CVC Butterfly Blitz 2020's Journal

August 05, 2020

Observation of the week – July 27 to August 2

How many of you can say that you combine butterfly watching with exercise? This week’s OOTW, a Black Swallowtail, was seen by Deb (aka @hockeydoc13) while doing biceps curls in her backyard. We were even more impressed to learn that Deb very diligently finished her set before grabbing her phone to take pictures of the butterfly!

The Black Swallowtail was easy for Deb to identify using her ROM Butterflies of Ontario field guide, especially since it seemed very interested in her veggie garden. Deb says: “It stated in the book that Black Swallowtails like carrot family plants, so it made perfect sense why it kept returning to the carrot plants in my garden.” In fact, in the second picture of Deb’s observation, you can see the butterfly is laying eggs on the carrots – so there may be little caterpillars there sometime soon!

Black Swallowtails are often seen in backyard gardens like Deb’s, where their caterpillar foodplants are growing. They can even sometimes be considered pests by people who would rather keep their parsley, dill, fennel, and carrots to themselves.

Interestingly, these cultivated hostplants are all non-native species that Black Swallowtails have adapted to use. Before the widespread establishment of these and other non-native plants in the same family (e.g. Queen Anne’s Lace), Black Swallowtails were probably much less common than they are now. They also would have most often been found in wetland areas instead of the old fields and gardens where they are now found commonly.

If you find Black Swallowtail caterpillars eating your veggies and don’t want to share, you could consider moving them to a patch a Queen Anne’s Lace or buying them some parsley to eat – be sure to rinse the leaves well to remove any pesticides.

Deb noticed something else about the butterfly that also caused us to choose it as the OOTW: “I was impressed at how well it was still able to fly with a big portion of the hindwing missing.”

That missing bit of wing is the sign of a bird that got unlucky. You often see Black Swallowtails (especially females, like this one) with signs of bird strikes on that part of their wings. Like the hairstreaks that we discussed in OOTW#7, this is probably because the eyespots there confuse birds into thinking that they are attacking the head.

The next time you’re outside getting some exercise, keep your eyes open for butterflies. And let us know what you see!

Posted on August 05, 2020 17:00 by lltimms lltimms | 0 comments | Leave a comment

July 29, 2020

Observation of the week – July 20-26, 2020

We are particularly excited about this week’s OOTW – a Broad-winged Skipper seen by participant @uofgtwitcher.

This is only the third record of Broad-winged Skippers in the Credit River Watershed – with the other records being from the Acton and Georgetown areas.

Broad-winged Skippers tend to stick close to patches of their host plants, which are broad leaved sedges, including lake sedge (Carex lacustris). These sedges are often found growing in narrow strips along roadsides or at the edge of rivers and other wetlands.

That’s where Andrew (aka @uofgtwitcher) saw this Broad-winged Skipper, at the edge of Birchwood Creek on the east side of Jack Darling Park, in what Andrew calls a “tiny piece of extraordinary habitat.”

There are a few wetland butterfly species in our Watershed that are rarely seen but can be found in large numbers if the habitat is right. These butterfly species depend on high quality wetland patches that support their host plants.

Through the efforts of Butterfly Blitz participants, we are getting a better idea of where these species can be found exactly in the watershed. Some species seem to be restricted to only one location, while others can be found in a handful of locations. These habitats are special places, and CVC will use information from the Butterfly Blitz to help protect and restore them.

And that brings us to the other exciting thing about this observation - the Broad-winged Skipper was seen in Jack Darling Park, on the lakeshore in Mississauga. It shows that habitat for uncommon butterflies can be found in urban areas when it is protected and maintained.

As Andrew says, “it is a gorgeous, albeit tiny area and I hope it can be preserved for future generations to see what “once was” in the GTA. The stream was flowing, the pollinators were stirring and the Joe Pye-Weed was fully in bloom. The perfect end to a day of exploration in an area of the lakeshore that I spent countless hours wandering as a young boy.”

Posted on July 29, 2020 13:09 by lltimms lltimms | 4 comments | Leave a comment

July 21, 2020

Observation of the week – July 13-19, 2020

Our seventh OOTW is this Striped Hairstreak, seen by @shadilady near Orangeville.

Hairstreak butterflies are beautiful. Their orange spots and black and white stripes stand out brilliantly against the greyish background of their wings. They can be frustrating to follow as they fly, but then pose nicely as they take a drink from a flower once they land. Many of the species also seem a bit mysterious.

The Striped Hairstreak is considered an uncommon species in Ontario – widely distributed, but never seen in large numbers. It is unknown whether this is because they are genuinely rare or just rarely observed.

