This regular column is about the butterflies that have been seen at the East Brunswick Butterfly Park. For the past few days the entire northeast has been immersed in a huge movement of Red admiral butterflies and there are loads of them at the right now. In fact, there are Red admiral butterflies pretty much everywhere. I guarantee if you keep an eye out for them you will see them. While driving from south Jersey yesterday on the Turnpike and then to North Brunswick for dinner last night, they were constantly flying across the roads. When I got home, there were a half dozen just flitting around my yard.
Red admirals undergo periodic northward migrations from the south known as irruptions. Dave Horn, the President of the Ohio Lepidopterist's and the Editor of Entomological News. describes these movements as "The red admiral has periodically appeared in large numbers since the early 19th century. While there is no universally accepted explanation for these increases it seems most likely that they are related to high overwintering survivorship in the southern USA followed by favorable conditions for northward movement. This year we have had both a very mild winter (in Ohio and southward) and an early spring and I suspect the large numbers we are seeing reflect those weather conditions". Keep an eye out for this beautiful butterfly and enjoy a true natural phenomenon that has brought so many to us.
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.
Each year we try to do something new with the Park. This year we hope to run some weekend Butterfly walks and with the help of the Patch, post 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.
So, what's flying now? The list of butterflies being seen at the Butterfly Park continues to grow and if yesterday is any indication, a visit this weekend will be highly productive. Yesterday in only about 45 minutes, amongst the seemingly endless number of Red admirals flying through and around the park, there were also dozens of American ladies, a few Question marks, abundant cabbage whites, one or two common sulphurs, lots of tiny Eastern-tailed blues, a few Pearl Crescents, some kind of small black duskywing that wouldn't sit still long enough for a photo and the first Silver-spotted skipper and Tiger swallowtail of the year. I got a photo of the Tiger swallowtail by simple dumb luck and the magic of modern technology and a 16X optical zoom on my Panasonic Lumix camera. I saw it flying quickly across the meadow and watched it disappear toward the tree line. But after walking to the spot where I last caught a glimpse of it, it had landed and was basking in the sun on a shrub. It sat long enough for me to snap a few quick pictures before continuing on its way. (There is also a pair of Baltimore orioles nesting in the park).
Pick sunny warm afternoons to look for butterflies. Scan the meadows and walk the woodland trails and let us know what you find. 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.