Tawny Emperor and Hickory Hairstreak: A Good Butterfly Day

Now that Summer is here, butterflies are seen more frequently. Especially on sunny days, I am alert to flittering flights while walking in Eliza Howell Park, eager to see which species are active.

June 24 was sunny and a very good butterfly day.

Perhaps the best find of the day was this Tawny Emperor.

Southern Michigan is the northern edge of the Tawny Emperor’s geographical range, so they are not common here. I see one only occasionally.

Their color varies and I find this one, a little darker than many, very attractive. It was in the meadow, near the walking path.

The next unusual find was on the footbridge, resting on the metal railing. It is a Hickory Hairstreak.

Lepidopterists sometimes note that Hickory Hairstreak is “rarely seen.” This is only the second time I have found it in Eliza Howell and, since there are other Hairstreaks that are similar (especially Banded Hairstreak), I have consulted experts both times to confirm identification.

These two were the most most unusual sightings of the day, but others are also notable.

The Mourning Cloak, with its fascinating life cycle, is always good to see.

Rhe Mourning Cloak is not often photographed in this position; normally it is pictured from behind. So it might not be immediately recognizable.

Mourning Cloaks spend the Winter in hibernation as adults and emerge on the first warm days of the Spring, often being the first butterfly that I see. This year I saw the first one on March 27.

They lay eggs in the spring and this one has probably just energed from the chrysalis. It has a very long lifetime for a butterfly, 10 or 11months.

After feeding for a couple weeks in June-July, they estivate for the heart of the summer (in a state of torpor or dormancy), before being active again until winter hibernation. If it avoids predators and other threats, this same butterfly might brighten one of my Spring walks next year.

I also encountered a European Skipper feeding on Red Clover.

This is a much less dramatic find, but it is always satisfying to me when I recognize a particular Skipper among the many varieties that look so much alike. And any butterfly nectaring on Red Clover gets my attention.

This good butterfly day was also a good moth day. I saw and was able to get pictures of two colorful daytime flying moths.

One is Virginia Ctenucha.

The orange on the head is barely visible from this angle, but the metallic blue body is clear. As can be seen, this a nectaring moth. Though it is diurnal, I very rarely see it.

The other moth that presented itself was in the woodland, in a patch of nettles (the leaves stung my hands as I worked to get close enough for a picture).

It is called Leconte’s Haploa Moth.

The Leconte’s Haploa is about an inch long with a two inch wingspan. It is best known for its appearance. When the wings are held like this, it has reminded some of a crusaders shield.

There are some days when my nature walk leads to additional hours afterwards spent reviewing what I observed in the field. June 24 was one of these special days.

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