Many hairstreaks spend most of their time high up in the trees, only coming down a few times a day to feed. It is suggested that hairstreaks may not get most of their food from flowers, but other sources such as the sugary honeydew produced by aphids and related insects.

So, for every hairstreak seen on a flower at ground level, it is likely that there are more around somewhere nearby. Doesn’t that make you wonder what they are doing?

Hairstreaks can also be tricksters. Like other species, Striped Hairstreaks have ‘tails’ sticking out of the ends of their hind wings. These tails and the surrounding colour patterns look a little like a head. It is thought that this tricks predators like birds into aiming their strikes on the tails instead of at more vulnerable parts of the butterfly’s body. Hairstreaks are often seen rubbing their wings together, which may make the deception seem even more real as the ‘head’ moves.

Do you also love hairstreaks, or is there another group of butterflies that you have a fondness for? Let us know!

Posted on July 21, 2020 15:34 by lltimms lltimms | 0 comments | Leave a comment

July 14, 2020

Observation of the week: July 6 to 12, 2020

Thanks to the dedication of our Butterfly Blitzers, we made it up to 48 species and over 700 observations last week. In 2019 we found 55 species by the end of the summer. How many will we find this year?

Our sixth OOTW is this Lucia Azure, one of the many butterflies seen in @sunrisegardener’s garden.

All of Julie’s (aka @sunrisegardener) iNaturalist photos come from her garden in Georgetown. Her goal is “to foster awareness of the difference we can all make, through appropriate plant selections, to foster biodiversity at home”.

Julie has worked hard to make her garden welcome for butterflies and other wildlife. She has included many native plant species, mixed species to ensure that there are flowers blooming throughout the spring and summer, and makes sure that there are enough host plants that different caterpillar species need to eat.

The approach seems to be working, as Julie has seen over 175 species of birds and insects in her yard. Julie says that she is never outside without her camera in her pocket between March and November, and that “As soon as I see movement, no matter how hard I try, my gaze automatically averts to see what it is. I can see the front garden from the living room, so my family laughs when I exclaim: "Butterfly!" and go tearing outside.”

The Lucia Azure that Julie saw is one of three butterfly species that can be tricky to identify. For years it was believed that only one Azure species occurred in Ontario, but that number has changed over the years, and it is now thought that there are three distinct species. Two of these species, the Lucia Azure and the Summer Azure occur in our area.

Figuring out which Azure species you are looking it can depend largely on the time of year, although there are also some differences in wing patterns. This article provides a good overview of the differences, with a link to a more detailed study.

If Julie has inspired you to fill your garden with native plants, CVC has resources to help. Check out our webpage with all kinds of resources on ecological landscaping and get in touch if you have questions.

Julie has also made a very generous offer: “Every year, I give away hundreds of native pollinator plants (including host plants) to increase habitat. Anyone in the Butterfly Blitz that would like some can contact me to arrange a pick up. Many are seedlings that will bloom next year.”

Posted on July 14, 2020 14:35 by lltimms lltimms | 1 comment | Leave a comment

July 06, 2020

Observation of the week – June 29 - July 5, 2020

We’re into the second month of our 2020 CVC Butterfly Blitz, and together we’ve recorded over 550 observations of 45 butterfly species. Thank you to everyone who has been getting outside and taking pictures!

Our fifth OOTW is this Baltimore Checkerspot from Butterfly Blitzer @marcjohnson and his family who spent their Canada Day doing a Big Butterfly Day in the Credit River Watershed, looking for butterflies at different CVC properties. The Johnsons “have enjoyed doing weekend hikes throughout covid-19, and the butterfly blitz has given these hikes new purpose and focus. The kids are loving butterflying and natural history more than they have ever before.”

Marc’s kids, Oscar (11) and Mae (14), get the credit for finding the Baltimore Checkerspot. Oscar was the first to spot it and comment on how amazing it looked, but it got away from him. Marc says: “Mae spotted it again later and describes her thought as: ‘wow, that’s the really pretty thing that Oscar saw and I better catch it’. When she caught it, she thought ‘it was gorgeous and she was excited to catch a new species for our count’”.

Baltimore Checkerspots are usually found in wet meadows where Turtlehead plants are found – the main food source for their caterpillars. They are an uncommon species in our area but can be very locally abundant in the right habitat. This was the case for the area of Caledon Lake where the Johnsons saw their checkerspot; they saw five more individuals in the same location after the one that Mae caught.

The Johnson’s Big Butterfly Day was not just fun for the family, but also contributed towards a good cause. Although they had planned the day a few weeks earlier, at the last minute they decided to tie it in with a fundraising challenge “to raise awareness for the project and the great work CVC is doing”.

