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.

Butterflying Leading to a Black-billed Cuckoo

After spending Saturday at Goose Pond I needed time Sunday morning finishing the IAS Spring Field Notes and submitting my BBS route data. Learning butterflies has been slow going since I haven’t spent nearly enough time to become proficient. So the plan was to spend Sunday afternoon working on butterfly ID’s at the local park. This became Butterflying Leading to a Black-billed Cuckoo.

Sunday afternoon about 3:30 found me walking the gravel road in the afternoon heat. The Butterflies of Indiana Field Guide states one of the best spots to observe butterflies is gravel roads. And even though it was slow the gravel road gave up a few butterfly photos.

The other big surprise on the day, an American Snout. Note the length of the long, pointed palps.

Getting closer to the “South Woods” I hear a distant cuckoo calling from the woods. A Yellow-billed Cuckoo had been calling from the “Central Woods” immediately upon arriving. I wasn’t paying attention to the second one as I continued on trying to ID a bright yellow butterfly. The cuckoo keeps calling for several minutes. And it dawned on me.

It’s a Black-billed Cuckoo calling in the distance.

It’s definitely a Black-billed Cuckoo by the soft “coo-coo-coo” call. Continuing to chase butterflies the cuckoo continues to call as they do in the afternoon heat.

One of the few photos I have of a Black-billed Cuckoo. In the rain from May 2016.

Checking my records this is the first Black-billed Cuckoo I’ve observed outside of May or September. I know they breed in the lower Midwest but I’ve never encountered one in the middle of the summer.

These are the reported Indiana eBird sightings for Black-billed Cuckoos over the last 10 years. And there aren’t many.

The bird was calling from deep in the woods so the opportunity to see it didn’t arise. I’m not sure I was aware Black-billed Cuckoos call in the heat of the afternoon like Yellow-billed Cuckoos. But it would make sense if they have the same habit habits.

On the other hand I’m not out often in the mid-afternoon heat so maybe I’ve been missing them. Butterflying brought me out.

It was a good encounter to hear a rather uncommon species. And like the end of the Long-billed Curlew a few days ago, you’ll never know what’s out there unless you look.

A Clouded Sulphur on the edge of the road. I cropped the photo to remove the trash from the photo.
Butterflying leading to a Black-billed Cuckoo
A Common Roadside Skipper was the last species of the day.

Natural History Update

Back in April I blogged about the process to slowly diverse away from birds 100% and on to other Natural History organisms like butterflies and trees. Time for a Natural History Update.

Natural History Update
My one and only Monarch.

With concentration on birds during migration it probably wasn’t the best time to start diverting. But I did get a good enough feel on the few times I went out to know how to proceed. So this summer I’ll devote more time to each.

First let me say birding helped the learning curve with both. Unlike when I started birding I now know to check status and distribution. I have made wrong guesses on butterflies but looking at status and distribution helped to greatly narrow the field. And to a lesser extent it’s true with trees but people have planted them in all sorts of places so it doesn’t hold as true.

I haven’t got the knack of how to see butterflies and should go with a seasoned veteran like when I started birding. Back then our local Audubon Field Trips brought to life what I was learning in the Field Guides. Eventually the Law of Diminishing Returns took over because what I picked up was less over time. But I still enjoyed the group.

For now I’m going to fumble around with butterflies to see what I don’t know and then go with some “old-hands” to show how it should be done.

Trees have been easier since leaves started growing. The problem is looking at the branches up high to check the info in the field guides. And in my opinion the field guides aren’t has helpful as the butterfly field guides. But I’ll get there.

Now for a few butterfly photos.

I think I have them correct but like with my bird photos, please correct me if wrong. Only way to learn is to try.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail
Clouded Sulphur
Cabbage White
Black Swallowtail on Red Clover
Pearl Crescent
Zabulon Skipper
Silver-spotted Skipper

And I already realize I’m noticing and trying to name butterflies and trees as I see them!