Friday, September 4, 2009

Shawnee Butterflies: the bold, beautiful and rare

Wednesday found me in Shawnee, leading a butterfly field trip for a Wildlife Diversity Conference. We scouted along the ridge tops of Forest Rd #5, in search the the bold and beautiful, and were delighted when we stumbled upon the rare.

Our days total tallied out at 24, the first being a Cloudless Sulphur. The giant-flying-lemon-wedges are larger and lighter in color than our more common Clouded Sulphurs and look entirely different in flight. Their lofting, yet determined-looking flight makes sense when one factors in the long distances these southern migrants cover.

Co- leader Jim Davidson is a wonderful butterfly mentor and friend. His vast knowledge makes any field trip more enjoyable and his ability to call butterflies in flight is legendary.

Our rarity of the day: Leonard's Skipper, first spotted by the keen eyed Linda Romaine. These penny-sized wonders are found near their host plant - Little Bluestem grass, Schizachyrium scoparium and prefer purple flowers, like these Rough Blazing Star, Liatris aspera. This was not a butterfly we were expecting to see, as they are a bit of a rarity in Ohio. But if you can find them, they are usually present in good numbers.

The Harvester, our only carnivorous butterfly, took front stage when it landing on this backpack and later on Tom Bain's hat. It seemed to be fixated on green!
Harvester, a very unusual butterfly, is totally hit-or-miss in the field. Although they are many-brooded, they are more unpredictable than the rarer single-brooded Leonard's Skipper. Both species were unexpected and welcome sightings on a fabulous field trip at Shawnee, and it was a pleasure to share them with good friends.

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