Thursday, 18 July 2013

Just a couple of leps...

Leps = shoreform for Lepidoptera, the order containing butterflies and moths.

The last few weeks have been a little slow for me from a birding standpoint. From mid-May to early July I was working out in the field nearly every day, predominately completing breeding bird surveys throughout the province. Unfortunately though, the birds don't breed year round and so all of that fun work is over for another year. Lately I have been cooped up in the office writing reports and the like. This is a big change from the previous few summers, which I spent almost entirely outside!

But as much as I would love to spend every single day of the year outside looking at things, a bit of a break from birding is kind of nice. I find that every year, I really start to get sick of birding around the end of June/early July. The spring migration starts with a trickle in late January, climaxing in May with a flood of neotropical migrants. All very exciting stuff! After that it is the breeding bird season, where it is easy to get 100 species of birds in a day without moving too much effort. Everything is singing! But all that birding tends to burn me out in the summer. Birds are busy rearing babies and hard to find this time of year. Rarities are practically non-existent. The only migrants this time of year are a few southbound passerines like Least Flycatcher, Tennessee Warbler, and Swainson's Thrush (boring) as well as the first few shorebirds (Least Sandpiper, yellowlegs, etc). The days are hot. The mosquitoes are still out in full force. It usually isn't til mid September or so that I really get excited to go birding again. But until then, things like dragonflies and butterflies are interesting to look at!

The other day I was completing my last breeding bird survey of the season in Toronto. The sun had just come out after an overcast morning, and in about 20 minutes I quickly identified about 15 species of butterflies.

Cabbage Whites are one of the most familiar butterflies to most Ontario residents. They are common EVERYWHERE it seems.

Skippers seemed to be theme of the day. I recall seeing Dun, Hobomok, European, Tawny-edged, N. Broken-dash, Silver-spotted, and a few more.

I believe this may be a fresh Dun Skipper. Both Dun and Northern Broken-dash were flying around in decent numbers and they can be very tough to tell apart.

Another skipper that I probably identified in the field, but now looking at one photo I am having a tough time with.

Ebony Jewelwings are an abundant damselfly that I was quite familiar with long before I began to be interested in insects. It is just one of those species that seems to be common, especially it seems in sunlit patches of woodlands and near waterways. I came across a somewhat predictable individual that kept returning to the same few perches and eventually I was able to get the photos I wanted, despite the harsh light. Both of these are pretty much straight out of the camera.


  1. Josh,

    Your Dun Skipper looks like a Northern Broken-Dash.

    Your mystery skipper looks like a Tawny-edged Skipper.

  2. July does seem to be the month for butterflies. But how do you identify the skippers? I had to conclude that all the thousands of skippers around our meadow were just European skippers.

    1. European Skippers can be abundant in some areas making it hard to pick out similar species. Often times they are always in the less pristine habitat types. Try searching out more pristine meadows; especially containing sedges, rushes, etc and you will probably see more species. Particularly, if you target different species and find out what their food plant(s) are, you should have better luck. I currently use "Butterflies through binoculars" and the Peterson guide to eastern butterflies.