Mid-Atlantic Butterfly Field Forecast for the Week of 2018 September 15


Leonard’s Skipper in its expected haunt at Soldiers Delight, MD (Baltimore Co). [2018 September 15, photo by Tom Stock]

HIGHLIGHTS: Leonard’s Skipper (continuing, MD), White M Hairstreak (MD), Great Purple Hairstreak (continuing, MD), Ocola Skippers, Long-tailed Skippers

It appeared for a while that there would be nothing but hurricane-related woe to report, and the uncooperative weather of the past week (Florence aside) meant there were very few reports from the field.  That — and the fact that I’m actually in Oregon at the moment and haven’t been in the field myself in MD this week — makes for a dicey Forecast!

Luckily an intrepid group of skipper aficianados from the Audubon Naturalist Society’s Skipper Boot Camp braved unpromising skies yesterday at Soldiers Delight and the Howard Co. Conservancy to find an abundance of grsss skippers on which to hone their skipper ID skills.  By the sound of things, the skippers were well and truly starved from waiting out the rain, and it took only the barest hint of sunshine to bring them out onto the liatris and composites at Soldiers Delight.  The star of course was Leonard’s Skipper, for which the date is getting late.  The troop also found an assortment of other grass skippers there and at their second site, the Howard Co Conservancy community garden plots, where the standout was multiple Ocola Skippers.  Among the other sightings between the two locations were Common Checkered-skipper, Fiery Skipper (which has had a rather poor flight compared with recent years), and good chances to compare the spectrum of faded Tawny-edged-Crossline-Swarthy Skippers.

Meanwhile, in Frederick Co, a field report also had hundreds of Sachems in addition to Peck’s, Silver-spotted, Dun, and Least Skippers.  On the Eastern Shore and more generally across the region, a late brood of Horace’s Duskywing seems to have replaced Wild Indigo DuskywingCommon Checkered-skipper was also picked up in Dorchester, as was a good flight of Broad-winged Skippers.

Quite a few rather late records were about in Frederick, too, among them Great Spangled Fritillary and good numbers of Summer AzuresPearl Crescents were noted as flying, as was Meadow Fritillary.  Additional late-brood Silvery Checkerspots were reported in various locations; a late Appalachian Brown was seen in Dorchester Co.  Judging from the scarcity of sightings of adults now that should be overwintering, the 2019 early spring Mourning Cloak flight may be skimpy indeed.  A few reports trickled in of the expected late-summer flights of Common Buckeye, American Lady, Snout, Red-spotted Purple, Viceroy and (the ubiquitous this season) Monarch.

Several White M’s were tallied this week, and most field groups had Gray Hairstreak (and some also had Red-banded).  The Dorchester expedition also racked up a fresh Great Purple Hairstreak.  In addition to the azures, a mini-boom of Eastern Tailed-blue seems to be on the wing.

Nothing out of the ordinary was reported for swallowtails or whites and sulphurs. Not a very good year for migrant or irruptive pierids.

NECTAR NOTES:  The A’s have it — asters and (wild) ageratum (Conoclinium).  Also various Eupatorium clan flowers, goldenrod, wingstem and other composites like tickseed, and a surprisingly nice late flush of clovers in many places that owes its existence to the favorable — for clover — rains.

CALENDAR NOTES:  The season is sort of winding down, but you can always check out the LepLog Calendar for any upcoming events.

SEE SOMETHING, SAY SOMETHING:  We may actually see some sunny weather toward the end of this week, so if you find yourself in the field, share any lep observations you make with us by leaving a comment on this post here at https://leplog.wordpress.com/ or by posting to Google Groups at MDLepsOdes.



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Mid-Atlantic Butterfly Field Forecast for Week of 2018 September 8

Adult Brazilian Skipper on buddleia in northern VA [2018 Sept. 6, Harry Pavulaan]

FOY Long-tailed Skipper, Columbia MD, also on buddleia [2018 Sept 7, Jim Wilkinson]

HIGHLIGHTS:  Brazilian Skipper (VA and MD), Long-tailed Skipper (MD), continuing fresh Juniper Hairstreaks (VA and MD), White M Hairstreak (MD), Great Purple Hairstreak (MD)

Two — count ’em, two — pics of the week to share in this Forecast.  And yet: This is a flight season to try butterfly observers’ souls.  Rollercoaster temperatures, extreme drought back-to-back with monsoonal downpours, unseasonably warm and then unseasonably cold spring … well, it’s no wonder this has been a difficult year to Forecast!

