Florida 2017

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Mark Tutton
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Florida 2017

Postby Mark Tutton » Thu Jul 20, 2017 6:15 am

With the last two kids finishing their degrees in 2017 [they both got 1st class hons!] we agreed that that it would probably be one last opportunity for us all to go on holiday together so a trip was planned to Florida with the obligatory theme park visits.
Florida has some 180 species of butterfly so prior to the trip I purchased Butterflies of Florida by Jaret Daniels, a small photographic field guide detailing the common species found in the state, and although this proved useful as a general pointer to species it was not particularly useful for definitive ID. All of my ID’s are tentative and I would welcome any corrections!
We arrived late at night and after a quick beer and dip in the pool we crashed out after a tiring trip. The weather for the whole two weeks was very consistent 32C and very humid with an occasional violent thunderstorm in late afternoon.
During the two weeks I did not make any special trips to see butterflies but simply snatched opportunities in local habitat when the occasion arose.
The villa was situated, as most are, in an area which had previously been woodland/swamp and the gardens of the properties were pretty well manicured.
However google earth gave me a few pointers about where to look in easy walking distance.

The next morning I took a walk through some pine trees growing behind the house and quickly spotted the first butterflies flying in some weedy scrub which turned out to be very common during the trip, Dainty Sulphur and Barred Sulphur along with the minute [and almost impossible to follow] Ceranus Blue

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Barred Sulphur

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Dainty Sulphur

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Ceranus Blue


Probably the most commonly encountered butterfly of the whole trip was encountered next - the very pretty Gulf Fritillary - numbers of these were seen at any nectar source and females were in constant view looking for egg laying opportunities on the passion flower vines that grow beneath the pines

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Gulf Fritillary

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Gulf Fritillary Larvae


Next I tracked along a short block wall and and encountered small bush with daisy like flowers that proved to be a good nectar source and subsequently turned up a variety of species.
On this visit I quickly spotted a couple of examples of the Gray Hairstreak and Fiery Skipper.
Annoyingly I disturbed a Monarch - how could I have not spotted that giant I don't know - which eluded me during the entire trip despite several more sightings.

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The wall


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Gray Hairstreak


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Fiery Skipper


TBC

Kind regards
Mark
The wonder of the world, the beauty and the power, the shapes of things, their colours lights and shades, these I saw. Look ye also while life lasts.

Kip
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Re: Florida 2017

Postby Kip » Thu Jul 20, 2017 8:57 am

Looking forward to more of this... have you looked at the FB group "onlybutterflies"... US based but contributions from all over, and some crackers ( not the species) - they would love this thread!!
More pics on http://ptkbutterflies.wixsite.com/photo-art - should you wish to look, I hope you like the site..

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celery
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Re: Florida 2017

Postby celery » Thu Jul 20, 2017 1:28 pm

Spot on with all those IDs so far Mark 8)

Jeffrey Glassberg's 'Butterflies Through Binoculars: Florida' is still the definitive Florida book for IDs (though the site info is starting to feel a bit 'creaky' - it being almost 20 years since it was first published). Just checked and a secondhand copy can be had from a British seller on Amazon for £12.99 if you're interested.

Otherwise (and less costly) you could check my photos on this site - a few examples of most of the species you're likely to have seen. Or my Flickr photostream (link in the sig - separate albums for each species) has some of the rarer, habitat-specific species and hundreds more snaps.

Very keen to see what you show us next,
Cheers, celery :)
Six day weekends, one day pauses.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/16155010@N04/

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David M
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Re: Florida 2017

Postby David M » Thu Jul 20, 2017 5:28 pm

What a wonderful selection, Mark. The Dainty Sulphur in particular is most eyecatching.

I look forward to seeing more.

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Tony Moore
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Re: Florida 2017

Postby Tony Moore » Thu Jul 20, 2017 7:32 pm

Great post, Mark,

Love the 'hairstreak', but was most fascinated by the 'Wall' - quite different from our version :mrgreen: . Look forward to the rest.

Tony M.

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Mark Tutton
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Re: Florida 2017

Postby Mark Tutton » Fri Jul 21, 2017 7:00 am

Thanks for the comments guys.
I don't do Facebook but will have a look to see what I can do, great Flickr stream Simon I will definitely be having a look at that - one new ID already - and thanks for the tip about the Glassberg book - I do have a copy of the James Scott tome Butterflies of North America all 500 pages (a ten quid bargain from Ebay!) but it is a bit of trawl for a state specific search. I was surprised at Tonys comment about the Wall - Concreta Wallii is very common and a larger version has just been found adjacent the Mexican border called Concreta trumpii. Joking aside, I see that this border wall has just been marked out and will be immediately adjacent the NABA national butterfly centre in Mission Texas see [url]fb.me/8BSnY0LB3[/url]

