Fall Fluttering

Images © Todd Klein.

Yesterday was another lovely late summer/early fall day; sunny and with gentle northwest breezes making it a good day to be out and a good day for migrating birds and butterflies. After doing chores in the morning we drove down to the Cape May Point State Park at the southern tip of New Jersey to look for some of those migrants. Quite a few human migrants had ended up there, too.

Up on the platform there were about three dozen birders, including the official hawk counter and several docents to talk to folks about the birds and point them out when they came close.

It wasn’t a huge day for migrating hawks, but we did see some like this Merlin eating a small songbird on the wing, and a number of Kestrels, Sharp-Shinned Hawks, and a distant Bald Eagle. This was the best bird photo I got, they’re quite tough to catch on the wing, and not all that close usually.

After a while we went for a walk on one of the park trails, where there were lots of wildflowers and lots of butterflies, some migrating ones like this Painted Lady, and some residents.

The star of butterfly migration is surely the Monarch, and there were lots of them around feeding on the flowers. Some of them will fly all the way to the high mountains of Mexico, where they gather in large colonies for the winter.

Monarch pictures are easy to get, in fact most butterflies are much easier to photograph than birds, but I don’t think I’ve ever gotten a picture of Monarchs mating before (with all the relevant body parts tastefully hidden by wings).

Small butterflies like this Banded Hairstreak can be harder to shoot. this one is about 10% of the size of the Monarchs.

A Buckeye, about midway between the two in size, and one of the prettiest ones we see here. Buckeyes also migrate, but no one is sure how far they go. The large eye spots suggest the eye of a buck or male deer, I suppose.

This is a Marsh Mallow, a large wildflower similar to Hibiscus. Early marshmallows (the edible kind) were made with the sap of this plant as a thickener.

A great outing, hope you had time to get out and enjoy the weather yourself, if it was good where you are!


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