The Tiny Woodland Skipper Comes… – Annie Pang
The sun has had me convinced that summer was here for at least a few weeks, and so came the arrival of our most common and populous indigenous butterfly, the tiny Woodland Skipper. On the South Island here, the European Skipper vanished weeks ago, and so I knew that in early August the Woodland Skipper would show itself, shyly at first, but then in greater and greater numbers until here I was, at Esquimalt Gorge Park in the main garden with literally “scads of skippers”.
This little butterfly is our most common indigenous “Grass Skipper”. Its larvae feed on indigenous grasses and overwinter in the chrysalis stage (known as “pupa”), unlike the European Skipper which overwinters as an egg and seems to be found near its larval food which would appear to be Timothy hay, a non-indigenous grass. The Woodland Skipper, however, is plentiful all over Victoria right now as there are flowers and grasses everywhere (except parts of downtown Victoria …perhaps).
But I’m getting ahead of myself because as I was taking pictures of them, I ran into a fresh male Pine White which I believe to be the second one I’ve photographed here, as the first one that I found ten days earlier would have been faded with frayed wings by now. Perhaps this more recently emerged male drove it off. I have no idea, but I took this picture since it is such a beautiful butterfly.
Back to our Woodland Skipper; it is a curious name indeed for this butterfly as none of the skippers are actually found in the woods or forests as such. These are sun-loving butterflies that might be found in the grassy meadows by a woodland perhaps, but not in the woods and so I doubt I am alone in having no idea where this name originated. One is most likely to find it by a roadside on a dandelion, in the grasslands of a nature sanctuary or in the nicest flower gardens…..even mine, nectaring on anything from scarlet runners to lavender!
When I went looking for and found that second Pine White butterfly at Esquimalt Gorge Park the other day, I found so many Woodland Skippers that I just sat in the grass and took shots until I could get a satisfactory picture to give you some idea of their sheer numbers in the garden. This marks the end of any new butterfly species to emerge here in Victoria as well as the beginning of the end of an oh-too-short summer, and so it is a bittersweet time.
I managed to get five skippers in one frame on several occasions but this was my best shot as they darted around so fast epecially in the heat of the hot afternoon August sun. You can just make out the light crescent on the closed hindwings. With it so warm that time of day, they wouldn’t open their wings.
There are other adventures on butterflies to write about, maybe even a third flight of the Margined White if it stays warm, but I wanted to get the immediacy of this out to you while I could. I wanted you to see this little creature while it was here.
I hope you have enjoyed my butterfly tales this spring and summer, and should I find myself unable to write for a while I hope you have seen, at least in part, what is happening to our planet….through the eyes of butterflies. I have enjoyed sharing my vision with you. I shall leave you with one more picture at the end of this poem I was moved to write.
The tiny Woodland Skipper comes
The tiny Woodland Skipper comes
in copper tidal waves
and lands upon the summer flowers,
whichever blooms it craves.
On favorite flavors, sipping scads
of skippers – watch them feed,
and, if you’re lucky, maybe you’ll see
couples as they breed.
But just for now, I wonder how
this tiny one survives
encroachment by the human race;
yet I see this one thrives.
A happy August sight you are
my native little fairy.
You seem content with all of life,
no burdens do you carry.
So in this case, no worries face
my restless, troubled heart,
for this one butterfly does well –
a thread in Nature’s art.
Once many others populated
all this land so fair
and in my dreams I wake to find
a vibrant vision in my mind:
all butterflies of every kind
have come to greet me there…
© Annie Pang August 21, 2012.