Mid-Atlantic Butterfly Field Forecast for the Week of 2018 July 21

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Giant Swallowtail on the Western MD Rails-to-Trails path near Hancock MD.  This location and environs used to reliably produce Giant Swallowtails in both spring and summer broods; very hard to come by here in recent years [2018 July 18, photo by Jeff Cagle]

HIGHLIGHTS:  Giant Swallowtail (MD), Diana Fritillary (VA), Palamedes Swallowtail (MD), Little Yellow (DC)

The listservs this past week have been full of weeping and gnashing of teeth over what a poor lep season 2018 has been for most species in the mid-Atlantic.  Diversity is more or less on track (although a few expected common species have been very hard to come by), but overall numbers have been way down for most species.  A note of optimism came from Harry LeGrand visiting Raulston Arboretum this week, where in the NC piedmont anyway things are started to pick up.  We can only hope the weekend’s predicted soaking will stimulate a flush of new emergences, and possibly set the stage for significant final season flights for multivoltine or autumnal species.

Among the few notable sightings this week was a report of Giant Swallowtail this week in western MD, the state’s first for the year (I think).  Black, Eastern Tiger, Spicebush, Pipevine, and Zebra Swallowtails are flying but in poor numbers.  Palamedes Swallowtail was finally reported in MD for this season in the Pocomoke River drainage.  It is perhaps worth noting that in a midday drive along the length of Skyline Drive in the Shenandoahs last weekend, despite abundant milkweed in peak bloom for mile after mile I saw all of one swallowtail, an Eastern Tiger.

A LepTrek expedition to Bath Co VA and environs worked very hard for two days to come up with single male and female Diana Fritillaries and a couple of Great Spangled Fritillaries; the excellent habitat along Limekiln Road in particular — a go-to location for Dianas — is practically nonexistent, and heavy logging here makes exploring for butterflies along this road particularly risky.  What little milkweed is left along this formerly productive track was mostly browned out from the heat and drought.

The LepTrek foray also scored Northern Metalmarks (apparently having a banner year in all their regular haunts) and a fresh Gray Comma near Covington VA.  Other fresh anglewings are on the wing, both Eastern Commas and Question Marks, but in low numbers.  Fresh Red-spotted Purples were observed region-wide; this is one of the few species that has shown a normal-to-robust flight in 2018. Satyrids were sparingly reported, although Little Wood Satyrs should emerge in their late summer brood shortly and a single individual was observed on the Bath Co trip.  Rickett’s Glen in PA produced Milbert’s Tortoiseshell’s and Eyed Brown recently, and Howard Co MD has produced multiple American Snouts and Hackberry Emperors.  A fresh brood of Pearl Crescents is building now too in pretty good numbers, especially given their anemic showing earlier in the season.

Monarchs seem to be having good breeding success here in the mid-Atlantic this year, although this area has never been the locus of breeding for the East Coast population — the big numbers come from north of here in New England and Canada.  In the mid-Atlantic, milkweed is not and never has been a limiting factor for Monarch abundance — there are acres on acres of common milkweed in MD and VA that go untouched every season.

Grass skipper numbers are climbing slowly but steadily.  Horace’s and Wild Indigo Duskywing and Common Sootywing were reported at various locations.  The only truly common skipper report was for Silver-spotteds.  Delaware Skippers showed up in a couple places to liven up the lists.

The hairstreak show is mostly over already; a few worn Banded and Stripeds are about, and King’s Hairstreak is probably still flying in the few places where it can be found.  A fresh brood of Juniper (Olive) Hairstreak is out.  But mostly the best we can hope for the rest of the season are Gray and Red-banded (and there weren’t even many reports of them this week).  Bog Coppers are flying, as are American Coppers.  We continue to look for the first Great Purple Hairstreak of the season here.

Orange Sulphur, Clouded Sulphur, and Cabbage (Small) White are flying; only Cabbage White in any decent numbers.  No new reports of Sleepy Orange or Cloudless Sulphur. [Update 7/21 — I note on MBP a 7/19 photo of Sleepy Orange in Howard Co MD]  But just as I was walking back from my Starbuck’s office of convenience near the National Mall this morning (after putting together the first draft of this Forecast), I had a singleton unmistakable Little Yellow zip by.

