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.

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