Continued -

One particular bush with orange and red composite flowers was very attractive to all insects and proved the most reliable for variety on the whole trip and within short shrift Eastern Tiger Swallowtail was fluttering in front of me trying to hold station without weighing down the flower.
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Easter Tiger Swallowtail

The next day I repeated the same route quite early and encountered one I really wanted to see - the Zebra Swallowtail warming itself up in the pine straw under the conifers and the nectar bush revealed another species of hairstreak which again turned out to be quite common Red Banded.
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Zebra Swallowtail

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Red Banded Hairstreak

During these trips I had several sightings of Black and Brown swallowtails gliding through the pines which annoyingly were not stopping so the next day I went in the opposite direction past the ‘Do not feed the bears’ sign.
One thing we take for granted in the UK is the relative lack of danger when out butterflying and I did have to keep reminding myself that encounters snakes were a real possibility - I saw three including a 1.5m rat snake - but none, to my knowledge, of Floridas four venomous varieties.
Encounters with prickly pear and various vicious burrs were also quite painful!
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Ouch!

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Double Ouch!!


I quickly found another nectar source which again had a host of Gulf Fritillary and Hairstreaks and lo and behold a black Swallowtails - the black variety of the female Eastern Tiger and Spicebush Swallowtail.
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Spicebush Swallowtail

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Eastern Tiger Swallowtail - Female

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Spicebush Swallowtail

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Gulf Fritillary

In an area which had been cleared for building I spied a couple of butterflies sparring like Commas and after a bit of chasing in the heat I managed to identify them as Common Buckeye a very attractive butterfly. On my return I spotted a very ‘papery’ looking white skimming over the ground and stopping to nectar on the small white flowers - similar to Chickweed - growing amongst the grass. It was very active in the heat and took a bit of pursuing but I eventually managed to get a few snaps of what turned out to be a White Peacock. I was also being watched by hawk..........
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Common Buckeye

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White Peacock

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Hawk



Kind Regards
Mark
TBC.........
The wonder of the world, the beauty and the power, the shapes of things, their colours lights and shades, these I saw. Look ye also while life lasts.

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Catteraxe
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Re: Florida 2017

Postby Catteraxe » Fri Jul 21, 2017 9:25 am

A great thread Mark. Love the White Peacock.

Kevin.

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Mark Tutton
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Re: Florida 2017

Postby Mark Tutton » Sun Jul 23, 2017 8:50 am

Continued

A trip to the coast allowed me to visit Honeymoon Island State park near Clearwater on the Gulf of Mexico and to search for the attractive blue Mangrove Skipper but sadly to no avail. However I did turn up what I think to be the Mangrove Buckeye on what was an excruciatingly hot day with heat index of 135f! Had brilliant views of numerous Osprey hunting in the lagoon and very close views of several species of egret.
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Mangrove Buckeye?

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Osprey

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Great White Egret


My youngest wanted to play golf so I kept him company at a very local course built in an old orange grove and this yielded a range of wildlife including some very confiding Sandhill Cranes which let me approach within a couple of meters! All of the bunkers showed signs of snake and Armadillo activity [sadly saw lots of these as roadkill] and I did disturb another rat snake much to my sons hilarity. Lots of butterflies but the only new species was a xxxxx skipper actually resting on the final green.
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Sandhill cranes

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Southern Broken Dash


Finally I made some excursions into the undisturbed woodland adjacent the villa which still was decidedly swampy and the croaking of multitudes of frogs was a constant reminder that snakes were probably not far away too - so I trod very carefully. On surveying the woodland edge I found, at last, a resting Black Swallowtail which was huge! A number of hairstreaks evaded identification, and photography, but several skipper species were added to the list and best of all number two on my list Zebra Longwing. This is the the Florida State butterfly and I spent some time watching it gracefully negotiate the understory with its very distinctive fluttering flight - an interesting butterfly that owes its adult longevity to apparently being able to eat pollen as well as the usual nectar.
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Black Swallowtail

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Zebra longwing

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Monk Skipper

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Southern Broken Dash

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Longtailed Skipper - minus tails

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Horaces Duskywing

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Sachem

On exiting the wood I disturbed a large brown butterfly that was guarding the forest edge and it took a while to settle but when it did I quickly identified it as the Monarchs cousin - the Viceroy - a great one to finish my list with!
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Viceroy

Dragonflies of numerous species were almost in plague proportions at times and one or two unknowns cropped up as well as Sam himself!
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Dragonfly

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Unknown day flying Moth

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Sam the American Eagle


In all a great trip exploring unfamiliar habitats and environments, with a multitude of wildlife to see at almost every turn. Florida does have issues with extensive, and indiscriminate, spraying for mosquito control but there does seem to be plethora of butterflies to discover.
Kind regards
mark
The wonder of the world, the beauty and the power, the shapes of things, their colours lights and shades, these I saw. Look ye also while life lasts.