NECTAR NOTES:  Common milkweed is fading but has had a terrific bloom this season; where it was mowed earlier in the season we’re getting a second flush of dogbane.  Mikania (climbing hempvine) is coming into bloom and is often a terrific butterfly attractant.  Early goldenrods and asters are starting to see some action already.  Sunflowers (annual and perennial) are drawing butterfly visitors.

CALENDAR NOTES:   Upcoming counts include Manassas (VA), Faaquier Co (VA) and the “Delmarva Tip” (VA) as well as a couple of other butterfly walks.  See details in the LepLog master calendar from the top navigation on the home page.

The rain should keep most of us in the garden between showers instead of in the field, but let us know what you see on your nectar sources 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 July 14


Northern Metalmarks along Metalmark Alley (Swain Hollow Road) in Green Ridge State Forest. Epic flight in progress. [2018 July 10, photo by Matt Orsie]

HIGHLIGHTS:  Northern Metalmark, Bronze Copper, King’s Hairstreak, Ocola Skipper, Juniper (Olive) Hairstreak, Swarthy Skipper

The big news this week is the annual flight of Northern Metalmarks in Green Ridge State Forest, one of the largest flights we’ve seen in recent years, with one or more on every woodland sunflower along the back roads.  This species is univoltine — only one brood a year — and when it wraps up you’ll need to wait a year while the caterpillars feed through the summer and next spring on a shale-barren specialist species of ragwort (Packera anonyma).  Most years metalmarks are uncommon and local; this year it appears the flight is quite large (much like the Olympia Marble flight in GRSF earlier this year).

Another univoltine species that showed up this week is King’s Hairstreak, a very rare and local hairstreak restricted to areas where its host plant, sweetleaf (Symplocos tinctoria) occurs — roughly three counties on the lower MD Eastern Shore and in similar habitats south along the coast and extending up into the southern mountains.  Two individuals were seen in one of the few areas where this species may semi-reliably be seen in MD.  Bronze Coppers are being seen in marshes on the Eastern Shore that have good populations of water dock, the preferred larval host plant, and abundant nectar.  Summer Azures are the only azure standing this late in the year unless there are a few lingering Appalachian Azures in the cool mountains with cohosh stands.  Eastern Tailed-blues are out but not that common for a species that is frequently superabundant. The second brood of Juniper (Olive) Hairstreak is being widely reported.  Fresh Gray Hairstreaks are out and becoming rather common, along with fresh Red-banded Hairstreaks.

Sleepy Orange is finally flying, with singletons in Silver Spring and College Park (MD), and in some numbers in NJ.  This has been a slow year for this species, which in recent years has established long-term breeding colonies in the mid-Atlantic (it historically was considered a summer-fall migrant).  More Orange and Clouded Sulphurs are on the wing now than previously this summer, and Cabbage (Small) White numbers seem to have rebounded (and my cabbages have the ragged leaves to prove it). A solo Checkered White report came in from southern NJ, so we know they’re in the flight period.

More American Snouts turned up this week, along with their host-plant (hackberry) cousins Hackberry and Tawny Emperors.  The anticipated blizzard of Variegated Fritillaries seems to have fizzled for now, or at least been very local in nature.  Fresh Red Admirals were reported around the region, and fresh Viceroy and Red-spotted Purples have just emerged.  Very few Ladies of either stripe, Painted or AmericanEastern Comma, Question Mark, and Mourning Cloak numbers plummeted the past two weeks as, presumably, these butterflies went into aestivation during the worst heat of summer.  Look for them again in late summer and fall as adults at windfall apples and other fruit (especially pawpaws) before they enter hibernation for the winter.  Nobody has reported Carolina Satyr yet this year, and we’re in the Little Wood Satyr lull, but good numbers of Common Wood Nymph appear to be about.  At the moment only Pearl Crescent is being reported among the crescent clan.  The dearth of Greater Frits other than Great Spangled is probably attributable to fewer eyes in the field during the recent uncommonly hot days.  Monarchs — adults and caterpillars — are being reported in good numbers across the region.  Common Buckeye numbers may finally be building.

Many skippers are out now, including most of the grass skippers (Sachem finally is building in numbers and distribution; Swarthy Skipper has showed up) and a good selection of marsh skippers — Broad-winged, Aaron’s, Dion, Delaware, Salt Marsh, and Rare Skippers among them.  Fresh Common Sootywings were reported too.  Of interest is the relative scarcity this year of Common Checkered-skipper, which I don’t believe has been reported since spring. Horace’s and Wild Indigo Duskywings are the only duskywings about.  A fresh crop of Silver-spotted Skipper is building in numbers.  A surprisingly early Ocola Skipper entered the lists this week from Carroll Co MD! Multiple Brazilian Skippers mysteriously keep cropping up in southernmost NJ.

