Yesterday we made, what has become, our annual visit to Frontenac State Park. Several years ago we were hiking in the park and encountered an amazing number of Monarch Butterflies.
Now every year in the fall we make the trip the first week in September searching for butterflies. Last year the monarch numbers were down but we found a large number of swallowtails.
This year there were no swallowtails, a few fritillaries, and a few monarchs.
Great Spangled Fritillary
Over the past several years I’ve been trying to grow milkweed on the farm. I started with a patch in the garden and now have three large patches of milkweed. The original intent was to provide food and lodging for Monarch Butterflies. Last year I had a bumper crop of Monarch Caterpillars in the various milkweed patches. This summer I’ve seen the results of my labor. Not only do I have Monarch Caterpillars but I have a great variety of butterflies using the blooming milkweed. In addition to the butterflies there are also Ruby-throated Hummingbirds frequenting the patches as well as a variety of bees.
I spent the better part of a morning in my patches photographing butterflies. As I formed the idea for this blog I thought I must have lots of photos of butterflies on my milkweed plants. Later in the day I searched my photos and much to my surprise I don’t have a single photo of a butterfly on a milkweed plant. Either I haven’t been out in the milkweed patches at the right time or this is truly an unusual year. Today I counted 10 different butterflies in my milkweed patch. Here are just a few of the insects I found on my milkweed plants.
Silver Spotted Skipper
Great Spangled Fritillary
Last year during the first week of September we drove over to Fontenac State Park. The park is located on the west side of the Mississippi River along Lake Pepin. After hiking the trail along the river we encountered a large number of Monarch Butterflies feeding on Goldenrod plants. There were probably in excess of thirty Monarchs in a small area. The photograph on the right was taken last year.
Fontenac State Park
Yesterday I called the park to see if the Monarchs were gathering this year. The ranger said there were some around but she had not been out on the trails and no one had reported large numbers of them. They did have large numbers of Swallowtails in the park a couple of weeks ago and some of them were still around. It was a nice day so we decided to take a drive to the park and hope there were enough butterflies around to photograph.
We drove over to Stockholm then took The Great River Road south along the Mississippi River to Pepin, Nelson then across the river to Wabasha. We saw over twenty eagles flying and on the ground on the way to Wabasha. In Wabasha we stopped for lunch at The Olde Triangle Pub where enjoyed some hardy Irish stew.
We then drove on to Fontenac State Park. We didn’t see many Monarchs as we drove through the park to the parking area but that was also true of last year. We parked and walked to the location where the Monarchs were they gathered last year but there were only three or four feeding on the goldenrod. We decide to walk one of the trails out into the prairie were we started to encounter Monarchs and some Swallowtails. Just off the road we found three Monarchs and a Humming Bird feeding.
We spent several hours walking through the prairie area photographing Butterflies Monarchs. The prairie was mostly bluestem and several varieties of goldenrod with enough thistles around in to add some variety. We found a nice combination of Monarchs and Swallowtails feeding on the goldenrod thistle plants in the prairie.
It was a nice relaxing day with lots of butterflies, fluffy clouds and sun.
There are a few more butterfly photos from the day on my website.
The weather has been very humid so I haven’t done much hiking on the Red Cedar State Trail this summer. This past week I went out several times and encountered a large number and variety of butterflies. This was the most butterflies I’ve ever seen on the trail. This seems to be a great year for butterflies. I’ve seen more of them this year than ever before.
Red Spotted Purple Admiral
Eastern tiger Swallowtail
More photos on my website.
During the past few weeks I’ve seen an amazing number of butterflies in my small prairie. Normally this time of year I’ll see a few but butterflies but every day for the past several weeks I’ve been seeing large numbers of Eastern Tiger Swallowtails, Giant Swallowtails and Red-spotted Purple Admirals. The first batch of summer Monarchs hatched a few weeks ago and they have been very active in large numbers around the farm.
I’ve also been seeing a few Black Swallowtails, Fritillaries, Little Wood-Satyrs, Northern-Pearly-eyes, Silver-spotted Skippers and Black Swallowtails.
Normally it is difficult to get photos of them this time of year but that hasn’t been a problem this year. Almost all of the butterflies are feeding on the Wild Bergamot that abounds on the farm.
In addition to the large number of butterflies I’ve been seeing a large number of Clearwing Hummingbird Moths around the farm. I’ve been photographing in the same area for six years now and this is the first year I’ve seen Hummingbird Moths.
You can find more butterfly photos on my website.
Eastern tiger Swallowtail
Little Wood Satyr
Clearwing Hummingbird Moth