Butterfly Hairstreaks


Gray Hairstreak MM crop

Gray Hairstreak is North America’s most common and widespread Hairstreak butterfly

Hairstreaks are a family of small, fast-moving butterflies, each not much bigger than an inch — easy to overlook and a delightful challenge to photograph. It is said they are called Hairstreaks for the thin “tails” on their hindwings. Most Hairstreak species are specific to selected patches of the country. Several Hairstreaks are found in Maryland and a few visit my garden, particularly attracted to the abundant native Mountain Mint.

gray hairstreak ventral crop

Gray Hairstreak basking with open wings – an uncommon sight

Red banded hairstreak blue spot

Red-banded Hairstreak is more common in the southeast than in Maryland. Like many Hairstreaks, it sports hindwing spots or “eyes.”

White M Hairstreak BF better

White M Hairstreak, also more common to the south, named for the prominent “M” touching the red spot

Gray Hairstreak nectar sedum crop

A closer look at a Gray Hairstreak probing sedum for nectar







Green frog on lily pad mkj

Green frog on lily pad

A little water garden is nestled between the old fields and woods of a local park. On this August day, a Green Frog soaks in the late afternoon sunshine, surrounded by Common Water-Lilies. It’s a peaceful scene.

Common water-lily mkj

Common Water-Lily

Common water-lily in a row

Blossoms in a row



Queen Anne’s Lace

Queen Annes Lace Silv Chkrspt and red spot crop

Silvery Checkerspot butterfly on Queen Anne’s lace. The tiny red flower in the middle of the blossom is said to represent Queen Anne pricking her finger while making lace.

Queen Anne’s lace is in bloom in every field and roadside. It is so common it is easy to overlook. When viewed from different angles and at different stages, the flower is in its lacy glory.

Queen Annes Lace underside

Another full-bloom view

Queen Annes Lace cup

Post-bloom nest

Queen Annes Lace January HoCoCo

Queen Anne’s lace in winter

Since being introduced from Europe, Queen Anne’s lace has spread across the US and most of Canada. It is listed as a noxious weed in a handful of states where it fouls pasture land. Also called wild carrot, like other members of the carrot/parsley family, Daucus carota is a host plant for Black Swallowtail butterfly caterpillars.

Queen Anne’s lace resembles its close relative, the highly poisonous Water Hemlock. Even touching Water Hemlock is dangerous and ingestion fatal. The flower heads of Water Hemlock are looser than the tight umbrella of Queen Anne’s lace, and its stems are smooth with purple or black streaks compared to the hairy green stems of Queen Anne’s lace. But identification can be tricky, so beware!


Uncommonly beautiful

Common Buckeye bee BF mkj

Common Buckeye (and friend) on Mountain Mint

A visit from the uncommonly beautiful Common Buckeye butterfly (Junonia coenia) is the reward for native plant gardening.


Bold butterflies

American Lady 7.28.16 AI mkj

American Lady nectaring on Buttonbush, Assateague Island National Seashore, 7/28/16

Having posted recently about inconspicuous butterflies, here’s a look at a few of the showier butterflies that are now flying in Maryland.

Eastern tiger swallowtail coneflower

Eastern Tiger Swallowtails are common visitors to Purple Coneflowers in the garden

swallowtail 9 BFs bergamot

At least 9 Eastern Black Swallowtails and Eastern Tiger Swallowtails going wild for Wild Bergamot growing in a park

Monarch M CV

Monarch male perches in a milkweed field



Baby dove

MODOve juvie2

Short tail feathers, pale legs. Must be a juvenile Mourning Dove.

How is it that I’ve never noticed a baby dove before now? Mourning Doves are one of the most widespread and abundant birds in North America, and adults have several broods a year. This little one frequented the front yard, probably from the nest in one of the hollies beside the front door. Short tail feathers, drab plumage — it’s young.

Adults care for fledglings for only 12 days after they leave the nest, and then the young are on their own. They stay close to their nesting area for a couple weeks.

MODO juv wall2

A few days later and the tail feathers are getting longer

MODO juv dgwdam1

Just after being rebuffed by a Cardinal that wasn’t interested in feeding it.

MODO cover border

Where it sheltered from weather and predators

When it matures, the little Mourning Dove will acquire an iridescent plumage and other characteristic features. And it will have the long tail feathers and wing feathers needed for longer flights.

MODO adult

Adult Mourning Doves have bright pink legs and blue eye rings



Little bitty butterflies

Eastern tailed blue crop

Eastern Tailed-Blue butterfly nectaring on white clover

They’re there, no bigger than a thumbnail — dancing at your feet in the clover, flitting across the flower tops. Not as showy as Monarchs and swallowtails, these little butterflies from the Blue and Hairstreak families have their own intricate beauty.

ETB butterfly perspective

The view at your feet

Gray hairstreak milkweed crop

Gray Hairstreak on milkweed


gray hairstreak ventral crop

Gray Hairstreak at full wingspan, basking in coreopsis


Summer Azure better crop

Summer Azure on Mountain Mint

Shining through

false sunflower native plant

False Sunflower

A sunflower that isn’t really a sunflower. A coneflower that isn’t really a coneflower. Both shine in a native plant garden.

False Sunflower (Heliopsis helianthoides) and Prairie Coneflower (Ratibida pinnata) are long-blooming, easy to grow, beneficial to pollinators, and widely available from native plant nurseries within their ranges.

pr coneflower and mtn mint1

Prairie Coneflower with Mountain Mint


prairie coneflower

Freshly blooming Prairie Coneflower


Wood thrush sings its song

Wood thrush

Wood Thrush

A Wood Thrush is a bird you are more likely to hear than to see. Sometimes described as reclusive, it is well-camouflaged as it forages along the forest floor in its Eastern US breeding ground. But its song — what a song — is flutey, melodious and hard to miss.

Click here to listen to a Wood Thrush in Maryland’s Piedmont on a late afternoon in June. (A new window will open in YouTube.) Enjoy!

A moment’s pause

Barn swallow pair AI

Barn Swallows

Barn Swallows swooping in the air, skimming smooth water surfaces move too fast to fully admire or photograph. This pair — first one, then the other — landed on the railing right in front of me. No doubt they were diverting attention and preparing to defend a nest I suspect is on the underside of this Assateague coastal bay marsh boardwalk.

Look at their long tails and wings and their scrawny feet and legs. Barn swallows are built to sail, not to sit.


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