Fresh swallowtails are emerging for Eastern Tiger, Black, and Zebra. 

NECTAR NOTES:  Red and white clovers on roadsides, ox-eye daisies, and woodland sunflowers are the top attractants this week where they’re found, along with a nice peak this weekend and next of buttonbush on the lower Eastern Shore (MD).

UPCOMING COUNTS: Upcoming counts include Reston (VA), John Heinz NWR (PA) and the rescheduled Shenandoah (VA). The MDLepsOdes group will sponsor a Leptrek July 14 to the Covington VA area for Diana Fritillary.  The Audubon Naturalist Society foray to the Eastern Shore still has spots available.  Two Howard Co (MD) walks are on the docket.  See details in the LepLog master calendar from the top navigation on the home page.

The heat of the past week has parched much of the local nectar, and sapped many of us of the will to be outdoors this weekend, but some of us will persevere!  If that’s you, let us know what you see at https://leplog.wordpress.com/ or by posting to Google Groups at MDLepsOdes.  And I almost always leave something of note off the list; if I do, stick it in a comment below!


Posted in general butterfly news, sightings | 3 Comments

Lep Scouting on the Eastern Shore

2018JUL07 Bronze Copper pair_MD-Dorchester Co-Vienna-Vienna Marsh-Mardela Springs Quad

A pair of courting Bronze Coppers on swamp milkweed in a Dorchester Co marsh [2018 July 7, photo by REB]

Tom Stock and I took advantage of what we thought would be picture-perfect butterfly observing conditions to do a targeted strike for King’s Hairstreak and a general scouting mission for my upcoming Eastern Shore field trip for the Audubon Naturalist Society.  We were on the road by 6 am, since you have to be in the habitat by around 9 am to have a good chance for King’s Hairstreak Early in the day they bask on eye-level broad leaves — sweetgum, greenbrier, grape — and on most days they go up into the canopy quickly by 10 or 10:30 am.  We’ve missed it many times before by arriving too late, and other times for inexplicable reasons.

Our planned trip would take us on an ambitious route from swamplands on the MD/DE line to the Hickory Point Natural Area near Pocomoke City to the back roads in and around Blackwater NWR. We were worried, though, as soon as we saw the high wind warning advisory at the Bay Bridge, and indeed the winds all day ranged from a very stiff breeze to almost gale force.  In fact at one point the wind brought a tree down across the back road we were on and forced us to drive in reverse for a half-mile or so.  Photography at times was all but impossible.  The temperature took a long time to climb out of the low 60’s and never got much above 73 or so, and for most of the day before noon clouds obscured the Sun and the resultant chill and wind kept many butterflies hunkered down.

Some coffee at Rise Up in Easton made us a little more optimistic, and we headed first to an isolated area on the MD/DE border that is the only somewhat reliable spot (and that’s probably overstating our success rate there) for King’s Hairstreak, a butterfly that is rare and local throughout its limited range in the Eastern US.  Maryland is pretty much at the far northern distribution of this primarily southern, coastal species, the range of which tracks that of its only host plant, sweetleaf or horse sugar (Symplocos tinctoria), which in MD is found only in a handful of far southern Eastern Shore counties.  King’s Hairstreak in MD is an S1 (Endangered) species.

We arrived onsite at a streamside in the middle of a coastal swamp a little after 9, dismayed by the low temperatures and overcast skies.  Wind gusts even in this protected location kept all the basking leaves in motion, but we were a little buoyed in our hopes by a few odes on the wing and a quick sighting of Red-banded Hairstreak. In a few moments, we got a rare break in the clouds and a relative lull in the winds, and we quickly spotted a dark hairstreak up in one of the sweetgum trees along the minimal trail.  When it and the breeze settled down, we were pleased to see it was indeed a King’s Hairstreak, but it allowed little opportunity to photograph before heading off into the shrubs.  A few minutes later a second King’s popped up further down the trail, and while it didn’t sit still for long at a time it moved around within sight, allowing good photos even with the wind blowing the leaves wildly.

