Giant Swallowtail

photo credit: US F&W Service

This has been a phenomenal summer for butterflies.  In late August, there were hundreds along the road through the forest to the main road – mostly mourning cloaks, monarchs, fritillaries, and swallowtails.  One species I saw several times – including having one inside my studio at the window – was the giant swallowtail.

There is no mistaking this one when you see it – it looks about twice the size of the tiger swallowtail and had a heavy, labored-looking flight. The ones we saw around here seem to have wider brownish bands on them.  Simply beautiful.

There’s a rock cliff near our home that locals say was a salt quarry during the Civil War.  This place seemed to be a mecca for all sorts of butterflies.  They were obviously drinking up something on the ground and especially after a rain when there were puddles – but very often they would congregate in the dry gravel as well.  I have no idea what they were looking for – or finding.  Did I take the camera down there and get photos?  Of course not – at least not in August when the butterflies were numerous.  I did go yesterday, and there are still groups of mourning cloaks congregating there:

The field across from my banding nets is tall with wildflowers and grasses now, except for about a 6 foot wide path mowed by one of the neighbors – probably to allow the deer to wander through and be more visible to the hunters…ah well.

Anyway, I did manage to find this red admiral, looking a bit tired and tattered, but still very colorful.

I think I’m developing a new interest in butterflies.  I’m even considering tagging monarchs next year -something we did at the first RRBO back in the late 70s and early 80s.

In the meantime – back to the birdies.


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