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celery
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Re: Florida 2017

Postby celery » Mon Jul 24, 2017 12:52 am

Great stuff Mark - thoroughly enjoyed this.

Your moth is Oleander Moth Syntomeida epilais.
Your hawk is Red-shouldered Hawk Buteo lineatus.
Your dragonfly is... harder! It's either a female or immature male of Great Blue Skimmer, Bar-winged Skimmer or Slaty Skimmer.
The colour of the face and overall size are the usual distinguishing factors - both are difficult to tell from your photo. Did you see a male perchance? Bar-winged are dark blue, Great Blue are light blue and Slaty are dark grey - they don't often hang around together so if you saw a male of any of those it's likely that this is the same species.

Butterfly wise:
You have nailed the most difficult part of the exam - all those skipper IDs seem spot-on - a hard feat to achieve with around 60 Hesperiidae species in Florida!
Your labels for the first Spicebush Swallowtail and the Eastern Tiger below it have somehow got mixed up.
Your Black Swallowtail is, I think, a Palamedes Swallowtail Papilio palamedes - 'blurry' yellow stripe on hindwings.
and your Mangrove Buckeye is likely another Common Buckeye - uppermost 'eye' on hindwing is the clincher for ID.

Twenty species+ is a great effort - all those other lovely critters - AND no snakebites either! :D
Six day weekends, one day pauses.

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petesmith
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Re: Florida 2017

Postby petesmith » Mon Jul 24, 2017 8:48 am

Fabulous stuff! Those hairstreaks are particularly gorgeous. Might have to consider a trip out there myself one day...
pete smith

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Mark Tutton
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Re: Florida 2017

Postby Mark Tutton » Tue Jul 25, 2017 7:23 am

Thanks Chaps
The additional ID's are brilliant thanks Simon - lost one and gained one! For some bizarre reason I was looking at the eyespot on the forewing rather than hindwing on the Buckeye. The dragonfly was the only example of that species that I came across, hence the post, and I don't recall seeing any of the males. The Skippers are definitely a test as they are across the whole of the USA. I probably saw at least ten other species that didn't pose for the camera so a pretty good haul considering I didn't do anything special to look for different habitats. Do you visit to - have you visited Florida regularly?
If anyone is interested Mariposa Road - The First Butterfly Big Year by Robert Michael Pyle is the USA equivalent of Patrick Barkhams 'Butterfly Isles' and an entertaining read and he has a MUCH bigger target for his year, 500 species!!!
Kind Regards
Mark
The wonder of the world, the beauty and the power, the shapes of things, their colours lights and shades, these I saw. Look ye also while life lasts.

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celery
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Re: Florida 2017

Postby celery » Wed Jul 26, 2017 1:24 am

Hi Mark,
That further bit of information - that the dragonfly was the only one you saw - points to the species as likely Bar-winged Skimmer Libellula axilena. Both the other candidates tend to hang out in huge flocks.

I've been visiting Florida on a regular basis since 2010. Usually one trip per year - at the beginning of the winter dry season in early/mid-November. I've tended to stick to central and southern Florida where the butterflies fly year-round. Here the winter skies are usually clear-blue, with less humidity and a daytime temp around 75 degrees Fahrenheit. During these trips I've stayed in around 30 different towns/cities and visited perhaps 100 wildlife locations - some of them on several separate occasions.

I reckon you can see about 40 species just by visiting parks and botanical gardens - but these are usually the most common species. Just like here in the UK to see the rarities you need to be in specific locations at specific times of the year. I've now seen around 85 species - including 10 new ones this year from a short trip to the Gainesville area in north-central Florida this May. Aside from the butterflies, Florida is a great location for birds - particularly shore-birds - and reptiles with a couple of dozen lizard species (and those pesky snakes!). The dragonflies ain't bad either...

Gonna stop now before I start to sound like the Florida Tourist Board!

Little Metalmark (Calephelis virginiensis).jpg
Dainty Sulphur (Nathalis iole).jpg
Southern Skipperling (Copaeodes minima).jpg

Little Metalmark Calephelis virginiensis, Dainty Sulphur Nathalis iole and Southern Skipperling Copaeodes minima - all from the newly-built Scherer-Thraxton Preserve, Nokomis, Florida - 12th May, 2017

cheers :)
Six day weekends, one day pauses.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/16155010@N04/

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David M
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Re: Florida 2017

Postby David M » Wed Jul 26, 2017 8:34 pm

That first image of the Metalmark doesn't look real....it's like something out of Bagpuss!!

Incredible how nature can contrive such colours. How I wish we had a few of these in Europe!!


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