Mid-Atlantic Butterfly Field Forecast for Week of 2016 July 23

Field observers should watch for the new brood of Zabulon Skipper emerging this week.  [photo by REB]

Field observers should watch for the new brood of Zabulon Skippers emerging this week. [photo by REB]

Oppressively hot and humid temps in the mid-Atlantic are likely to keep most of us homebound under a powerful air conditioner most of the time the next few days, but if you do venture out there are some new reports to keep in mind.

Topping the list is the first report of regional Ocola Skippers, a southern migrant that we’ve been watching for the past week as numbers began to build in the Carolinas and VA. And sure enough, the first sightings (multiple) came this week in Prince Georges Co., so Ocolas should be showing up elsewhere this weekend and next week. Perhaps 2016 will be a repeat of last summer, with a really good influx of Ocolas in August.

Elsewhere, it’s been pretty quiet. King’s Hairstreak has not yet been reported, and last week’s Little Yellows seem to have been a one-hit wonder. Also MIA among the pierids are Cloudless Sulphurs and Sleepy Orange. No Giant Swallowtails have been noted either, nor have Palamedes, but I suspect the latter is only absent because nobody has visited its stronghold along the Pocomoke River – it should be flying now.

But Harvester is out in a new brood, as is White M Hairstreak, which if flying with Gray Hairstreak, Summer Azures, and Eastern Tailed-blue. Red-banded Hairstreak is likely to rebound shortly as well. Pink-edged Sulphur is flying in its high-altitude bog habitats in WV. Observers in Cumberland Co NJ tallied an amazing 67 Checkered Whites earlier this week.

Satyrs are having a field day (pun intended), especially Common Wood Nymph. Northern Pearly Eye and Appalachian Brown are well represented in many sightings over the past week or so. Other nymphalids are flying too; Viceroy, Red-spotted Purple, and anglewings among them. Fresh Meadow Fritillaries are out again, with fading Great Spangleds and still-fresh Aphrodite and Atlantis Fritillaries. Silvery Checkerspots are emerging again, although it does not look like a large flight. Monarchs were reported widely again this week but mostly as singletons or caterpillars.

Skipper-wise, Common Checkered is being reported now, although it’s still not been a good season for grass skippers. Peck’s is flying, in low numbers, and there were scant reports of Crossline and Tawny-edged Skippers. Northern and Southern Broken-dash are conspicuously absent this week, with the exception of Northerns in various NJ locales. Zabulon is coming on its last brood of the summer.

If you make it into the field this next week despite the heat, please let us know for the next Forecast by commenting here at https://leplog.wordpress.com/ or posting to Google Groups at MDLepsOdes.

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Mid-Atlantic Butterfly Field Forecast for Week of 2016 July 16

Green Comma_Bath Co VA July 2016

Green Comma from the 2016 Bath Co VA Annual Count.

Throughout the mid-Atlantic and much of the rest of the East Coast, summer butterfly numbers have been anemic bordering on dismal. While diversity is pretty stable – we’re seeing roughly the same butterflies, with a few exceptions, as we see most years – the numbers of individual butterflies as a whole are sub-par.

This was true of the recently concluded DC Annual NABA Count, with decent diversity – including the first Dion Skipper on the grounds of the US National Arboretum – but an historically low number of individuals. Best guessing by the experts on the listservs is that a combination of cold weather late in the season and extended wet, cool periods in late spring and early summer are to blame.

Nevertheless, there were some real bright spots this week. On the Bath Co VA count, participants saw a count first Green Comma, a difficult species to score anywhere in the mid-Atlantic. Question Mark, Eastern Comma, Red-spotted Purple, and Viceroy are also flying, as are fellow nymphalids American Lady and Red Admiral (the latter in very fresh condition). Pearl Crescents are either between broods locally or simply having a bad year; Bath Co had more than 200 so the odds are a new emergence is imminent here. The cresecent doppelganger Silvery Checkerspot is AWOL this week locally but showing up on more southerly counts, so likely to grace observers this week.   Baltimore Checkerspot were flying at Finzel Swamp with late Long Dash. Occasional Common Buckeyes are showing up across the region.

