Variegated Fritillaries

Long-stemmed white daisies have bloomed all along the roadsides, joining a mix of tall grasses, ground-hugging weeds, red clover, bands of low-growing, intensely purple stiff verbena; clumps of slender, coral-colored wild sorrel; and hundreds of dandelions, some yellow, some gone to fluffy seed. The first tall, rough purple thistles have appeared in the field. White flowers bloom on the blackberry vines, and the huge, looming privet bushes are blooming dirty-white too – not such a pretty sight, and their scent is sharp and unpleasant, drowning out the sweeter fragrance of honeysuckle. Kudzu and wild grape vines are green and spreading, and in shadier spots and ditches, and climbing up trees, twist the leafy-green vines of poison ivy.

Fluttering over the wildflowers, grasses and weeds along the roadside late this morning were dozens of small orange butterflies with elegant patterns of black and several shades of orange in the wings – Variegated Fritillaries. These are common, widespread butterflies that fly with shallow, fluttery wingbeats and don’t settle down easily or long on any one flower. As I watched them, it was hard even to find one that settled on a plant at all, and when it did, it barely stayed long enough to see well. They may find feed on violets, thistles, asters, red clover and many other plants often found in old fields, pastures and roadsides.

Earlier this morning – a crisp, cool, sunny morning, with a few white clouds in a blue sky – a male Ruby-throated Hummingbird came to the feeder I hung from the back deck yesterday afternoon. Hummingbirds have been around for many days by now, I’m sure, but this is the first one I’ve seen, so it feels like a kind of “first of the season.” In the front yard, a pair of Eastern Bluebirds are going in and out of the bluebird house. The male spends most of his time sitting on top of the house, but occasionally ducks inside. A Red-eyed Vireo sings from far away in the woods, and a Great Crested Flycatcher calls a deep, rolling breeeet! from somewhere closer. I first saw one this spring three days ago, and since then have heard one calling each day, and it’s good to have their confident, summery calls back in the woods again.

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