Posts Tagged ‘Common ringlet’

The meadow is a good spot to do some butterfly watching. As I walked through the field, I spotted an assortment of these most beautiful of insects. The most abundant butterflies are the well-known Cabbage Whites (Pieris rapae) and the yellow Clouded Sulphurs. Cabbage whites are an introduced species and they have certainly made themselves at home in their new range. They first arrived in Quebec around 1860. Within 20 years, cabbage whites had expanded their range to include the eastern half of the continent and now range coast to coast. The flight of cabbage whites is quick and erratic and they rarely settle for long, making them hard to capture photographically and I didn’t pursue any. Cabbage whites are considered agricultural pests if you grow cabbage. If not, they are cheerful, lively garden visitors.

Clouded Sulphur (Colias philodice)

Clouded sulphurs (Colias philodice) are also ubiquitous and are found across much of the continent. These pretty pale yellow butterflies can be found in a variety of open habitats, from hayfields and meadows to open woodlands, roadsides and lawns. Like cabbage whites, they are very active, but I captured a photograph of this one settled on a cluster of boneset flowers. I love the dainty pinkish edging featured on the underwings and the little double spot. It’s said that adding some white clover to your lawn mix will draw sulphurs to your yard.

American Lady (Vanessa virginiensis)

This American Lady (Vanessa virginiensis) didn’t oblige me by spreading her wings before taking off and disappearing. However, it can be identified by the two large eyespots on a dark background that can be seen on the lower edge of the hindwing. American Ladies are unable to survive our cold northern winters and populations move here from the south each summer. It’s easy to attract American Lady butterflies to your yard. Just plant Pearly Everlasting (Anaphalis margaritacea). It’s a lovely little native perennial, easy to grow, an enjoyable addition to the garden and a magnet for American Ladies. You may not see the butterflies arrive, but they will leave their eggs. You’ll know they’ve been visiting when you see that the caterpillars have bound the leaves into a silky nest.

Pearly Everlasting

This little butterfly is a Common Ringlet (Coenonympha tullia). As the name suggests, they are common, widespread butterflies, but with their drab colouring, they’re not very conspicuous. The forewing is a pretty tawny orange and is marked by a single eye, while the hindwing is darker brown. They generally stay close to the ground in grassy areas. The caterpillars feed on grass and overwinter as caterpillars.

Common Ringlet (Coenonympha tullia)

There were a number of Red Admirals (Vanessa atalanta) on the wing. They’re easily recognized by the bright bands of orange across their forewings and a matching band edging the hindwings. The underside of the wings looks quite different. The hind wing features a complex pattern of mottled browns with pale buff along the margin, while the forewing has bands of red-orange, white and a touch of blue along the leading edge. Red admirals will come to flowers for nectar, but they also enjoy rotting fruit juices and tree sap. It is a resident in areas with mild winters and populations move north in the spring. Their larval plants are members of the nettle family.

Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta)

Red Admiral, wings closed.

Finally, this last “butterfly” isn’t a butterfly at all. It’s a moth, a Celery Looper (Anagrapha falcifera), a native of the United States and southern Canada. It is considered a pest because the caterpillars eat holes in the leaves of lettuce, celery, and other crops but it is generally a minor nuisance. They also feed on a wide variety of native plants. The adults can often be found visiting flowers during the day. This one was visiting boneset. The small white marking on the wing is a helpful identifying feature.

Celery Looper (Anagrapha falcifera)

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We have had a lot of overcast, rainy days this spring, but Wednesday was a beautiful day. I took advantage of the sunny weather to visit the Upper Canada Migratory Bird Sanctuary, located east of Morrisburg along the St. Lawrence River. The Sanctuary was established in 1961, on 9,000 hectares acquired by the St. Lawrence Parks Commission following the construction of the St. Lawrence Seaway. It features a mix of habitats including mature forest, successional woodlands, old fields and wetlands.


The Sanctuary offers outdoor education programs and includes a campground. The small interpretive centre has a store with a selection of guide books and giftware. It was quiet the day I was there, waiting, no doubt for the busier season to get underway once the kids are finished school in July.


There are four walking trails, with pamphlets available to help visitors enjoy a self-guided hike. I followed this well-groomed trail out through wetlands and open water to the former location of the Lost Village of Aultsville.


While walking in the park, I saw or heard a variety of birds, including a Baltimore Oriole, Wood Thrush, Yellow Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, and cormorants out by the river.


There were quite a few of these Dot-tailed Whiteface (Leucorrhinia intacta) dragonflies along the walkway. They are members of the Skimmer family of dragonflies, which includes more than a hundred species in North America. They are often seen perched on floating vegetation. Females lay their eggs in flight by tapping the water surface with the tip of their abdomen.


Bluets are common damselflies. You can see the way these damselflies fold their wings over their back while perched, in contrast to the spread-winged posture of dragonflies. There are at least 35 species of bluets in North America, and telling species apart is challenging. This may be a Northern Bluet (Enallagma cyathigerum), which are noted for their large blue eyespots.


There were a number of little blue butterflies flitting about. When they come to rest on a flower, they fold their wings over their back, thus concealing the silvery blue that makes them eye-catching in flight. This is a Silvery Blue (Glaucopsyche lygdamus). Their larval foodplants are lupines, vetches and other legumes.


Common Ringlets (Coenonympha tullia) were also flying along the trail. Ringlets are associated with grasses, which are their larval food. They are attracted to yellow flowers in the composite family, such as ox-eye daisies, for nectaring.


The Viceroy (Limenitis archippus) looks like a small Monarch butterfly. It can be readily differentiated by its smaller size and by the black line that runs across the bottom of the lower, or hind wing, lacking in the Monarch. The larvae of Monarchs feed mostly on milkweeds. Chemicals derived from the milkweed make Monarchs very distasteful to most predators. It was once believed that the Viceroy was a Monarch mimic so that it might take advantage of this predator protection scheme, but it is now thought the Viceroy is equally distasteful to predators. The larval food for the Viceroy is willow species.

Below is a view of the St. Lawrence from the trail.


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