Signs Of Spring: Lady Slippers, Red Admirals, Trillium, Native Azalea, Falcate Orangetip

Our flame azalea bloomed over the weekend. I still see more that aren’t in bloom at this point, but I expect them to bloom over the coming week.

We have a few Lady Slippers and Trillium in bloom.

The Red Admiral (butterfly) has been doing it’s thing of landing in the yard, going up in a spiral with another Red Admiral, and returning to the same spot. I think that’s chasing away a rival instead of a mating dance, but I’ve never been sure. I may find the answer in Jeffrey E. Belth’s Butterflies of Indiana (Indiana University Press) 2013. It’s the best book I’ve seen on butterflies, but I haven’t had a chance to really dig into it yet. It’s all the more amazing because he is an amateur who took most of the photographs and designed the entire book on his computer.

I think I’m seeing the Red-spotted Purple – they seemed to emerge late this year – and some dark swallowtails, along with the Tiger Swallowtail. Perhaps a few Mourning Cloaks. They’re hard to identify as they go sailing by the porch. I collected butterflies when I was a kid, but after I saw what DDT did to them – reduce them to less than a tenth of their numbers, by my estimate – I decided never to collect another one.

I mentioned in a previous column that I’d seen a small white butterfly that I couldn’t identify. It looked a bit like a smaller Cabbage Butterfly, with a bit of orange on it’s wings. I still haven’t gotten a really good look at it, but I think it was probably a Falcate Orangetip. I believe this is the first spring I have seen them. Kaufman’s Field Guide to Butterflies of North America, by Jim B. Brock and Kenn Kaufman (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt/Hillstar Editions) 2003 has this to say: “In the southeast, this butterfly is a true springtime delicacy, easily overlooked because of it’s small size and early flight season. Colonies are rather local. Flight style is wavering from side to side, close to the ground, and not extremely fast.”

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