Lately I have filled some of my days with some butterfly chases. I get out the door fairly early (for a retiree) and drive to some natural area in search of butterflies. Last week I went to Marietta Sand Prairie State preserve in Marshall County, Iowa. I was looking for American Coppers and found them in some abundance there.
Even with the large number of them there they were difficult to photograph. They weren’t getting nectar from flowers. They were mostly perching on the low vegetation near the ground and dorsal basking. But they did not bask long–just a few seconds. By the time I would locate a butterfly and get close enough for a good photo it would be warm enough to fly off. So my attempts at photography did have some frustration.
I also checked out the common milkweed for skippers and hairstreaks. I only found one hairstreak–a banded hairstreak, and no skippers. But the banded hairstreak was very cooperative and posed for a number of photos for me.
Yesterday I visited a different location–Holst State Forest in Fraser, Iowa and saw banded hairstreaks in a different setting. Instead of sipping nectar on a flower they were chasing each other around. That behavior is next to impossible to photograph but is typical for hairstreaks. They perch, then when one flies by a chase ensues. They fly in tight circles that sort of take a spiral pattern.
Then they go back to their perches.
This behavior is obviously related to mating, but I think what I saw was males chasing other males rather than males chasing females. I am not sure, however.
I am completely enjoying this year’s butterfly season.