Recounting the Butterfly Count

By Derek Stoner, Conservation Project Coordinator

A Red-banded Hairstreak basking on a leaf at Coverdale Farm Preserve. Image by Derek Stoner, July 30, 2011.

Way back on July 30(more than three weeks ago now!), the Delaware Nature Society took part in the North American Butterfly Count.  A crew of four citizen scientists helped to survey the butterfly populations at both Ashland Nature Center and Coverdale Farm Preserve.  The results, in butterfly terms, were impressive!

In two hours of walking the fields at Ashland, we observed and identified 27 species of butterflies.  A more typical count in previous years has been 15-18 species at Ashland, but this year seemed to be excellent in terms of species diversity.  We tallied 9 species of skippers (those tiny, mostly orange and brown specks with scaly wings) and noted uncommon species like Crossline Skipper, Dun Skipper, and Hobomok Skipper.


An Appalachian Eyed Brown perching cooperatively on the finger of Jill Constantine. Image by Derek Stoner, July 30, 2011.

On the Ashland grounds, we also found beauties like the Appalachain Eyed Brown, Red-spotted Purple, Red-banded Hairstreak, and Great Spangled Fritillary.  The nectar sources (flowers) were widely scattered and so were the butterflies.  Patience, and a quick butterfly net and snap of a digital camera, allowed us to net a good variety of butterflies.

Chris getting his camera up-close and personal with a pair of Appalachian Eyed Browns. Image by Derek Stoner, July 30, 2011.

We discovered a great technique for studying and photographing small butterflies.  After I caught butterflies in a net, Jill placed the fragile creatures inside a plastic jar and inserted her digital camera into the opening of the jar.  The photos showed the butterflies’ detail very well, and thus was born the saying “It’s like shooting butterflies in a jar.”  Easy, simple, and effective. 

A Gray Hairstreak visits a flower in the Community Supported Agriculture garden at Coverdale Farm. Image by Derek Stoner, July 30, 2011.

In the afternoon, we spent three hours touring the gardens, meadows, and forest at Coverdale Farm Preserve.  Joined by Sheila Vincent (Delaware Nature Society’s Butterfly guru), we found a bonanza of butterflies congregating on the flowers in the CSA garden.  Zinnias, sunflowers, and Bachelor’s Button’s attracted 13 species of butterflies with standouts like Gray Hairstreak, American Lady, Variegated Fritillary, and Buckeye grabbing our attention.

A Zabulon Skipper enjoys a visit on Chris's thumb, and gets close to the Canon camera. Image by Derek Stoner, July 30, 2011.

The Butterfly Count provided many opportunities for close observation of these beautiful insects.  For the day we tallied 31 species of butterfly, and obtained photos of 20 of those species.  A total of 249 butterflies were observed, with Monarchs the most numerous at 42 total.  And in a new category of listing, we had 7 species of butterflies land or perch on our fingertips.  Try that on a bird survey!

To see our survey results, click on our Butterfly Count Field Card.

2 thoughts on “Recounting the Butterfly Count”

  1. You go DNS team…….fantastic job! Thanks, too, for the awesome technique for photographing the little cutties………great idea.

Leave a Reply