Trying to Sort Out Some Plain Brown Skipper Butterflies Browsing on the July Bergamot Blossoms at Riverwood Conservancy in Mississauga

The Riverwood Conservancy in Mississauga Ontario is a park that combines both a formal garden area near the main parking lot and a somewhat wild ravine park along the Credit River. It offers many different types of habitats from dry meadows to wet cattail marshes for butterflies with varying interests and needs. For someone who likes to try to photo “capture” butterflies to identify them and learn more about them, it’s a wonderful park to visit in July.

Photo of Monarch Riverwood on NaturalCrooksDotCom
This one was easy to identify–it’s been great to see so many Monarchs in 2017!

So What Exactly Are These Small Skipper-sized Tan Brown and Bronze Butterflies with a few Faint White or Cream Marks and Dashes?

Luckily, southern Ontario doesn’t have too many plainly coloured Skippers. Even so, I had trouble sorting out the ones I was seeing in the flower gardens at Riverwood in mid-July. Eventually, with the help of some better butterfly watchers, I found out I was seeing two different types.

Photo of Delaware Skipper Riverwood on NaturalCrooksDotCom
Colourful Skippers like this Delaware can be easier to id.

Northern Broken Dash Skippers Live in Southern Ontario

Photo of Northern Broken Dash Skipper B RiverwoodConservancy MississaugaON Canada 20170718 on NaturalCrooksDotCom
The funny looking black mark on the right side wing is the “broken dash”  on this male Skipper. The female does not have this divided stigma.

The first Skippers I saw were mostly perching on leaves until they saw another butterfly then launching into the air to inspect it. If the other butterfly was a different type, like a Red Admiral, they would quickly settle down to wait again. If it was another Skipper, they would zoom up in a tight spiral presumably trying to intimidate rivals or find a partner.

Photo of Northern Broken Dash Skipper 2B Riverwood on NaturalCrooksDotCom
A couple of Skippers can look a bit like this from this side, so it’s worth trying to get another view of the top sides of the wings to help id them. This one is a Northern Broken-dash.

Every so often, they would also re-fuel from the dwarf domesticated Bee Balm flowers.Although there were several flowers blooming in the gardens, these Northern Broken-dash Skippers didn’t seem interested in anything but the Bee Balm.

Photo of Northern Broken Dash Skipper Riverwood on NaturalCrooksDotCom
Next year, I’ll be expecting to see Northern Broken-dash skippers in this area at this time, which will make it easier and faster to identify them.

Dun Skippers Are Pretty Plain Brown Butterflies

Photo of Dun Skipper Riverwood on NaturalCrooksDotCom
Even I can identify really dark brown skippers with dots like these fairly easy as female Dun Skippers.

Photo of Dun Skipper Dark Spots B Riverwood on NaturalCrooksDotCom

Another type of brown Skipper was also checking out the garden for friends and foes. Several Dun Skippers were also perching and patrolling.

Photo of Dun Skipper One White Mark Riverwood on NaturalCrooksDotCom
It was the ones like this which I wasn’t sure were Duns. More experienced butterfly watchers tell me they are.

Photo of Dun Skipper 4 Riverwood on NaturalCrooksDotCom

Will These Skippers Be Damaging the Garden Flowers?

After I got home, I looked up these Skippers in the ROM Field Guide.

Northern Broken-dash skipper caterpillars feed on grasses, including “Hairy Crabgrass” and “Panicgrasses.” So I don’t think the gardeners at Riverwood will be too dismayed.

Dun Skippers caterpillars eat Sedges. Given the close proximity of a marsh and a woodlot to the gardens at Riverwood, I’m sure these butterflies can find several types of sedges for their caterpillars to munch on. Again, the gardeners can admire them without concern.

Photo of Cabbage White Riverwood on NaturalCrooksDotCom
The gardeners might be less impressed with this Cabbage White butterfly–especially if its offspring are on the ornamental Kale.

Photo of Orange Sulphur Riverwood on NaturalCrooksDotCom
This Orange Sulphur is only a threat to the local Clovers, not a worry for the garden volunteers.

Photo of Red Admiral Riverwood on NaturalCrooksDotCom
The gardeners might actually cheer on the Red Admiral caterpillars–they eat Nettles!

I was really pleased to see so many butterflies so easily at Riverwood. The gardens are accessible to wheelchairs and walkers with limited mobility with wide gravelled paths and some benches. Some parts can also be seen from cement paved paths. It would be a good place to visit for anyone interested in flowers and butterflies.

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Have you ever had to sort out some plain brown butterflies? Does a garden near you host a variety of colourful visitors? Please share your experiences with a comment.

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