Late Flying November Butterflies

Over the Thanksgiving break I took a couple of longish walks mainly to get out but also looking for late flying November butterflies. With temperatures around 55 degrees I knew it would be a long shot. But I figured the shining sun would improve my chances.

On my first walk I didn’t have long to wait before I came across a Painted Lady flying along the edge of the local park pond. As a side note the local beaver has wrecked havoc on this pond like it has to the one in my “backyard”.

This Painted Lady was spending time flying back and forth between a couple of spots but always staying in the warm sun.

I thought maybe I was in for a good day but the only other butterfly I saw was an Orange Sulphur that went up and over the tree line before I could get a photo.

On Sunday I walked basically the same route and was rewarded with two Clouded Sulphurs. Both were in a field that had Yellow Dandelions Taraxacum officinale I assume were still providing nectar.

The Clouded Sulphur flew up from the ground into the brush to sit in the sun. Luckily I caught its flight or would have missed it camouflaged in the yellows and greens. It really is in the center of the photo.
Not looking too bad for this time of year.
Late flying November butterflies
The other Clouded Sulphur looked a little ragged.

Unusual for this time of Year?

So are these unusual sightings for this time of year? According to Belth’s Butterflies of Indiana both Orange and Clouded Sulphurs can be seen through the end of December. So nothing unusual there. But Painted Ladies are usually done flying the first weekend in November. So a little late but with the huge movement of Painted Ladies this year it isn’t surprising.

What the heck?

With work and the holiday I still haven’t put in any time birding. But I have gone out and taken non-birding walks at the local parks. And I have checked my “backyard” pond off and on to see if Mr. Beaver has everything backed up. Which he has and now there is a nice little pond. But Saturday when I checked all I could say was “What the heck?”

There have been Mallards and Wood Ducks and Canada Geese back on the small pond. And I often thought other waterfowl might show up but the pond freezes very early in the winter. So I never counted on it.

When I checked Saturday there was a smaller bird on the water. My first thought was a Hooded Merganser. But it didn’t take long to see it was a Pied-billed Grebe. On this little pond?

What the heck
There wasn’t a break in the shrubs to take a photo without walking down and disturbing the Pied-billed Grebe.

Now maybe I’ve always had this wrong but I thought grebes needed a decent length of water to take off and land.  From Cornell’s All About Birds “Pied-billed Grebes need a long running-flapping start to take off from water.” But they don’t say how long. Maybe the alterations Mr. Beaver made have lengthened the little pond enough for takeoff. But the grebe would still have to maneuver through all the dead trees to have a long runway.

The grebe didn’t appear to be in a hurry to leave. It was preening on both Saturday and Sunday.

It’ll be interesting to see how long it sticks around. With the mild week it probably won’t be in a hurry to take off.

And even though I never expected it I’ll take it for the “yard” list.

I don’t think I ever had a stare down with a grebe before. (FYI – The grebe won.)

Thoughts after First Year Butterflying

Since I haven’t had time to bird the last two months I thought I’d take time to recap my thoughts after my first year butterflying.

Probably a harbinger of things to come but I found butterflying more satisfying than birding on many levels.

First Year Butterflying
An Anise Swallowtail in Western Colorado last June.

Pros

I can see more Bushwhacking (exploring) down the road to find butterflies.

Maybe my memory has faded from my beginning birding days but there seems to be more things to learn than with birding. Which I like.

Besides learning the physical appearance and ID of the butterflies you need to learn the host plants and where they grow. And if you want to take it a step farther you can learn and look for the egg, larva, and pupa.

You look for butterflies in the heat of the day. Which I really like. (Note all my posts from Western Colorado to be in 90 degree heat!)

In the summer when it is the 80’s and 90’s I can look for butterflies after work. Birds are usually quiet at that time.

Butterflies usually sit for analysis and study – unlike most birds.

Cons

Can’t go looking for butterflies if raining or cloudy.

In Indiana on a typical day you’ll see far fewer species of butterflies than birds. This doesn’t bother me as long as you are seeing a few. For comparison in Indiana with work you could annually see 300 species of birds versus 80-90 species of butterfly.

Butterflies mainly fly April-September in Indiana. You can go birding anytime.

Similarities

To be “good” at either it’s hard work. Nothing is easy. But probably since its new Butterflying seems harder.

Like bird migrants there are certain butterfly species that only appear for a short period of time.

Several butterflies are tied to a particular habitat, more so than birds. But to see gulls and large numbers of waterfowl you go to certain locations. So somewhat similar. But that also means you won’t see as many butterfly species at the local park.

And soon I’ll post thoughts on a larger level of butterflying.

Western Colorado Black Butterfly

This past Sunday morning I finally found time to get out before the deluge hit.  The dark skies prohibited photos but there were numerous Golden-crowned Kinglets and Yellow-rumped Warblers. Without photos from Sunday I’ll use material from June’s Western Colorado trip, particularly a Western Colorado Black Butterfly.

Without the chance to get out the past weekends I’ve been going through photos from last summer. After doing the Uncompahgre Plateau Breeding Birding Survey I spent the afternoon in an alpine meadow watching butterflies. Since I’m still a rookie with butterflies I’ve waited to gain knowledge before I attempted to ID the ones I photographed. So it came as a mild surprise when I came across a black butterfly.

As you can tell by comparing it to the dandelion head it’s not very big.
It then headed over to a fence post where it hid from the sun for a few minutes.

This is the best photo of the black butterfly.
The previous photo cropped and slightly enlarged.

I would like to ID this as a Magdalena Alpine but a couple of things stop that call.

First, it’s size. A Magdalena Alpine is slightly smaller than a Clouded Sulphur. Looking at the first photo and comparing to the dandelion head this is smaller, maybe Eastern Tailed-blue size. The expected Common Alpine is that size.

Second, the expected range for the Magdalena Alpine is the higher Rockies of Central Colorado. I was at 9000′ feet so maybe the elevation was correct but the location wasn’t.  The Common Alpine is expected in Western Colorado.

Third, the angle of the forewing looks more like a Common Alpine at rest versus the Magdalena.

And lastly, take a look at the next photo. This is why you should take notes immediately and tag photos. I’m not 100% certain this is the same butterfly but the time stamps fit. This shows the reddish eyespots of the Common Alpine.

Black Butterfly

I’ll now post a few photos on one of the internet ID help pages and see what kind of reply I receive.