A Little Butterfly for the Big Year–Update #14

I decided to take another trip to Missouri for a very special butterfly. When I started the butterfly big year in April, I went to Cassville, MO and Roaring River State Park where I photographed my first butterflies of the year. On the way home, I stopped at Runge Nature Center in Jefferson City, MO. It was cold and rainy that day, and I knew the butterfly I was interested in would not be out yet. But I met Austin Lambert, a naturalist there who gave me some information about the presence of the butterfly at Runge and offered to help me find it when I came back.

I contacted Austin before I went back. He was going to be gone on the day of my visit, but he set me up with a volunteer, Paul Winn, who did butterfly work, to help me out.

This is the butterfly I was after, the very small but magnificently colored swamp metalmark. It is very rare most places but there is a large population of them at Runge.

It was very helpful to have Paul there. Finding the butterfly involved leaving the trails. They weren’t hard to find once you knew where to look for them. More importantly, since Paul had a shirt with the Missouri Department of Conservation logo on it the trail etiquette protocol was met.

I had spent most of the morning at the conservation area with very little luck–I photographed a northern pearly-eye and watched several pipevine swallowtails fly by at too far of a distance to get photos. I was almost ready to call it a day when Paul contacted me. I was hot and I was tired. But I went and got some lunch, then met Paul in the early afternoon.

This red-banded hairstreak showed up right away. Shortly after that we found the metalmarks. By the time the afternoon was over I had seen a gray hairstreak, many eastern tailed-blues, little yellows, orange sulfurs, cloudless sulfurs (that flew around and never sat down), common buckeyes, a couple of common wood nymphs. After sitting on a bench in the shade of an oak tree for a while I finally saw a pipevine swallowtail visiting a thistle flower.

The swamp metalmark was a lifer butterfly for me. I had seen both the pipevine swallowtail and the red-banded hairstreak on one occasion each, and have awful photographs to show for it. I was happy with my second chance photos though.

Although the morning was not too productive for butterflies, I did see some other wildlife:

I did enjoy a short session with this box turtle.


About the roused bear

Nature photographer from central Iowa.
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