Butterflies are free

It’s been a while since I posted anything new here – I’ve been working my tail off on my new Etsy shop, http://www.etsy.com/shop/SpringAzurePhotos – but I just had to post some of the butterflies I spotted today at Nasketucket Bay State Reservation.

I hadn’t even gotten out of the car when Ulysse spotted a Red-spotted Purple in the parking lot. I’ve only ever seen them in Dartmouth; I’m hoping they get a foothold at Nasketucket.

Red-spotted Purple ButterflyRed-spotted Purple Butterfly

Viceroys are becoming a common sight at Nasketucket, which must mean they’re getting to be well-established there. There is a lot of birch for them to feed on.

ViceroyViceroy

This is the best picture I’ve gotten to date of a Viceroy. I think they must have all just hatched; their colors were beautiful.
Viceroy

And then there were these guys. I looked them up and believe they are Mourning Cloak butterfly caterpillars.

Mourning Cloak caterpillars

I took one home to raise and see what it becomes. I had to go fetch him some willow leaves at the park, and then set him up in a tank with them. I managed to drop him in the tank, where he just lay in a puddle, and I thought he was a-gonner, but then I managed to get him onto a spoon and really look at him, I realized the poor guy was just trying to molt his skin when I half-drowned him. He seems much better now.

After all that walking, I had to go to A.C. Moore, and damned if I didn’t spot a black swallowtail feeding on some clover right next to the parking lot! By then my feet were killing me, but I had to at least try to get a few shots of him since he was right there. (A strong breeze did not help matters.)

Black swallowtail

Viceroy Central

I went back to Nasketucket on Sunday, I think it was, and saw more Viceroys there than I have ever seen in a single day. I think they are getting more firmly established there, which is awesome, because… well, just because! (I have not, however, seen a single praying mantis this year, which has me a little worried…)

If you don’t know Viceroys, they are like Monarch butterflies, only smaller and with a bar across their bottom wings that distinguishes them from Monarchs. They mimic the Monarch because birds know, or at least learn, that they taste bitter because they feed on milkweed and dogbane as caterpillars, and tend to leave them be. (Other butterflies do this, too: The spicebush swallowtail mimics the pipevine swallowtail for the same purpose.) Actually, Viceroys are mimics even as caterpillars and chrysalises; they essentially disguise themselves as bird droppings.

ViceroyViceroy

It was lovely at Nasketucket, as always. No snake or frog sightings, but plenty of other sights that should sustain me for the week.

Forest pathTiger SwallowtailGoldfinch

Larva