Variegated Fritillary caterpillar, found in Wildwood in a pot of pansies, transfered to a more rural setting and supplied with native violet leaves.
Thursday night I happened to notice that the chrysalis was faintly streaked with orange instead of being more of a pure pearly white as it had been. Friday morning it was definitely dark, and the wing pattern showed up beautifully--in the macro flash photo, at any rate. (Over forty, remember?)
Go, go, go...!!!
Of course I did what any self-respecting naturalist would do even if they aren't working in a career even remotely related to wildlife: I took the little sucker to work with me so I had a passing shot at getting the above photos and video. (If you have never seen it happen, butterfly emergence happens quickly. Really, really quickly. Two minutes tops, perhaps?) Luckily, I happened to look down to check on the chrysalis just after the now-butterfly had freed its head. And the phones had stopped ringing for a spell, so I commandeered a co-worker to hold the lid it was on while I took the (lousy and poorly edited) video. We both cheered, but if I'm really, really lucky I actually figured out how to edit out the video's sound...
Too bad the only chance I had at an underwing photo was through the plastic container. It was even more gorgeously subtle and ornately patterned on the underside than it was on top. (The white is a paper towel put in the slick plastic container to give the butterfly a better surface to hang on to.)
I then contacted my neighbors, practicing naturalists both, requesting the use of their property for release of a brand new butterfly... Why their place and not my own, you ask? Well, what self-respecting butterfly wouldn't want to take its first flight and taste its first nectar in an acre devoted to, planted and maintained for wildlife, a mere (ha!) little "backyard"--with a sightings list of well over 50 butterfly species?
*sigh* My fritillary, who promptly flew up, up, up and away...
Many thanks to the Suttons, folk extraordinaire, for graciously inviting us in to their incredible backyard. If you are in the area in the next month or so, Pat will be conducting tours of their place and other amazing gardens in Cape May County; the tours are sponsored by New Jersey Audubon's Nature Center of Cape May and you may find the garden tour program info at their website.