Sunday, September 12, 2010

Butterflies from Cheesequake

Cheesequake is a state park at the eastern edge of Middlesex County. It encompasses part of the large salt marsh surrounding Cheesequake Creek and two forest types: a small pine-oak forest and a larger oak-hickory forest. Given the multiple habitats and the park's position along the boundary of forest and salt marsh, one would expect a diversity of bird life, particularly during migration, but the park has never quite seemed to match its full potential as a birding site. Yesterday the birding was reasonably good, with a few mixed flocks containing nine species of warblers in addition to the resident songbirds.

There were also some butterflies on the wing, mainly in a open sunny patch full of white flowers. The one above is a Red-spotted Purple (Limenitis arthemis astyanax).

On a nearby plant, there was a Silver-spotted Skipper (Epargyreus clarus), which was the first of the butterflies I noticed in that patch.

A Common Wood Nymph (Cercyonis pegala), often a difficult butterfly to photograph well, was nectaring in the same patch.

This Common Buckeye (Junonia coenia) seems to be one of the most brightly marked buckeyes I have seen this year. It must be a very fresh individual.

We have two "lady" species in this area, Painted Lady and American Lady, and I always have trouble remembering how to tell them apart when I am away from my guide book. This individual is an American Lady (Vanessa virginiensis),recognizable by the pattern of dark spots on the hindwing and the small white spot at the outside edge of the forewing.

Finally, this butterfly appeared in the woods. At first I was unsure of its identity because it did not seem like a butterfly I had seen before. It turned out to be the winter form of the Question Mark (Polygonia interrogationis), a form that I was not familiar with. The summer form is darker, particularly around the edges.

In addition to the butterflies pictured here, I also saw a Spicebush Swallowtail (Papilio troilus) and Cabbage White (Pieris rapae).