only orange butterfly I positively identified was a Pearl Crescent, given its tiny size and black-tipped antennae. I did see a few other orange butterflies but the wind carried them out of reach and I wasn’t able to see where they landed.

Only a few feet from the parking lot, I saw a small dark butterfly land in the vegetation in front of me and hide in the shadows beneath a leaf. I was surprised when I realized it was a hairstreak, and grew excited when I realized it had a row of red spots along the outer edge of the hindwing. I could tell that it wasn’t a Banded Hairstreak, but when I tried to get a closer look it rapidly flew off.

Then, just beyond the first pair of towers I found another hairstreak! This one was perching out in the open. I got a few quick shots before another butterfly wandered into its territory and the hairstreak chased it off.

Coral Hairstreak

I watched the hairstreak do battle with the butterfly before landing on another leaf in the same area. Hairstreaks are very territorial; adult males perch on bushes and trees to watch for intruders. They are aggressively defend their territory not only from males of the same species, but other butterflies and insects as well. This time I got a good look at its hindwings and noticed it had no tail and no blue spot, two characteristics which separate the Coral Hairstreak from the Acadian Hairstreak.

Coral Hairstreak

The Coral Hairstreak is the only tailless hairstreak in most of its Canadian range. Considered locally common in eastern Canada, this butterfly frequents open meadows and roadsides where it visits flowers such as milkweed, often with other hairstreaks. It is most commonly seen in July, though it has a flight season lasting from late June to late August in most of its Canadian range. There is only one generation each year.

There were at least two or three hairstreaks in the same area. One was extremely cooperative while lying in wait for intruders, letting me get close enough to get this macro shot.

Coral Hairstreak

Seeing this hairstreak – my third species and third lifer in 8 days – really made my day. Hairstreaks are not as abundant as Cabbage Whites or monarchs, and take a bit of luck to find. Now that I know they are here I will have to check back in the future!


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