“We proposed donating $5 per species anticipating about 20 species but offered to double the amount if 5 others matched our donation. We ended up confirming 24 species, and 6 people matched us … In the end we raised $960.” Wow! A big THANK YOU to Marc, Reagan, Mae, and Oscar as well as the six other contributors.

If the Johnsons have inspired you, more information about the CVC Foundation can be found here: https://cvcfoundation.ca/ - including information on how to donate as well as specific ongoing projects and campaigns.

Posted on July 06, 2020 19:02 by lltimms lltimms | 0 comments | Leave a comment

June 29, 2020

Observation of the week: June 22 - 28

Our fourth OOTW is this Northern Pearly Eye taking a drink, observed by user @geraldm.

Gerald first saw the Northern Pearly Eye resting in the shade, but it flew away before he got a photo. Soon after, he “found it sipping from a ceramic platter which had filled with rainwater”.

It may not have been intentional, but the ceramic dish in Gerald’s yard provided a great butterfly drinking station. Many butterflies drink water now and then – at mud puddles, or near the edges of streams and lakes. This behaviour helps them collect minerals and nutrients from the mud, and the waters can help cool and hydrate them on hot dry days.

If you’re interested in creating a butterfly drinking station in your yard, check out this great video from the University of Georgia.

Gerald is new to butterflying this year but is currently in second place on our leaderboard for the total number of species seen. Even more amazing is that all his observations have been made within five minutes of his home, on a property where he has planted various native trees and other plants over the years.

This year, Gerald is carrying his camera at the ready while working outside. He says: “I often see the butterflies and other insects flying about but like most people I had no idea what they are called. This blitz provided a great learning opportunity and a means of identifying and cataloguing what’s on the property.”

How many species can you find within five minutes of your house? The weather is looking great for Canada Day – I challenge you to get outside and see what you can find!

Posted on June 29, 2020 13:26 by lindseyjennings lindseyjennings | 1 comment | Leave a comment

June 22, 2020

Observation of the week: June 15 - 21

This week’s Observation of the Week is this Little Wood Satyr from user @robeh. I especially like the second picture in her observation, where the sun is shining through the butterfly’s wings and you can see all the fuzzy hairs on its head.

While some butterflies can be difficult to get photos of, Robin (aka @robeh) says that “It was actually one of the easiest butterflies to observe and photograph and ultimately identify because it sat so still for such a (relatively) long time.” In addition, “It was the first, and I think so far only, tan/brown coloured butterfly that I have seen … Every other tan coloured insect that I pursued turned out to be a moth, so this is a nice change”.

Robin got some good luck with her Little Wood Satyr. These butterflies are known for their slow and bouncy flight, and their tendency to fly away into the trees quickly if you want to get close to them! They do occasionally stop to rest on leaves, which is how they are usually photographed. Little Wood Satyrs are seldomly observed on flowers – the adults rarely feed on nectar, and instead prefer tree sap, rotting fruit, and even aphid honeydew.

Little Wood Satyrs are one species in a group of butterflies in Ontario with prominent eyespots on their wings. These eyespots are thought to deter predators by making the butterfly look like a larger animal. It may be these big ‘eyes’, preference for wooded areas, and tendency to bounce around and drink sap that gives Little Wood Satyrs and other Satyr species their name – after the mythical beasts of Greek folklore.

Robin has been busy Butterfly Blitzing and says that the Little Wood Satyr “seems like about a hundred butterflies ago!”. I wish you all a week of a hundred butterflies!

Posted on June 22, 2020 15:26 by lltimms lltimms | 0 comments | Leave a comment

June 15, 2020

Observation of the week – June 8-15, 2020

Happy Monday Butterfly Blitzers! We jumped from 17 to 29 species observed over the past week. It is so nice to see many of you have been out observing butterflies and taking pictures. The wonderful weather this weekend was helpful, too!

Our second observation of the week is this Arctic Skipper from user @sassarella1979.

Kristie (aka @sassarella1979) and her daughter Taya, 6, went for a hike on the Elora Cataract Trail on Friday. “It was Friday afternoon and it had been cold in the morning and warmed up by the afternoon. Wow, I felt like we were in a secret garden! The butterflies, dragonflies, damselflies were everywhere! The Arctic Skipper was relaxed.”

Kristie and Taya were not the only ones observing Arctic Skippers in the watershed this weekend. There were six observations of this species added to the Blitz over the past few days. This is a noticeable increase to the two observations submitted during the 2019 CVC Butterfly Blitz.

Arctic Skipper is a widespread species in North America, Europe and Asia, associated with the boreal and mixed deciduous forest ecozones that stretch across these areas. Despite its common name, Arctic Skipper is not actually found in the Arctic. It is known as the Chequered Skipper in Europe, a name which is both nicely descriptive of this butterfly’s appearance and less confusing geographically.

