Yesterday in the nice warm afternoon sunshine I took a quick walk at the Butterfly Park. I wasn't expecting to find much of anything, but I was actually pleasantly surprised and found a few butterflies lazily nectaring on the mums and white frost asters. While its not out of the question to find a butterfly in November or even during an unusually warm spell in December or January, the writing is definitely on the wall and the end of the season is upon us. Over the past 10 days or so, I can probably count on both hands the number of individual butterflies I've seen. But that doesn't mean to stop looking. A surprise butterfly late in the fall or during mid-winter is always spiritually lifting to me and helps pull through those cold bleak days before spring begins to pop. It always seems to me that if a butterfly is flying in winter how far off can spring be? Not to mention, the Butterfly Park has so much more to offer, from birds to a little bit of serenity amidst the highly developed landscape that surrounds it.
Amazingly, the East Brunswick Butterfly Park turns 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 are posting what is being seen at the Park each week. We can'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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
So, what's flying now?
Over the past 10 days I've taken three or four walks at the Butterfly Park and the number of butterflies and the diversity has dropped precipitously. We also had a great work day two weeks ago with lots of High School students coming out. They did an amazing job weeding the beds!
The heady days of summer and butterflies swirling everywhere are now long gone. But there are still some butterflies flying and the park is always a great place to visit, butterflies or not. Two weeks ago, there were still Eastern-tailed blues and Pearl crescents to be found, but I haven't seen one since then. So yesterday when I walked at the Park I didn't expect to find much. But the walk was rewarding and well worth it. I saw about 6 sachem skippers quietly nectaring on the mums and white frost asters, a single cabbage white lazily flying over the meadow and a slightly battered Red-banded hairstreak nectaring on the asters too. Not much in the way of butterflies, but in the warm sunshine the park smelled awesome, with the sweet earthy smell of fall. There were also loads of sparrows and late migrating songbirds.
If you go to the park looking for butterflies this late in the season, try and pick the warmest possible afternoons with little or no wind. Look in areas where the sun is hitting whatever flowers remain. Slowly scan the meadows and walk the woodland trails and let us know what you find. On warm days butterflies this late in the season, butterflies will often perch in the sun to warm up but won't fly too much. Looking for butterflies is a lot like a treasure hunt. You never know what you might find. Not every butterfly will be evident or just flying around in plain sight. Finding butterflies takes a little practice, but once you begin to know what to look for you will be amazed at what is at the Park. Happy Butterflying!