I hope this post finds everyone okay after Sandy and the nor'easter. As METS fans and butterfly aficionados always say at the end of the season "hope springs eternal". It won't be too long until pitchers and catchers report to spring training and those first butterflies are found on a warm day in early March.
During the height of the snowstorm the other day I needed a butterfly fix and took a few minutes to go through my field notes from the past year. It was a great year for butterflies and I hope everyone got a chance to visit the Park and see some of the winged jewels there. If not, make a point to get there next year. I am certain you won't be disappointed. This year I found 40 species of butterflies at the park along with lots of other cool insects, birds and other wildlife. My weekly observations are all available in the Patch archives and should make a nice dreamy respite on some cold wintry day not too far from now.
For me, the butterfly season began at the Park the first week in April when I saw 4 species on a nice warm sunny day. On that day I found a mourning cloak lazily sunning itself on one of the woodland benches and a Comma along the main trail doing the same. I also saw a cabbage white and a clouded sulphur flying over the meadow. Not long after that in the first week in May, the Butterfly Park as well as the entire northeast was treated to a phenomenal irruption of Red admirals when literally millions and millions streamed up from the south. From there, new species were found pretty much every week, peaking in late August when 19 species were found on a short walk. After that lots of cool southern immigrants were found including Fiery skippers, Common buckeyes, a Cloudless sulphur and the beautiful bluish-gray Common checkered skipper. Monarchs stole the show from mid-September through early October and couldn't be missed on warm sunny days when they were all over the Joe-pye-weed and butterfly bushes. Our milkweed stands also were host to quite a few monarch caterpillars as the park helped sustain the population of these amazing migratory butterflies. The season ended for me in late October just before the Hurricane when I found 5 species on a nice warm sunny day. They were all pretty much tattered and worn and amounted to less than 10 individuals. These last few butterflies included a red-banded hairstreak, a Pearl crescent, a cabbage white, an Eastern-tailed blue and a few sachem skippers. While it isn't out of the question to still find a few butterflies between now and spring on a nice warm day, they will likely be single individuals of either a cabbage white, a sulphur, a mourning cloak or a comma or Question mark.
Here is a list of the first date that I saw each species of butterfly this year:
April 6 - Mourning cloak, Cabbage white, Clouded sulphur, Comma
April 17 - Orange sulphur, Eastern-tailed blue
May 2 - Pear crescent
May 5 - Red admiral, American lady, Question mark, Duskywing sp., Silver spotted skipper, Tiger swallowtail, Spring azure
May 14 - Red-spotted purple, Peck's skipper
May 23 - Red-banded hairstreak
June 6 - Summer azure
June 19 - Little glassywing, Least skipper, Little wood satyr
June 29 - Common wood nymph, Wild indigo duskywing, Painted lady
July 18 - Monarch, Spicebush swallowtail, Delaware skipper, Juvenal's duskywing
July 20 - Zabulon skipper, Hobomok skipper
August 12 - Sachem skipper, Northern black dash, Common sootywing
August 20 - Tawny skipper, Gray hairstreak, Variegated fritillary
August 31 - Common buckeye
September 9 - Feiry skipper
September 17 - Cloudless sulphur
October 6 - Common checked skipper
Amazingly, the East Brunswick Butterfly Park turned 10 this year! Kudos to all the volunteers that have helped make this park so special. Despite its small size and location in a heavily developed area, the park provides lots of opportunities to find a wide variety of butterflies throughout the spring, summer and fall. It just takes a little looking.
Throughout the years, dozens of species of butterflies have been seen in the park. The Friends has developed an Online Field Guide to them that has photographs, ecological notes and tips on how to tell butterflies apart that look similar. The park also has a Facebook page so that everyone can share what they find at the park.
While the Butterfly Park is too small to have much in the way of rarities or butterflies of special habitats, it offers a convenient respite and an opportunity to find many common species right in the middle of 50,000 people. And since "butterflying" is a lot like a treasure hunt, you just never know what you might find even in a small place like the East Brunswick Butterfly Park.
Each year we try to do something new with the Park. This year, with the help of the Patch, we posted weekly updates on what was seen at the Park. We couldn't always get there ourselves to see what is flying, so please share your observations and photos with us either on the Facebook page or at email@example.com.