Written in 2016
Growing up in Ireland, a sighting of a butterfly was a rare and beautiful thing. Butterflies thrive in warm, sunny weather but the absence of those environmental necessities, made a sighting extra special. A trip to a butterfly farm with perfectly simulated climatic conditions brought awe and wonder to me as a child. Now, many years later residing in Toronto, Canada, I have the pleasure of living beside High Park and get to see a plethora of wildlife on a daily basis, including these colourful characters. The current season and long sunny days, brings out butterflies in droves.
There is no better place to see them than in High Park. With the wooded areas and array of wild foliage, the park is a main attraction. In Toronto there are over 110 species alone with up to 65 of these species being present in High Park. May is typically when we see a rise in butterfly sightings. With temperatures rising to 15°C and nectar readily available, the first Duskywings such as the Juvenal’s Duskywing begin to appear along wood edges and clearings. In the current month of July before the temperatures climb too high, sightings are bountiful.
The oaks of High Park are the perfect feeding ground for butterflies. If you are planning a trip to High Park, a walk through the wooded areas can bring about many sightings. The Eastern Black Swallowtail is a common sighting at the moment. Edwards’ Hairstreak can be spotted on the edges of wooded areas as well as the Hobomok Skipper. Continuing down to the Grenadier Pond can bring sightings of various Wetland species. The rare Bronze Copper, Broad-winged Skipper and Black Dash have all been sighted recently down by the pond. It makes a trip to High Park extra special if you can spot one of these lesser spotted species. If you wish to get closer to these creatures, please remember that many of these species are declining in numbers and we should always keep a respectable distance to enjoy these creatures and treat the foliage with care.
The Karner Blue butterfly is an example of an extirpated (locally extinct) species in Ontario. This is in part to the decline of Wild Lupine. The Karner Blue depends upon Wild Lupine as their caterpillar host plants and failed to thrive as a result in the loss of their microhabitat. Just 0.02 percent of this habitat remains in North America with much of it Ontario based. Wild Lupine is making a comeback in High Park and can be seen in the tablelands of the park (high areas in the park interior).
The High Park Nature Centre and other partnering organizations and groups, have been actively doing habitat restoration work with the goal or bringing back suitable habitat for butterflies and other wildlife. Who knows? Maybe even the Karner Blue will one day return to High Park, where it used to fly in abundance.