Nature diary > Two days in July


Some days, you start out looking for something and find something else. In this case, a search for a butterfly led to a chain of discoveries. I got word by email of groups of brown hairstreaks at a Belmont meadow in some waist-high sumac. The sighting was of Banded Hairstreak, a butterfly I hadn't seen yet that year. I went out to the meadow and on the way to the sumac, found some brown hairstreaks in some milkweed. They were pretty dull-looking. I took a few quick photographs and moved on, but I couldn't find the sumac. I ran out of time, but at least I found some hairstreaks. I had thought they were Banded or Edward's, to to my surprise, my hairstreak was the uncommon and hard-to-identify Hickory hairstreak: a butterfly the size of a postage-stamp. (A much-cropped picture is to the right.)

Unfortunately, I had only a very ordinary photograph of the uncommon butterfly. Not content with a record shot, I wanted to get a frame-filling picture of the tiny Hickory hairstreak. When I went back the next day, there weren't any butterflies on the milkweed at all. I did see a red-spotted purple (a relative of the viceroy butterfly) fly up from the path in front of me. So made for the sumac patch I had missed the day before. On the way to the sumac, I saw several goldfinches browsing in the shrubs, and up in the branches an Eastern Phoebe (picture on the left).

When I made it to the sumac, there weren't any hairstreaks. I did see a few Wood Nymphs flitting around, a very fast and wary butterfly, and the first I'd seen for the season. The sumac was also home to many brown Meadowhawk (Sympetrum) dragonflies.  The green sumac leaves were an excellent background for the dragonflies, and these were among the best of a very large harvest of dragonfly pictures for the season. The picture on the right is from that day, as is this other meadowhawk. A pretty good harvest, considering I never found what I originally set out for!

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