Winter heat wave has blooms and butterflies confused | Nature Watch

When I opened the bedroom curtains one day last week, I was surprised to see a small patch of yellow winter aconite blossoms in the grass below. There weren't any of them in that spot last year, but their small seeds are easily blown around. So now I have...

Winter heat wave has blooms and butterflies confused | Nature Watch

When I opened the bedroom curtains one day last week, I was surprised to see a small patch of yellow winter aconite blossoms in the grass below. There weren't any of them in that spot last year, but their small seeds are easily blown around. So now I have...

26 Şubat 2017 Pazar 08:48
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Winter heat wave has blooms and butterflies confused | Nature Watch

When I opened the bedroom curtains one day last week, I was surprised to see a small patch of yellow winter aconite blossoms in the grass below.

There weren't any of them in that spot last year, but their small seeds are easily blown around. So now I have patches of them at six places away from where I originally planted them.

Considering how abnormally warm it's been since mid-February, though, I shouldn't have been surprised. The weather is pushing plants along at a rapid pace. Hellebores are also blooming and monarda and violet plants are already out of the ground in spots.

Although I may end up eating these words, I still think that there will be more cold snowy weather. It's just weird having 70-degree temperatures at this time of the year.

But what seems even stranger to me is that last week a Milbert's tortoiseshell butterfly was found in the northern part of Northampton County on the ridge above Danielsville. Granted, this butterfly is one that overwinters as an adult that comes out of cracks and crevices when it gets warm, but this was a new early record date for the species.

I became interested in butterflies as an offshoot of studying birds and nature in general. But through the years I have gotten to know several local people who are way more knowledgeable about butterflies than I am. Some of them have been looking for and photographing butterflies most of their lives.

Here's why it's been so darn warm

A few weeks ago the latest issue of "American Butterflies" magazine came, and in it were the winning photos of their yearly national competition. And one of the winners of an Honorable Mention award is local.

Carole Mebus is the photographer whose photo of a black swallowtail caterpillar on a dill plant along the canal below Riegelsville got national recognition. This caterpillar is green with black and yellow stripes on its body, and as I looked at the picture, I wondered if more people would let caterpillars live on their plants if they knew what those caterpillars would eventually become.

Dill, fennel and parsley are plants that black swallowtail caterpillars eat, so I have all three planted near the house to both eat and share with nature. They're all hardy perennials, and already there are fresh shoots coming up at their bases. So I'll harvest some of them early and leave the rest for the insects.

If this warm weather continues, it won't be long before cabbage white butterflies begin to fly.

But while warmth is good for them, it's keeping birds away from feeders, as visiting birders Benji and Butch recently found out. They wanted to see white-crowned sparrows, but to see those winter species this father and son duo needs to come back when it's cold.

Arlene Koch is a freelance writer. Email her at sports@lehighvalleylive.com. Find lehighvalleylive on Facebook.

 

 

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