Skip to main content

Milbert's Tortoiseshell in York County, Maine

Today — yes, during the last week of March — I saw my first butterfly of 2006 while walking up the trail from Laudholm Beach at the Wells Reserve. As I climbed the incline through a patch of woods, I spotted it flitting between cobbles on the wide path. I was able to approach it closely as it held its wings out in a patch of full sun.

It looked like no butterfly I had seen before. Its most striking feature was a rich orange U-shaped band forming a wingtip-to-wingtip semicircle against wings of deep velvet brown. On the leading edge of each forewing were four patches. The innermost two were squares of the same orange, the next was a similar hue but washed out, and the last was whitish. The outer two patches merged somewhat with the band.

Milbert's Tortoiseshell, Ottawa
By D. Gordon E. Robertson [CC-BY-SA-3.0] via Wikimedia Commons

It had a sturdy-looking brown body, alert antennae, and a glossiness that shone like armor. I figured it was just about 2 inches across, maybe slightly more. Its flights were brisk and brief; it skipped purposefully ahead of me, moving from rock to rock, as I attempted to pass.

After several yards, it landed trailside among grass and downed twigs and I went ahead to the farmhouse. No bookshelf references showed me what I was looking for, so I went to the web. Once, again, the USGS NPWRC Butterflies of North America site, or more specifically its Butterflies of Maine listing, was a terrific resource.

Scrolling down the list of names, it was easy to reject most, but I linked to a few to "ground" myself. I went to the Mourning Cloak account half expecting to find my animal there, but no: That was not it. I was looking for orange, not yellow, and a smaller insect. I've seen Mourning Cloaks and this didn't look like one.

But maybe it was a close relative. I went to Compton Tortoiseshell — not a chance. Then I went to Milbert's Tortoiseshell and found my match.

But the map shows no records for York County, confirmed, unconfirmed, or dubious.

I grabbed the camera and went back out, but of course the nymph was gone. That makes this an unconfirmed or, egad, a dubious report.

Great way to start spring, though!

Edit 2012-05-09: Removed links to NPWRC pages, which have migrated to here. Removed copyrighted image and added copyleft image.

Last checked: March 8, 2021


Popular posts from this blog

Distance Record on AO-92

On 2019-02-20 at 13:08Z, EB1AO and I completed a 4,936-km QSO between IN52pe and FN43rg, setting a distance record for the U/v repeater on AO-92. It was a -11° pass — Celsius (12°F… brrr). Really, it was a 1° pass — maximum elevation at my end. Jose's map tells the story, though the time reported is his AOS , not QSO time. We both recorded the contact. Mine is in Dropbox: eb1ao_AO-92.wav . Thanks EB1AO. Thanks AMSAT-NA . UPDATE: Our record was surpassed by F4DXV and VE1VOX, who added 75 km to the distance, in August 2020. Page reviewed December 2020.

Bird of the Year Poses Typographical Challenge

The American Birding Association's selection of the ʻiʻiwi as its 2018 Bird of the Year poses a typographical challenge: What to do about the ʻokina? That "single quote" at its start, and right between the i's, is one of two Hawaiian diacritical marks . It denotes a glottal stop, a quick throat-catch like that in uh-oh, so ʻiʻiwi is pronounced ee-EEvee . The ʻokina appears once in the main heading of the Bird of the Year page, but is omitted throughout Nate Swick's explanation of why the honeycreeper was chosen. This inconsistency is avoidable and the omission is undesirable. The ʻokina is not optional punctuation but a purposeful letter. The ABA isn't awkward alone. The Birds of North America account at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology spells ʻiʻiwi three ways (unique treatments in heading and citation, main text, and image caption). The American Bird Conservancy gives this bird two marks but resorts to the straight quote (prime) rather than employing

One White Heron

A 2-ounce packet of an organic black tea, Dubliner's Breakfast, from White Heron Tea of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, found its way into my Christmas stocking. Santa knows. I inferred this would be a hearty, rich brew, that would brace me for morning. Dubliners are Irish, no? Instead, I tasted a nuanced, fruity cup with less kick than anticipated or desired. The packet went into the afternoon collection, taking an honored place in the rotation especially when the mood was more cerebral than kinetic. Three and a half stars.