By Boak Wiesner
Now that most bird species have quit singing and many have headed out for the south, my attention shifts to the other diurnal winged tribe, the butterflies. With several habitats within close proximity to each other at the Arb, a wide variety can usually be seen on any given day. A pair of decent binoculars is all you need to bring these beauties in close. In fact, since many can be approached closely, a little less magnification, like 7 x 35’s, are just the ticket.
As I crawled through the art, one of nature’s works caught my eye near the ravine around which the art booths were set up, a Great Spangled Frittilary. Silver spots on the underside of its wings gives it its name. And off it goes.
Butterflies don’t “chill” for long in any one place so you have to grab any photo you can. Put on a telephoto lens to bring them in “closer.”
Unmistakable, this Eastern Tiger Swallowtail nectars on the last vestiges of some Joe-Pye Weed. Their presence, and I saw many around today, indicate that the woods are in a healthy state.
Nearby I see a tattered Red-spotted Purple. Most butterflies don’t live very long so the ragged edges of its wings are really pretty commonly seen.
Heading out to the prairie, I come across a whole flock of Monarchs nectaring on a Blazing Star. These five I see in just one place is more than twice as many as I saw throughout all of last year. The winter around here lasted a long time but down in Texas where the grandparents of these here were last February wasn’t nearly as cold as it was in 2013.
Blazing Star seems like the smorgasbord today as I see a Cabbage White coming in for some chow. One spot on it forewing shows it’s a male. The species immigrated to the U.S. during the time of the Civil War from Europe and now are found across the country. Some say they’re invasive exotics, but then, so are cabbages!
Boak Wiesner is a Minnesota Naturalist Volunteer