Call it a butterfly reunion. A few weeks ago, just like every July, I chased butterflies with my friend Jay Kaplan, a keen eyed naturalist and director of Canton, Connecticut’s Roaring Brook Nature Center. Armed with nets, field guides, and unbridled enthusiasm, we joined several others in visiting our regular circuit of meadows, woods, farm pastures and hay lots, streamsides, power line rights-of-way, and fields as part of the North American Butterfly Association’s (NABA) annual butterfly count. It’s a mix of childlike joy and scientific pursuit.
As usual, we started at Nod Brook Wildlife Management Area in nearby Simsbury, not because we’re certain butterflies will be present at any particular time, but for the same reason butterflies go there—for the flowers. Searching for butterflies is actually a quest for the right vegetation. Butterflies are attracted to certain blooms or even the sap of trees upon which they feed. Sun, warmth, and blossoms are a sure recipe for locating them. Although we got there a bit too early to find many of the colorful insects flying in the cool air and heavy dew, the broad grassy meadows, ponds, and weedy wetlands grow an abundant buffet of milkweed, red and white clover, buttonbush, sneezeweed and other nectar producing delicacies that almost always reveal a surprise. We found a few pearl crescents and cabbage whites among others, but on our way out Jay braked the car hard when we spied a red admiral enjoying some moisture on the damp dirt road. It’s a dark winged creature with red bands and white spots.