Monday, October 01, 2012

Ending a short walk with my first Common Buckeye

Almost no sun for three days and cool, damp air left the farmhouse office a bit chilly this morning. 60 to start and only 65 by lunchtime. Around the noon hour, the sun began making an appearance and clouds began to separate, but a strong breeze suggested it would still be too cool to sit on the porch with a sandwich. After downing the ham and cheese in the dining room, I decided to get blood pumping and set out for a short walk.

It was warmer outside than in. The wind was from the southwest, making it feel relatively balmy. I marched to the Muskie Trail, entered the trees, and stopped to enjoy the warmth. I had spotted a monarch and a sulfur while crossing the field and here I picked up a red admiral. Birds were very quiet, though, with just an occasional call from a towhee, a jay, and a couple of catbirds.

A small mammal crossed the trail ahead of me. Mink? It was a bit over a foot long, with a tail maybe a third the length of its dark brown body. It crept quickly out of sight.

My goal was to get to the bog and back in a half hour, so I uprooted and went to the boardwalk. Here the breeze was almost nonexistent and the sun was in full force. The external warming was soon matched by a nice insect display. Two or three sulfurs were here, at least one showing orange and others not. A lady worked over the asters and I studied the pattern long enough to give it the American label (someday these will become instinctive calls). At least eight common green darners were moving over the area, their netted wings glistening gold in the sunlight.

Goldenrod was nearly past, but the asters were hanging on fairly well and the cottongrass put on quite a show. I walked to the end of the boardwalk and turned as promised, watching in new light for anything I might have missed.

An unfamiliar butterfly in flight caught my eye. It flew low over the bog about 20 feet out, making it not too difficult to pick up in the binoculars. Once it landed and spread its wings, I was pretty certain this was my first common buckeye. I quickly sketched all those eyespots and the nice notches of orange in the forewing to be sure I had a solid reference for later. I would have enjoyed savoring the moment, but knew it was time to get back. Perhaps I'll return tomorrow.

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