Fritillaries are doing reasonably well. Bath Co produced 15 male Diana Fritillaries on the count last weekend, as well as Great Spangled Fritillaries and Meadow Fritillaries. Variegated Fritillaries are edging back into the area – they were common last week on the MD/DE Eastern Shore, but we only scored one on the DC count today. Last weekend’s revived Garrett Co MD count yielded the trifecta of greater fritillaries: Great-spangled, Aphrodite, and a solitary Atlantis.

Common Wood Nymphs seem to be bucking the trend and flying well, although later than usual. The 2016 summer season also seems to be treating Appalachian Browns and Northern Pearly Eyes well; dozens of both were on the wing in Garrett Co.

Grass skipper numbers are suffering so far this summer, although a couple dozen Sachem showed up on the DC count, and the Garrett count was replete with Black Dash, a few Northern Broken-dash, and a Delaware Skipper. As noted above, Dion was in the dogbane meadows in DC at the US National Arboretum. Peck’s, Tawny-edged, Crossline and Little Glassywing are flying in low numbers; Horace’s Duskywing is fairly common and outpacing look-alike Wild Indigo Duskywing in most habitats north of VA.

Cape May is sporting its normal complement of unusual skippers, with reports in the past week of Rare, Aaron’s, Broad-winged, and Salt Marsh.

Monarchs seem to have moved on north; only a singleton was seen on the Arboretum count.

Northern Metalmarks have emerged along metalmark alley in the Green Ridge State Forest, and we were able to find even larger numbers elsewhere in Green Ridge. The Bath Count also featured metalmarks.

The real missing link this summer, though, has been the satyrium hairstreaks. Banded Hairstreaks have been hard to find (although present in regular locations) and Striped almost nonexistent (although a singleton showed up on the Garrett count). Late Edwards’ Skippers are still flying in Frederick Co MD as of last weekend. Searches for King’s Hairstreak haven’t turned this one up yet this year. Second-brood White M has just emerged on Cape May so we should be looking for it elsewhere in the mid-Atlantic. Same for Olive (Juniper) Hairstreak. Gray Hairstreak and Red-banded Hairstreak are decidedly uncommon this season; only Eastern Tailed-blue and Summer Azure appear to be flying in numbers considered more or less normal.

Reports of most swallowtails came in during the past few days – Black, Pipevine, Spicebush, and Eastern Tiger. No recent reports of Giant Swallowtail.

A late report of Little Yellow today leads the whites and sulphurs tally; otherwise it’s been just Clouded and Orange. Single reports of scattered Sleepy Orange have come in.

If you make it into the field this next week, please let us know for the next Forecast by commenting here at https://leplog.wordpress.com/ or posting to Google Groups at MDLepsOdes.

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Mid-Atlantic Butterfly Field Forecast for Week of 2016 July 9

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Bronze Copper from our Eastern Shore circuit loop on July 6 [MD, Dorchester Co., photo by Tom Stock]

 The high temperatures put a damper on a lot of field work this last week, to say nothing of keeping a lot butterflies out of the extreme heat, but a few new butterflies showed up nonetheless, many of them on a trip Tom Stock and I took to Dorchester, Wicomico, and Worcester Cos. on the Eastern Shore on Wednesday.

The highlight of the trip included three Bronze Coppers that we picked up in Dorchester Co. This is a welcome relief from years of single sightings, or no sightings at all. Unfortunately, we dipped on the other target species for the trip, King’s Hairstreak (which we were probably too early for) and Chermock’s Mulberry Wing (which is likely extirpated in MD).

On the other hand, the most common butterfly we saw in Wicomico and Worcester Cos., MD, by far was Monarch. Practically every stand of milkweed and much of the dogbane had two or three Monarchs floating around it; we also saw caterpillars of various instars. Also flying on the Eastern Shore were Common Wood Nymph, Little Wood Satyr, and Appalachian Brown.

Both Red Admirals and Variegated Fritillary were beginning to irrupt on the Eastern Shore, and Common Buckeyes are beginning to building in numbers. No Cloudless Sulphurs or Sleepy Oranges, however.  And no Great Spangled Fritillaries; their early brood seems to have collapsed quickly.

