I chase butterflies. There are some I have chased for years and have not yet seen. Until last year, Henry’s elfin, Callophrys henrici, was one of those butterflies. This butterfly might not be rare, but it is rarely seen. It emerges as an adult in mid-April, and lives as an adult for only a week or so. Its host plant in Iowa is redbud.
Last year I hung out by some redbud trees in Cordova Park, near Lake Red Rock, Iowa. I saw a couple, and was able to get a photo that when enlarged showed the distinctive hind wing of the butterfly. The butterfly could be identified but the photo was not especially good.
Aaron Brees had blogged about finding the species in another park, Elk Rock State Park adjacent to Lake Red Rock, and gave me a hint about where to look. So this year I took his information and went there. I don’t think I found the spot he mentioned, because I saw no redbuds or the sand prairie. I did, however, find several individuals of my target species along a horse trail in the park.
They are tiny butterflies and they appear black when flying. Typically they land on the edge of a branch or a stick adjacent to the trail, and bask at a right angle to the sun. When they encounter another individual they fly off in a circling chase and eventually return, sometimes to the same spot.
I think what I saw were males exhibiting a sort of territorial behavior. I saw up to three at a time, and I think there were about a half dozen in the small area.
They were difficult to photograph because of the wind, but I increased my chances by taking fifty photos. A few good ones were mixed in with the not-so-good.
I also saw a couple of cabbage whites and too many red admirals to count.
This was a good butterfly day.