Marlborough Forest Butterflies

Silvery Checkerspot

Silvery Checkerspot

Marlborough Forest is not only a great place for birds and odonates, it is a wonderful spot for butterflies, too. When I arrived I spotted a couple of large butterflies fluttering through the parking lot as soon as I arrived; at least three White Admirals were basking on the sunlit gravel, though they kept chasing one another into the vegetation. I was hoping to get a photo of one perching on a leaf, but they were so active I wasn’t able to get any pictures. This Northern Crescent was much calmer, resting on a leaf while the much-larger Chalk-fronted Corporals hunted close by.

Northern Crescent

Northern Crescent

A Hobomok Skipper was also sitting on a leaf close by. This is one of our earliest grass skippers – small orange, rust, or brown butterflies that feed on grasses and sedges in their larval stage – to emerge in late May or early June. Adult grass skippers often feed on nectar obtained from wildflowers. They usually hold their wings together above their back while they are feeding, but when they are resting they adopt the typical skipper pose where the front wings and hindwings are held partially open at different angles. This Hobomok Skipper is a male as evidenced by the narrow vertical black line at the end of the cell of the forewing. It is one of our most common skippers and can be found in fields, bogs, woodland edges, stream edges, and city parks.

Hobomok Skipper

Hobomok Skipper

When I reached the first clearing beyond the parking lot a fresh-looking Silvery Checkerspot caught my attention right away. It was was nectaring on the flowers and I spent some time following it around, taking photographs.

Silvery Checkerspot

Silvery Checkerspot

The Silvery Checkerspot can be distinguished from similar-looking species (such as the female Northern Crescent) by the white centres of some of the black spots in the submarginal row of spots on its hindwings. The underside of the hindwing (not visible here) has two distinct bands of silvery-white oval spots and one large silvery crescent in the dark brown outer band. Marlborough Forest is the only place that I know of in my area where these butterflies can be found.

Silvery Checkerspot

Silvery Checkerspot

Once I’d taken my fill of pictures I continued on my way to the pond, encountering a few more White Admirals along the road.

White Admiral

White Admiral

I also found some more grass skippers in the vegetation along the trail, including a couple of Long Dash Skippers and a darker skipper that wouldn’t sit still long enough to get a decent photo. It was fairly hot, though, and butterflies are a lot more active on hot, sunny days. I saw a Viceroy and several Common Ringlets as well, and what was likely a Canadian Tiger Swallowtail. I haven’t had any luck photographing swallowtails this year, as they fly rapidly by without stopping.

In the grass near Roger’s Pond I found more Common Ringlets, a Silvery Blue, and this Bronze Copper. Note that its left forewing is deformed; this didn’t stop it from flying off when I attempted to get closer for a photo. This species belongs to Family Lycaenidae, the gossamer-winged butterflies, which includes blues and hairstreaks. Bronze Coppers live near low, wet areas such as bogs, marshes, wet meadows, and ponds.

Bronze Copper

Bronze Copper

I also found a Long Dash Skipper perching on some Cow Vetch and managed to get a decent photo of it before it flew off.

Long Dash Skipper

Long Dash Skipper

The woods were full of small brown butterflies fluttering in the darkened woods and sunny glades. The only ones I identified were Little Wood Satyrs, one of which I managed to photograph near the bridge where I saw an Ebony Jewelwing hunting among the vegetation.

Little Wood Satyr

Little Wood Satyr

Another butterfly flying through the sunny opening caught my attention, and I was surprised when I identified it as fresh-looking Red Admiral. These butterflies migrate north from their overwintering grounds further south (they cannot survive our winters here in any form), sometimes in huge numbers. This year was not a spectacular migration year, though I have seen one or two reports from the Ottawa area of single butterflies.

On my way back to the car, in the woods near the parking lot I discovered something cool: at least three orange butterflies mud-puddling on the ground together. One was a male Northern Crescent; the others were Silvery Checkerspots. One of the checkerspots and the Northern Crescent were resting close together, so I attempted to take their picture. They kept closing and opening their wings at different intervals, so this is the best photo that I got of the two species together:

Crescent and Checkerspot

Crescent and Checkerspot

Another Silvery Checkerspot was sitting with its wings folded so I was finally able to get a look at the underside of its wings and the two bands of silvery-white ovals.

Silvery Checkerspot

Silvery Checkerspot

Marlborough Forest is a delightful spot for all sorts of interesting critters this time of year, even if the deer flies can be almost intolerable. I’d highly recommend a visit there to see all of the wonderful species there that are difficult to find elsewhere.

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2 thoughts on “Marlborough Forest Butterflies

  1. Nice variety of butterflies. I struggle with butterfly identification, but thanks to your post I can now identify the one I saw yesterday as a Little Wood Satyr. Thank you!

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