After visiting the International Crane Foundation, we drove an hour north to the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge, the only place in the United States where migratory Whooping Cranes breed in the wild. (Most of the migratory birds breed way up in Canada, and a small non-migratory population has been established in Florida as well.) I did get to see one pair with a chick, waaayyyyyyyyy far out on an island in the marsh, so they are now officially on my life list – hooray! But there was a second federally endangered species to be found in the refuge as well, one that we could get close to: the Karner Blue.
The Karner Blue butterfly, Lycaeides melissa samuelis, is actually the eastern subspecies of the Melissa Blue. This species can be distinguished from most other similar butterflies by the row of orange spots that extends all the way up the forewing – check out my photos of an azure butterfly from this spring for a comparison.
Karner Blues lay their eggs on wild lupine, and as their host plant has declined, so have they. However, the oak savanna at Necedah supports a relatively large population, and we were lucky that their second hatch of the season had occurred only a few days before our visit. Every few feet we’d see another tiny blue butterfly flit across the path! (Although they mostly perch with their wings closed, when they fly you can see the rich purple-blue of the top side.)
A life bird and a life butterfly, and both from the endangered species list – not a bad morning at all.