sightings


Leonard's Skipper on blazing star (Liatris) along the Choate Mine Trail at Soldiers Delight, Baltimore Co MD [2014 Sept. 6, photo by Tom Stock]

Leonard’s Skipper on blazing star (Liatris) along the Choate Mine Trail at Soldiers Delight, Baltimore Co MD [2014 Sept. 6, photo by Tom Stock]

Very little new to report this week; mostly continuations of end-of-summer populations that are dwindling and a few late fall specialties.

Leonard’s Skipper is finally on the wing locally, with up to 9 reported at a time last week from Soldiers Delight (Baltimore Co MD). Most of these were along the upper Choate Mine trail. Clouded Skippers were also reported there and from various other locations around the region, mostly associated with garden and other nectar sources. Ocola Skippers, too, are being seen infrequently in scattered locations. These latter two migrants have not yet arrived in large numbers in our area – if they will at all this season.

Monarchs, on the other hand, continue to rise in numbers. Reports from Northeast Coast in NY, MA, and CT all suggest the southward migration has begun in earnest and in good numbers. Several were working the nectar and laying eggs on the milkweed in the Smithsonian’s butterfly walk on the east side of the Natural History Museum this afternoon.

Red-spotted Purples are still out in decent numbers, as are Viceroys. But other nymphalids are in shorter supply. This week saw a couple of Painted Ladies in the area to round out the more common (but nowhere numerous) American Ladies that we’ve been seeing all season. There are fresh Red Admirals about, but again in quite small numbers – the suspicion is that the harsh winter knocked back the southern populations that normally would be our source of fresh broods that hatch and develop locally. Pearl Crescents are in a new brood but generally small numbers; nevertheless they were the most common butterfly at Soldiers Delight this week.

A very few Cloudless Sulphurs have made their way up from the south, but no Little Yellows. And the cold front moving through tonight means we’ll have mostly northerly winds the next few days with little chance of blowing southern specialties northward into our area. Clouded Sulphurs numbers are making a strong final showing, and both Small (Cabbage) Whites and Orange Sulphurs are maxing out in numbers we haven’t seen all summer.

Grass skipper numbers are falling off quickly; large numbers remain only of Zabulon and Sachem, although many of the others – Dun, Swarthy, Crossline, Peck’s, and Southern Broken-dash among them – will likely be around in single digit numbers for another week or two. Saltmarsh Skipper apparently is still pretty common in coastal areas where saltmarsh fleabane is blooming. We’re still awaiting our first report of Long-tailed Skipper locally; it’s been reported in VA and Carolinas already this fall. At their peak at the moment, by contrast, are the final brood of Wild Indigo Duskywing. Silver-spotted Skipper numbers peaked about two weeks ago but are still around in some force.

The last weekly Forecast for 2014 will be next weekend the Autumnal Equinox. After that, I’ll occasionally post to MDLepsOdes only if we have significant sightings.

The weather Saturday does not look promising, but Sunday does. If you make it out into the field this weekend, don’t forget to post or send your sightings for the next Weekend Forecast!  In the meantime, visit us at https://leplog.wordpress.com/ and on Google Groups at MDLepsOdes.

Monarch on Tithonia Flower [2014 Sept. 1, US National Arboretum, DC.  REB]

Monarch on Tithonia Flower [2014 Sept. 1, US National Arboretum, DC. REB]

While overall numbers of many butterflies are declining as the summer draws to a close, diversity is still pretty high even though there are no regional FOYs to report this week.

We had hoped to report in this Forecast that Leonard’s Skipper was flying at Soldier’s Delight and had been seen on Dick Smith’s field trip there last week. Unfortunately, the participants dipped on this iconic species of serpentine barrens. I hope to bring better news next week; I plan to visit Soldier’s Delight myself this weekend, and expect the flight was only delayed and the skipper is flying this weekend.

Otherwise, the Forecast this week really hasn’t changed much from the previous few weeks. Good numbers of most grass skippers, especially Sachem which was especially abundant across the region, and the occasional Fiery Skipper or Ocola Skipper. Tiger Swallowtails have mostly faded away, as have Zebra Swallowtails.  Fresh Pipevine and Black Swallowtails are out, however.  The big news continues to be a huge explosion of Giant Swallowtails in the Northeast and, over the past two weeks, in PA, where more than 50 sightings have been logged from the current brood.

Monarch numbers continue to build slowly, a further testament to the resiliency of this species, at least here on the East Coast.  In fact, the Loudon County VA count last month logged more than 60; I have seen them on literally every field excursion I have made for the past 6 weeks anywhere in MD or DE. Not to throw a wet blanket on the “Save the Monarch” movement but these are not the population dynamics of a threatened or endangered species — at least here in the East.

