Chattanooga Naturally

It’s been two weeks since my last blog update since Rebecca and I were off to the 11th biennial meeting of the North American Butterfly Association in Chattanooga, TN for a week and have been busy going through the trip pictures ever since. A full week of butterflying the wilds there and in the surrounding states of Alabama and Georgia seeing (and photographing) most of the 54 species of the more than 70 the entire group would see and adding 20 new ones to my life list. In addition to the butterflies, there were large numbers of dragonflies and damselflies around, most of which were also new to me, and plenty of other cool things to see. Before the meeting started, we spent two days on pre-trips at two locations in Alabama, one near Tuscaloosa and one near Tuscumbia. Of course, tons of photographs made it home with me. Some of my favorites are shown below in this fairly long posting, with more are on my webpage at http://sandianet.com/chattanooga.

On the first trip to Brent AL near Tuscaloosa, we successfully tracked down the rare and federally endangered Mitchell’s Satyr that has only been seen in a few states and only recently discovered in Alabama.

Mitchell's Satyr (Neonympha mitchellii)

Mitchell’s Satyr (Neonympha mitchellii)

Another new one for me that day was a Pearly-eye. Of the three species of these, we’d see the Northern and the Creole during the trip.

Creole Pearly-eye (Enodia creola)

Creole Pearly-eye (Enodia creola)

Our only Zebra Swallowtail of the whole trip was seen that day as well, a fabulous butterfly that reminded me of some in the neotropics and the Tennessee State butterfly.

Zebra Swallowtail (Eurytides marcellus)

Zebra Swallowtail (Eurytides marcellus)

We had a marvelous time the next day at Crane Creek Canyon Nature Preserve near Tuscumbia AL,  hiking down into the canyon hoping to see another rare butterfly, the Swamp Metalmark. Unfortunately, it wasn’t quite out yet so we didn’t see any, but did add quite a few other butterflies to our trip list. A familiar one from home that we’d see pretty much everywhere that week is the Pearl Crescent.

Pearl Crescent (Phyciodes tharos)

Pearl Crescent (Phyciodes tharos)

Other good ones that day were such butterflies as the Northern Pearly-eye and Appalachian Brown, Gemmed Satyr, and Delaware Skipper, all new for me.

Delaware Skipper (Anatrytone logan)

Delaware Skipper (Anatrytone logan)

One I’d only seen once before, the Little Wood-Satyr, also posed nicely for me that morning.

Little Wood-Satyr (Megisto cymela)

Little Wood-Satyr (Megisto cymela)

Near the creek and a large beaver dam, we saw numerous Ebony Jewelwing damselflies, quite striking and different from damselflies I’ve seen in New Mexico.

Ebony Jewelwing (f) (Calopteryx maculata)

Ebony Jewelwing (f) (Calopteryx maculata)

Every now and then, a bright metallic insect would catch my eye, such as this Six-spotted Tiger Beetle.

Six-spotted Tiger Beetle (Cicendela sexguttata)

Six-spotted Tiger Beetle (Cicendela sexguttata)

During the meeting itself, we were signed up for three of eleven different field trips scheduled for Friday – Sunday, so with a day off on Thursday we checked out some of the other field trip locations on our own. A wise move as we’d pick up several species that we might not have gotten on the official field trips. For example, we happened onto a few other butterfliers who’d spotted several males of the spectacular Diana Fritillary, which were nectaring calmly on a small patch of bee balm.

Diana Fritillary (Speyeria diana)

Diana Fritillary (Speyeria diana)

The state butterfly of Arkansas, the meeting had been scheduled specifically in hopes of seeing these rather uncommon butterflies that had only recently begun flying. We’d hoped to also see the females that emerge slightly later, since this species is very sexually dimorphic and the females are all black with bluish white markings along the outer wing edges. While we were unsuccessful in that quest, the males were quite fresh and others told us that usually by the time the females emerge the males are usually rather worn.

That day also gave us great looks at the striking and common Great Spangled Fritillary and the similar, but much less common, Aphrodite Fritillary.  The picture below is of the Great Spangled Fritillary, which has a broad pale tan area between the outer rows of white spots.

Great Spangled Fritillary (Speyeria cybele)

Great Spangled Fritillary (Speyeria cybele)

The Aphrodite Fritillary has a much narrower pale band and more emphatic markings.

Aphrodite Fritillary (Speyeria aphrodite)

Aphrodite Fritillary (Speyeria aphrodite)

Friday morning, it was off on the first field trip to May Prairie and Arnold AFB, about an hour away from Chattanooga. Turns out May Prairie was in the same area as the huge Bonnaroo Music Festival, which was kicking off that day. After explaining what we were doing to the State cops and festival security, we were allowed to drive through to the May Prairie Natural Area, where our trip was led by botanist Dennis Horn, author of “Wildflowers of Tennessee, the Ohio Valley and the Southern Appalachians.” Right off, he pointed out a wildflower with a fascinating name, Pipsissewa, also known as Spotted Wintergreen,

Pipsissewa (Chimaphila maculata)

Pipsissewa (Chimaphila maculata)

and later that day would point out three species of orchids to the group, including this one at our second stop.

