Thursday, March 20, 2008

What Do Butterflies Do When...?

I was out working in the front yard this afternoon when I noticed a bright orange butterfly flittering low above the tallgrass. As I watched, he landed in the grass, so I grabbed my binoculars and went to chase him down.

According to Weather Underground, the wind was blowing about 14 mph with gusts up to 32 mph, so I wasn't surprised that the butterfly was choosing to ground itself for a while. I just wanted to see what species was flying so early in the spring, because I didn't recognize it from a distance.

It took me a while to find the butterfly with my binoculars, as it is a species whose underwings are patterned a beautiful tan/brown that closely mimics dead leaves. Patience paid off, though, and I was able to see the upper wing surface pattern - a male goatweed leafwing, Anaea andria.

As I sat and watched it for a bit, it briefly flew again, then landed and started walking deeper into the detritus of the dead grasses and leaves. I wasn't sure what it was doing at first, but as I watched for a while longer, it became obvious that it was finding a sheltered spot to wedge itself where it would remain out of the wind and safe (hopefully) from predators. Even knowing it was there, it was hard to see it if I took my eyes away for even a moment. If you look at the center of the photo here, you can make out the butterfly. Only the tan undersides of the wings are showing.

I went back to the house and got my camera, capturing a couple pictures, but it's so well camoflaged and at such an odd angle from the camera (due to the wedged position that it had assumed), that it's hard to see. However, here is a closeup from the picture above to help pinpoint the butterfly exactly.

It was the first time I've ever actually watched as a butterfly took shelter from the wind. Somehow I'm surprised that he chose a spot right on the ground. I wonder where he sheltered to ride out the winter? Was it someplace similar?

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