Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Wing Watchers

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Wing Watchers

Article excerpt

They ended 2015 as rather common, fast-flying fans of purple coneflowers and milkweeds. But they're coming back as stars.

In January, black swallowtail butterflies, which return to New Jersey fields and gardens each year in early April, were named the official butterfly of the state. And that's just fine with Dee Dee Burnside, treasurer of the North Jersey Chapter of NABA, the North American Butterfly Association.

A longtime Waldwick resident, Burnside thinks the black swallowtail was "a fine choice for us, although, yes, there was some controversy in our group about it. But this particular butterfly is seen all over the state, and it seems especially fond of our gardens here in North Jersey, because we grow lots of parsley, Queen Anne's lace and dill here. They like dill and fennel, and they love parsley!"

Such nuggets of information are routinely shared and discussed at the monthly meetings and field trips of NABA-NJ -- aka the North Jersey Butterfly Club -- a congenial group of North Jersey naturalists that usually meets on the first Tuesday of each month at the Haggerty Education Center at the Frelinghuysen Arboretum in Morris Township.

"Most of us are bird watchers and nature people," Burnside notes, adding that many of the group's 50-plus members weren't always butterfly enthusiasts. "They are serious birders, but that activity is mostly done in the morning. Plus, so many people are into gardening now -- butterflies and gardening go hand in hand -- as well as the native plant movement. Native plants draw native butterflies."

(Occasionally, these plants also draw non-natives, including cabbage whites, the most common butterfly on earth, and golden hued European skippers. Both species were introduced here 100-150 years ago, and make their annual appearances late in the season.)

Sharon Wander, along with her husband, Wade, was one of the original members of the butterfly club in 1995.

"The club was actually founded by Jeffrey Glassberg, who was our first president," Wander notes, "and he lived in Morristown, so it seemed natural for us to meet there. We live in Fredon, in Sussex County, which isn't too far. At the time I had friends who were birders and were interested in butterflies, but the guide we used at the time, the Peterson guides, which were not easy to use." (A noted American naturalist and ornithologist, Roger Tory Peterson wrote several books on birds, butterflies and moths until his death in 1996.)

"Jeff published a book called 'Butterflies Through Binoculars' that covered butterfly varieties from Boston to D.C., including our area," Wander adds, "and he included his photos of the butterflies as you would see them in the field. At about the same time, close- focusing binoculars became available and they really changed everything. Before that, people used birding binoculars to study butterflies but they couldn't get nearly as close. …

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