2018JUL07 King's HS_MD-Worcester Co-Whaleysville-Nelson Rd at Careytown Br-Whaleysville Quad

King’s Hairstsreak basking in early morning along a streamside trail in Worcester Co. [2018 July 07, photo by REB]

An interesting behavior of these hairstreaks was their orientation to track the sun on this still-cool morning.  When basking in the fitful sunshine, they would tilt themselves toward the sun to take full advantage of the sun’s rays on the maximum expanse of their wings.  Sometimes this meant they lay almost prostrate on the leaf surface.  Other hairstreaks will do this, too, but the King’s were doing it in style.

2017JUL07 side basking to take in sun by King's HS

Side-basking behavior to maximize sun exposure by King’s Hairstreak [2018 JULY 07, photo by REB]. Sometimes they would lay almost flat on the leaf.

From the King’s Hairstreak locale we headed down into the Pocomoke River drainage west of Pocomoke City to the Hickory Point Natural Area, an expanse of swamplands along the river.  This has always been a go-to place for Great Purple Hairstreak, Palamedes Swallowtail, and Bronze Copper, and I expect to bring the ANS field trip here in search of these.  Yesterday, though, very little was happening at the prime location on Hickory Point Road where it bisects one of the feeder streams and gives a good view of the open marsh.  The real excitement along Hickory Point Road lay lay a quarter-mile or so before the swamp, on an unlikely verge with agricultural land (soybeans in this case)  on one side and a cleared-over woods on the other.  There were a few dogbanes in bloom here, and out of an abundance of caution Tom and I pulled over and checked them out.  The action wasn’t in the dogbane, though, but on the red clover along the road, where we quickly picked up a Dion Skipper and a handful of Aaron’s Skippers, in addition to a few Sachems, Horace’s Duskywings, and Least Skippers.

2018JUL7 Aaron's Skipper_MD-Worcester Co-Pocomoke City-Hickory Point Rd-Pocomoke City Quad

Aaron’s Skipper in Worcester Co MD along Hickory Point Rd. [2018 July 7, photo by REB]


Aaron’s Skipper, Worcester Co MD along Hickory Point Rd [2018 July 7, photo by Tom Stock]


Dion Skipper, along Hickory Point Rd in Worcester Co MD [2018 July 7, photo by Tom Stock]

2018JUL07 Dion Skipper female_MD-Worcester Co-Pocomoke City-Hickory Point Rd-Pocomoke City Quad

Dion Skipper, female, along Hickory Point Rd in Worcester Co MD. [2018 July 7, photo by REB]

Backtracking to US 50, we drove north to Vienna to a marshy area on the way to Blackwater that sometimes holds Bronze Copper.  Today would be a lucky day for us; we were on one almost immediately, and then a second as they engaged in courtship behavior on and around a swamp milkweed in bloom.  We later found a third pristine copper that had fallen victim to the milkweed’s sometimes brutal habit of ensnaring unsuitable pollinators (see Alonso Abugattas’ excellent post on this at his blog, Capital Naturalist).


Bronze Copper in Dorchester Co. [2018 July 7, photo by REB]


Bronze Copper in Dorchester Co MD [2018 July 7, photo by REB]


Bronze Copper in Dorchester Co MD [2018 July 7, photo by Tom Stock]

Finally blessed with brilliant sunshine — but still a good stiff breeze — we circumnavigated the back roads around Blackwater NWR, paying particular attention to wet or swampy areas with blooming buttonbush, Cephalanthus.  Buttonbush in many places is just coming into bloom, and at various locations we had Rare Skipper, a multitude of Broad-winged Skippers, Appalachian Brown, Common Wood Nymph, and a freshly emerged second-brood Viceroy, among others.  We also had uncommonly good looks at Turk’s-cap Lily and a few other Dorchester botanical notables.

2018JUL07 Rare Skipper dorsal female_MD-Dorchester Co-Decoursey Bridge Rd:Hurlow Creek-Chicamacomico River Quad

Rare Skipper, Dorchester Co., female. [2018 July 7, photo by REB]


A roadside Turk’s-cap Lily along the back roads of Dorchester Co. [2018 July 7, photo by REB]

A stop after hours at the pollinator garden of the new Blackwater NWR visitor center was uneventful despite the abundant nectar there.

With light traffic and still pleasant weather, we opted for a celebratory stop at the Easton Dairy Queen before arriving home just at dark — roughly 15 hours and 340 miles later.