Currently, we seem to be experiencing what would ordinarily be considered “partial” late broods of a number of butterflies that — around here — would be expected to have finished up already.  This includes Horace’s Duskywing, out fresh in numbers now; Juniper (Olive) Hairstreak; Silvery Checkerspot; pristine Zebra Swalllowtails, and others.  And we’re finally getting  the peak of skipper numbers and diversity we usually have in mid-August, so the season seems “behind” by 2-3 weeks.

It appears to be a good fall shaping up for summer skipper migrants, though, witness the first caterpillar record and first photographic record of Brazilian Skipper in MD (caterpillars in yours truly’s back yard) and a nice photo record in VA (adult above).  Brazilian Skippers (Large Canna Rollers to the folks in the nursery trade for the characteristic damage to cannas) have been noted up and down the East coast up into New England this season, likely tied to changes in the canna trade that now favor potted plants shipped up from the Deep South production areas — with skipper hitchhikers — instead of the rhizomes that gardeners have bought, traded, and handed down since Victorian times.  All mine are currently in the pre-pupal diapause between the last instar and actually forming a chrysalis.  If they don’t drown tonight.

Ocola Skippers showed up in the mid-Atlantic early this season but appear to have winked out again; over the past week they seem to be pushing their way back north through the Carolinas and VA.  Long-tailed Skipper showed up for us locally just this morning; an inspection of local zinnia patches after this weekend’s soaking will yield others — they are being seen now up and down to the coast, too, again as far as New England.  Will this be a Eufala year? Or a Whirlabout season?

Coastal and marsh skippers are flying regionally, too — Dion, Broad-winged, Aaron’s and Salt Marsh.

Leonard’s Skipper is flying now, on the abundant liatris in bloom at Soldiers Delight near Baltimore.  In company with the Leonard’s have been Swarthy, Dun, Little Glassywing, Crossline and Tawny-edged Skippers; still, they’re pretty much overwhelmed as of this week by a massive emergence of Sachems.

Our non-skipper migrants haven’t been as evident.  Little Yellow is MIA, and Sleepy Orange and Cloudless Sulphur have been observed but in small numbers or localized colonies.  Sulphurs and whites in general have AWOL or scarce.  I had a Painted Lady at the US National Arboretum last weekend, but only a singleton; a couple of folks across the region have had American Ladies.  Buckeye and Variegated Fritillary numbers have been underwhelming.  A new push of Pearl Crescent is out but still not in normally cloud-like numbers; at least one location reported a mini-burst of Eastern Tailed-blues this week.

Great Purple Hairstreak is making a good showing along back roads on the MD Eastern Shore between Vienna and Blackwater NWR.  I suspect that observers might see a fresh brood of Bronze Copper there as well — they are out in NJ — when the weather clears and before we get impacted by tropical system Florence.  Fresh Juniper Hairstreaks are showing up at various locations regionally.  Several White M reports came in as well.

Monarchs are the unmitigated success story of the season this year. Lots of stories of gardens running out of milkweed leaves with hungry caterpillars still growing. A Queen was observed in Lyndhurst, NJ.

Swallowtails, not so much.  Spicebush has been scarce all season.  There’s been a slight uptick in Eastern Tiger Swallowtail reports and photos, but that may simply be the irresistible magnetic pull of buddleia in home gardens.  But again, the fresh Zebra Swallowtails. 

NECTAR NOTES:  Liatris, wherever it is blooming, is a lodestar for skippers right now.  Otherwise, in natural areas seek out asters, goldenrod, and anything in the Joe-pye/boneset/thoroughwort group.  Flat flowers are the favorite for most grass skippers; deep-throated petunias and morning glories for Brazilian and Clouded Skippers.

CALENDAR NOTES:  The season is sort of winding down and this weekend’s cool, damp weather will keep organized activities to a minimum, I suspect.  But you can always check out the LepLog Calendar for upcoming events.

