During my September visit to War Bluff Valley Sanctuary, I was able to add two butterflies to my Illinois butterfly list. It was the first time I had seen Carolina and gemmed satyrs in Illinois. Of course, once home, I had to contact Jim Wiker, lepidopterist and an affiliate of the Illinois Natural History Survey, to let him know what I had found and to find out more about these species. And to let him know, yes, we got photos!

The Carolina and gemmed satyrs are Illinois’ only satyr butterflies. They are small, 1.25 to 1.8 inches in wingspan, and are brown, with a few dark spots. The larvae of both species feed on grasses and sedges. Both have a characteristic slow, skipping flight that makes them look easy to net; but beware, they have the moves of a prize- fighter and are able to duck and dodge even the most experienced netter.

The gemmed satyr has a line of four dark, reflective spots on the underside of the posterior hindwing, while the Carolina satyr has a series of small black, yellow-bordered eyespots along its underside wing margins. The gemmed satyr has consistently been found in southern Illinois during the past 100 years, although its occurrence is sporadic. According to Wiker, during the late 1980s, he found only one, but during the last 20 years, he has found them every year. They are out all season, with records from April through October. Gemmed satyrs prefer the margins of wooded areas, along trails and roads.

The Carolina satyr was recorded in Illinois in 1994 at War Bluff Valley Sanctuary, the first time during the 20th century. According to Wiker, 2007 was the best year in the state for these butterflies; several were found at War Bluff, and they occurred as far north as Effingham. Carolina satyrs are also found in wooded areas, but they prefer moisture, so are often found along a low, grassy area by a creek.

My encounter with these small forms of Illinois wildlife is just one of the many surprises War Bluff Valley Sanctuary contains. It is a place to visit often with field guides, notebook, and camera!