Tom’s notes on our finds are below:

2018 JUL 07 Naturalist photographing King's Hairstreak

Tom in place trying to get a good shot of a restless King’s Hairstreak.

July 7, 2018: Eastern Shore of Maryland, Various Locations

1. Chesapeake Forest,  Worcester County

Zebra Swallowtail (1)
Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (2)
Spicebush Swallowtail (2)
Cabbage White (1)
King’s Hairstreak (2)
Red-banded Hairstreak (1)
Red-spotted Purple (1)
Little Wood Satyr (1)

2. Hickory Point Road, Worcester County

Orange Sulphur (1)
Eastern Tailed Blue (5)
Pearl Crescent (3)
Monarch (3)
Horace’s Duskywing (4)
Least Skipper (12)
Sachem (6)
Aaron’s Skipper (5)
Dion Skipper (1)

3. Dorchester County, various locations

Cabbage White (8)
Orange Sulphur (5)
Bronze Copper (3) marsh south of Vienna
Gray Hairstreak (1) marsh south of Vienna
Eastern Tailed Blue (14)
Summer Azure (6)
Pearl Crescent (4)
Red Admiral (5)
Viceroy (3) Decoursey Bridge Road
Common Wood-Nymph (2)
Monarch (common)
Silver-spotted Skipper (4)
Horace’s Duskywing (7)
Least Skipper (common)
Rare Skipper (1) Decoursey Bridge Road
Broad-winged Skipper (abundant) Decoursey Bridge Road
Dion Skipper (1) New Bridge

[+ Appalachian Brown that Tom didn’t get onto well enough to report]

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Mid-Atlantic Butterfly Field Forecast for the Week of 2018 July 7


A rare occurrence of Bog Copper sitting still for a portrait for Barry Marts in Cranesville Swamp (MD/WV). [2018 June 30, photo by Barry Marts]

HIGHLIGHTS:  Rare Skipper, Common Sootywing, Harvester, Edwards’ Hairstreak, Appalachian Azure, Hackberry Emperor, Tawny Emperor; Bog Copper, Black Dash. Sachem

Today’s widespread rains followed by what is shaping up to be a glorious weekend seem tailor-made for good butterfly watching.  While the past week (including the mid-week holiday) was certainly sunny, it was also punishingly hot both for butterflies and butterfly counters.

Annual counts and field trips picked up a couple of new butterflies for the season, including Bog Copper in the western counties straddling the MD/WV line.  Other lycaenids made an appearance, too, including the (much delayed) flight of Edwards’ Hairstreak.  A couple of Northern Oak Hairstreak sightings were reported, but all at the far edges of the mid-Atlantic region.   Small numbers of Banded and Striped Hairstreaks trickled in, mostly from area count activities, and a singleton Olive (Juniper) Hairstreak showed up.  Coral Hairstreaks were not reported [actually, Jeff Cagle reminds me after posting that they were seen on the Carroll Co count]; appears they had a slim flight this year. Appalachian Azures in numbers were out in the Catoctins visiting the (late-blooming this year) black cohosh; this is the latest I’ve seen a substantial flight of this species in MD.  They provided an excellent side by side comparison with Summer Azures also ovipositing on the cohosh.  A solo White M Hairstreak was reported from the Catoctins.  Eastern Tailed-blues were seen across the region but in low numbers.  Harvester popped up on the MD Eastern Shore.

Black Dash in some numbers topped the list of skippers this week, followed by additional Mulberry Wings from the Carroll Co (MD) count.  Sachems in small numbers finally made local lists for the season, but nothing like the superabundance we normally see.  Fresh Peck’s are out, as are most of the other expected grass skippers.  In coastal marshes we’re seeing good numbers of Broad-winged Skippers mixed with a few Rare Skippers.  Other skippers included a few sightings of Common Sootywing, which has been hard to come by this year.

This week all but one of the regional fritillaries was on the wing, from Regal Fritillary in their annual show at Ft. Indiantown Gap, to Meadow Fritillary, to Silver-bordered Fritillary, to Variegated (although the big irruption seems to have crashed already or at least be quite sporadic), to the Big Three: Great Spangled, Aphrodite, and Atlantis.  Only Diana is missing from the fritillary roster so far this summer.

