Last year I was up in Centre County on 16 May, and I saw a butterfly that I had never seen before. I only managed to get one lousy photo of one specimen before it disappeared. I bonked the shot, but it was good enough for an identification when I got home.
Common Ringlet (Coeonympha tullia), a new butterfly for me.
The Common Ringlet is a widespread species found in North America, Europe, and Asia. In my part of the mountains, the Common Ringlet isn’t—common, that is.
They are, however more common to the north.
I went back this year in mid May to see if I could get a decent photo. They weren’t there. So I went back a week later—they still weren’t there.
Finally, on 29 May, I found ‘em.
These are butterflies of grassy fields and meadows. The caterpillars feed on grasses and rushes, and the adults tend to stay close to the larval food plants.
In flight they show a beautiful fox color on their upper wings, which disappears when they land.
They seldom land, and when they do, they don’t stay put for long. Consequently, I got a lot of blurry shots of departing butterflies. They do, however, show that fox-colored upper wing.
What I see most often are males in the relentless hunt for someone to love. The force is strong in this one, and the lovelorn males seem to never stop fluttering back and forth along their beat, scrapping with each other, various skippers, American Coppers, or, in one instance, with a day-flying Black-Banded Orange moth, (Epelis truncataria).
Fortunately the day had patches of cumulus blowing through, and if the cloud was big enough and the shadow lasted long enough, they would drop down into the grass and disappear.
I finally found one of these and got some nice photos, but, of course, there was something in the way.
Well that won’t do.
I spent an hour and a half walking back and forth along a fifty-yard stretch of grassy firebreak before a nicely colored and patterned Ringlet landed to nectar on a honeysuckle bush on the side of the break.
This will do.
Interestingly, according to a note on the Massachusetts Butterfly Club, Common Ringlets are a “fairly recent colonizer…from the north.” Common Ringlets seem to be spreading.
Perhaps they are coming soon to a grassy field near you.
- Of course, this is the current state of affairs. You never know when someone will pop up and find some discriminating marker to prove that the European Ringlet is not the same as the American Ringlet, which is not the same as the Asian Ringlet, etc., and we will then have two or three species where we currently have one. [↩]
- Massachusetts Buttefly Club, “Common Ringlet,” http://www.naba.org/chapters/nabambc/construct-species-page.asp?sp=Coenonympha-tullia [accessed 11 Jun 2013]. [↩]