Overall, the Loudon count had 55 species — near its historic high count — and more than 3,000 individual butterflies. Again, the gloom and doom of early summer predictions of butterfly crashes have not been borne out by field observations later in the year.

Here’s hoping to run into you in the field this weekend, looking for a stray Great Southern White, or Whirlabout, or Queen. If you see one, don’t forget to post or send your sightings for the next Weekend Forecast!  In the meantime, visit us at https://leplog.wordpress.com/ and on Google Groups at MDLepsOdes.

 

2014 SEP 1 Ocola Skipper_DC USNATom Stock and I ventured out into the sweltering heat and humidity for the closest good butterflying to home that we could find — the US National Arboretum.  Lots of nectar available as usual in the Washington Youth Garden, the Butterfly Garden, and the National Herb Garden; unusually, almost nothing there.

All the action was on the extensive meadow plantings around the USNA campus of native coreopsis, which I erroneously told Tom was Tickseed Coreopsis but in retrospect is almost certainly a different composite that I now have to key out.  It was loaded with skippers, 99 percent of which were Sachems.  Conservatively, just looking at the three or four patches we investigated, we had well over a thousand; tens of thousands across the Arboretum would not be unrealistic.  Interspersed were a few Southern Broken-dashes, Crosslines, Little Glassywings, and a lone Ocola, plus a few more (Tom’s list is below).

That was my FOY Ocola, but the big highlight of the day was this stunning very dark Variegated Fritillary hanging out in back of the Administration building on the patio.  We both did double-takes, but there’s no mistaking the pattern if not the ground color:

Dark Variegated Fritillary (underside) at US National Arboretum [2014 Sept. 1, Washington, DC, REB]

Dark Variegated Fritillary (underside) at US National Arboretum [2014 Sept. 1, Washington, DC, REB]

Dark Variegated Fritillary (dorsal) from US National Arboretum [2014 Sept. 1, Washington, DC REB]

Dark Variegated Fritillary (dorsal) from US National Arboretum [2014 Sept. 1, Washington, DC REB]

The full list:

Black Swallowtail (1) female
Cabbage White (9)
Clouded Sulphur (1)
Orange Sulphur (5)
Sleepy Orange (1)
Gray Hairstreak (1)
Red-banded Hairstreak (3)
Eastern Tailed Blue (common)
Summer Azure (5)
Variegated Fritillary (3)
Pearl Crescent (1)
American Lady (1)
Monarch (1)
Silver-spotted Skipper (8)
Least Skipper (16)
Fiery Skipper (2)
Peck’s Skipper (1)
Crossline Skipper (2)
Southern Broken Dash (11)
Little Glassywing (3)
Sachem (superabundant)
Ocola Skipper (1)

 

Southern Cloudywing_at St Mary's Lake MD [2014 Aug 29 by Beth Johnson]

Southern Cloudywing_at St Mary’s Lake MD [2014 Aug 29 by Beth Johnson]

Beth Johnson and I spent the day Friday visiting Point Lookout State Park for southern migrants and St. Mary’s Lake on an unsuccessful search for the newly reported Red-veined Pennant.  And today Tom Stock visited Calvert Cliffs and environs, giving us all sightings to share.

En route to St. Mary’s Co., Beth and I stopped off at an uncharacteristically quiet butterfly garden at the Plummer House in Anne Arundel Co.  Among the sparse butterflies was only one standout, Sleepy Orange.  Pt. Lookout, unfortunately, wasn’t much better — it had been mowed the day previously practically down to bare soil, we suspect in order to make it inviting for Labor Day picnic crowds.  Every vestige of nectar was removed in the process, with the exception of a few bush lespedezas and some knotweed.  This pretty much put a wet blanket on any real migrants — this is usually a great location for Long-tailed Skipper, Sleepy Orange, Clouded Skipper, hordes of Common Buckeyes, and Ocola Skipper, among others.  Not this year.

Consolation prize was an abundance of Grey Hairstreaks (more than 30 when we stopped counting), a dozen or so Red-banded Hairstreaks, and two White-M Hairstreaks — all concentrated on the little nectar there was.  There were a few Common Buckeyes and Black Swallowtails.  We did score our FOY Cloudless Sulphurs in MD, and a couple of Tawny Emperors.  Dragonfly watching was a little better — there were hawking swarms of Black and Carolina Saddlebags, Wandering Gliders, and a lifer for us both, Four-spotted Pennant.

At St. Mary’s Lake (which we’d never visited before), we were impressed by the quality of lake perimeter trail, and especially a large open area before the dam and spillway where dogbane was just coming into bloom again.  It was too early in its bloom to attract much except a few grass skippers (Swarthy was the best of the batch), but the tall grasses held dozens of Halloween and Calico Pennants (but not our target Red-veined!–we should have checked with the original observers for more precise locations, since the trail is 7 miles long).  Beth had a Southern Cloudywing on the dam berm before I rejoined her, arguably the best butterfly of the day, although we also saw satyrs on the trail (likely Carolina Satyr, a new outpost for this species’ expanding range in MD, as Little Wood Satyr flight is over here I think) and several Appalachian Browns.  Dragonfly highlight was a lifer for us both, Clamp-tipped Emerald netted out of a small swarm of half a dozen at sunset.