Orchid

Orchid

With the weather a bit overcast early in the morning, we didn’t see too many butterflies in what was obviously a great location for them, but did spot a pair of mating Eastern Tailed-Blues (another ‘lifer’ for me).

Eastern Tailed-Blue (Everes comyntas)

Eastern Tailed-Blue (Everes comyntas)

The open grasslands had lots of dragonflies buzzying around; a couple that caught my eye were the Spangled Skimmer,

Spangled Skimmer (Libellula cyanea)

Spangled Skimmer (Libellula cyanea)

and the Widow Skimmer, which we’d also see at several other locations that week.

Widow Skimmer (Libelulla luctuosa)

Widow Skimmer (Libelulla luctuosa)

In our search for butterflies, several times we spotted insect eggs hidden in the grasses usually on the underside of leaves.

Insect Eggs

Insect Eggs

After lunch, we drove to Arnold AFB where we made several stops in search of butterflies and only got stopped once by the Range Officer who was obviously amused by what we were up to before suggesting we not stray too close to the live fire exercise taking place nearby. In addition to lifer Wild Indigo Duskywing, Swarthy Skipper, and Crossline Skipper, we had a very patient Question Mark posing nicely on the gravel parking area. In the same family as the Hoary Comma seen regularly in New Mexico, this species’ name comes from the white comma and period seen on the hindwing.

Question Mark (Polygonia interrogationis)

Question Mark (Polygonia interrogationis)

Saturday, our field trip headed over to Stevenson AL for another batch of good butterflies. An Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, covered in pollen, was seen in Stevenson Park nectaring on the one button bush that was in bloom that day.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus)

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus)

At a stop by a rail crossing, Rebecca would spot our first Dion Skipper (lifer!) and I’d see one of my rarely-seen favorites, the Goatweed Leafwing. A small stand of teasel just about to come into bloom was attracting several of the butterflies and other insects, and makes for a fascinating close-up.

Teasel

Teasel

A trip favorite for most and not often seen there was an American Copper spotted at our last stop for the day in a large field of tropical milkweed, purple thistle, and Queen Anne’s Lace.

American Copper (Lycaena phlaeas)

American Copper (Lycaena phlaeas)

A few dragonflies were also showing off for us that day, including this female Yellow-sided Skimmer.

Yellow-sided Skimmer (f) (Libelulla flavida)

Yellow-sided Skimmer (f) (Libelulla flavida)

Our field trip on Sunday took us to Soddy-Davis and Bakewell Mountain, where another spectacular dragonfly was seen, the Calico Pennant.

Calico Pennant (Celithemis elisa)

Calico Pennant (Celithemis elisa)

In a huge meadow filled with the bright orange Tropical Milkweed, we’d see our only Monarch for the trip.

Monarch (Danaus plexippus)

Monarch (Danaus plexippus)

Later that day, we’d get another lifer and one of my target species for the trip, the Hoary Edge, and get good looks at a Common Wood-Nymph, Banded Hairstreak, and those Aphrodite and Great Spangled Fritillaries.

After a great meeting and fun times out looking for butterflies all week with other butterfly enthusiasts, on Monday it was time to head back to the Atlanta airport for the flight home. Along the way, we made a stop shortly after leaving Chattanooga at Cloudland State Park in Georgia. Not too many butterflies, but we did spot a pair of Coral Hairstreaks. We’d seen several of them during the previous week, but this time one let me get close enough to use a macro lens.

Coral Hairstreak (Satyrium titus)

Coral Hairstreak (Satyrium titus)

With the 20 new butterflies from this trip, I’ve now seen 345 of the 800 butterfly species in the US and Canada listed by Pelham. Nothing to it, but to get out there some more and see if there aren’t a few others I can add to that list.

 

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About joeschelling

Birding, butterflies, nature photography, and travel blog from right here in Albuquerque New Mexico.
This entry was posted in Birding, Bugs, Butterfly, Dragonflies, Flowers, Photographs, Travel. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Chattanooga Naturally

  1. Looks like it was a great trip!

  2. Rebecca Gracey says:

    You modestly didn’t mention that you spotted the American Copper when we were in Stevenson, Alabama, which thrilled the authors of “Butterflies of Alabama” tremendously.

  3. J. Schelling says:

    the photos and story are so much fun! amazing really. Delaware Skipper stole my heart! how wonderful to be journaling your adventures – a legacy there.

  4. Terri Treacy says:

    Awesome pics, Joe! Your photography just keeps on getting better!

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