SEE SOMETHING, SAY SOMETHING:  Damp, cold conditions rule the region this weekend; we may have some fair weather before the possibility of tropical system Florence impacting the region.  If you find yourself in the field, share any lep observations you make with us by leaving a comment on this post here at https://leplog.wordpress.com/ or by posting to Google Groups at MDLepsOdes.



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Brazilian Skipper in MD

Brazilian Skipper_MD:PG Co:College Park:Calvert Hill:Borchelt yardJPG

Caterpillar of Brazilian Skipper (aka Large Canna Leafroller in the nursery plant trade), Calpodes ethlius (Stoll, 1782) on a suburban MD canna [2018 Aug 31, photo by REB] MD: Prince George’s Co., College Park.  Note the diagnostic black triangle on the head.

Almost as if summoned by yesterday’s Forecast — and my note to fellow MD butterfly observers to be checking their cannas — I glanced at my ONE potted canna in the back yard on the way to filling the bird tray this morning to discover: multiple caterpillars of Brazilian Skipper ripping the canna to shreds.

If we were going to see Brazilian Skipper caterpillars here, this apparently would be the season for it, given that there are reports of a persistent summer colony this year in Cape May and a sighting last week from CT.  Still, it was pretty astounding and I went back inside to contemplate it more fully over coffee.

Had to have been from local oviposition, I decided, since this canna was grown this season from seed off the cannonshot cannas I had last year.  It’s one of the skippers’ favorite cultivars, apparently.  There are very few other cannas in the immediate vicinity.

There are enough caterpillars that they’ll make short work of the canna they’re on, so I figure I’d go drag the one from the front yard out back too.  But of course it has a skipper tent on it as well.  Looks like I may be going foraging in the neighborhood for canna leaves this weekend.

This is the characteristic “rolled cigar” and leaf tent appearance of cannas with Brazilian Skipper infestations.



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Mid-Atlantic Butterfly Field Forecast for the Week of September 1


Freshly eclosed Great Purple Hairstreak observed in Dorchester Co MD [2018 Aug 27, photo by Kevin Heffernan]

HIGHLIGHTS:  Great Purple Hairstreak, Juniper Hairstreak, Clouded Skipper, Harvester

Lycaenids take pride of place on the Forecast this week, with FOY Great Purple Hairstreak on the Eastern Shore, a species that has become increasingly difficult to see in MD in recent years.  It’s possible this represents an actual population drop, but the appropriate habitat and host plant are common if not abundant in many locations in Dorchester, Worcester, and Wicomico counties.  Just as likely, the mowing regimen on much of the Eastern Shore turns roadsides into manicured golf course style turf, so that while the hairstreaks are still there, they nectar well away from the roadsides and just aren’t observed as often.

Other gossamer-wings this week included cooperative Harvesters in Howard Co and Caroline Co MD.  Howard Co also gave us a very fresh, even pristine Juniper Hairstreak that has us wondering whether this represents a late-eclosing Juniper (Juniper Hairstreak is generally considered to be double-brooded in the mid-Atlantic, and the peak of the second brood is mid-July), or the first salvo in a partial third brood, which Juniper Hairstreaks are sometimes reported as flying.  White M was also recorded in the region this week, along with the requisite Gray and Red-banded Hairstreaks.  A few Summer Azures are still flying; Eastern Tailed-blue populations have plummeted from already low numbers.

Fresh Silvery Checkerspots, another phenological oddity, were also reported in several regional locations.  Pearl Crescents are out, and numbers seem to be holding steady and possibly even increasing somewhat.  Meadow Fritillary was reported, but the most common fritillary this week was Variegated. Large numbers of Red-spotted Purples are flying this week.  There’s a satyrid lull, with only several reports of Common Wood Nymph and singleton Appalachian Browns and Northern Pearly-eyesMonarchs by contract are seen practically everywhere.

Diversity and populations of skippers ticked up considerably over the past week, included a FOY Clouded Skipper.  The Ocola spate of the last two weeks seems to have abated, but large numbers of Sachem, Crossline, and Tawny-edged are out, along with smaller numbers of Fiery, Southern Broken-dash, Little Glassywing and Zabulon Skippers.  The only reliably reported duskywing this week was Wild Indigo.  Amazingly, Brazilian Skipper has now been reported all the way up into CT; time to inspect your cannas for the characteristic cigar-rolled leaves!

