So I Took a Little Trip–Butterfly Big Year Update #7

I probably should plan the big year stuff better than I do, but I am also learning to make and execute plans on a fairly short notice. I sorted the iNaturalist butterfly data for Illinois from the first of the year, then picked out some butterflies I don’t have yet. There were three species (Appalachian brown, lace-winged roadside skipper, and hoary edge) that had been seen in the last part of May at one location, and one species (silver-bordered fritillary) seen at a different location. That is how I planned my trip. Almost like throwing a dart at a dart board.

The first area is called the Barkhausen-Cache River Wetlands Center, and the second was called the Hooper Branch Savanna Nature Preserve. I planned to stay at the first site, which is located in the southern tip of Illinois for a day (two overnight stays), then stop at the other, which is located south of Chicago near the Indiana border, on the drive home.

I expected something kind of neat at the wetlands center, but I did not anticipate what was there. That is not ground or short vegetation that you are seeing. That is a swamp, with water about six inches to a few feet deep, and covered with duckweed.

Another location had a handicap-accessible boardwalk into a swamp area. It was quite dark due to the forest canopy, with bright shafts of light beaming down from above

There were lots of wetlands around, with mowed and paved paths so they could be visited, plus an interpretive nature center.

The weather cooperated and there were butterflies everywhere. As you might imagine, there were also dragonflies and other insects. I spent a very pleasant day roaming around the area. I did not find my target butterflies. All of the butterflies I saw are also present in some numbers in Iowa or will be later in the year. I only added five new species to my list for the year. I saw a couple of cloudless sulfurs flying around but never settling down within chasing distance so I could not add them to the list. I already had zebra swallowtails on my list, but really loved watching and photographing them.

I added common buckeye to my list.

I already had pearl crescent–in fact I have tons of photos of them. But I still enjoyed taking this picture.

On Sunday I had about a four hour drive to the savanna area. It was also nice, with extensive mowed paths. There does not seem to be a visitor center though. While I was there I came across a woman doing volunteer habitat/weed control. Later I came across a couple of other people who were talking about butterflies. I asked about the silver-bordered fritillary, and one of people, Nathan, let me tag along while he was doing his own butterfly photography.

This is it. After spending a couple of hours at the site and having some luck with skippers that were hanging along the access trail, I started to leave. Nathan called me back, and thought he had an Indian skipper. That butterfly was new to me, so I got some pictures. Sure, enough, it was. (Turns out it is a female fiery skipper.)

The Indian skipper and the silver-bordered fritillary were “lifers” for me. I added three other butterflies, and saw a couple that I still haven’t photographed yet.

My list is up to 28 27 species. One thing that has surprised me, however, is that I have yet to see a red admiral this year. I fully expected to see them all over the place. Some have been reported so they will show up.

P.S.: The two-star hotel I stayed in had shampoo in little packets like you might get ketchup in, rather than little bottles. It works better to open those packets before you start the shower so your hands are still dry. FYI.

About the roused bear

Nature photographer from central Iowa.
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