American Copper was flying in a new brood. Summer Azures were quite common at most locations, oviposting regularly on emerging flower buds of pokeweed and clethra in particular. We picked up Coral Hairstreaks just across the DE border, but saw no Banded or Striped Hairstreaks on our Eastern Shore circuit.

Swallowtails on the wing included Pipevine (very fresh), a large new brood of Zebra Swallowtails, large numbers of Black Swallowtails (especially around Blackwater NWR), and a handful of Spicebush and Eastern Tigers.

Very few skipper species were out, but our first Sachems were on the wing. Fresh Broad-winged Skippers were out on the buttonbush blooms and on milkweed. Both Horace’s and Wild Indigo Duskywing were flying. Surprisingly common was Common Sootywing, observed in many Eastern Shore locations, mostly on white clover

On a field trip last Saturday to Eastern Neck NWR, observers had American Snout (which was also reported on the Eastern Shore last week), Broad-winged Skippers, and Zebra Swallowtails in great numbers, but none of the marsh skippers that are often seen in this location despite the abundant blooming buttonbush in the butterfly garden.

On the other side of the state, Bog Coppers were flying in Cranesville Swamp in Garrett Co.

This weekend will see a number of field trips and annual counts, including the Bath Co VA , Burlington Co. NJ and Holtwood PA counts on Saturday, and the revived Garrett Co. MD count on Sunday. I will be leading a field trip tomorrow to Green Ridge SF in search of Northern Metalmarks and will report next week!

If you see anything on these counts or in the field this next week, please let us know for the next Forecast by commenting here at https://leplog.wordpress.com/ or posting to Google Groups at MDLepsOdes.

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New Date for Garrett Co MD NABA Count–July 10

UPDATE July 4: 

Tom is making propitiation to the weather gods and thinking next Sunday, July 10, will be favorable for a rescheduled Garrett Co Count.  Rain date will be July 11.  From a week out, both of these days look great. 
But this is Garrett ….All other details remain the same.  Bog Copper is flying out there now, as reported by Monica Miller this week.  With luck you might see Northern Metalmarks in Green Ridge going out or coming back. 
Check in with Tom via the links below if you would like more info or plan to join us in Garrett Co. 

 

UPDATE July 3:

We’ve been watching the weather forecast for Garrett Co closely as we near the July 5 date (July 6 rain date) for the revived Garrett Co count.  And as we’ve gotten closer to the dates the weather forecasts have firmed up, and not the way we’d like to see.  Tuesday (July 5) is clearly out with all-day rain expected.  Wednesday is likely to see less rain but still be mostly cloudy and not good for butterfly observation.

And it is a long trip out there for most of the folks who have expressed an interest in participating.  Garrett Co weather is always surprising, and we’ll be kicking ourselves if one or both of those days turn out sunny and mild, but the calculus doesn’t favor it from what we can divine from the forecasts.

So reluctantly we’re opting to scrub the count for this week; Tom is currently considering options for later this month.  We’ll post again when we figure it out.  Meantime, continue to email Tom if you have an interest in this count.

 

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Bog Copper, a usual specialty of the Garrett Co/WV count.

After a hiatus of some years, we are planning to resurrect the annual NABA count for Garrett Co. this year on Tuesday, July 5 (rain date July 6) with Tom Stock as coordinator.  The count circle includes perennially productive areas such as Cranesville Swamp, Garrett State Forest, Swallow Falls, Herrington Manor, the Glades, and Mosser Road.

Interesting butterflies on this count historically have included Atlantis, Aphrodite and Silver-bordered Fritillary; Bog Copper; Black Dash; and Delaware Skipper; among others.

We’ll start at 8:30 am from the parking lot in front of the Garrett County Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center, 15 Visitors Center Dr., McHenry MD 21541 (GPS 39.561617, -79.358609).  Tally rally will be held at Ledo Pizza just down the road, 24465 Garrett Hwy, McHenry, MD 21541 at 6 pm.

Restroom facilities are available at the Visitor Center and at some of the count locations, but may be few and far between on some of the routes.  NABA requires a $3 participation fee to underwrite the cost of compiling the counts into an annual report, payable in cash at the morning meet-up. (an additional $7 will also get you the compilation of all the NABA counts for 2016)

Please, no children under 12 or pets.  Long pants, sunscreen, insect repellent are all recommended, as are field guides and close-focusing binoculars.  Net use is not permitted on The Nature Conservancy or state park properties.

We have several standard routes we would like to cover; please let Tom know what you are interested in covering in this area if you have a preference, or we’ll make tactical decisions at the meetup in the morning on the 5th.

Contact:  Tom Stock [tom DOT stock56 AT GMAIL DOT com] or by cell at
202-738-3346

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Mid-Atlantic Butterfly Field Forecast for 2016 July 2-8

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Walter Gould’s excellent photo of a pair of Mulberry Wings from the western Montgomery Co MD annual NABA count last week. Low diversity but decent numbers of most species; the Mulberry Wing colony in particular was in very good shape.

Little new to report this week, but the fine weather tomorrow and the holiday weekend should bring more sightings of newly emerged species. Few will be FOYs, but second or even third broods of fresh individuals are likely this weekend.

Zebra Swallowtail is now in its second brood, and showing well at Eastern Neck, Elk Neck, the C&O canal, Green Ridge State Forest and other river systems with extensive pawpaw. Other swallowtails are flying too, including a fresh brood of Blacks and Spicebush; fresh Eastern Tiger should also be emerging following the rains of the past week. Giant Swallowtail should be in a second brood shortly if it isn’t already on the wing.

Essex (European) Skippers are building in numbers from Frederick Co MD west; look for it in fields and roadsides where timothy grass is now in full head. Black Dash should be looked for in the mountain counties. Wild Indigo and Horace’s Duskywings are the only two of the duskywings you’re likely to encounter the rest of the year. This weekend should see a new brood of Hayhurst’s Scallopwing, as well as reports of Dion, Aaron’s, Saltmarsh, and possible Rare Skippers. All the expected grass skippers, including Northern Broken-dash, are on the wing now, although it’s been a tough year so far for finding Sachem. Even Fiery Skipper has made an appearance already.

Hairstreaks are still present – Banded, Striped, Red-banded, and Gray predominating. This weekend marks the likely emergence of the very rare King’s Hairstreak on the Eastern Shore, and of second-generation Olive (Juniper) Hairstreak across the region. Edwards’ Hairstreak is likely on its last gasp; it was not a good year for this species.

Painted Ladies have been mostly absent so far in the region; American Ladies – both fresh and tattered – are regularly seen. A fairly strong migration of Red Admirals was noted early in the week around Ocean City MD; fresh admirals are spread across the region. A new emergence of Red-spotted Purples and Viceroys can be expected in early July. Monarchs have been regularly reported (both adults and caterpillars). Baltimore Checkerspots seem to be between broods, with no recent reports. Pearl Crescent numbers are building but it’s still not a large flight, and Silvery Checkerspot hasn’t been reported lately either.

Around Spruce Knob and Canaan Valley, Pink-edged Sulphurs should be at peak. We always look for them near the MD/WV border in Garrett Co, so far in vain.

And within the next week or so, Northern Metalmarks will be gracing woodland sunflowers all along Metalmark Alley in Green Ridge State Forest, if they aren’t already (no reports yet).

Nectar report: Dogbane is waning in some areas already, but common milkweed is still in good flush. Pickerel weed is a skipper magnet wherever it is found, especially for Broad-winged Skippers near stands of phragmites. Buttonbush was slow to bloom this summer, and is now in good flower and attracting many of the coastal and marsh skippers that are hard to find elsewhere. Red, white, and sweet clover are blooming wherever they were mown earlier in the season; the modest early flight of Eastern tailed-blue is emerging now most anywhere you have white clover.

There will be a Butterfly/Ode Walk this Saturday, July 2nd from the Rt 420 entrance of the John Heinz NWR at Tinicum located near the Philly Airport. The Walk will meet at 9AM and last about 2 hours. The walk will meet at the dirt parking lot located off Rt 420 North. Note, there is a parking area on the other side of Rt 420 however if you park there please exercise extreme caution crossing the road.  Close focusing binos are recommended but not required. Also note, the area can be wet. Contact Cliff Hence (cwhenceiii@aol.com)

The Ft. Indiantown Gap Regal Fritillary tours continue this weekend.

We’re watching the weather very carefully for next Tuesday and Wednesday, the date and rain date for the revived Garrett Co MD count. Right now the extended weather forecast is pretty grim, and rain in Garrett can be a very daunting experience for butterfliers. Please be sure to sign up with count coordinator Tom Stock [tom DOT stock56 AT GMAIL DOT com] or by cell at 202-738-3346 if you are interested in going so that he can advise you of whether the count is still on.

Friday July 8 will be the NABA annual Shenandoah National Park count.  Contact Mike Smith, foresmiths@comcast.net; 540.742.3451 cell.

If you see anything on these counts or in the field this next week, please let us know for the next Forecast by commenting here at https://leplog.wordpress.com/ or posting to Google Groups at MDLepsOdes.

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Don’t Save the Monarchs — Please!

While I did not pick the headline, and certainly don’t advocate that Monarch butterflies be ignored (any more than any other butterfly species), this op-ed in Sunday’s Baltimore Sun really does reflect how I think our rhetoric about the imminent peril of Monarchs simply can’t be justified by a short and very mixed history of studying Monarch population trends at the macro level.

You can read it with comments and video at http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/opinion/oped/bs-ed-monarch-20160626-story.html

>>Monarch butterflies have become iconic in a way no other insect has. What grade-schooler hasn’t had the obligatory unit on butterfly metamorphosis, illustrated by a zebra-striped caterpillar and robin’s-egg-blue chrysalis and capped with a fast-forward movie of the adult butterfly struggling out, drying its wings and flying away to Mexico for the winter? People who can’t identify any other butterfly know Monarchs on sight.

Their very iconic status, however, has made Monarchs a perfect media darling in the bid by some activists to add the Monarch butterfly to the Endangered Species List and to get the State of Maryland to list it as a “Species of Greatest Conservation Need.” The truth is, Monarchs are not imperiled — in Maryland, in the Midwest, or anywhere in the United States. Monarch butterflies are a very resilient species, capable of population swings of half-a-billion insects or more in a single year.

Best guesses of the population size in Mexico this winter, where the vast majority of Monarchs hibernate in the refrigerator-like conditions of oyamel fir forests, put the number at around 150 million; the highest estimated population number on record was about a billion butterflies in 1997. This 1997 figure is invariably the number that preservationists use to argue for stringent measures to “save” the Monarch “from extinction,” even though it appears to represent an atypical boom year for Monarchs, which — like many insects — show huge variations in number year to year. The long-term average for the past two decades, a mere snapshot in biological terms, is about 300 million Monarchs a year, with cycles three times higher and three times lower.

Some Monarch activists blame these declines on use of powerful herbicides to control weeds in the upper Midwest. Milkweed, which Monarch caterpillars need to survive, is such a weed. And recent declines in Monarch butterflies generally mirror increased use of these herbicides. But more than two decades of counting southbound Monarchs along the East Coast and over the Great Lakes on their way to Mexico shows no significant change in migrant numbers at all even as wintering numbers in the fir forests are swinging like yo-yos. If the numbers of migrating autumn butterflies haven’t changed, clearly herbicides can’t be the culprit. Whatever is happening has to be happening either on the migration journey or in Mexico, not when the caterpillars are munching milkweed.

Moreover, we’ve simply pulled 1997 out of the air (quite literally) to set a notional goal of what a “good” population looks like. Most likely, Monarchs were pretty rare butterflies before large-scale European settlement in North America, because milkweed would have been pretty uncommon, dependent as it is on people or large mammals to bust the sod; milkweed is a creature of exposed soil that happens rather seldom in nature. Farmers who plowed the Great Plains probably sent milkweed — and Monarchs — into a population explosion the likes of which North America had never seen before and that continued (and possible still continues, relative to pre-European numbers) through the post-colonial times.

Here in Maryland, where the Monarch population is robust, the butterflies can been seen throughout the summer months in small numbers and in large flights off the coast in their autumn migration. We’ve never had huge numbers of summer Monarchs here; it’s against their biological nature, which is to lay eggs in early summer on such milkweed as they can find in the mid-Atlantic (more than enough to support their population in the East, it would seem), grow, mature, and fly farther north for a second and even third generation in the Northeast and Canada. In late summer and early fall practically local every field or garden can boast transient Monarchs.