Nothing special on the swallowtail front except that fresh Black Swallowtails are pretty common this week, and we’re seeing the best flight of Eastern Tigers we’ve seen so far this year.

NECTAR NOTES:  Mistflower, wild sunflowers, early asters, goldenrod, and — especially — bonesets, Joe-pyes, and thoroughworts are the big draw where they’re blooming.  A few dogbane patches are mounting a late flowering spurt.  Morning glories and bindweeds are coming into their own now and will soon be sporting Clouded Skippers probing deep into their corollas.

SEE SOMETHING, SAY SOMETHING:  The long Labor Day weekend looks decent if not terrific for butterfliers; share any lep observations you make with us by leaving a commenti on this post here at https://leplog.wordpress.com/ or by posting to Google Groups at MDLepsOdes.



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Mid-Atlantic Butterfly Field Forecast for the Week of 2018 August 25

Palamedes Swallowtail

Palamedes Swallowtail in Edgemere MD (near Baltimore) [2018 August 18; photo by Gale Janiszewski, in whose garden this critter showed up!]

HIGHLIGHTS:  Palamedes Swallowtail (near Baltimore!!), Clouded Skipper, Diana Fritillary, Banded Hairstreak

This is the time of year we’re accustomed to out-of-range shorebirds and waders; but Palamedes Swallowtail?? This pristine Palamedes showed up in a suburban garden in the Sparrows Point quad of MD, near Baltimore, well away from its very restricted range in MD at the far southern tip of Delmarva.  The plump and very crisp butterfly suggests it eclosed somewhere near Gale Janiszewski’s garden in Edgemere, but beyond that we’ll probably have to just scratch our heads.

As far as other swallowtails are concerned, there’s been a slight but welcome uptick in Eastern Tiger Swallowtails in this last brood of the summer, and there are still quite a few Zebra Swallowtails hanging around. We may actually get a very occasional partial fourth brood out of these this year, given that the abundant rains have kept pawpaw leaves relatively green and pliable.  Fresh Pipevine Swallowtails are flying, and there are decent numbers of Black Swallowtails on the wing, especially on the Eastern Shore.  Spicebush has been rather sparse here at the end of the season.  No Giant Swallowtail reports this week. [UPDATE:  Giant Swallowtail was observed in PA last week]

The other high note this week comes from Howard Co MD and the regional FOY Clouded Skipper for the season.  Ocola Skippers were again widely reported, along with a decided upswing in Sachem and Zabulon SkippersSalt Marsh Skipper is flying now and should be looked for in brackish or salt marshes, where they like marsh fleabane and goldenrods for nectar.  The unusual population boom of Brazilian Skippers continues on Cape May, where they’ve apparently managed to stage a full, locally produced second brood.

The lycaenid of the week was a tattered rag of a Banded Hairstreak in WV last week.  White M should be flying but there have been no reports.  Summer Azure, Gray Hairstreak, Eastern-tailed Blue, and Red-banded Hairstreak round out the blues and hairstreaks; no reports this week of either of the coppers.  No sightings either of Harvester. [UPDATE: While it was missed at the time, a Great Purple Hairstreak showed up in a picture of other butterflies taken last week on Joe-pye weed along New Bridge Road near Vienna — FOY sighting regionally of this hairstreak]

Fritillary numbers are down, especially Great Spangled, although Variegated Fritillaries are common but not abundant.  A ragged male Diana was reported from WV.  In fact, few of the migratory brushfoots — Snout, Red Admiral, Ladies, Buckeyes — have reached anything like their normal late summer population explosions.  All are seen regularly but haven’t been especially common.  Viceroy and Red-spotted Purple are still out.  This week brought sightings of a very fresh Mourning Cloak — another 2018 scarcity — as well as good numbers of Eastern Commas and Question Marks.

A few more Cloudless Sulphurs made observers’ lists this week, along with small pockets of Sleepy Orange.

NECTAR NOTES:  In addition to the afore-mentioned marsh fleabane and goldenrods, there’s a lot of action this week on Joe-pye and ironweed, and the other traditional bonesets and thoroughworts are coming in to their own (the latter is especially popular with day-flying moths for some reason).  Blue mistflower and its garden ageratum cousins are pulling in butterflies, as are early asters.  Ocolas especially are fond of tall perennial sunflowers of various stripes.  This time of year, one is more likely to find anglewings and cloaks on windfall apples, pears, and pawpaws than on traditional nectar.

