Our last foray as part of the New River Birding & Nature Festival was to the high mountains of the Cranberry Glades Botanical Area. This is a magical bowl nestled within towering misty mountains that push to nearly 4,000 feet above sea level. The aptly named bog is full of cranberry and other floral goodies, and many species of birds that are rare breeders this far south nest here.
We were there, ostensibly, for the birds, and our group found many goodies. I'll share more about the feathered set later, but a magical little butterfly nearly trumped all.
Early spring at Cranberry Glades means golden carpets of Marsh-marigold, Caltha palustris. I suspect many a local nature buff makes the trip up here just to admire this spectacle. But, on this day, it wasn't only the people who found the "marigolds" alluring.
This hairstreak has a broad distribution, but seems to be rare and local for the most part. Butterfliers get quite excited whenever they encounter one of the tiny beasts. Oaks are the host plant, so there is no shortage of appropriate plant material to support the butterfly. I suspect White M's are considerably more common than suspected, but perhaps only rarely venture from the tree canopy down to our level.
So, after everyone had sated themselves with photographs, Julie grabbed an old Cinnamon Fern rachis and attempted to prod the butterfly into flight. So smitten was it with the nectar of the buttercups that a good push was required, as seen in the above video. Watch it closely, and you'll see the stunning explosion of blue when it finally takes wing.