Tom had better butterfly luck today during his southern MD sojourn, a flyby Giant Swallowtail crossing Route 5 at Solomons in Calvert Co and Ocola Skipper on the last of the blooming clethra at Calvert Cliffs State Park.  He also had Cloudless Sulphur in California, MD.

Salt-marsh Skipper on goldenrod at Bombay Hook NWR DE [2014 Aug. 9, photo by Beth Johnson]

Salt-marsh Skipper on goldenrod at Bombay Hook NWR DE [2014 Aug. 9, photo by Beth Johnson]

The summer broods are winding down in the mid-Atlantic, but migrant and local fall skippers are beginning to pick up. In fact, the last week or so has seen some normalcy return to both diversity and numbers for local leps.

DuskywingsHorace’s and Wild Indigo – are well out in fresh broods now, and a number of the grass skippers are also flying in good numbers. Sachem remains in relatively short supply, but Peck’s and Zabulon continue to build. Fiery Skipper is reported from numerous locations, as is Southern Broken-dash. The southerly winds of the past week haven’t brought much our way, but the cold front that arrived last night and some persistent north winds over the weekend could bring us Brazilian Skipper (showing up well into Virginia, and spottily in NJ), Ocola Skipper (many locations in VA), and other southern specialties. No reports anywhere in the mid-Atlantic yet of Long-tailed Skipper, but it should be looked for over the next month or so, especially on zinnia and lantana. Silver-spotted Skipper is having a banner late-summer flight. Hayhurst’s Scallopwing and Common Sootywing are in the air now.

Cloudless Sulphur is beginning to make appearances locally with three at Bombay Hook NWR last weekend. Salt-marsh Skipper and Broad-winged Skipper were also observed there, as were more than 100 Monarchs, most in mint condition so likely recent local emergences. I’m suspecting we’ll have a pretty decent fall migration of Monarchs along the coast this year.

No new Giant Swallowtail reports locally this week, but in the Northeast – especially CT – there’s been another explosion of Giants over the past two weeks.

While the great fritillary species are declining for the season, there’s been a good upward spike of Variegated Fritillary at several local areas. Gulf Fritillary has not made much of an appearance in the Carolinas or VA yet.

Among the hairstreaks, only Red-banded and Gray were reported locally this week, with White M and Juniper Hairstreak on the South Jersey Butterfly B/Log. While no Bronze Coppers have been reported recently in MD or DE, there were fresh ones flying in NJ. American Copper has shown up on a number of field expeditions this week.

Both Ladies American and Painted – have been hard to come by this week, as they have been all season. Low counts of Buckeyes continue to trickle in.

Local counts this weekend include the Howard County Ode Count on Saturday (contact Beth Johnson, coordinator, at bajohnsonjohnson@verizon.net or 301-949-6338) and the annual DC NABA Count on Sunday at the US National Arboretum (contact Tom Stock, coordinator, at altomomatic@verizon.net).

Looks like a superb Saturday and most of Sunday from the weekend forecast, so I’m hoping for good reports next week. Please remember to post or send your sightings for the next Weekend Forecast. In the meantime, visit us at https://leplog.wordpress.com/ and on Google Groups at MDLepsOdes.

 

A European Peacock that somehow found its way to the garden of David Amadio in southern NJ on August 3.  See story for link

A European Peacock that somehow found its way to the garden of David Amadio in southern NJ on August 3. See story for link to his account of this sighting!

The southern skipper migration seems to have started, with reports of Fiery Skippers from Silver Spring and from the Glendening Butterfly Garden in Anne Arundel Co MD. Can Long-tailed and Ocola Skippers be far behind?  Variegated Fritillaries are showing up more regularly, but we’re still missing those iconic late-summer Cloudless Sulphurs. A few Buckeyes have been making their way up the coast and have been seen in small numbers locally.

The dicey weather last weekend kept the number of reported sightings to a minimum, but Salt-marsh Skippers were out in numbers in the marshes below Blackwater NWR in Dorchester Co MD. Checkered Whites and Common Checkered-skippers are on the wing, reported from several locations, and more reports of Juniper Hairstreaks trickled in from around the region. One of the reports came from the NJ Audubon Society’s butterfly garden in Goshen, where Rare, Broadwinged, and Aaron’s Skippers were also all flying last weekend. Both Northern and Southern Broken-dashes have been reported up and down the region.

