Friday, August 31, 2012


A friend recently mentioned to me that I hadn't talked about birds on this blog since March (!), and I was surprised to realize that he was right. Unfortunately, that drought will continue for now, since although I got back from 12 days birding in SE Arizona two weeks ago, I haven't had time to put together a post. Don't worry though, I will write it. Eventually.

For now, though, I'll share a few photos of what I would consider to be a very good contender for the title of "Coolest Butterfly in North America": the Harvester, Feniseca tarquinius.  What makes it so cool? A lot of things. For starters, it's scarce and hard to see, it's tiny, bright orange and strikingly patterned, and, most interestingly, it is the only carnivorous butterfly in North America. The caterpillars eat wooly aphids, which are found on alders, which are found on wooded streamsides. So to find it, you have to be in a spot with Alders and aphids, and get lucky. This summer I’ve been doing a research project at the Bronx Zoo, a spot with alders, aphids, and, allegedly, a few scattered colonies of Harvesters. So when I spotted a fast, erratic-flying orange butterfly back in July, I followed it, hoping that it would land to confirm whether it was indeed a harvester, or something more common like an American copper or skipper. It alighted on the path right in front of me, and was very clearly a harvester! I took some record shots, then walked closer. And closer, and closer. Apparently they are pretty tame, because I got to within 2 inches of it without it moving, for some close-up photos.
Then this week I was again surprised to stumble across two more harvesters at different spots in the zoo, both of which were almost as tame as the first. Such an awesome butterfly!
Also, as a preview of my upcoming Arizona post, here is a photo of a bird: