The other species of butterfly that I saw that day was the Clouded Sulphur (photo above), and I saw several. Sulphurs are known to overwinter here in our region in their adult, winged stage. They tuck themselves away into a protected spot where they are sheltered from the elements, and go into a torpid state during the cold months. On unusually warm winter days, they do sometimes emerge to fly and look for food sources.
This has been such a mild winter that many of the bird species that usually migrate here from more northern areas have not arrived in Virginia. Because of this year’s warmer weather, they have been able to find food sources in the north that are not usually available to them, and they have no need to continue their journeys further south. The reduced number of waterfowl in particular has been particularly evident this year; in the past I have seen thousands of Scoters and other sea ducks wintering in the waters along the Bay Bridge-Tunnel, but this year there have been only a handful.
On the other hand, some species that usually migrate to the south of us have stopped here this year for the winter because it is so mild. I’m certain that the weather is responsible for the higher-than-normal numbers of orioles, for example, that are being reported this winter. Last month I blogged about four Baltimore Orioles (photo of one of them, above) that were visiting my yard and my sugar water and grape jelly feeders; I’m please to tell you that they are still here, and the group has increased to at least six individuals! The only problem is that most days it’s so warm that the honeybees are flying, and they compete with the orioles for the sugar water!
Last winter was bitterly cold and we had several snowstorms including the famous one that dropped 14 inches of snow on Chesapeake. This year it’s so warm that bees are flying and some of my perennial flowers are actually blooming right now. I don’t know what that means for the state of our planet, but it certainly makes for interesting and diverse wildlife watching year to year.