CALENDAR NOTES:  There are butterfly walks coming up next weekend at Soldiers Delight (Owings Mills MD) and Lake Elkhorn (Columbia MD); see the master Leplog calendar for details.

SEE SOMETHING, SAY SOMETHING: You would have to go to 2017 for as nice a field day on the weekend as we are predicted to have tomorrow.  If you get out to enjoy it, share any butterfly observations with us by leaving a commenting on this post here at https://leplog.wordpress.com/ or by posting to Google Groups at MDLepsOdes.



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Mid-Atlantic Butterfly Field Forecast for the Week of 2018 August 18

Common Sootywing in the butterfly garden of the Parris Glendening Nature Preserve area, MD: Anne Arundel Co [2018 August 12, photo by Tom Stock]

HIGHLIGHTS:  Common Sootywing, Hayhurst’s Scallopwing, Swarthy Skipper

Another decidedly low-key week for butterflies across the mid-Atlantic, and the off-on rain chances for the weekend are likely to dampen (pun intended) enthusiasm for being out in the field again.

Skippers provided the most interest over the past week, and their numbers and diversity are likely to build in the next week.  Among the more interesting were a couple of observations of Common Sootywing, which has not been easy to come by this year, and of Swarthy Skipper, which in some locations is the most common grass skipper currently on the wing.  Sachem –– our usually ubiquitous late summer skipper — is out, but not in the clouds of orange we’re accustomed to seeing over Joe-pye weed and butterfly bush.  It’s a relatively good year for Southern Cloudywing, which was reported widely this week across the region (and of course always should be checked closely in case a Confused Cloudywing is hiding amongst them).  Of particular note is the early appearance and wide distribution of sightings over the past couple of weeks of Ocola Skipper.  We’re not the only ones seeing early visits by this migratory species; it’s been seen across a number of New England states this summer already.  Hayhurst’s Scallopwing has been common in a couple of locations this week but certainly not widespread or abundant as it is in some years.

The current brood of Zebra Swallowtails is among the most beautiful we’ve seen in recent years, with extra-long tails that likely resulted from the exception quality of fresh leaves on pawpaw stimulated by the abundant rainfall.  It’s possible we may even see a partial fourth brood this year, as we sometimes do when the quality of forage for the Zebras is high and if the autumn lingers warm with moderate rains.  One Giant Swallowtail report came in from the immediate region (Harford Co MD) this week.  Fresh Pipevine Swallowtails were widely encountered.

Little has changed on the lycaenid front the last couple of weeks: Red-banded and Gray Hairstreaks are the only ‘streaks reported recently.  Eastern Tail-blues are present but require some diligence to find.  No recent Harvester reports.  Summer Azures are flying (the only azure that is) but again in modest numbers.  Fresh American Coppers can be found now as well.

Sleepy Oranges and a few Cloudless Sulphurs provide the only relief from the normal whites and sulphurs.  Probable Cabbage (Small) Whites along weedy verges, overgrown lots, and happily unkempt roadsides should all be double checked for Checkered White, while is probably often overlooked.

Not much movement on the brushfoot front, either — fritillaries included Great Spangled, Meadow, and Variegated, all in modest or falling numbers; a few Painted Ladies provoked a blip of interest; Snout numbers are up but at best uncommon.  Last year’s spate of Gulf Fritillaries has not been repeated.

Monarchs are a bright spot this summer; you can find them in most fields with nectar and in many urban and suburban gardens.  And many caterpillar reports.  Whether this translates into a good flight next season as they repopulate the mid-Atlantic after migrating north from their wintering grounds remains to be seen; all the research so far suggests that it isn’t the raw numbers of Monarchs produced on the summer feeding grounds but something on the migratory route or wintering groves that drives down the numbers of butterflies returning the following spring.

NECTAR NOTES:  There’s a lot of nectar about now, including native liatris, which means the annual watch for Leonard’s Skipper should be underway (our best sightings are usually around Labor Day).  Sennas and partridge peas are in good bloom (and providing caterpillar resources for Sleepy Oranges and Cloudless Sulphurs). A late flush of buttonbush and the tail end of clethra are also good bets, especially for marsh and coastal skippers.  The early fall native sunflower crop (crownsbeard, coreopsis tickseed, thin-leaved and woodland sunflowers) are the go-to native species to check for Ocola and other skippers.

