Saturday, September 10, 2016

June 2016 Butterfly Monitoring and the Annual 4th of July Butterfly Count

At the start of our morning butterfly monitoring expedition on June 27 we encountered a Great Blue Heron (Ardea hernias) entangled in fishing line.  Volunteers Christopher Fox and Mike Pogue were able to cut the hook and line, and release the bird at the edge of the marsh.   

In the afternoon our group participated in the 42nd Annual North American Butterfly Association 4th of July Butterfly Count.  NABA, consisting of people in Canada, United States and Mexico interested in butterflies, conducts long-term monitoring of butterfly populations.

Using electric vehicles we headed out into the Wildlife Management Area.
Dainty Sulphur

Ocola Skipper

Fiery Skipper
Zarucco Duskywing
Black Swallowtail
Butterflies observed included the Palamedes Swallowtail (Papilio palmedes), Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes),  Gulf Fritillary (Agraulis vanillaeOcola skipper (Panoquina ocola) Fiery Skipper (Hylephila phyleus) Dainty Sulphur (Nathalis ioleZarucco Duskywing (Erynnis zarucco) Salt Marsh Skipper (Panoquina panoquin), and the Great Southern White (Ascia monuste) and hundreds of Ceraunus Blue (Hemiargus ceraunus).

During both the morning and afternoon expeditions, we observed an alligator on the trail. We kept our distance.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

May 2016 Butterfly Monitoring

Barred Sulphur (Yellow) Male
Pipevine Swallowtail
Red-banded Hairstreak
Checkered Skipper (Male)
Carolina Satyr
Dun Skipper

The start of our monthly butterfly monitoring expedition on May 23 in Transect A was slightly delayed, due to a rare sighting of manatees in the Guana River estuary!  We then observed a total of 79 butterflies including a Red-banded Hairstreak (Calycopis cecrops), a Checkered White male (Pontia protodice), a mating pair of Horace's Duskywing butterflies, a Barred Sulphur (Eurema daira), and a Pipevine Swallowtail (Battus philenor).  The volunteers on Transects B, C and D counted a total of 27 butterflies including the Carolina Satyr (Hermeuptychia sosybius), Dun Skipper (Euphyes vestries)a Palamedes Swallowtail (Papilio palmedes) and a Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes)and the usual sightings of the Great Southern White (Ascia monuste) and Gulf Fritillary (Agraulis vanillae).

On May 16, 2016, a group from our GTM Research Reserve Butterfly Monitoring team met at the Matanzas Inlet beach parking lot for the semi-annual Fort Matanzas Butterfly Count.  We were joined by Kurt Foote, Ellen NcElafish and Carmen Carrion from the Fort Matanzas National Monument (U.S. National Park Service) and José Núñez from the Whitney Laboratory for Marine BioScience.
The walk covered Transect A/B (Beach Parking Lot/Boardwalk and ICW Parking Lot/Boardwalk), Transect C (Hammock Trails) and Transect D (Salt Marsh).  In Transect A/B we observed three Giant Swallowtail (Papilio cresphontes), twenty-four Little Yellow (Eurema lisa), five Cloudless Sulphur (Phoebis sennae), four Phaon Crescent (Phyciodes phaon) thirty-three Gulf Fritillary (Agraulis zarucco), ten Great Southern White (Ascia monuste), one Zarucco Duskywing (Erynnis zarucco), one Ceraunus Blue (Hemiargus ceraunus) and one Zebra Longwing (Heliconius charithonia)One Little Yellow was seen laying eggs on a Partridge Pea plant, and a Gulf Fritillary was laying eggs on a Passionflower Vine. In Transects C and D twenty-two Great Southern Whites were encountered as well as one Palamedes Swallowtail (Papilio palamedes).
Little Yellow
Zarucco Duskywing

Giant Swallowtail
Other wildlife identified: Bombus sp. (Bumble Bee), Halictus poeyi (Sweat Bee), & Megachilid sp. Nymph (immature) Eastern lubber grasshoppers; wasps & mosquitoes were also present.
One large adult, one sub adult and one juvenile Gopher Tortoise were cooperatively posing for photographs. Unidentified small brown lizards with sail fins were seen on the Hammock Trail.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

April 25, 2016 Butterfly Monitoring

A warm light breeze, plentiful sunshine and tiny blooms on patches of green ground cover welcomed our native butterflies to the diverse habitats at the GTM Research Reserve.
In Transect A, along the Guana River / Guana Lake past the dam, the rarely seen Black Swallowtail butterfly (Papilio polyxenes) was among them, as well as a Queen (Danaus gilippus), a Dainty Sulphur, (Nathalis iole) Cloudless Sulphurs (Phoebis sennae), Phaon Crescents (Phyciodes phaon) nectaring on Hop-clover (Trifolium Campestre),  a Common Buckeye (Junonia coenia), numerous Great Southern Whites (Ascia monuste), many of the latter species flying in frantic circles upward to the tree tops,traveling in groups of three!  The Salt Marsh Skipper (Panoquina panoquin), with its prominent white streak on the hind wing, was also present along with Ceraunus Blue (Hemiargus ceraunus) with its single spot on the hind wing.  In the Uplands transects (Transects B, C, and D) Great Southern Whites were also encountered as well as the annual spring visitor Viola’s Wood Satyr (Megisto cymbals). Great Southern Whites use Saltwort (Batis maritime) as a host plant for their caterpillars; this plant is abundant within the GTM Research Reserve habitats, which could account for the high numbers of this species. 
Great Southern White

Salt Marsh Skipper
Dainty Sulphur
Viola's Wood Satyr


Black Swallowtail Caterpillar
Water Dropwort
We rarely see caterpillars during our Butterfly monitoring excursions, but on this day we encountered a Black Swallowtail caterpillar on a sprig of Water Dropwort, a plant in the carrot family.   When tickled by a human finger, this little caterpillar raised its antennae and emitted a repellant odor, which we all had a chance to sniff - strange and unique, not pleasant!
We don't count caterpillars on our Florida Butterfly Monitoring Network survey, but it sure was interesting to see one especially of this species.

Other Wildlife Observed
We rescued an Eastern Glass Lizard (Ophisaurus ventralis) that was caught on the concrete steps near the dam, and we all got a good look before releasing it in the adjacent grassy area.  We also saw a Racerunner (Cnemidophorus sexlineatus) slithering through the grass.

Eastern Glass Lizard (Ophisaurus ventralis) 
Racerunner Lizard

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Butterfly Monitoring Continues into 2016 
at the GTM Research Reserve
Here are some highlights from 2014 and 2015, species rarely seen at GTM NERR:
 Zebra Swallowtail (Eurytides marcellus)

Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes)

Variegated Fritillary (Euptoieta claudia)
Orange Sulphur (Colias eurytheme)
Clouded Skipper (Lerema accius)
Least Skipper (Ancyloxpha numitor)
Delaware Skipper - (Anatrytone logan)

New species observed for the first time at the GTM Research Reserve included the Black Swallowtail in September 2014, the Least Skipper in May 2015 and the Zebra Swallowtail in September 2015. 

On March 21, 2016 we were treated to morning and afternoon presentations by entomologist Mike Pogue, one of our volunteer butterfly monitoring team members.  Mike reviewed butterfly physiology and ecology, highlighting details and numbers of our diverse population of butterflies at GTM NERR.
Mike had supplied verified data for a special section on Butterflies at GTM NERR to the website.   See

Note: Other animal classifications are also represented on the site such as Birds, Reptiles, Arthropods and Plankton at GTM NERR: