Monday, November 19, 2012

Another Rare Visitor

As I walked through the south meadow one sunny October afternoon, I noticed
that the air was filled with many white and yellow flutters - the Cabbage Whites
and Orange Sulphurs were enjoying asters and other flowers.
Although I didn't snap any photos of them because I already had 
many pictures of those common residents of Wildwood,
I loved watching them frolic in the warm sunshine.
The Cabbage Whites (Pieris rapae) have a wingspan of 32 - 48 millimeters.

Their caterpillars are a real garden nuisance because they like to eat cabbage!

Orange Sulphurs (Colias eurytheme) are about the same size as the Cabbage Whites. Their wingspan is 30-50 millimeters. I think that they look more yellow than orange when I see them flying.

However, I found one resting with its wings open on the pavement on Park Road earlier this summer 
and saw that it was indeed very orange looking.

As I continued to watch the butterflies, I noticed that there was a much smaller
yellow one twirling around. It looked like a "baby" butterfly,
but I knew that those critters emerge from their chrysalises as fully grown adults.
As the tiny creature crossed the bike path, I opened my camera 
to be ready to get a shot. I was delighted to see that it paused on a small aster flower
long enough for me to to snap a couple of times.

I slowly inched a bit closer and snapped again. I could see that it looked similar to the Orange Sulphurs, 
but it had an elongated forewing that gave it a "stretched  out" look.

I managed to get a few more photos before it flew over the meadow and out of sight.

I later learned that it was a Dainty Sulphur (Nathalis iole) -
an appropriate name, I thought.
It is the smallest of all the Sulphurs and usually does not fly in our
valley and ridge area.
It has a wingspan of only 20-32 millimeters.
No wonder it looked so small as it flew with the larger species.

Once again I felt very fortunate to have my camera ready when a lovely visitor came to Wildwood!

Monday, November 5, 2012

A Rare Visitor

One spectacularly sunny September Saturday morning, I decided that I needed a few more photos of Wingstem flowers. I was not satisfied with ones that I had taken previously. I found just the perfect ones along the bike path near the entrance to the tunnel.

As I began snapping photos, I caught a glimpse of a butterfly flitting from flower to flower. From the corner of my eye, I could see small brown wings and a white spot. "Must be a Silver-spotted Skipper," I thought and continued focusing on the bright yellow flowers that would soon lose their petals as fruit formed. Well, maybe I should get one shot of the butterfly that seemed to like the flowers as much as I.

Wait a minute - those spots are on TOP of the wings! Silver-spotted Skippers have a single white spot on the underside! Forget the the flowers - focus on that critter!

In the bright sun, the small feathery-looking body had an iridescent blue-green sheen.

The underside of the hindwing had a continuous dark bar across it. And there was a LONG tail!!!
This was definitely not a butterfly that I had ever seen before.

It eagerly drank the Wingstem nectar through its long proboscis.

I eagerly took more photos as it lingered at each bloom.

When I got home I hurriedly uploaded the photos into my computer. Yes, I was certain that I had gotten pictures of  Urbanus proteus, a Long-tailed Skipper. I had images of the identifying features. I also discovered that I had not seen this species before because it is usually found in North and South Carolina and in the coastal region of Virginia. It has been rather abundant this year and has extended it range northward so maybe that's why one strayed into the hills of the New River Valley. 
It was such a sweet little visitor, I very much hoped that I would see another one in Wildwood some day.

And guess what?
 I did - just about three weeks later!!!

I feel very fortunate to have photo records of  two visits to Radford and Wildwood Park from this lovely creature. Perhaps the species will soon expand it range to include our area.