Great Egret

Great Egret

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Preview of a butterfly count

'Tis the season for butterfly counts. Several in southwestern Ontario have already taken place, and the Rondeau one is coming up this weekend. In preparation for it, I have been out scouting around a bit to see what to expect. With the drier than normal weather, early indications are that butterfly diversity and abundance is down from normal.

Patches of Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) are well known for their attractiveness to butterflies. I visited a large patch a couple of days ago. This area is affectionately known as the Dillon Dump, as it was used as a temporary holding place for debris such as brush, branches, stumps, etc before they were burned. It is located along what remains of the former Dillon Trail, which used to be a driveable road across the southern part of the park. The entire route is next to impossible to find now unless one is quite familiar with the layout of it, and one has some good high rubber boots. Regardless, this open area near the beginning and driest part of the Dillon Trail is now dominated by Common Milkweed. If there was one plant, there had to be at least 1000, and many of them were in some stage of flowering.
Partial view of the Dillon Dump area

Needless to say, this is a hotspot for butterflies. By far one of the more common ones on this occasion was Silver-spotted Skipper, the largest skipper we have. There must have been 50 or more.
Silver-spotted Skipper
The next image shows a view of the Silver-spotted Skipper that one doesn't see nearly as often as the one in the previous image.

There were some smaller skippers around...mostly European Skippers, and some other small butterflies such as Summer Azure, which I didn't photograph. But there were larger butterflies on the wing, such as this Eastern Comma.
Eastern Comma
 The comma is more obvious on the underside of the wing.

Great Spangled Fritillaries were there as well, although the handful I saw all seemed to be a bit faded and not very fresh looking. This one is a little battered as well, with its right hind-wing showing some wear and tear.
Great Spangled Fritillary

Eastern Tiger Swallowtails were noticeable due to their size and flashy colours. There were at least 8 of them there.
Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

There were a few Little Wood-Satyrs around.
Little Wood-Satyr

A couple of Appalachian Browns were there, one of which was quite fresh looking as well as being cooperative.
Appalachian Brown
With all of the milkweed, I was hoping for a good number of hairstreaks. Alas, I only saw one....this Banded Hairstreak, below. With all of the oaks in the vicinity, I was sure there would be more, which there likely were. However they can be surprisingly difficult to see if they are on the far side or underside of a flower head, and they don't seem to fly as often as many other species of butterflies, so can go unnoticed. This site is in Blake's territory, so undoubtedly he will find a few and maybe some other hairstreak species as well. (By the way, prepared for chiggers).
Banded Hairstreak
There were a few dragonflies zipping around, but not a lot of diversity in them. By far the most common one was this White-faced Meadowhawk.
White-faced Meadowhawk

There were other species of milkweed in the area, including Butterfly Milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa).
Butterfly Milkweed

For some reason there weren't any butterflies on them while I was looking.

Another milkweed nearby in the grassy beach dunes is Green Milkweed (Asclepias viridiflora). It isn't very colourful, and I have not seen butterflies on them....only ants.
Cluster of Green Milkweed

Sunday looks like a decent day for the butterfly count.....mostly sunny, with temperatures ~28C so hopefully there are lots of butterflies.


  1. I have been gearing up all week for chiggers! I got a couple of bites at Ojibway last Saturday which reminded me of the season....

    1. Yes chiggers are one of the downsides to butterfly counts in some areas. I got about 20 bites, which wasn't too bad considering the vegetation and time I spent there. I find that spraying pants and socks with insect repellent before heading in to the veg makes a big difference.