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Red Admiral Butterfly

August 22nd, 2007

Vanessa atalanta

Sub-alpine meadow, Mt. Greylock Summit, North Adams, MA

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  • lizsmith says:

    I saw a butterfly yesterday that I can’t identify with my guidebooks, nor yet on the internet, and I know most of the local butterfly species. It was about the size of swallowtail (so, relatively large), flew like a monarch (sailed), the forewings were dark grey, almost black shading to light gray/beige at the tip, with one row of light blue/white rectangular spots about 5 mm from the edge. The hindwings were blackish/iridescent blue and they were not swallowtail wings, they were sort of pleated looking and round. I can’t even find anything that looks like it anywhere. Does this sound familiar to you? I’m stumped. Next step is UMass, I guess, maybe somebody over there knows.

    • mjd says:

      Hi Liz,

      Did you try the Audubon Butterfly Atlas? Here:

      What you’re describing sort of sounds like a Mourning Cloak butterfly–but as far as I know those are common around here, so I would think a guidebook would have it. I have a really nice picture of one from awhile back, here:

      Otherwise I can’t help you. I am actually very new to this butterfly thing. I discovered a while back that having taken a picture of something is a really good mnemonic aid for me in remembering what it’s called. So I’ve learned the names of a bunch of mushrooms, birds, wildflowers, etc. But I don’t often get a really good chance to take a picture of a butterfly.

      • lizsmith says:

        OK, I just scrolled through the butterfly atlas and it’s not there. It’s definitely not a mourning cloak, and yes, that is a nice picture. 🙂 I think I will draw a picture of it and maybe ask one of the folks at the entomology lab at UMass. It’s probably an unusual morph of something. Or a visitor from another plane who didn’t quite understand form.

        I started learning butterflies because I draw them and make my drawings into jewelry, and after doing that for a while, I started spending time watching for them in the yard. I saw a spicebush swallowtail once, earlier this year, and then the more numerous ones, of course, the regular swallowtails, black swallowtails, skippers, coppers. Also a luna moth, which is always a treat. It’s actually gotten to the point where my friends wlll ask me to i.d. things, since I’m pretty much the only one in my various circles of friends who keeps track of this sort of thing, but I’m completely stymied on this one. I’d noticed that you post pictures of them from time to time, so I thought I’d see if it’s anything you’d run into.

        My poor housemate: it was behind her, and I saw it and yelled “OMG WHAT THE F*** IS THAT!!!” And she thought she was about to be attacked by demons or something. Man, I wish I’d had my camera. I got to look at it perching for about 2 minutes, but it was clearly just passing through, and disappeared into the woods.

        Curiouser and curiouser.

        Thanks for the link. I meant to bookmark that a while ago, and forgot.

        • lizsmith says:

          Also, I meant to say, one of the things I love about butterflies (and moths) is the way people have given them such fanciful common names (and even some of the Latin names. Nymphs and Satyrs and Brushfoots, oh my!

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