Broad-wingeds, Butterflies and Blooms

By Derek Stoner, Education Program Assistant

Sightings from the past week: what to look for now outdoors!

An adult Broad-winged Hawk soars above the White clay Valley on April 18, 2009.
An adult Broad-winged Hawk soars above the White Clay Valley on April 18, 2009. Photo by Derek Stoner.
Return of the Raptor:  Amidst the arrival of colorful songbirds that wintered in the tropics, a long-distance migrant raptor is often overlooked in its journey north: the Broad-winged Hawk.  
While huge flocks of these small woodland raptors may be seen during  fall migration(headed to South America), the spring movement of these birds is much less-celebrated.  On a good day in late April with winds from the south, a patient observer may see Broad-wingeds flying along river valleys and ridges as they trace a path northward.
A Mourning Cloak basking on the ground, its dark chocolate brown wings helping to pick up the warmth of the spring sun.
A Mourning Cloak basking on the ground, its dark chocolate-brown wings helping to pick up the warmth of the spring sun. Photo by Derek Stoner.
Sap-seeker:  A member of the brushfoot family of butterflies, the Mourning Cloak overwinters as an adult and emerges on sunny days in late winter or early spring.  Named for the funereal color of its wings, these butterflies feed on tree sap, particularly that of oak trees.  Before flowers are available to provide nectar for our many native butterflies, the Mourning Cloak is flying around and seeking out sap in our local woodlands.
A Trout Lily in full bloom at White Clay Creek State Park, April 18, 2009. Photo by Derek Stoner.
A Trout Lily in full bloom at White Clay Creek State Park, April 18, 2009. Photo by Derek Stoner.
Fishy Flower:  The Trout Lily is so-named because of its mottled leaves, which look rather like the speckled skin of a Brook Trout.  Local woodlands in late April are ablaze with these brilliant yellow blooms.  The plants spread underground by corms, and dozens of blooms may occur in a few square feet of forest floor. 

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