Like the car dealers always say, "The last chance weekend is here and won't last."
With the much cooler weather forecast for the coming 10 days, if you haven't been to the park recently, today is the day to take a walk. While some butterflies will still be flying through the month and some even into November there won't be many more weekly updates. (An occassional Cabbage white and sulphur has actually been recorded on warm days in every month in New Jersey - I actually once saw a common sulphur on top of Edgeboro Landfill during a Christmas Bird Count on an unusually warm day in early January).
Like yesterday, today is going to be beautiful and the Butterfly Park is certain to be filled with butterflies including migrating monarchs. Yesterday there was also a very noticable flight of Red admirals and Question marks, likely migrating south. With the warm sunny weather forecast for today, I suspect there will be plenty of butterflies to be found. So go today if you can, or you just might have to wait until next spring!
Yesterday afternoon I took a walk at the Park for about an hour and there was an amazing diversity of butterflies. It was probably somewhat of a last hurrah, but it was totally fitting with the unseasonably warm and beautiful sunny day. I suspect today promises much of the same. While there were lots of butterflies happily nectaring in the open on the butterfly bushes, with less butterflies on the wing, it takes a little bit of patient searching to find others. But I promise the effort is definitely worth it.
I was also lucky to finally find one of the southern butterflies I've been looking for over the past few weeks - the beautiful bluish Common Checkered skipper. This was only the third time I've seen one at the Park although I suspect they are there every fall and I've just missed them in other years.
Today may also be one of the last good opportunities to see a lot of migrating monarchs as they head south to their wintering grounds in the mountains of Mexico. Monarchs migrate just like birds on late summer and early fall cold fronts with northwesterly winds. Yesterday there were plenty of monarchs at the Butterfly Park nectaring on the butterfly bushes, the tall yellow sneezeweed and on the goldenrod.
With all the monarchs at the park, keep an eye out for any with small round white tags on them. If you see one with a tag, try to get a photo of the tag or record the number on it. These tags are part of a huge Citizen Science project that has been going on for more than 50 years to unravel the migration patterns of the monarch. If you are interested in purchasing these tags and putting them on monarchs to help scientists plot their migration, visit MonarchWatch.org
Amazingly, the East Brunswick Butterfly Park turns 10 this year! Kudos to all the volunteers that have helped make this park so special. Despite its small size and location in a heavily developed area, the park provides lots of opportunities to find a wide variety of butterflies throughout the spring, summer and fall. It just takes a little looking.
Throughout the years, dozens of species of butterflies have been seen in the park. The Friends has developed an Online Field Guide to them that has photographs, ecological notes and tips on how to tell butterflies apart that look similar. The park also has a Facebook page so that everyone can share what they find at the park.
While the Butterfly Park is too small to have much in the way of rarities or butterflies of special habitats, it offers a convenient respite and an opportunity to find many common species right in the middle of 50,000 people. And since "butterflying" is a lot like a treasure hunt, you just never know what you might find even in a small place like the East Brunswick Butterfly Park.
Each year we try to do something new with the Park. This year, with the help of the Patch, we are posting what is being seen at the Park each week. We can't always get there ourselves to see what is flying, so please share your observations and photos with us either on the Facebook page or firstname.lastname@example.org.
So, what's flying now? Big weather changes are forecast for the coming week with much cooler temperatures and some rain. So, today's warm sunny weather may be one of the last good days of the year to see a lot of different butterflies. Still, don't stop looking for butterflies at the park on warm sunny days as some butterflies may be flying all the way into November (or beyond). There won't be many but finding them will be a reminder of those heady warm beautiful days of spring and summer that seem so far away now.
Yesterday the Butterfly bushes were still flowering and attracting butterflies. The tall bright yellow sneezeweed along the main trail is also blooming like crazy and is a swirl of activity. The meadows are still filled with bright yellow goldenrod flowers and although the intensity of the blooms is way down, they continue to be a magnet for butterflies and other insects.
Cabbage whites were still common yesterday and there were at least a two dozen flying at the Park. At least one or two should be able to be found on just about any warm sunny day this month even if the intervening weather turns cold and nasty. Skippers were still flying in fair numbers yesterday and I saw a few Silver-spotted skippers and plenty of Sachem, Peck's and Fiery skippers.
But the call of the park yesterday was monarchs. There were dozens flying through without stopping and at least one on every butterfly bush. But there were also lots of other species around. In just an hour, I saw a Common buckeye, two clouded sulphurs, a few very beautiful fresh Red-banded hairstreaks and a couple of beatup worn ones, a very tattered Red-spotted purple, migrating Question marks and Red admirals just passing through without stopping, a few Red admirals that paused a bit, a Mourning cloak that passed by toward the woods without stopping too, plenty of little Eastern tailed blues, two fresh Pearl Crescents, a fresh Gray hairstreak way up in a tree and the beautiful bluish Common Checkered skipper, a first for this year.
If you go to the park looking for butterflies, try and pick warm afternoons with little wind. Look in areas where the sun is hitting flowers. Scan the meadows and walk the woodland trails and let us know what you find. Looking for butterflies is a lot like a treasure hunt. You never know what you might find. Not every butterfly will be evident or just flying around in plain sight. Finding butterflies takes a little practice, but once you begin to know what to look for you will be amazed at what is at the Park. Happy Butterflying!