The story beings on March 14, when I saw a butterfly at White Pine Picnic Area in flight only, that I was convinced was a winter-form (light-form) Question Mark. I had a very hard time accepting this (and decided not to report it), since (a) there is no confirmed record of over-wintering of the species in Ontario; (b) the previous early date for Point Pelee was April 16; (c) the earliest date for Ohio (Iftner et al. 1992) is April 23; and (d) the first ones seen each season in Ontario are the darker "summer" form, which are immigrants based on the production of the first "summer" brood somewhere well to the south of Ontario (like maybe Arkansas).
I was so stressed out by my sighting that I even wondered if the butterfly I saw might have been a Goatweed Butterfly, since they over-winter as adults and there is an Ohio record for March 29. Three records for Michigan as well.
Today, however (March 17), Brandon Holden observed another (or the same?) winter-form Question Mark south of the Sparrow Field, which landed on the ground in front of him. He said it still even had the purple fringe on the lower hindwing, and it was large. He used to collect butterflies, so he knows their ID.
So these are very exceptional records. Technically the species does not over-winter anywhere, but instead remains active year-round in the southern United States, and immigrants then populate more northern areas as spring and summer progresses. On the other hand, we know they can withstand considerable cold, since we have late dates of November 23 here at Point Pelee.
I can surmise that the species was able to over-winter at Point Pelee only because this past winter was so exceptionally mild and short. But it is certainly not normal, since we have a long history of watching butterflies here in March for many years.
Pale Question Mark from Algonquin Park years ago... One of those strange photos where the circumstances involved in getting the photo no longer seem as fun as they did at the time. Anyways...
I will try to get a full list of highlights up soon!
Oh, and I almost forgot. No Alan email would be complete without his obligatory spam finale:
53 Year Old Mom Looks 33
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