Yesterday on my way home from work I took a detour to a place I'd been intending to visit, Parkersburg's , Johnson T. Janes Park, a 100-acre preserve only recently opened to the public. Of course, I wasn't dressed for muddy trails and didn't venture beyond the entrance bridge, although a friendly and enthusastic walker who had just come out of the park was singing the praises of its four miles of trail. (Note to self: the park has guided walks every Monday afternoon at 3:45.) Because the trails are still very much undergoing development, trucks and equipment are common in the parking area and in parts of the park itself. Sometimes, this is a good thing.
After our wet August, the approach to the trail head's entrance bridge features tread marks from some sort of heavy equipment--not generally a feature one prefers in a wildlife preserve, but wild creatures have needs and minds of their own. This damp, sandy, disturbed area was nearly covered with tiny fluttering butterflies, mostly sulfurs and skippers of various types that came down to taste the mud and then took off in whirling hordes. One handsome black and orange fellow (later identified as a pearl crescent) was wandering about by himself and looking particularly showy--but off course, I had no camera, either.
Anyone unfamiliar with the ways of butterflies may not know that these seemingly delicate creatures do not in fact get all their nutrients from floral nectars, romantic as that idea may be. Many require salts and amino acids not found in carbohydrate-rich nectar, so they settle on mud flats, in shallow puddles, or on plain damp dirt like that on the edge of the parking lot. Some even go for bird droppings, urine, and human sweat. Nothing in the natural world is wasted.
(And this picture has nothing to do with puddling, but I did have a camera with me later that day when I spotted a skipper on a heliopsis blossom, so a close-up of a nectaring skipper seemed appropriate.)