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Nature at Home: Butterfly Field Trip

Nature at Home: Butterfly Field Trip

Giant Swallowtail by Marney Richards

Summer is in full swing and so are the butterflies. With more time at home this spring and summer and more time to appreciate gardens, I’ve been learning more about the butterflies I see. I recognize the big ones – black swallowtails, gulf fritillaries, monarchs, zebra longwings. I learned to distinguish the giant swallowtail from the tiger swallowtail. I love to watch the small ones, but don’t know them from each other.

Last week I was lucky to meet up with a friend, a butterfly expert, at Phipps Park in Tallahassee. A member of the local Hairstreak Chapter of the North American Butterfly Association (NABA), my friend regularly surveys parks and natural areas counting the butterflies present and noting details of time and location. The morning was hot and humid, with the trails mostly wide open and good for social distancing, and the butterflies were flying.

We saw about 20 diffeent species and I developed a couple new favorites. The Golden Banded-Skipper is a local celebrity, and many user groups with vested interests in Phipps Park have cooperated to support research and habitat management to help ensure the butterfly’s survival. Luckily for me, this small butterfly was out and easy to identify.

Golden Banded-Skipper by Marney Richards

The Tropical Checkered-Skipper turned out to be my favorite of the day. This little butterfly can be easily confused with Common and White Checkered-Skippers, so having a knowledgeable guide to point it out was helpful. It was a delight to follow and photograph at stops along the trails. 

Tropical Checkered-Skipper by Marney Richards

The Hairstreak Chapter describes their field trips as outdoor nature appreciation trips that focus on butterflies. They note participants stop to look at scenery, spider webs, fungi, other insects, birds and other natural wonders in addition to butterflies. If there is a NABA chapter near you and they are offering safe, socially-distanced trips, these outings can be another good way to get outdoors and learn more about the natural world we cherish and work to protect. I look forward to tromping in the woods with our local chapter.

Marney Richards lives in Tallahassee, Florida.

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