Many of us have a holiday this weekend, and sunny weather to boot, so I’m hoping for some good sightings to go into next week’s Forecast. It was a pretty good week last week, most of which I spent off the grid in various parts of MD, which is why you’re getting this Forecast on Saturday instead of Friday night — putting this together on an iPad is torture. The long story short, we have decent diversity but low numbers as compared with past years.
First let’s start with what we’re NOT seeing. Northern Metalmarks aren’t flying yet along Metalmark Alley in the Green Ridge, Bog Coppers aren’t out yet in their Cranesville Swamp location (and the small cranberry they nectar on is just budding), and grass skipper numbers are off track except for the now-ubiquitous Silver-spotted Skipper. A lot of this I think align with a late start for milkweed and dogbane flowering, but even where the first bloom flush is robust the umbels are often wanting for butterflies.
Swallowtails are flying in quite modest numbers, with Black, Zebra, Spicebush, Pipevine, and Eastern Tiger Swallowtails all reported. Appalachian Tiger Swallowtails appear to have wrapped up for the year, and Palamedes has not yet been reported north of the Great Dismal Swamp on the VA/NC border.
Hairstreaks are still hard to come by; a few new Banded Hairstreak reports came in (several from NABA annual counts), but no fresh reports of Striped Hairstreak. Edwards’ Hairstreak is flying but lots of misses from folks looking for it on its limited range. One report surfaced from the Virginia Beach area for King’s Hairstreak. A few fresh Red-banded Hairstreak notes came in as well, and Gray Hairstreak is beginning a new brood. Our regional FOY sighting of Great Purple Hairstreak arrived from DelMarVa. Coral Hairstreak is still abroad and was reported from several regional locations. A few locations have reported bursts of Eastern Tailed-blues, but otherwise they’re also having a modest summer brood. Summer Azure is flying, but almost every other azure is finished for the year; the last of the Appalachian Azures was reported on the wing two weeks ago from the mountains. One Harvester was reported, from southern VA.
Fritillary season should be upon us, but seems a bit delayed. A Diana Fritillary sighting showed up on iNat from VA (where it was originally ID’d as Great Spangled), and the first Aphrodite Fritillaries are on the wing in the mountains where they and Great Spangled Fritillaries are making do with poke milkweed until common milkweed comes on line. Common Wood Nymph numbers are ticking up, and both Northern Pearly-eyes and Appalachian Browns are still experiencing a pretty good flight season. Pearl Crescents are beginning to rebound from a late-June slump, and Silvery Checkerspots are still on the wing if a bit worse for the wear. We’re currently seeing good numbers of American Snouts in the mid-Atlantic, as well as some its hackberry colleague Hackberry Emperor. Tawny Emperor so far is MIA. A fresh brood of Red-spotted Purples is starting its flight. Both American and Painted Ladies are represented this week by fresh individuals, and Common Buckeyes are beginning to live up to their “common” moniker.
The big bright spot this week was with skippers, where a big push of coastal and wetland skippers was noted. Delaware, Aaron’s, Rare, Salt Marsh, and Broad-winged Skippers were all part of the mix at MD’s Eastern Neck NWR. Multiple Dions were observed in the DC metro area. A few Fiery Skippers made the lists this week, as did another very early Clouded Skipper from one of the regional counts. In the western counties of MD, European (Essex) Skipper is flying in large numbers. Wild Indigo Duskywing again this year is playing second fiddle in sightings to second-gen Horace’s Duskywing regionally. Common Sootywing was reported from several stations, as was Common Checkered-skipper. The grass skippers were underrepresented compared with prior years; Little Glassywings proved the exception this week. Sachem is very uncommon, and Dun, Crossline, and Tawny-edged Skippers were rather sparse. Both Northern and Southern Broken-dash turned up last week.
While we’re still waiting for an FOY Checkered White, the Cabbage (Small) White population is booming. Even as I write a Sleepy Orange just zipped through my suburban MD yard. Cloudless Sulphur numbers are again trending up. If you happen to be out in the mountains of WV, you’re probably seeing some of the Pink-edged Sulphurs that have been reported.
Bonus Pic:Prognostications: Northern Metalmarks will be out shortly; the woodland sunflowers with which their emergence coincides is just beginning to bloom. Atlantis Fritillary should also be out as the milkweeds in the Appalachian spine come into bloom. One thing we’ll be watching for is whether our annual but uncommon sightings of Gulf Fritillary pop up; my suspicion is that most or all of these are car or plant nursery hitchhikers and the absence of sightings would lend support to that (given less automobile travel during coronavirus restrictions).
Share your observations and questions about regional butterflies here as a comment or, if you’re in Maryland or DC, on MDLepsOdes, the Google Group for field observations of leps and odonates.