The Secret Migration

The annual spring bird migration often steals the spotlight in May and early June, and why shouldn’t it?  The majority of the world’s bird species embark on incredible journeys every year, frequently travelling further in a single season than many of us do in several years.

But birds aren’t the only things that migration during this time of year.  There’s something I’ve discovered during my incessant birding, and that is how birding lifts our filters on reality.  I used to have conversations with a close birding friend in Ottawa about “filters,” and the different levels we had experienced.  I’m not talking about filters for camera equipment; that’s another post for another day.  In this case, “filters” refer to our awareness of our surroundings.  Birding trains you to pay very close attention to details, even with momentary glimpses.  A tiny disturbance in a dense thicket, barely noticeable, can often reveal a hidden bird or nest that can easily be overlooked.

As I’ve trained myself to be a better birder by removing more and more filters, and being more aware of Nature and my surroundings, I’ve inadvertently discovered entire worlds of creatures and critters that were always there, but I didn’t have eyes to see them.  They were “filtered.”

As June begins and the bird migration comes to an end (for now), I redirect my attention to these secret worlds.  Many insects embark on migrations, of a sort.  While these are nowhere near as enormous in scope as the bird migration, it is no less a part of what defines spring in many people’s minds.  How bleak would a backyard garden seem without intricate butterflies flitting about?

Here are a selection of photos documenting this “secret migration.”  Several butterfly species arrive on the Korean peninsula as early as February, but the species shown here were all found in and around Gwangju, South Korea, throughout April and May.

Luehdorfia puziloi

Luehdorfia puziloi
Mudeungsan National Park, Gwangju, South Korea

I’ve found this species on the slopes of Mt. Mudeung before, always around mid- to late April.  This individual appeared newly emerged and was found resting on the ground.  It allowed itself to be picked up, and eventually took off from my hand a few minutes later.

Forest Pierrot (Taraka hamada)
Gakhwa Reservoir, Gwangju, South Korea

Japanese Flash (Rapala arata)
Mudeungsan National Park, Gwangju, South Korea

Northern Brown Argus (Aricia artaxerxes hakutozana)
Yeongsangang River, Damyang-gun, South Korea

Orange Hairstreak (Japonica lutea)
Mudeungsan National Park, Gwangju, South Korea

The four species shown above are all members of the Lycaenidae family.  This family of small butterflies can prove to be an exercise in minute details when it comes to identification.  Some species, like the Orange Hairstreak and Forest Pierrot are relatively easy to ID; the other species often require some careful study and research.

Large Map (Araschnia burjana)
Mudeungsan National Park, Gwangju, South Korea

Red Ring Skirt (Hestina assimilis)
Mudeungsan National Park, Gwangju, South Korea

Mating Neptis pryeri
Gakhwa Reservoir, Gwangju, South Korea

The brushfooted butterflies, family Nymphalidae, are the family of butterflies that the average person thinks about and sees.  While not as large as the swallowtails (Papilionidae), these common and brightly colored butterflies liven up our backyard gardens and city parks with their presence.

But the “secret migration” doesn’t only apply to butterflies; other insects appear as though out of nowhere once the weather warms up.  My favorite of these are the dragonflies and damselflies, but I also make a note of other strange and interesting insects whenever I have the opportunity to observe them.

Clown Stink Bug (Poecilocorus lewisi)
Mudeungsan National Park, Gwangju, South Korea

Platycnemis phyllopoda
Yeongsangang River, Damyang-gun, South Korea

As it does every year, the time is coming when I will switch my attentions from birds and focus more on dragonflies, damselflies, and butterflies.  At least until the end of July, when the first of the shorebirds will begin their long journeys back to their wintering grounds.  Until then, I’ll keep trying to see through my own filters, and experience the “secret migration” as much as I can.

3 thoughts on “The Secret Migration

  1. These were some amazing photos. It is very hard to realize our filters, even when it comes to language and the fact that people may or may not understand us. I’m not sure if you thought about that analogy but that was something that sprung to mind while reading this.

  2. Beautiful bug photos, Pat! I’ve been enjoying the emergence of the insects, too as I find them to be more cooperative this time of the year than birds. That Clown Stink Bug is one awesome bug.

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