Anne Elliott

Anne Elliott

Posted on 04/08/2015

Photo taken on July 14, 2014

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wingspan: 22 - 26 mm
on blade of grass
dorsal view
European Skipper
Brown-Lowery Provincial Park
SW of Calgary
Thymelicus lineola
Family: Hesperiidae

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European Skipper

European Skipper
Monday, 14 July 2014, was another hot day, and my computer room became unbearably uncomfortable. That meant only one thing - I would have to drive around in my car for some air-conditioning. Spent about four hours cruising the backroads SW of the city, not seeing a whole lot. Went as far as Brown-Lowery Provincial Park, with the intention of doing just a very short walk into the forest. Didn't get that far, though, as there were things to photograph around the edge of the tiny parking lot and just part way along the path that leads to the two short boardwalks.

The first thing I saw and heard was a Tennessee Warbler and when I reached it, discovered that there were now several young ones, too. Talk about friendly little birds - not sure that they didn't think I was going to feed them. Interesting to see birds that acted rather like the Black-capped Chickadees - just as fast-moving, too, making it difficult to get even a half-decent photo.

The next thing that welcomed me to the park was a beautiful Western Wood Lily. They always almost glow amongst all the greenery. A few other plants that I photographed included Sticky Purple Geranium and Richardson's Geranium, Purple Avens, One-flowered WIntergreen, One-sided Wintergreen, Pink Pyrola, Twin Flower, Creamy Peavine, Round-leaved Orchid and Bishop's Cap that was already in seed. Also saw several kinds of insect, including this small (wingspan: 22 - 26 mm), bright European Skipper. Please correct me if the ID is incorrect - thanks.

On the way home from Brown-Lowery, I saw a couple of fun things. One was a Wilson's Snipe on a wooden post to which was attached a Bluebird/Tree Swallow nesting box. I've never seen one by a nesting box before. The other thing I saw was a Ruffed Grouse female walking along the side of the main road. Didn't realize what it was until I had driven past it. Did a quick U-turn and, rounding a bend, saw not just the adult standing on the road, but also a young one. I pulled over to the edge of the road and very slowly walked a little closer - then I noticed about four other youngsters in the grass. Mom walked very slowly to the middle of the road and one brave little soul took a few very hesitant steps towards her. It wasn't quite sure that it liked being that far out in the open, so started to return to its siblings. This was repeated a few times, with me becoming more anxious that a car was bound to come racing down the road at any minute. Another of the babies tried to take a few brave steps - which is when a vehicle appeared. With Mom and two of her babies on the road, where they'd been for maybe 10 minutes, I just had to signal to the driver, who slowed down, waited a moment, and then got out of her car and loudly clapped her hands. Off they all flew, into the long grass. I suspect she was a country girl - and not a photographer, lol! If only she had scared them off to the side of the road that they had been trying to get to! And so ended my fun experience ..... and I returned to my house, that felt like walking into an oven.

"Skippers are members of the Lepidoptera family that do not fit the cookie mold for either butterflies or moths. They are usually small and have a rapid, fluttering, 'skipping' flight style that is difficult to follow. They are classed in the family Hesperiidae and are not actually considered true butterflies, but they are more closely related to them than they are moths.

Physical characteristics include antennae with a 'hook' on the end. Butterflies have clubbed antennae and moths have feathery antennae or simple straight filaments. Skippers have a thick, fuzzy body more in keeping with moths and larger compound eyes as well.

These little guys are generally recognized by their dull brown, tan or pale gold colors and are often overlooked in the garden. It's a shame, because these are some of the most entertaining insects you can find. They have good eyesight and are seldom still for more than a few moments. They skip from flower to flower and prefer plants of the Asteraceae family, although they do tend to really enjoy my Buddleja when it is in bloom as well.

One of the most unique habits some Skippers have is the tendency to hold their fore wings and hind wings at two different angles. This gives them a little 'fighter jet' appearance and as as quick as they are, it is a great description." From dave'sgarden.