LET US KNOW: Sunbursts when they come this weekend will also bring hungry butterflies between showers.  Remember to report your sightings by leaving a commenting on this post here at https://leplog.wordpress.com/ or by posting to Google Groups at MDLepsOdes.

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Mid-Atlantic Butterfly Field Forecast for the Week of 2018 August 11

Seldom encountered away from schoolyards in our area (!), this Painted Lady was photographed in Howard Co MD last week at Alpha Ridge Park [2018 August 4, photo by John Harris]

Sorry, no highlights to report this week.  While the uptick in numbers has been noticeable this past week, there’s been very little new or newsworthy to report.  Find us a highlight for next week’s Forecast!

The expected grass skippers are flyin albeit in rather anemic numbers; Hayhurst’s Scallopwing is conspicuous by its virtual absence.  Ocola Skipper provided the only exception to the rule of generally low skipper numbers; it appears to be having a good year in 2018 with sightings already well up into New England and in multiple locations here in the mid-Atlantic.  Horace’s Duskywing continues a pretty strong flight.

After an absence of several months, Painted Lady showed up in a couple of widely scattered spots — mostly garden areas, as I recall — and American Lady singletons were reported as well.  Commas and Question Marks were quite commonly noted, especially on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, although late season Mourning Cloaks have not made the lists recently.  Fresh Viceroys were on the wing last weekend.  Another brushfoot doing well is Common Wood Nymph.  Common Buckeye numbers are building (finally, although none of the dark reddish-pink autumn morph, rosa, yet) as are Variegated Fritillaries.  Great Spangled Fritillary is beginning its decline.  Lots of Monarchs this summer.  Pearl Crescents, by contrast, are sparse, and the big spike in Silvery Checkerspot is rapidly dwindling.  As Harry Pavulaan pointed out to me in relationship to last week’s Forecast, the sighting of a fresh Little Wood Satyr on the Eastern Shore did not portend a new flight, but it does have us scratching our collective heads.  These satyrs have two main flights in May and June; that a fresh individual would show up at the end of July on the coastal plain is, well, anomalous.  Did it aestivate during the heat waves we had? Is the flight all screwed up because of this weird weather year?  Is it a sibling species in the complex?  Bears watching, and please let me know if you have late-July records of Little Wood Satyr from the Piedmont or Eastern Shore.

Fresh Red-banded and Gray Hairstreaks were regularly reported, but Summer Azure and  Eastern Tailed-blue proved rather scarce this past week compared with most years.  One White M Hairstreak sighting came in this week.

Nothing out of the ordinary for whites and sulphurs, except there are scattered reports of pockets of Sleepy Orange and Cloudless Sulphur but not area-wide sightings yet.  ‘Tis the season for Checkered White, too, but no sightings to be had.

All the summer swallowtails are out, presumably, with an excellent late flight of Zebra Swallowtails and a new crop of Black Swallowtails, but modest Eastern Tigers and Spicebush and very few Pipevines (except on the National Mall, where they are omnipresent during the summer thanks to abundant horticultural Aristolochia in the gardens).  There were no reports of Palamedes or Giant Swallowtails regionally this week (although Tom Stock is seeing scads of them while vacationing in Duck, NC).

NECTAR NOTES:  Goldenrods are coming into bloom, and on the lower Eastern Shore especially should be checked for Great Purple Hairstreak and Bronze Copper.  Asters are beginning to show some floral activity, and that’s where you’ll find various ladies, admirals, and fritillaries.  In the garden it’s all about buddleia and tithonia.

CALENDAR NOTES:  This weekend includes a NABA annual count in Williamsburg (VA) and a butterfly walk in Howard Co (MD).  See details at https://leplog.wordpress.com/2018-field-trip-and-annual-count-calendar/

LET US KNOW: The weather forecast for the weekend is decidedly mixed, but could offer a few hours each day of rain-free butterfly observation. Report your sightings by leaving a commenting on this post here at https://leplog.wordpress.com/ or by posting to Google Groups at MDLepsOdes.


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