Red Admiral

Mid July has brought very warm, humid weather, as usual at this time of year. Today temperatures were in the 90s, under a pale blue sky with high, thin white clouds. Cicadas sang loudly all day, while birds have become much more quiet, still singing, but not as often, and not so many all at once, so that each song or call stands out more distinctly. Early this evening, an Acadian Flycatcher sang sharply and repeatedly near the edge of the woods, two Ruby-throated Hummingbirds zoomed and twittered and chased each other around the feeder, a bluebird sang in our neighbor’s yard, and three Carolina Wrens briefly sang back and forth. A Mourning Dove cooed in the distance.

The mood was sultry, hazy and somnolent, when a sudden splash of color – a strikingly patterned red and black butterfly – fluttered down and lit on a small table only a few feet away from where I was sitting. Its outspread velvet-black wings were distinctively marked with red-orange bars like “shoulder bars” across each forewing, and a broad red-orange bar along the edge of the back wings. Toward the front tip of each slightly pointed wing was a pattern of bright white spots, dots and crescents. At the ends of the slender antennae were small, dark bulbs. There were touches of indigo along the rims of the wings, thin white scalloping all around the edges, and subtle hints of bronze around the head – but the overall effect was the bold, vivid contrast of deep, soft black and warm ruby-orange, with flecks of shiny white.

It was a Red Admiral Butterfly, common here, according to my field guides, but I have rarely seen one so for me it was a memorable sighting. It stayed on the table, wings spread, for at least two or three minutes. Then it flew. A few minutes later it returned briefly to almost the same spot – but my slightest movement sent it off again.

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