Saturday, February 27, 2016

Eleven and Counting! My first butterflies of 2016

Phaon Crescent

I went to New Orleans for Mardi Gras February 4-10 with a bunch of friends (including of course my husband). That was fun and we thankfully had sunny, not-terribly-cold weather on Mardi Gras itself for our marching in the Rex parade.

We march with a great bagpipe band, Kilts of Many Colours. I'm holding the flag.

Victor & I drove all the way to Louisiana, instead of flying, so that we had road trip options on the way back. In order to try and get my year's first butterflies, we decided to drive down into northern Florida before heading home. Since this was the Great Backyard Bird Count weekend as well, I thought we might also get some pretty nice birds along the way.

First we stopped at Mississippi Sandhill Crane NWR, since it was right off the highway. It was clearly far too early for butterflies here, but I hoped for a Sandhill Crane or two. Didn’t get the cranes, but still got some pretty awesome birds for the Great Backyard Bird Count: a Brown-headed Nuthatch, and several Eastern Meadowlarks, along with a Savannah Sparrow. (I’ve seen the latter in Maryland and Virginia before, but it was kind of cool to see them in the habitat they’re named for!)

It was hard to get a decent shot of the meadowlarks, they all kept thrusting their heads into the grass after bugs.

Even cooler though were the carnivorous plants we saw here: a couple species of pitcher plant and dwarf sundew. Very cool! I'd never seen these in the wild before.

I looked closely but didn't see any bugs trapped in the sundew. Too bad.

Next we went to Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park. It still looked a bit sparse here, with not much blooming yet, but a few things were out and we managed to find the first butterflies of the year: Cloudless Sulphur, Little Yellow, and Carolina Satyr. (A ton of the latter, actually, I’m sure I undercounted them as we walked through a wooded trail.) We also explored an open prairie section where I had high hopes for additional species. We saw no butterflies here, though, and really hardly anything was blooming. But we had our second bald eagle and also found massive piles of bison poop along the trail, which made me giggle.

Little Yellow

I briefly checked some roadsides along our drive and at the motel we stayed overnight, but found no more butterflies until we got down to Saint Petersburg. The western-facing Gulf Coast was much further along than the panhandle area of Florida or even the north-central section. We stayed overnight in Saint Petersburg and spent a giddy few hours birding and butterflying at Boyd Hill Nature Preserve there. I got several more butterfly species here as well as quite a few songbirds, raptors, and so forth.  I've seen Gopher tortoises here before and hoped I'd see another this trip, but Victor was the only one who spotted one this time; it was gone before I caught up. I love those silly tortoises, wish I’d seen one this trip. Maybe next time.

Gulf Fritillary

Our next park was all the way on the other coast of Florida: Orlando Wetlands Park, in Christmas, FL. Unfortunately by the time we got there the day had become almost completely cloudy and quite breezy, not prime weather for butterflies. We tried anyway but only found two: another Phaon Crescent and another Dainty Sulphur. To be honest, though, that was really made up for by the amazing variety of birds we saw though! Tons of charismatic species, both big and little: Roseate spoonbill, bald eagle, painted bunting, various herons, egrets, and ibises; my first-ever American White Pelican (yippee!) and that longed-for Sandhill Crane. The latter we even saw up close as it grazed under the birdfeeder hung near the picnic shelter! So funny.

White Pelican. Later we saw about a dozen flying in formation, pretty cool.

Even Sandhill Cranes like bird feeders, who knew?

On the way home we stopped briefly at Jennings State Forest in Middleburg. Again the weather was not conducive to butterflies, completely cloudy. We spooked a brown something about the right size and shape for an Elfin, but lost it before either of us got a good look. Phooey. However, we still saw some fun birds, including Red-shouldered hawks and another Brown-headed nuthatch. Not bad.

My final trip lists:
Blue-winged Teal
Pied-billed Grebe
White Pelican
Double-Crested Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Little Blue Heron
Tricolored Heron
Green Heron
White Ibis
Glossy Ibis
Roseate Spoonbill
Black Vulture
Turkey Vulture
Bald Eagle
Red-shouldered Hawk
Common Gallinule
American Coot
Sandhill Crane
Least Sandpiper
Herring Gull
Eurasian Collared-Dove
Belted Kingfisher
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Eastern Phoebe
Blue Jay
American Crow
Fish Crow
Tree Swallow
Tufted Titmouse
Brown-headed Nuthatch
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Eastern Bluebird
American Robin
Gray Catbird
Northern Mockingbird
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Palm Warbler
Savannah Sparrow
Scarlet Tanager? (heard only)
Northern Cardinal
Painted Bunting
Red-winged Blackbird
Eastern Meadowlark
Boat-tailed Grackle

Sleepy Orange
Dainty Sulphur
Little Yellow
Cloudless Sulphur
Orange-barred Sulphur
Gulf Fritillary
Phaon Crescent
White Peacock
Carolina Satyr
Long-tailed Skipper

Pitcher plant sp.
Dwarf Sundew
Gray Squirrel 
Cricket Frog (heard)
Gopher Tortoise
American Alligator
Sweat Bee sp.
Bumblebee sp.

I’d hoped to get maybe 20 butterfly species this trip for the Butterfly Bigger Year, but I’ll be satisfied with 11 to start off.

1 comment:

Blogger Widget