Monday's Butterflies, Botany and Birds in Belleplain walk finally got some sunshine and warm tempertures, so we focused on butterflies. My personal highlight was the rapid, erratic flight of a Falcate Orange-tip, much less languid than the flight of the common Cabbage White. Associate Naturalist and butterfly expert Will Kerling, who co-leads these walks with me and Margi Heuges, and sometimes Teresa Knipper, had been talking about the different flight styles of butterflies and how, with experience, that that can be very useful for identification. Soon perhaps a new book willbe published: Butterflies in Flight.
Other butterfly species we found included male and female Pearl Crescents and Eastern Tailed Blues; Red-banded Hairstreak; and the apparent first of the year anywhere in NJ Northern Cloudywing. Will tells me 40 species of butterfly have been reported in NJ so far this year.
We were often distracted by birds. In fact, I'll say I've been pleasantly surprised how good the birding has been on these afternoon walks, which begin at 1:00 p.m. at the Belleplain State Forest field office. We got excellent looks at Indigo Buntings, Orchard Orioles, White-eyed Vireo, and heard a host of other species, including Blue Grosbeak, Northern Parula, Black-throated Green Warbler, and Black-and-white Warbler.
I've been away for a week (birding, what else, in Texas), and had to marvel as I always do how much difference one week makes this time of year. Belleplain was flush with life - birds, butterflies, trees leafing out, and several herptiles moving around, including Painted and Snapping turtles.