A Summer of Butterflies

2015 was the summer of butterflies. As part of my internship in New Brunswick, I kept track of the butterflies I came across while out in the field. On fair-weathered weekends, I spent my time searching for more in parks and at gardens. I was lucky to be able to photograph (with varying quality) each species of butterfly that I found, so that they could be submitted to the Maritimes Butterfly Atlas. I only missed a few species that I hoped to see out east, but I learned a tonne this summer and I look forward to next year’s search.

In no particular order, for your viewing pleasure:


Last Summer for the Maritimes Butterfly Atlas

Great Spangled Fritillary

Great Spangled Fritillary – Fredericton, NB

When I moved to New Brunswick, I was aware of the Maritimes Butterfly Atlas, a project of the Atlantic Canada Conservation Data Centre, but I was disappointed to find out that 2014 was the last season for participation. I don’t really need an official purpose to go out an look for butterflies, but it’s nice to know that your data is useful. So, much to my delight, it was announced just over a month ago that the data collection period for the atlas was being extended to cover 2015 as well. The extension was made to match the end date of the Maine Butterlfly Survey, so that the results could be published jointly. For those already keeping track of the butterflies they see, participating in the atlas is as simple as submitting your records (with a photo) to eButterfly. So, if anyone reading this blog happens to be from New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, or Maine for that matter, next time you see a butterfly this summer, think about snapping a picture and contributing to this great citizen science project.

Here are just a few of the butterflies I’ve seen this summer that are now submitted to atlas:


Spring Butterflies of the Maritimes

Since moving to Fredericton, I have been keeping track of all the butterflies that I come across on my outings (see eButterfly for my lists).  Even with the many rainy and chilly spells we have gone through, I have managed to find eight different species of butterfly. Just like my stay in the Arctic last spring, my first butterfly was the Northern Spring Azure.  Widespread and common, these butterflies are out in droves on nice weather days.  I never manage to get a picture of them with their wings open, but the Forget-me-not flowers, on which my photographed specimen is perched, are a good reference for the azure’s forewing colour. I’m most excited about finding Mustard White, Green Comma, and Brown Elfin individuals.  These are all new butterflies to me and were fun to try to identify. The Green Comma was the trickiest, but I settled on this particular species due to the thick comma mark and the overall dark colouration of this individual. And lastly, I want to call attention to the overwintering strategies used by these particular butterflies, particularly in relation to their early flight times.  The first butterflies of spring (first seen in April or even a warm March) are typically those that overwinter in northern climates as adults.  These species go into a dormant stage over the winter and awaken from hibernation in the early spring when triggered by warming weather.  This strategy is employed by the Mourning Cloak and the commas. The Red Admiral also overwinters as an adult, but typically not as far north as Fredericton. The second strategy used by the whites, the Brown Elfin, and the Northern Spring Azure is to overwinter in a pupal stage and emerge from the chrysalis as an adult in the spring. These butterflies represent the second wave of spring sightings around mid-May. In the Maritimes, butterflies that overwinter as eggs or larvae typically do not reach adulthood until late spring or early summer.

Exploring the Natural World of South Carolina: Butterflies

My last post in this series covers all the butterflies I was able to photograph and ID. Almost all of the butterflies were new to me expect for the Question Mark and Red Admiral. For identifications I used Butterflies of Ontario (I was banking on many butterflies being widespread across eastern North America) and eButterfly.

Exploring the Natural World of South Carolina

From April 23rd to 29th I was fortunate to visit my father who is now living in the Greenville and Spartanburg region of South Carolina. It was great to be back in the state.  When I was a young child, my paternal grandparents lived in Aiken, South Carolina, and I have very fond memories of visiting them each March break.  A lot of features were immediately familiar to me; the pine forests, the red clay soils, and the intense spring sunshine.

During the day while my father was at work, my partner and I spent our time exploring natural areas in the locality. My favourite spot was easily the Edwin M. Griffin Nature Preserve located in Spartanburg, SC.  This is a small urban nature preserve chock-full of trails and boardwalks.  The central wetland in the preserve was a super bird hotspot. It was a pleasure to just sit on the boardwalk and see what would fly by. Many of the trees in the preserve were labelled, which was a great learning tool for this northerner.

The second excellent natural area that we visited was the Lake Conestee Nature Park, just minutes from downtown Greenville, SC. This park had it all; lakes, wetland, hardwood and evergreen forests, and an extensive trail system. The park is listed by the Audubon Society as an Important Bird Area, so it was a shoe-in for a visit.

Over the next week or so I will be posting reports on all of the amazing wildlife I came across during my trip, so stay tuned for some birds, butterflies, and other interesting creatures!

2014 in Review

Daring Lake

Enjoying a hike to the “forests” of Daring Lake.


2014 has been a fantastic year for all things outdoors.  I’m very grateful for all of the learning opportunities that have come my way. Here is to a great 2015!


Here are the links to some of the organizations I’ve worked with this year.











Butterflies of the Canadian Low Arctic

During my stay at the Daring Lake Ecosystem Research Station (111°35´ West 64°52´ North) I attempted to keep track of all of the butterfly species I came across.  Because I wasn’t overly familiar with the species in the area, I used the ID method of taking pictures in the field and nailing down the identification later with the help of the internet and a great little butterfly ID booklet put out by the Environment and Natural Resources, Government of the Northwest Territories.  eButterfly (http://www.e-butterfly.org/) was another tool that was instrumental in tracking my sightings and confirming my identifications, with the added bonus of getting to contribute to a citizen science initiative.  I spent relatively little time in the field looking for butterflies, and I can only imagine how many more species I may have come across if they had been my main priority.

Here are the species I was lucky enough to find:

* not pictured: Nymphalis antiopa, Mourning Cloak Butterfly.  They fly faster than I can run 🙂

Link to NWT butterfly guide: http://www.enr.gov.nt.ca/sites/default/files/documents/butterfly_book_2013.pdf