There are a lot of cool animals and insects along the New River and, unfortunately, we don’t see or appreciate many of them. It’s not that we’re oblivious, it’s just that the whitewater usually keeps our attention most of the day. In my first years of guiding, I was afraid to look away from the water, my boat, my trip leader and those sorts of things.
But now, I’m making it a point to take in more scenery (without totally neglecting my responsibilities, of course!).
This year, I’ve been able to see bald eagles, a river otter, lots of fish, geese, dragonflies and a zillion brilliantly colored butterflies. Along the New River, you can find yellow, black and blue butterflies clustered together on sandy shores.
I asked around and no one seemed to know if this was an eating thing or something more romantic. So I finally got around to doing some online research to figure out what the deal is with these winged creatures.
I’m pretty sure I have tracked down our most common species in the Gorge. It’s the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail. And I think they are “mud-puddling” or getting nutrients and water from the wet shoreline.
The males have the yellow and black striped marking and the females can be similar or have a black and blue color scheme. Sometimes I see them clustered co-ed style, but other times it seems segregated. I’m still learning, so cut me some slack.
But feel free to get your bug book off the shelf and prove me wrong. Better yet, come on down to the river and try out your very own lepidopterology (study of butterflies and moths, duh!)