At our Open House a few weeks back somebody asked me if there was a certain part of day that was better for butterfly viewing than others. At the time I thought once the morning started to warm up, the answer to that question would be, "No".
However, now that the construction is mostly done and I am getting more time to spend in the field, I think I am beginning to change my mind on that response. It seems that the peak of the afternoon, say between 2-4PM, is in fact the best time for butterfly viewing. Let me offer some evidence to support my position.
On July 3 a couple of my staff and I walked our trails conducting our monthly butterfly transect. This is where we count every butterfly we see. On this day we had to walk the transect a little earlier than I would've liked because of a scheduling conflict, therefore we were out from roughly 10:30AM-Noon. Our results, despite sunny skies and temperatures in the 80's were disappointing, barely half of what we had observed in June. Later that same day I led a tour of our trails and in fact saw three butterfly species that we had not observed on the transect two hours earlier.
Now jump to today, July 11. At 3PM the skies were overcast, temperatures in the high 70's and more Silver-spotted Skippers than one could count. I was expecting those numbers of skippers on the July 3 transect and did not get them, despite having seen that species in large numbers each afternoon for several days prior.
For ever I thought butterfly activity was largely driven by temperature and sky condition. While I think those two are still important, I am beginning to believe that time of day is equally important. And, that time of day is relatively independent of the other two.
Butterflies . . . for best viewing go out mid-afternoon!