2014-07-03 / Nature

Butterfly Count

By Jack Kelly


Charles Avenengo (L) explains butterfly facts to Colleen McGrath, Annette Desrosiers, Alyssa Gotovitch, and Barbara Alpert. (Photos by Jack Kelly) Charles Avenengo (L) explains butterfly facts to Colleen McGrath, Annette Desrosiers, Alyssa Gotovitch, and Barbara Alpert. (Photos by Jack Kelly) Ballard Park became a wild, living classroom for a small but inquisitive group of nature enthusiasts recently, as Newport resident and naturalist Charles Avenengo led a spirited hike through the park in search of butterfly specimens and other gifts of the natural world. The walk was held in conjunction with the North American Butterfly Association’s (NABA) annual butterfly count and was organized by the Friends of Ballard Park. Working in partnership with the Rhode Island Audubon Society, the NABA conducts the yearly survey to establish the health, abundance, and populations of local and migratory butterfly species in the state.

“We observe the same areas each year and this helps to indicate the population sizes and species distribution in this region. Ballard Park is a great environment for butterflies with its diverse habitats and flora. It’s one of my favorite places,” Avenengo said.


Red Admiral Red Admiral As Avenengo led the explorers into the park, he elaborated on the different types of butterflies that might be sighted in the quarry meadow and surrounding woodlands. He pointed out the vernal pond at the edge of the meadow and explained how certain butterflies found in that habitat might not be found in other areas of the park.

He also noted the numerous birds filling the air with calls and songs. Among them were Baltimore Orioles, Carolina Wrens, Black-capped Chickadees, Northern Mockingbirds, Catbirds, Cardinals, Song Sparrows and many others. A pair of Northern Roughwinged Swallows were swiftly fly- ing through the meadow at grasstop levels, capturing flying insects as Downy Woodpeckers and Redbellied Woodpeckers could be heard in the distance.


Jack Kelly, a native Newporter, is a wildlife photographer and nature enthusiast who enjoys sharing his experiences with others. Jack Kelly, a native Newporter, is a wildlife photographer and nature enthusiast who enjoys sharing his experiences with others. A slow, meandering walk through the nature preserve revealed seven Cabbage White, two Clouded Sulphur, one Pearl Crescent, and four Red Admiral butterflies. As each species was recorded, Avenengo carefully explained the characteristics, behaviors and life cycles of the insects. He also showed the distinct differences between butterflies and moths by comparing their wings and antennae. Avenengo pointed out locations where other butterfly breeds can often be found. He gave tips on where butterflies rest andhow to find them under tree leaves or in dense vegetation. He stressed the importance of patience in seeking these evasive pallets of nature’s colors.

At the end of the walk, Avenengo suggested that everyone keep returning to the park to discover other butterflies. “Another day may bring much different results and you’ll see other species that we missed today.”

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