Sunday, July 03, 2011

Butterflies and Dragonflies at Scherman Hoffman

Yesterday I was at Scherman Hoffman Wildlife Sanctuary, a nature refuge run by New Jersey Audubon in Bernardsville, to see what sorts of wildlife would be active there in midsummer. Most birds are well into their breeding season, but many were still singing. I was delighted to hear several singing Veeries; as I have noted before on this blog, the Veery's song is one of my favorites. Other singers included Wood Thrush, Indigo Bunting, House Wren, Chipping Sparrow, Ovenbird, and Common Yellowthroat. Some birds were clearly tending young already. I saw one House Wren perched in the entrance of a nest box (with another singing nearby) and a Black-capped Chickadee carrying a caterpillar, presumably to its nest site.

Despite the bird activity, I was more drawn to the insect activity yesterday. I had hoped that I might find a Harvester, an uncommon butterfly in New Jersey that is known to occur regularly at that preserve's beech groves, but I did not spot any. In addition to being a very attractive butterfly, it is North America's only predatory butterfly species: Harvester caterpillars prey on Woolly Aphids. Instead, I was treated to an array of other invertebrates. Great Spangled Fritillaries, like the one above, were active in great numbers; at one point I had six in one binocular field.

After seeing my life Delaware Skipper last week, I got to see another one this week.

I am pretty sure that this Northern Broken-Dash was a lifer; my butterfly records from past years are not thorough enough to be certain, but I have no recollection of seeing one before. This small, dark skipper could easily have passed unnoticed.

Dragonflies were active too, particularly in the area around a vernal pool close to the road. The dragonfly above is a Blue Dasher, one of the most common dragonflies in the area. This individual confused me at first since it was not holding its wings in the characteristic Blue Dasher posture.

Finally, this Spangled Skimmer was a dragonfly lifer for me. There were several of them perched among the cattails, some more worn than others. Above is a fresher individual, and below is a more worn one.