Monday, April 16, 2012

Juniper Hairstreak

While out in the yard on Sunday, I noticed a bunch of Clouded Sulphurs and Cabbage Whites visiting the various blooming plants. Seeing these common species, I figured that the air was warm enough for the other, less common species to be flying as well. When I headed into the woods, I found a whole bunch of very fresh-looking azures flying low to the ground occasionally stopping on the ground or on a flower. According to David Wright, who has spent many years studying the Celastrina genus, these individuals are likely a second hatching of the Northern Spring Azure (Celastrina lucia) which emerges a week or two after the primary hatch, but before the emergence of the similar "Southern" Spring Azure (Celastrina ladon).

Northern Spring Azure

Farther up in the woods, Juvenal's, Sleepy, and Wild Indigo Duskywings were chasing each other up and down the clearings, making photography of these individuals extremely difficult. These territorial butterflies seemed to be chasing everything, whether it was another butterfly, a bee, or even nothing at all. In the woods, I found several Mourning Cloaks and my first Spicebush Swallowtails of the year. These dark swallowtails are the earliest individuals of a species that will stick around until the fall! Later, I found my first Black Swallowtail of the year visiting the daffodils along the edge of the house.

While watching the larger butterflies, I almost forgot to look down until I noticed a tiny, dark skipper flying through the dried bluestem grass. This little Common Roadside-Skipper finally landed for a second before continuing to flutter along. Despite the name, this species is quite unusual, especially this early in the year. In fact, this is the earliest date I have ever seen a skipper of any kind here in Monroe County, PA!

Common Roadside-Skipper
Closer to the house, I was walking through the field when I spotted a tiny butterfly flying around the top of an Eastern Redcedar. Knowing that there is a very unique butterfly that often exhibits this behavior, I ran over to the small tree and soon spotted the Juniper Hairstreak perched on one of the top branches. Although it was perched at the very top, I got decent looks at the gorgeous butterfly that was also a species I had never seen in the yard before!

Juniper Hairstreak
The preferred habitat for this species is in brushy areas with the host plant. While there are a few redcedars in the field where I found this butterfly, I did not expect the small number to be sufficient to support this species!

The tall, skinny, dark green trees are the redcedars. The tall one in front is where I spotted the hairstreak.

Last July, I led a butterfly walk at Jacobsburg State Park. With ideal habitat at the park, the group was able to see eight of these gorgeous butterflies. These July-flying individuals were actually part of a second brood that emerges during the summer, whereas the current brood likely emerged within the last week.

A close-up of a Juniper Hairstreak from Jacobsburg State Park (July 2011)

My last butterfly of the day was a Red Admiral that was flying low over the trees, apparently headed north. Interestingly, this migratory species seemed to be following the same path, except backwards, that the Monarchs take in the fall. Although I only saw one, some locations in western Pennsylvania saw hundreds of Red Admirals migrating north!

1 comment:

kirstallcreatures said...

That Juniper Hairstreak is a lovey butterfly. Its not one that we have here in the UK, although we do have other hairsteaks, in fact we have a local colony of Green Hairstreaks that are starting to emerge, although I'm not sure the current wet weather will do them any favours.