We often hear about species that are common in the U.S. and rare in Canada because they are at the edge of their range here. Arctic Skipper is one of the species where the opposite is true. Arctic Skipper is not found often south of the Waterloo area in Ontario, and it is considered a vulnerable species in Pennsylvania and Massachusetts. Arctic Skipper became more common in the northeastern U.S. in recent decades as it expanded its range to the south. However, it has recently become less common again in those areas, likely due to climate change.

Taya may be our youngest Butterfly Blitz participant ever. According to her mom, “Taya is at her best in nature. She is quiet, patient and engaged.”. The two of them have been enjoying their outings to find and take pictures of butterflies: “Butterflying has given us a chance to slow down and be present in nature. I’m even aware of the little things in nature I NEVER would’ve noticed before!”.

I hope that you all get a chance to slow down this week and spend some time with butterflies.

Posted on June 15, 2020 14:49 by lltimms lltimms | 0 comments | Leave a comment

June 09, 2020

CVC Butterfly Blitz 2020 – Observation of the week #1

Welcome to our first Observation of the Week (OOTW) post for 2020! It was a wonderful weekend for butterflying, which was reflected in the big jump in observations added to the project in the last few days.

Our first OOTW for 2020 is this lovely shot of two Silvery Blue butterflies from @markwhitcombe. The photo caught our eye because of the combination of the blue upper sides of the wings of the butterfly in flight and the grey under sides of the butterfly on the plant.

Mark was out taking pictures of Mallards, using a Moment telephoto add-on lens to his smartphone, when he noticed the two butterflies. “I quickly took off the 2x telephoto lens, and tapped the 1x normal lens and took the first set of photos very quickly. The butterfly is very fast and restless! […] The male was making advances on the female, but she wasn’t receptive, and so after about 10 seconds flew off. Cathy spotted where they landed behind me, and I quickly turned around and bent over to take the other photos.”

Silvery Blue populations generally peak in Ontario around now, which explains why they are the most observed species in our project at the moment. They are currently distributed throughout most of the province, although they used to be found only further north. They have expanded their range southward over the past six decades, benefiting from the spread of non-native plants on which their caterpillars have adapted to feed. You can read summary of this expansion here.

The caterpillars of Silvery Blue butterflies eat plants in the legume family (Fabaceae), including vetch and clover. They can be different colours – from pink to green – depending on what they’re feeding on. And, like many caterpillars from the same family, Silvery Blue caterpillars can often be found with ants. They have an interdependent relationship, where the ants protect the caterpillars from enemies and the caterpillars provide a sweet honeydew liquid for the ants to eat.

Mark is the Chair of the local naturalist club Headwaters Nature and wrote about his observation for both their Facebook and Instagram pages. Mark says: “Later today, I’m heading back out to photograph vetch flowers using the macro lens. I’ll be paying attention to any eggs I see near the flowers!”
Happy butterflying!

Posted on June 09, 2020 00:07 by lltimms lltimms | 2 comments | Leave a comment

May 29, 2020

Official CVC Butterfly Blitz start date tomorrow - May 30th!

Hello CVC Butterfly Blitz participants!

Although this project has been up and running for a while now, the official start date of the summer-long blitz is tomorrow - May 30th. We are presenting our last training webinar tomorrow; in combination with last weekend's training, you should all now be prepared to get outside and observe butterflies!

I will be resetting the start date of the iNaturalist project to begin on May 30th instead of April 1st, as it is currently set. Don't panic if you see a change in the leaderboard and the species counts. The date change is to be fair to those who are waiting until their training is complete before starting to look for butterflies, as well as those who have been waiting for the start date in our promotional materials.

I also would like to call your attention to two other CVC Butterfly Blitz 2020 projects on iNaturalist:
https://inaturalist.ca/projects/cvc-butterfly-blitz-2020-sensitive-species
https://inaturalist.ca/projects/cvc-butterfly-blitz-2020-all-species

Creating these projects is a necessary (but confusing) step to ensure that we collect information on all butterflies observed in the watershed over the summer - even those sensitive species for which the observation coordinates are obscured. Details on why this is needed can be found here: https://www.inaturalist.org/pages/help#placeindex

In the meantime, all you need to know is that the species you have observed is not a sensitive species you don't need to add it to any CVC Butterfly Blitz 2020 collection project - it will be automatically detected and added*.

Please contact me if you have any questions or concerns.
laura.timms@cvc.ca

Thanks,
Laura

  • unless you are using obscured coordinates for geoprivacy; in which case your observations may not be automatically included - contact me for more information

Posted on May 29, 2020 20:43 by lltimms lltimms | 0 comments | Leave a comment

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