We’re being invaded, from the south. If you look closely at this picture, you’ll find the culprit, a female Zabulon Skipper butterfly photographed by our property manager, David Ludlow, at the Daniel Webster Wildlife Sanctuary in late August.
It’s quite a drab little creature, kind of the song sparrow of the butterfly world, but that white line in the wing is pretty telling – telling, that is, of the fact that it’s not a Hobomock Skipper, which it closely resembles.
The male of the species, as is often the case in nature, is more dressed up, even if it’s just to a slight degree.
What’s remarkable about Zabulon Skippers for us is that they’re a relatively new phenomenon for Massachusetts. There may have been some around by the 1950s, but the first documented sightings were at the Fannie Stebbins Wildlife Refuge in Longmeadow in 1988. Since then, they’ve been recorded in the state every year, mostly around the lower Connecticut River Valley.
But this year, we’ve had an explosion, as they’re being seen all over the state, including, as we can see, at Daniel Webster. Depending on how you look at it, they might be a bad sign, of warmer than normal winters, and continued climate change (i.e., global warming).
The same forces may be driving the increase in appearances of the Fiery Skipper, which David also photographed at Daniel Webster in late August. This species, a migrant, typically passes through, with most Massachusetts sightings occurring, strangely enough, in Rockport. This year, though, all bets are off, and Rockport is just one of many places where they can be found. As the climate warms, we may become even more familiar with them here in the Bay State.
So, keep your eyes open on the trails – you never know what you’ll find!