The Butterfly Big Year has Started

Birders sometimes do something called a “big year.” During a calendar year, they try to see and identify as many of the bird species in a particular area as they can. A few butterfliers have done something similar, most famously Robert Michael Pyle, as he wrote about in Mariposa Road.

I am planning to do one this year. Doing it right takes a lot of planning. I have downloaded lists from the Butterflies and Moths of North America web site, and have spent a lot of time sorting through the lists on a spreadsheet. I have tried to figure out different locations to go by checking various citizen science websites as well. But time got away from me and the season has already started. I saw some eastern commas flying in a campground nearby so I decided I had better get moving.

I booked a hotel in Cassville, Missouri for a couple of nights. Butterflying is very dependent on the weather. There was snow on the ground in Iowa when I drove down, and even first interstate rest stop in Missouri had a little snow, but I could hear chorus frogs singing so I was encouraged.

In general most locations will be a day’s drive away. The plan is to drive to the location and make a few stops along the way to chase butterflies. If I stay two nights in a hotel, I will have a full day to butterfly and hopefully on the drive home I can make some more stops. Unfortunately, on this trip the weather only cooperated for one afternoon. All photos here were taken at the Roaring River State Park.

I will only count butterflies when I have an identifiable photograph of the adult. I am not done with the spreadsheet yet, so I don’t really know how many species there are in the area–I know it is more than 225. If I am able to get identifiable photos of 100 or more species I will be happy. I also hope to get ten or twenty good photos of species I have not photographed yet. I have no one refereeing my count, but I will post to iNaturalist and hopefully get the photos verified.

Here is an “identifiable” photograph of a pearl crescent.

I also saw eastern tailed-blue.

I think this is Juvenal’s duskywing. There are similar species. It will be interesting to see if and how soon this is verified.

There were three different swallowtails flying around. This is the spicebush swallowtail.

This is an eastern tiger swallowtail.

Zebra swallowtails were flying around all over the place.

These guys were sipping from the wet mud along the trout stream.

I got seven species in all–the eastern comma I saw is not pictured here. But in the Mexican restaurant I visited I saw some more that I haven’t found in the books yet.

I didn’t get any pie, but I did have the fried ice cream.


About the roused bear

Nature photographer from central Iowa.
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