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Pilgrimage to the Butterfly Bush

March 9, 2007

100_1092Chers Amis,

Yesterday afternoon we made our annual pilgrimage to our favorite "butterfly bush" atop Kennesaw Mountain.   A few years ago we came to the mountain in mid-March and stumbled upon a large clump of bushes covered with white blossoms, honey bees and more butterflies than I have ever witnessed in one place. The sky above the bush was full of  butterflies and we were delighted. The girls have been begging me to take them back every spring. So with temperatures yesterday in the low 70’s and our anniversary upon us, I packed the nature bag and made the slow drive up the mountain, careful  to avoid the strollers, bike100_1096rs  and hikers that were also winding up the gentle slope.   After parking, we ambled up the easy paved track, past the Civil War cannons standing at attention in their earthen embankments, and over the summit to ‘our bush’.  The trees along the path were still bleak and leafless despite the sunshine.  We wondered aloud if we would be alone at the top, if the flurry of colorful wings had been but a dream, a fluke, never to be revisited.  With some trepidation we approached the spot and found it buzzing with bees andflutterbys’.

What a sight!  Although not as plentiful as that first year, it was well worth the drive. Most amazing was how aggressive they were as they had WW I style dog fights over the bush.  One particularly territorial Eastern Swallowback circled his opponants tightly before charging and chasing the unlucky partner away.  We saw this time and time again! We spent a great deal of time holding our breath, hoping that at least one of the cloud would light  on a boulder or better yet, a cannon, so we could take pictures.  Mais non.   We were able to identify quite a few in flight and Scarlett caught one gently with her hands so we could take a closer look.  Here is who we saw: 

  • Eastern Tiger Swallowtail
  • Eastern Black Swallowtail
  • Zebra Swallowtail
  • Sara Orange Tip
  • Mourning Cloak
  • Red Admiral
  • Spring Azure

I may be forgetting one, Caddie will surely remind me later. We had planned to sketch at least one butterfly for our nature notebooks, but I left the pencils in the van.  I brought the fully stocked nature bag – sans pencils.  Arghh!  C’est comme ca . . .  Our nature hikes are never Anna Botsford Comstock perfect Kodak moments. Rather the reality is: you must forget at least one important item – this time, pencils and more importantly Kleenex.  Leaves work, but are too crunchy for little noses, there must be at least one fight between siblings – over the water bottle and which way to go on the hike, we must incur a minimum of one injury with tears and/or blood –   Pippin tripping on a rock while running, thus the need for tissues, and Mom must losing her temper, often  threatening never to do this again (HA!)More times than not, our encounters do not result in lovely sketches or follow up activities, but we have worn the binding off most of our nature guides and have enjoyed hours outside that I would have otherwise spent  cleaning 🙂 I much prefBluebutterflyer a breath of fresh air despite a few bumps and bruises.   

We love caterpillars and butterflies and have a few favorite resources you might enjoy.  Our favorite by far is Caterpillars of Eastern North America: A Guide to Identification and Natural History (Princeton Field Guides) by David Wagner.
We also use Peterson First Guide to Caterpillars of North America .
Butterflies from Edtech at Kennesaw University  has a fantastic list of Butterfly links as well as on- and off-line lesson plans and activities. Excellent!!!

I hope spring is at your doorstep and the air graced by these lovely visitors!

— Marjorie

PS – According to the North American Butterfly Association website  , there is no official name for a group of butterflies i.e. a herd or lions, a covey of quail, a school of fish etc.   They have compiled a wonderful list of ideas for both the generic ‘butterfly’ and for individual species.  Do you have a suggestion?  Scarlet likes ‘a battalion of Red Admirals 🙂

2 Comments leave one →
  1. March 9, 2007 1:37 pm

    I love Scarlett’s idea.
    LOL on your REAL nature studies – it looks much the same here!
    Your descriptions make me want to return to Georgia. We stayed in the city the whole time I was there.

  2. March 9, 2007 5:12 pm

    Please remember your nearby friends who might want to tag along next time! We have been very busy, but maybe another trip up the mountain next week would be in order!


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