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Vanessa Butterflies

Originally Posted: May 14, 2012

Eric Salzman

This photo, taken in Maria Daddino's East Quogue garden, shows two of the three Vanessa butterflies feeding (or, as the butterfliers say, 'nectaring'). The one on the right is the Red Admiral; the one on the left, most likely Painted Lady. I say "most likely" because the similar American Painted Lady is most easily separated out with a good view of the large eye spots on the underside of its lower wing. (Photo: Eric Salzman)

East Quogue - The big butterfly influx of the first part of the month seems to have died down, even as the weather has become sunnier and warmer (a little counter-intuitive I must say). Yesterday, however, I saw a Black Swallowtail land on a bit of grass right outside my porch window and proceed to sun itself for a few minutes. This is supposed to be a common garden butterfly but, probably because we don't garden, I have never seen it here before.

The Supermoon high tides of recent days have receded with the waning of the moon but extra low tides continue to attract waterbirds to the muddy edges of pond and creek. This morning's collection included Spotted Sandpiper (new for the season), Green Heron, Great Egret, Greater Yellowlegs, Willet, and Ring-billed Gull (apparently the same bird seen yesterday and possibly a 'second-cycle' bird -- and not a 'first-cycle' as I thought -- as it has a yellow tip to its banded bill). Also active in the area: Herring and Greater Black-backed Gulls, Belted Kingfisher, and Barn Swallows as well as Purple Martins (I didn't mention it before but Barn Swallows have appeared over the marsh in the past few days).

Carl Safina writes me that hundreds of Common Terns were on the ocean yesterday between Amagansett and Montauk whereas previously he had not seen one. They have been scarce here as well (one bird I saw earlier on Shinnecock was probably a Forster's Tern). However the Least Terns are here and they were on the creek again this morning.

The potential Bird of the Day (or Bird of the Month) was the one that got away. As I was trudging through the marsh, I popped a small one that scooted low and directly across an open wet area, quickly dropping straight down out-of-sight into the marsh grass where I couldn't get to it. I didn't even have time to get my binoculars up but I could see that it was tiny -- smaller I thought than a Saltmarsh Sparrow or Marsh Wren. That could have made it a Sedge Wren, a tough bird anywhere, anytime. Oh well.

Today's warblers: Black-and-white and Common Yellowthroat, both singing.

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