August: Allen Acres

Allen Acres is one of my fave places to go. I hardly know how to describe it. It’s a garden, a natural area, a butterfly refuge, and a B&B–all developed and run by retired botanist Dr. Charles Allen and his wife Susan. It’s located in the southwest corner of the state, just south of Cravens, La., on the edge of the Vernon District of the Kisatchie National Forest.

I did not go this year as often as I normally would due to Covid, but in August I went down for the annual butterfly count. Dr. Allen knows what to plant to attract butterflies, and so the count usually produces a list of several dozen species.

Palamedes Swallowtail (Papilio palamedes)

I help with the count, but I am not a butterfly identification expert. As with bird identification and counting, I’m learning but have a long way to go. I really go for the photo opps!

In fact, in 2015 I took a photo of a juniper hairstreak (Callophrys gryneus), thereby documenting the first sighting of that species in Vernon Parish. Craig Marks mentions this record in his recently published field guide to Louisiana butterflies, but the book design had been finalized and it was too late to include my photo. I’m hoping it’ll be in the second edition.

So… this year’s trip produced perhaps my most beautiful butterfly photo to date. A gorgeous palamedes swallowtail, his body stripes neon bright. A dying flower, colors all the more intense because of it. No distracting background! It was a breathtaking moment.

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