During this cold winter, I am sorting through brightly colored photographs from my compilation of Flower Hill Farm butterflies entitled ~ Butterflies of 2017. Over the years, I have documented fifty plus species of butterflies by family on my website under Photography and Wildlife. All are species that I was fortunate to find here within my 21 acre wildlife habitat. I have made an exception in this post and have included a picture of a few Northern Pearly Eyes not taken on my property. I had documented this species here in Flower Hill Farm’s habitat a few years ago. Back then in 2014, I only saw one. Last year, when visiting nearby Bullitt Reservation, I happily happened upon eight Northern Pearly Eye butterflies basking in the sun together.
Northern Pearly Eye~ Flower Hill Farm 2014
Each year is different and last year was sadly a disappointing butterfly year for me. (Having said this, I know I am lucky to be able to mark my life this way.) It may have been our very cold March 2017 after having a milder than normal winter that fooled many butterflies or larva into waking too soon. There were a lot less early butterflies than I normally would have found in the garden and fields. I did not see one Mourning Cloak, who, as I write may be shivering in it’s butterfly form tucked away in the wood pile or hidden under a slice of bark on one of the giant Rock Maples on the south side of the old farmhouse. The overwintering brushfoot butterfly cannot wrap its brown velvet-like cloak, with dotted gray-blue and cream colored trim, around its form, but it does have the wit and knowhow to shut down into winter diapause. Hopefully, the Mourning Cloak and numerous other species still in stages of metamorphosis will not be tricked again this year by the capricious chill of climate change.
Last year all species I expected to see were down in their count or completely absent here (at least from my view) including all of the delicate Gossamer Wings. The Elfins, Blues, Hairstreaks, and especially the American Coppers were greatly missed. Down too were all species of brushfoots and skippers. However, I was surprised and gladdened with many more sightings of Monarchs and Spicebush Swallowtails. Females of the later finally discovered my four year old Northern spicebush shrub and fastened eggs on its glossy leaves. I was able to raise a few of the remarkably fun spicebush caterpillars, who are now safely sleeping in chrysalis form near windows in my barn studio. I will follow up this post with one featuring the Spicebush Butterfly metamorphosis.
American Copper a reliable resident butterfly not seen in 2017.
While we endure the cold as best we can, I think about all the butterflies in various stages of metamorphosis outside in the gardens and fields that must contend with the bitter arctic blasts we have experienced without extra layers or turning up the heat. From eggs to actual butterflies they wait for spring along with all of us mammals and other life on this New England hillside habitat. Spring will tell if this extreme winter will have frozen the life of butterflies I hope to witness in flight as the days give us all more light. For now, here are a few of the beauties I was lucky to encounter in 2017.
Butterflies of 2017
Whites and Sulphurs
Clouded Sulphur ovipositing on clover.
Gossamer Wings ~ Blues
Silvery Blue ovipositing on Vetch.
Brushfooted Butterflies and Silver-spotted Skipper