Butterflies

Butterflies, like the Ancram Harvester above, are beautiful flagships for some of the potential benefits of open lands for nature; they are also banners for other rare or unusual habitats. We've been surveying for butterflies for the past decade and the main thing we can say is that no two years are the same! Years differ for a variety of reasons: weather at crucial periods of the life-cycle, flight conditions for migratory species, on-going habitat changes... Although sometimes compared to birds (as popular indicators of ecological health), butterflies are distinct in that a greater proportion of species are year-around residents, and many have close, co-evolutionary ties with one or a few plant species, making them particular sensitive to particular habitat changes. The near regional demise of the Grey Comma during the heyday of Ribes eradication is a case in point.

It has been said that many people know what a butterfly is, but few know who it is. In other words, many of us see butterflies around but perhaps don't take the time to listen to their story or watch their seasonal phenology. And even amongst the die-hard butterfly fanatics, there are still mysteries. The early stages of some species' life histories are poorly understood; a point made sadly clear as Regal Fritillary disappeared from the region for reasons which are still debated. However, aside from all these 'serious' reasons to study butterflies, we think they're just great fun to follow and watch. If you have any neat sightings, please let us know!

 

Our Web Resources:

Article on butterflies and agriculture in the Hudson Valley summarizes our experiences looking at this interaction in our area.

A table of the confirmed and likely butterfly fauna of the County provides information on which butterflies you are most likely to see and information on trends over the last 150 years.

Ecological Classification of Openland Butterflies. Ths pdf file, with narrative and a table, briefly presents an ecological categorization of the County's openland butterflies in the context of regional butterfly conservation.

Early Season Skippers a pdf file with a set of images illustrating how to distinguish four of our common, early-season skippers.

The Three Witches a pdf file with a set of images for the identification of this set of mid-summer skippers.

A Guide to September Dryland Butterflies a pdf files showing some of the more common and rarer butterflies we see on dry openlands late in the summer.

Great-Grandfather's Butterflies, an newspaper article pondering the evolving abundance of our local butterflies.

 

Some Great Off-site Resources:

Link to the Massachusetts Butterfly Atlas, probably the most regionally-relevant, on-line ID resource for butterfly enthusiasts in our area.

Link to Butterflies of Massachusetts, Sharon Stichter's in-depth and enthralling consideration of the butterflies just to our east; lots of locally relevant info. on ecology, trends and other conundrums.

Link to Butterflies and Moths of North America, a good web site for overall distributions and information.

The NABA sightings list, a nice way to find out what other people, elsewhere are seeing.

Dick Walton's nifty skipper ID resources, in case you want to know, or at least appreciate, these little butterflies.

 

Book Resources:

With no insult meant to those whom we do not cite, the five books which we turn to most regularly for the identification of adult butterflies are the following:

Butterflies of the East Coast by Rick Cech and Guy Tudor; a great resource for identification and ecology; a guide not just to butterflies but also their biology.

Butterflies of North America by Jim Borck and Ken Kaufman; a compact, easy-to-use reference. The pan-continental approach may make it daunting for beginners, but it's a great reference for quick look ups.

Butterflies through Binoculars: A Field Guide to the Boston-New York-Washington Region by Jeffrey Glassberg; Jeffrey Glassberg has created a variety of very useful and appealing guides, including version for the whole continent; we choose this relatively old volume because of its conveniently relevant, restricted geographic scope.

The Connecticut Butterfly Atlas by Jane O'Donnell, Lawrence Gall and David Wagner; some more good, regional butterfly info. Not great for IDs, but does include caterpillar photos; beware the poor binding.

The Butterflies of Masschusetts: Their History and Future by Sharon Stichter; much of the information from her rich web site in book form. Not a field guide but our best regional accompaniment to field guides.