Was that a ... butterfly?

Photo: The UniProt Consortium

I haven't had the pleasure, but my colleague Chris Kupferer notes that while walking his dogs in Lower Gwyned on Saturday, he saw a little yellow butterfly flitting in the grass. Was this normal? he wondered.

Actually, according to naturalist Pat Sutton, it is. Pat lives near Cape May and has been studying and writing about birds, butterflies and other creatures and wildlife gardening for more than three decades. She tells me that if the temperatures nudge up into the 50s and 60s, we most definitely will see overwintering butterflies out and about, including three species that winter here as adults. That would be mourning cloak, Eastern comma and question mark. (Don't you just love these names?)

Also in those temps, usually in late winter/early spring, which is our season right now, some butterflies emerge from their chrysalises, including spring azure, orange sulphur, and a bit later, the elfkins -Henry's, brown and pine.

Chris thinks he saw an orange sulphur, and from the description, Pat thinks so, too. (She should know; in addition to all her experience working at the Cape May Bird Observatory, she and husband Clay wrote the 1999 book How to Spot Butterflies.)

I say I haven't had the pleasure of seeing butterflies in this warm winter, but truth be told, I haven't been outside much to look. The garden's such a mess, I've been avoiding it. Maybe once we're through with the ice pellets and rain over the next couple of days, I'll wander out there.

What the heck's an ice pellet? Yet another reminder that, Chris' lovely butterfly experience notwithstanding, we're still stuck in winter.