I’ve heard from many about a dearth of butterflies this season. While at Audubon for bird banding, I put the long lens on the camera to see who I could find. I was pleased to find several species!

I kept watching to see if this Monarch (Danaus plexippus) would lay some eggs on the swamp milkweed. A closer look leads me to believe it is a male, however…

A Great Spangled Fritillary (Speyeria cybele) also visited the Swamp Milkweed, though it never turned around for a proper portrait.

Over in the grasses and cattails of Spatterdock Pond I found this Little Wood Satyr (Megisto cymela):

I kept hoping it would pose with its wings open… best I could get was this out-of-focus shot:

Speaking of out-of-focus shots, this was the best I could get of this Skipper. I tried to key it out using Kaufman’s Field Guide to Butterflies of North America. I think it might be a Little Glassywing (Pompeius verna), but if someone out there wants to dispute it, I’m wide open! I’m only just now starting to try to know the butterflies!

There was another skipper over in the meadow which I think is a European Skipper (Thymelicus lineola) – only because Kaufman says its larva eat Timothy and other grasses and that’s what I found it on. But again, if you know for sure, please leave a comment! There are SO MANY skippers and most are orange.

I found I had a better picture of it from last year!

Speaking of lots of similar orange butterflies, you should take a browse through the Fritillary section of a butterfly guide! The markings on this one look most similar to the Silver-Bordered Fritillary (Boloria selene).

We saw their caterpillars this spring, and now the adults are emerging everywhere at Audubon. The Baltimore Checkerspot (Euphydryas phaeton) has to be one of the most photograph-able species I’ve seen. They were just sitting – posing, “I’m ready for my closeup.” Even when I had to move away some grasses and leaves to get a clear shot, they just sat there waiting.

The underside is really pretty, too.  Look at this one playing hide and seek; you can barely see him behind the grass. (Ha!)

And one last species for the day – a Mourning Cloak (Nymphalis antiopa). This one teased me by landing first on my pant leg, then on my shirt. Eventually it flew off to a spot on the other side of the field. I followed and found it clinging upside down.

Having a Blast!

Tagged Monarch in ClassroomJamestown Audubon has been doing classroom programs for decades.  Many of the presentations are stand-alone, so sometimes we see a class once for 45-60 minutes and then never again.  Over the last couple of years, we have been making a conscious effort to switch to a format that we feel will be more effective at making real impact… and that will simply be a lot more fun for us!

My project in this vein involves 5 third grade classes at a local elementary school.  I will be working with them on a variety of natural science projects throughout the year.  To kick the year off, the teachers opted to do their Painted Ladies butterfly unit.  My contribution was to bring along the Butterfly Lady (aka Monarch Mama, or Barb) to teach the kids about Monarchs, so they could compare and contrast them with the Painted Ladies.  Barb found us enough Monarch caterpillars so that each classroom could have one.

Tagged Monarch in Classroom

Miraculously, the Monarchs and almost all the Painted Ladies emerged within a few days of each other.  I went to their classrooms today to tag the Monarchs and assist with the release.

Mrs. Reynolds Reviews Butterfly Life Cycle before Release
Mrs. Reynolds reviews the Painted Lady life cycle before the release.

Student Investigates Painted LadyThe kids were very excited to see the butterflies go free.  Of course, when you first release them, they don’t take off immediately.  They fly a bit, then land in the grass or on a flower.  It didn’t take long for the kids to discover that they could gently slide a finger under the feet of a Painted Lady and entice it to crawl up.

Most of the flowers in the butterfly garden are starting to go to seed.  There were a few that still looked fresh enough to have nectar.  We placed the Monarchs on these.



Tagged Monarch in Garden

I know it is such a loooonnnngggg shot.  But it would be soooooo cool if one of the tagged butterflies made it all the way to Mexico and we heard back about it, wouldn’t it?

I hope these kids remember this day for a long time.  I know I will.

There are lots more pictures at my Flickr site.

Butterflies in the Snow

Shagbark Hickory by Jennifer SchlickEver since I learned that Mourning Cloak butterflies (Nymphalis antiopa) overwinter as adults, I’ve searched for them (without success) in winter behind the loose bark of the hickories in a nearby woods.

I mentioned Wednesday that Mourning Cloaks treated me to a display of their courtship dances and even settled down to bask in the sun long enough for me to snap a few shots including this one:

Mourning Cloak by Jennifer Schlick




This morning I woke up curious about what the other stages of the Mourning Cloak life cycle look like… and thanks to the magic of the Internet found some wonderful websites with fantastic photos.  Links within the text below will take you the home page of the websites where I found the information.  Clicking on the photos will take you to the specific page that contains Mourning Cloak information and pictures.


Mourning Cloak Laying Eggs from University of California WebsiteThe University of California at Irvine has a site on the Natural History of Orange County. It is loaded with great information and beautiful photos on many topics, including the Mourning Cloaks in all stages of development, including all five instars of the caterpillar.  The egg picture at left is from their site.  The eggs darken over time and become red-colored.

Mourning Cloak Caterpillar from Nature Museum WebsiteThis caterpillar picture comes from the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum in Chicago, Illinois.  The page that includes Mourning Cloak information also includes brief facts for other butterflies that can be found in the Chicago area.  The chrysalis below also comes from the Nature Museum website.

Mourning Cloak Chrysalis from NatureMuseum WebsiteThe most comprehensive text on the Mourning Cloak life cycle, written so even kids can understand, I found at NatureNorth.com, an online nature magazine from Manitoba, Canada. Seriously. There is no need for me to tell you a thing about this butterfly. Just click on over to NatureNorth!  I didn’t borrow a picture from them, so click here for the Mourning Cloak page.

I marvel every day at how the Internet has revolutionized learning.  How quickly I was able to find what I was looking for!  And now that I have a search image in my brain, my eyes will be scanning the woods for Mourning Cloaks in all stages of their development.  I hope I’m more successful than I was at finding an adult in winter!

Mourning Cloak Range MapUpdate (4/19/08):  I’m adding one more link and a map for Montucky.  You should be finding them where you live.  Wake up!  Pay attention!

This map is from the Butterflies and Moths of North America website.  It’s a pretty cool website, though I don’t understand why they have not included Canada as part of North America.  I guess they should have called it the Butterflies and Moths of the US and Mexico…  Hmmm….