Bald Butterflies

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Dec 2, 2014
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Location
Knoxville, TN
Butterflies of the Unicoi Mountain Balds.

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The Unicoi Mountains encompass over 1,000 square miles (2,600 km2) just to the southwest of The Great Smoky Mountains. They follow along the spine of the Tennessee/North Carolina border. The habitat of the area is primarily of mixed hardwood pine second growth forests with Cove forests at the lower elevations. The Unicois are home to one of the last stands of old growth Cove forest in the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest. Other features of the area is the Bald River Wilderness at the southern end and the Cherohala Skyway that crosses the mountains from Tellico Plains, Tennessee to Robbinsville, North Carolina. Some of the highest peaks of the Unicois are covered in human maintained balds. These areas are dominated by thick grasses dotted with summer blooming wildflowers. Two of these balds, Hooper Bald and Huckleberry Knob sit at the highest point of the Unicoi Mountains. Huckleberry Knob being at 5,560 ft (1,695 m).

The late summer flowers at Hooper Bald and Huckleberry Knob are perfect place for observing a great diversity of bees, flies, wasps and butterflies. These beautiful creatures flit from clover, to black-eyed susan to asters and on and on.

Here are just a few of the species:


Posted above on Huckleberry Knob and below on Hooper Bald , the Painted Lady.
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On Hooper Bald, a Silver-Spotted Skipper feeding on red clover.
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First a Tiger Swallowtail then a Black Swallowtail (with its tails missing) on Huckleberry Knob. This is the first time I have ever observed a Black Swallowtail.
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Back over on Hooper Bald was this Clouded Sulphur, Spicebush Swallowtail and Common Buckeye trying to hide.
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Last, but definitely not least is the Gulf Fritillary. This butterfly, I feel, is one of the most striking insects in the eastern U.S. It is absolutely beautiful jewel to watch flutter and feed among the flowers. The orange-red of the upper surface of the wings is flaming bright and contrasts magnificently with the silvery white spots of the wing undersides and body. While it is fairly common to find, it never fails to grab my attention.

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There were, of course, many other species that I failed to capture. Those that were observed, but failed to photograph include Pearl Crescents, Silvery Checkspots, some hairstreaks and many species of skippers.
 
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