Maryland’s expanding population of Carolina Satyrs in St. Mary’s and Charles Counties is out in a fresh brood, and observers who saw them also saw Painted Lady, fresh Red-banded Hairstreaks, and fresh Zabulon Skippers.

Now is the time to look again for Giant Swallowtail along the Potomac and in the Sideling Hill Creek drainage in Allegany Co. MD. It’s been a tough one to spot the past couple of years. One was reported visiting flowers in the Smithsonian Natural History Museum’s butterfly garden last Friday, but other observers saw what may have been a different, probably tropical (and therefore probably escaped from the Butterfly House) large butterfly that superficially resembled a Giant Swallowtail but was too frenetic for photos or ID. The butterfly has not been observed by folks who went looking for it this week.

But such rarities do show up. Readers might enjoy Dave Amadio’s report on the South Jersey Butterfly B/Log of a European Peacock butterfly on the tithonia in his West Deptford NJ (Gloucester Co) garden. That’s one of his photos featured above.

Also on our watch list this week is White Admiral. There is a pending report on eButterfly of a handful of these all clustered around some mineral source on July 1 at Ft. McHenry in Baltimore. Anyone planning a trip to the Inner Harbor this weekend should keep their eyes out for this color morph! Fresh Red Admirals are being reported throughout the region.

No local NABA counts are scheduled for this weekend.

If you do see these butterflies – or anything else interesting! — please remember to post or send your sightings for the next Weekend Forecast. In the meantime, visit us at https://leplog.wordpress.com/ and on Google Groups at MDLepsOdes.

Brazilian Skipper photographed in 2012 in Raleigh NC [REB]

Brazilian Skipper photographed in 2012 in Raleigh NC [REB]

We’re well into second or even third broods for a number of our local species, and for some of these the later broods seem to be returning to near-normal numbers after sparse spring flights.

Last weekend at Occoquan NWR in Woodbridge VA, for example, there were high numbers of Red Admiral, Little Wood-satyr, and two FOY for the area Sleepy Oranges (which have since been reported elsewhere in the area). A large flush of new, very fresh Silvery Checkerspots was also coming into flight. Also seen in large numbers there were Common Wood-nymphs and smaller numbers of other summer species. Of particular note were good populations of Appalachian Brown, which also was seen this week at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens in the District.

Fresh Tiger Swallowtail numbers are building, and the current brood of Zebra Swallowtail seems substantial. Spicebush Swallowtail numbers seem to be lagging recent years, as do those of Black and Pipevine Swallowtails, but they’re being more regularly being reported over the past week.

The Red Admirals at Occoquan were clearly local, some still pumping their wings after emergence. But there is some hope for a push for southern migratory species, although the recent week of northerly winds hasn’t helped that cause much. American Lady and Painted Lady have been infrequently reported.

Biggest surprise recently was Brazilian Skipper (two, in different locations) at Cape May NJ and reported on the South Jersey Butterfly Blog, one from the NABA count and one individual sighting. Also on the wing in New Jersey recently were second brood Hessel’s Hairstreak (never a sure bet for a second brood), Checkered White, Rare Skipper, and Mulberry Wing. A very late Edwards’ Hairstreak report came in on the 24th from the Atlantic City Airport colony; Aaron’s and Broad-winged Skippers were still being reported in good numbers in coastal locations.

Ocola, Fiery, and Whirlabout Skippers continue to be reported in NC and southern VA but no more northerly sightings have been reported. Sachem numbers are rising here with the emergence of females to complement the earlier-emerging males; Peck’s numbers are also swelling. Hayhurst’s Scallopwing is emerging for its late summer flight.

Monarch numbers are building; reported on most field trips over the past two weeks, sometimes in double-digit numbers. One correspondent saw almost 70 in a single local location this past week.

Harvesters also are being reported around the region in their second brood, although it appears this species has staggered emergences across the region depending on the aphid situation. Fresh Juniper Hairstreaks, Red-banded Hairstreaks, and Gray Hairstreaks are also out currently.

The Great Dismal Swamp annual count last weekend had some notable species, including a probable Reversed Roadside-skipper in addition to the expected Great Purple Hairstreaks. That area also had recent King’s Hairstreak sightings at Chippokes State Park VA.

One local count this weekend is Loudon Co VA; there’s also a bioblitz at Catoctin Creek Park in Frederick Co MD. Plus a field trip in Berks Co PA. See LepLog for details on the VA and PA activities; contact Park Naturalist, Susan Matthews for info on the bioblitz at SMatthews@Frederickcounty.gov

Although it looks like a rather soggy weekend coming up, keep your eyes out for those southern migrants, especially on second-flush dogbane and on garden plants such as tall verbena and lantana. Please remember to post or send your sightings for the next Weekend Forecast. In the meantime, visit us at https://leplog.wordpress.com/ and on Google Groups at MDLepsOdes.

 

 

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