Tuesday, August 23, 2011

EASTERN TAILED BLUE


Yesterday, friend and fellow-father-in-law, Rich, and I shared several hours in the heat of the afternoon on a sort of impromptu photo safari. Most of the time was spent trudging a fair ways along a path which led back to a trio of ponds. I hadn't visited the ponds in several years—and in the meantime, the Department of Natural Resources (the ponds are on public property owned by the state) had closed off a portion of the old access road…hence our resorting to shank's mare. Also, the dead-end gravel lane where I parked turned out not to be the closest trailhead point for heading to the ponds—though I'm not sure whether this was due to the state's revamping or my memory; let's just say we missed the shortcut. 

The last half of the trail led through thick scrub woods interlaced with countless spiderwebs, their eight-legged creators ensconced demurely in the middle. Being members of the Micrathena clan, and seldom more than a quarter-inch long, they weren't big enough spiders to set off an arachnophobic tingle, though their sticky web strands, which stuck to your face and clothing, were annoying.

The initial portion of the path bordered an old field, designated as a training area for hunting dogs, and containing various wildlife-attractive plants. It was here, in the middle of the mown path, that I found the little male Eastern Tailed Blue butterfly, Cupido comytans,  perched on a stem of dried grass. 

With it's wings closed, I initially mistook the butterfly for a small hairstreak, a fairly easy mistake since—except for the diminutive size—the Eastern Tailed Blue looks remarkably similar to, say, a Gray Hairstreak. Yet whereas a typical Gray Hairstreak, wings outspread, will measure upwards of two inches across, the tiny Eastern Tailed Blue is lucky to reach half that size.

However, when the little butterfly opened its wings to bask in the hot sun…all thoughts of it being simply a small hairstreak vanished. 

This spread-winged elf was a stunning blue, a sort of dusty indigo, the color of an almost-new pair of denim jeans after only a few washings—with an outer band of white outlining the wings, followed by a black inner band. Two reddish-orange spots, all but invisible unless you looked close, were located on the rear of the hind wings; trailings tails, in black-punctuated white, extended rearward beyond the innermost of the spots. 

Eastern Tailed Blues are common hereabouts. The females, when open-winged, are less colorful than males—more of a dusty charcoal gray. The butterflies are usually found close to the ground, and like to feed on various clovers and low-growing members of the pea family. I saw several different clovers and some sort of wild pea with tiny pink blooms growing everywhere along the trail bordering the meadow—perfect habitat for the butterfly we photographed. 

After dropping Rich off at his house, while heading north the twenty-some miles through the city and homeward—sweaty, tried, hungry—I thought about this lovely little blue butterfly…and easily decided the chance to see and photograph such a creature was well worth the trek and heat and spider-webs across the mouth. 
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14 comments:

Beyond My Garden said...

The open winged blue is one of your best ever.
nellie

bonifer said...

Grizz, I love treks like this, and what a find for you!! He is a beauty, not sure if we have them up north here, but what beautiful shades of blue he is, would love to find one of them on my walks...

Bonnie said...

That is a gem of a shot of a little "cupido". Thanks for sharing it Grizz.

Penny said...

Such a beautiful butterfly, the color is amazing.

Grizz………… said...

Beyond My Garden…

Thank you, Nellie. It was sure pretty.

Grizz………… said...

Bonifer…

Yes, I love such trek, too…and they often turn out better than you ever expected. I'm not sure how far north in Ontario you live, but the butterfly is found a fair ways up in your province, so maybe, with luck, you can find one.

Grizz………… said...

Bonnie…

The shot came out better than I expected, actually. We found the butterfly on our way back from visiting the ponds. By that time I was pretty worn down (I'd been up since 6:00 a.m. and had a dentist appointment before calling Rich), the day was hot, I was sweaty, thirsty, and had spider webs from my hat to my boot toes, and was too sore to squat down and take a proper photo. But the little butterfly cooperated, spread its wings, and this is what I got…

Plus it has a great name, eh?

Grizz………… said...

Penny…

Thank you. Yes, the color, when this otherwise rather grayish butterfly spreads it wings, is just stunning.

Robin said...

Well, thank you. I've never heard the term 'shank's mare', so went to look it up. Love the fact that an old article says that the newfangled bicycle would never replace the shank's mare.

As for spiders... they don't bother me but walking through a web gives me the creeps. Had to kill one in the car today because he was quite active and the last thing I needed was to lose sight of him and have him crawl up my leg at the wrong moment. Said I was sorry as I did it.

Thanks for the beautiful butterfly. I love the way you find the small things that mean so much... and then teach us.

Grizz………… said...

Robin…

Glad you were intrigued by the old phrase and looked it up—though I didn't realize it wasn't still generally familiar. I've heard (and read it) all my life. And no, I wasn't present when it was originally coined! ;-)

I've about reached that point where only large, super-sized, and OHMYGOD! humongous spiders really bother me, and then only when they're in the house—not that I want ones the size of chihuahuas crawling around inside my shirt when I'm outside. Of course there are days, situations—and spiders—where size is a subjective call. Webs I don't much mind so long as I know the size, or location, of the spider which wove it. But this time of year, if you walk most trails through a woods that haven't had any traffic for a day or two, you can literally run into hundreds of webs per mile, maybe a thousand or more. A lot, for sure. They're not all that easily brushed off. Not scary, just a nuisance, like burrs.

Arija said...

Definitely well worth the trouble, especially since we did not have to endure the heat and spiderwebs and got to see that superbly beautiful little butterfly.

Grizz………… said...

Arija…

Vicarious adventures are often the best…and you don't have to shower and change afterwards!

Glad you liked "my" little blue butterfly.

Kelly said...

...I agree, Grizz. The blue on that butterfly is worth all the effort! (I liked the term "shank's mare" too!)

Grizz………… said...

Kelly…

Thank you. It is a pretty little butterfly.

Re. "shank's mare"…alas, I'm apparently more of a geezer than I thought. And/or my hillbilly roots are showing. Don't suppose you ever heard of an asfidity bag, either?