Monday, August 15, 2016

Butterflies and More

September 2008

I took this picture eight years ago near our house. From 2006 to 2009 we collected monarch caterpillars and looked after them as they went from chrysalis to butterfly. We have milkweed growing in a section of our garden and they used to attract Monarchs, but I have only seen one in our yard in the past two years. Here is a video I took in 2008 showing how the chrysalis is formed.

I search for butterflies as diligently as I look for birds when I am out and about. The pictures below show almost all the butterflies I have seen so far in 2016. We saw a couple of Monarchs flying across the highway when we were on Manitoulin Island in July, but none resting in the ditches and meadows. 

Giant Swallowtail Butterfly                                                                     Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly

This is the first time I have identified a Giant Swallowtail butterfly. We found it at Mud Lake in the city of Ottawa, Ontario this spring. Tiger Swallowtails have visited our garden a couple to times this summer. The one above was on a flowering shrub at Queenston Heights near Niagara Falls, Ontario in July.

           Cabbage Whites                                       Milbert's Tortoiseshell                                      Great Spangled Fritillary

I walked the length of the road at Manitoulin Island every day, taking two to three hours each time to look for birds and butterflies. The weather was hot and there were plenty of wildflowers in bloom. I counted only three species pictured above and saw each of them only once.

Underwing moth species                                                                            12 Spotted Skimmer

There is a slow moving creek that flows into Lake Manitou where we stay. Water lilies and Arrowhead plants grow in the shallow water and most years there are many bullfrogs and dragonflies. I never saw a single dragonfly there this year but finally found one at the edge of Lake Huron when we were waiting to take the ferry home. The Underwing moth was tattered and almost lifeless beside the road.

Black and White Warbler- Manitoulin Island

I observe nature but am not an expert by any stretch. It is obvious that the numbers of butterflies, dragonflies, bees and other pollinators are declining. There are likely many contributing factors, including climate change, habitat loss, insecticide use, to name a few. Many of our birds are insectivorous and are threatened when their food source is reduced. For instance, Barn Swallow numbers have declined 65% since the 1960s due to habitat loss and use of chemical insecticides. The Black and White Warbler above looked down at me one morning when I was birding on Manitoulin Island this summer. Warblers need insects too. 

As I wrote this post on our deck this evening, I was irritated by numerous mosquitoes. It has been a dry summer but our weekend rains brought a new hatch of the annoying insects. It seems that some insects have adapted to change better than others. 


  1. I am always, always looking too, my friend. We have had such a hot, dry summer thus far, that I've seen precious few butterflies, and none in my garden yet. As I'm driving around, I'm starting to see some Sulphurs, but that is about it. I don't even have any milkweed that reseeded for this year due to how dry it's been. Love your little Warbler!

  2. wow thank you for sharing the pleasure loved your pics first one is gorgeous

  3. Beautiful images.I enjoy the birds and butterflies.


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