I went on my first butterfly count with her early this summer. Although we didn't see very many and the conditions weren't the best in some of the parks we visited, it was still a wonderful experience and was fun to hang out with someone who enjoys these beautiful winged creatures as much, if not more than I do. She is also involved with the local Audubon Society and is very knowledgeable about birds as well. She is always so interesting to listen to and talk to.
Today we went to a nature center and listened to the local Butterfly expert "Dick Smith" give a presentation on the butterflies we might find at that particular center, followed by a Butterfly walk. It was quite hot and humid out today but thanks to a few shady areas and a few brief gust of wind, we made it through. The walk was attended by 5 men and 4 women. Dick was our leader and was accompanied by a entomologist Richard, who also dabbles in other areas such as; fungi, mosses, plants, etc... The majority of butterflies that we spotted we types of skippers. Skippers are the tiny little butterflies that some people think are moths. Some of them are easy to identify, but many of them are not. They can have as such subtle differences in the number of spots, lines, mottling, etc... I have decided that I'm really going to work on trying though! The walk was through a preserved area that at this time of year, very few wild flowers were blooming. There was a lot of Blazing Star, which is a wild variety of Liatris. The Liatris I have in my gardens bloomed earlier this summer and seemed to attract quite a few butterflies as well. The path was mostly dirt and rocks, and very dry. We came prepared with water to drink, hats, sunglasses, cameras, binoculars, and bug repellent. I think I will be asking for a nice pair of butterfly binoculars for Christmas this year! I mostly used my camera to spot things but had a hard time focusing in on some of the smaller butterflies. All in all, it was a great day. Earlier in the day, since we got to the nature center a little early, Pat (my butterfly friend) mentioned that there was a unusual bird that was spotted at another nature center not to far away. So we decided to go to see if it was still around. I enjoy birds as well and was kind of interested to see what this bird would look like. The Nature Center was beautiful as were that grounds. The girl at the information desk showed us a path to take to a nice blind, where we sat and enjoyed watching a chickadee, nuthatch, titmouse, a couple chipmunks, and a new bird for me ~ an Oven Bird. There were a couple of them feeding on the ground. It's so nice to see these centers preserving areas for the wildlife.
One of my biggest pet peeves is seeing "nature habitat" areas not taken care of properly. There is a local park that I've been to often and found many monarch eggs and caterpillars over the past few years. The first year I discovered it was by accident. My son had just picked up playing disc golf, so we googled parks that had disc golf courses. We stopped by on our way home from visiting my family, just to check it out. There is a large pond for fishing at the park, so I wanted to go look for milkweed, while my some threw a few discs. There was a lot of it around the pond, common milkweed and swamp milkweed. I didn't have anything to collect the eggs or cats in, so I told my son we'd come back the next day. He could practice the disc golf and I'd go looking for the eggs and cats. When we got there the next morning, I was shocked to find that someone had weed whacked most of the milkweed down. They had to have just done it, so I went around picking up the cut off stalks of milkweed and checked for any eggs or cats. I found around 66 eggs and a few cats on what had been cut down. I was furious. I sent an email out to the parks services about it but never heard back. The next couple of years seemed to be better. This year I stopped by only to find that they went from weed whacking it, to mowing it down with one of those huge mowers with the arms. Arrrggghhh!!!! This is supposed to be a "natural habitat". This time, I am going to do more that write an email. The county I live in, even mowed down all the milkweed along the road I live on while I was away on vacation this year ~ double Arrrggghhh!!!!
Moral of the story ~ we need to start planting more milkweed and stop people from cutting it down. On that note ~ I think I've rambled on enough for one evening. I will try to upload a few pictures from my adventures today. Take care and thanks for stopping by!