If Maryland retains Monarchs as a species in need of extreme conservation measures, or the U.S. adds Monarchs to the Endangered Species List, Monarch butterflies will be the only such species that any Maryland citizen can stand on a beach in September and see by the hundreds or thousands, making a mockery of laws designed to safeguard truly imperiled species and eroding public understanding of what it means to be an endangered species in need of state or federal help to survive.

Rick Borchelt is a science writer who lives and blogs about natural history in College Park. He is moderator of the local butterfly observation and research site, leplog.wordpress.com.

Copyright © 2016, The Baltimore Sun

 

 

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Mid-Atlantic Butterfly Field Forecast for 2016 June 25-July 1

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Coral Hairstreak in its usual pose on racemes of Asclepias tuberosa, or butterfly-weed (one of our native milkweeds) in College Park, Prince George’s Co MD [2016 June 20, photo by Walt Gould]

The big news this week is the continuing build-up of Satyrium hairstreaks, including wide-ranging reports of Coral Hairstreak.

In addition to Coral Hairstreak reports throughout MD (including one probably county record from Caroline Co.), good numbers of Banded and Striped are out on milkweeds and dogbane. Coral is pretty much a butterfly-weed specialist, so look for it anywhere you might find Asclepias tuberosa within shouting distance of black cherry trees.

Variegated Fritillary, which has been mostly AWOL this spring, showed up a couple of times in regional reports this week. This should be a precursor to excellent opportunities for the challenging task of separating Atlantis, Aphrodite, and Great Spangled Fritillaries along the Appalachian spine. Silver-bordered Frit is also flying, although it looks like a lull week for Meadow Frits.

Most of the anglewings have gone to ground for the rest of the summer; Common Buckeye is showing up sporadically. Reports of fresh singleton American Ladies and Red Admirals likely presage a new emergence in the next week or two. Monarch eggs and caterpillars are being regularly reported (more so than the adults).

On the satyr front, the first Common Wood-Nymphs were reported, but it’s hard to tell so far if this will be a good flight or not. Appalachian Browns and Northern Pearly-eyes are in flight. Harry Pavulaan is still monitoring unusual flight times for local populations of Little Wood-Satyr, one brood of which should be winding down but an aberrant brood (a possible cryptic species?) in the DC area could be building in the space between normal wood-satyr broods the week or so after July 4. Perhaps we can convince him to share some of his recent observations on LepLog.

The dearth of Clouded and Orange Sulphurs locally seems to have been rectified with sightings this week;  good numbers reported across the region (in some cases, huge numbers). But no Cloudless Sulphurs yet, and no Little Yellows.

Eastern Neck NWR held a number of the anticipated marsh skipper specialists last weekend, including Broad-winged, Saltmarsh, Delaware, and Aaron’s. It’s likely Delaware is also flying in the freshwater marshes of Garrett Co., along with Black Dash. Long Dash was widely reported from the western MD counties.

The weekend looks like mostly picture-perfect weather for the counts scheduled June 25 (western Montgomery Co. MD; contact Stephanie.Mason@anshome.org) and Maidens VA (contact cphenly@comcast.net.), and on June 26 (western Carroll and eastern Frederick Cos. MD; contact David Smith, lacsmith@comcast.net or 443-995-4108). Also, please SAVE THE DATE of July 5 for the resurrected Garrett Co MD annual count, including parts of Cranesville Swamp, Herrington Manor, Mosser Road, and other hotspots of western MD/WV butterfly activity (contact Tom Stock, tom.stock56@gmail.com).  There are a host of other counts on the LepLog master calendar above.

And of course the perennially popular open house tours to see the last bastion of Regal Fritillaries in the region at Ft. Indiantown Gap PA are coming up July 1,2,8 and 9; see https://leplog.wordpress.com/2016/05/16/2016-dates-set-for-ft-indiantown-gap-regal-frit-tours/ for details.

If you see anything on these counts or in the field this next week, please let us know for the next Forecast by commenting here at https://leplog.wordpress.com/ or posting to Google Groups at MDLepsOdes.

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