Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Regal Fritillary Survey

Regal fritillary female - Wikipedia
A bad day on a prairie can beat a good day in town.  The picture above is what I didn't see on my Regal Fritillary survey on La Petite Gemme (LPG) Prairie today..... a Regal Fritillary.

RF male - note the hind wings white and yellow spots - Bob Moul
RF from the side - Bob Moul
Rhonda Rimer of the Missouri Department of Conservation is currently running a survey of Regal Fritillary (RF) butterflies (Speyeria idalia) on prairies in Southwest Missouri.  This species can only survive on prairies and it is in danger of extirpation as our prairies are few and far between.  Missouri Prairie Foundation and other organizations are focused on restoring, preserving and protecting our remaining prairies.

Today was hot (93) and yet comfortable with a 8 mph wind.   RF are found generally along moist or wet areas and LPG has a drainage running down the middle that is always wet, and after recent rains was full of water.  That is where I concentrated my efforts.  The prairie is thick and required high stepping and concentration so I stopped at intervals for 3 minutes.

"Chek"........"Chek"  - Note the male's black "Y" on the throat.
"Hush, what was that sound?"
A prairie hike is always rewarding and today was no exception.  Dicksissels traveled along my route, clinging onto slender plants and grasses.  They arrived several months ago from their Central American winter home.  This male didn't offer his usual song, only an occasional "chek" as there was no female around to impress.  This bird named Spiza americana was an appropriate companion after last night's Fourth of July celebration.  It flew ahead of me and frequently seemed to be listening for something.

Wood Nymphs
There were a lot of little Clouded Sulfur and a few Cabbage Whites flying, usually dropping down into the plants to avoid the wind.  A glimpse of a butterfly with white spots across the prairie led me on a chase only to find a pair of Common Wood Nymphs nestled in the grass.  As this is a family blog, I will leave it to your imagination as to what they were doing.

Marginated Leatherwings were crawling on many of the flower heads, pollinating in their own slow way.  This female rode around on my arm for a long time, hitching a ride across the prairie until I was ready to leave.

Most of the activity came from dragonflies patrolling the grasses.  Each time I got a glimpse of movement I thought it might be an RF but I did get some good looks including Eastern Amberwings (not photographed) and the Widow Skimmer (Libellula luctuosa) below.

Even on a slow day, there are things to see if you take your time and stop often to look around.

Thanks to Bob Moul for once again sharing his photographs.

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