Prothonotary Warbler

Prothonotary Warbler

Thursday, 9 June 2016

A very rare butterfly, new for Chatham-Kent....

.....and a very rare one for anywhere in Ontario!

A few days ago, Marie was working around in our back yard as she often is. At one point, she popped her head in the back door, telling me that there was a butterfly on our chives, and that she thought it was a skipper. I left the computer, grabbed the camera and went out.

Good call, Marie....a skipper it was, but it wasn't one I was familiar with (there are a few that fit that category :-). I got a quick shot, bent down to get a different angle all the while looking through the viewfinder, and before I got a second shot, the skipper shot out of view. I quickly looked up, but the little rascal was nowhere to be seen.

I waited and watched, and combed through the rest of the yard hoping for another opportunity, but it wasn't to be. So I eventually gave up, went inside and downloaded the single image onto the computer. I checked what reference books I had, and tried to identify it. Even after looking through at least three books, the only one that seemed to match it was a male Zabulon Skipper.

It is rare in Ontario....very rare....could it be that one?

There is apparently a very small population on Pelee Island, and there have been a couple of records in neighbouring Essex County, primarily in the Ojibway area of Windsor. So I sent the image to Paul Pratt, naturalist extraordinaire and retired director of the city of Windsor's Ojibway Nature Centre who would be much more familiar with this species, as well as any similar skippers that I could be mixing it up with. Needless to say, I was pleased when he got back to me later in the day, agreeing with it as a Zabulon Skipper!

Zabulon Skipper
I believe this is the first record for Chatham-Kent, and likely the first one in Ontario beyond Essex County. It normally inhabits the southern, central and eastern US, barely reaching to southern Michigan on occasion. Undoubtedly this one blew in on some of the brisk south/southwesterly winds of a few days earlier.

This discovery has made me even more aware of that challenging group of butterflies known as skippers. So small, so similar to each other unless you get that angle with all the right views, that many of them remain as skipper spp. Without having the camera handy and getting in this one shot, successful identification would not have been made.

Note: an update to this post is forthcoming!









7 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. Allen, did you consider male Pecks Skipper in your field marks study? I see hints of Pecks ... but I could be way off on that call.

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    2. Allen, did you consider male Pecks Skipper in your field marks study? I see hints of Pecks ... but I could be way off on that call.

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    3. Thanks, Dwayne....I did consider Pecks, and I have seen and photographed that one before on several occasions, but the underwing pattern on this one just didn't fit with what I was familiar with or with any of the references I used (ROM guide and Glassberg)

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  2. Definitely a Peck's Skipper

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  3. Hey Allen, interesting find! Its tough when we only get one shot and thus one look at it. But it also looks like Peck's Skipper to me although I can say I'm no expert on Zabulon since I've never seen it!
    Peck's can be highly variable. Check this photo out that looks similar to yours. I wonder what features Paul saw that I'm missing? Based on a quick look, I would expect Zabulon to have much more brown on the basal part of the underwing.

    http://www.naba.org/chapters/nabanj/images/final/5128_Pecks_Skipper_WW.jpg

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    Replies
    1. Hi Nate....thanks for your input, and the link. I haven't got an official update yet. However it might end up as a hung jury! I've had a couple of folks who are lep authorities in their own right, who support the Zabulon ID, while of course others are supporting the Peck's ID. I am still waiting to hear from two other folks, also very knowledgeable about leps, so it is not conclusive yet. Stay tuned.....

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