Other brush-foots reported this week included both emperors, Hackberry and TawnyCommon Wood Nymph is flying in regional grasslands.  Monarchs were widely reported, although we have a lull in Red-spotted Purples and Viceroys.  A few Red Admirals and American Ladies showed up; two American Snouts were reported.  Fresh anglewings (Comma and Question Mark) as well as Mourning Cloak are now out; these will be the individuals that will hibernate and herald spring for us next season. Baltimore Checkerspot is flying (poor flight so far, it seems).  Little Wood Satyr is between broods; any fresh individuals this week could be from populations that Harry Pavulaan is monitoring as a possibly cryptic/sibling species. Fresh Pearl Crescents are out, again in modest numbers.

Nothing unusual on the whites/sulphurs front; modest numbers of Cabbage (Small) Whites, Clouded Sulphurs, and Orange Sulphurs.  Save a single sighting early in the season, Cloudless Sulphur has not been reported, nor has Sleepy Orange.  And months have passed since the last report of Checkered White.

Swallowtail sightings were equally unremarkable this week; a good flight of hill-topping Zebra Swallowtails seen at High Point in Gambrills SP was the only record of note.  A few fresh Eastern Tiger Swallowtails were listed on local counts this week.

Metalmark Watch:  We’re entering the short flight period of Northern Metalmark in Green Ridge State Forest as the sunflowers along the road shoulders come into bloom.  Hasn’t been reported yet, but keep your eyes peeled for this charismatic little critter as you drive the GRSF back roads.

NECTAR NOTES:  Still an amazing amount of milkweed and dogbane out there.  But other good nectar sources currently in bloom include monardas, mountain mints, and even garden mints; butterfly bush (Buddleia), zinnia, liatris, and tithonia are also good horticultural bets.  Devil’s Walking-stick (aka Hercules Club) is coming into bloom and can sometimes be covered with snouts, swallowtails, and hairstreaks; always worth pulling over and checking out this plant when you see it in bloom.  In the marshes look for pickerel-weed, irresistible to skippers.

UPCOMING COUNTS: Upcoming counts include Reston (VA), John Heinz NWR (PA) and the rescheduled Shenandoah (VA). The MDLepsOdes group will sponsor a Leptrek July 14 to the Covington VA area for Diana Fritillary.  See details in the LepLog master calendar from the top navigation on the home page.

You won’t find much better weather this summer for butterfly observation than this weekend.  Let us know what you see at https://leplog.wordpress.com/ or by posting to Google Groups at MDLepsOdes.

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Belated Missive from the Albany Pine Bush

2018 June 6 Karner Blue 4_NY-Albany Pine Bush Preserve

Karner Blue from the Albany Pine Bush Preserve, NY. [2018 June 6, photo by REB]

It seems like a lifetime ago since I was up in the Adirondacks, but in fact it was barely a month ago.  But it’s been such a sprint at work since then that I’ve just not had a chance to report on my visit to the Albany Pine Bush Preserve.

I left Lake Placid early on June 6 with a firm deadline of dropping my rental car off at the airport by 3 pm.  It wasn’t a very promising day — I woke up to rain and clouds at the hotel, and a soggy walk up the street to breakfast.  By the time I brought my suitcase down to the car, rain had dwindled to a drizzle, but still cool and daunting.

I had intended to stop at the Albany Pine Bush Preserve — a 3,000-acre remnant of a once-extensive inland pine barrens ecosystem — the week before on the way to Lake Placid from western Massachusetts and the frustrating dip on Early Hairstreak.  But it was the middle of a hailstorm as I drove through on the way up, so I made plans to stop on my day of departure en route to the airport, a risky proposition to leave it to the very end in case of inclement weather.  But, I didn’t have much choice, so I trusted in luck and sunny late spring weather patterns.

It appeared by trust was rewarded when, at the very tail end of the 2.5-hour drive south to Albany, the clouds started thinning out, and by the time I reached the Pine Bush there were regular intervals of sun in a mostly cloudy sky.  Pulling into the lot at the preserve, more clouds rolled in, so I spent a little time exploring the interpretive exhibits and talking with staff at the visitor center.

Staff members assured me that Karner Blues — the specialty of Albany Pine Bush Preserve — had begun their flight but had been hard to find the previous couple of days even in the sun.  So it was with rather low expectations I hit the Karner Blue Trail.

At this point it was hazy sunshine, and a number of butterflies were darting on and across the trail.  Common Roadside-skippers were actually rather abundant, and I had good sightings of Indian Skippers and Hobomok Skippers before I reached the best Karner Blue habitats:  hillsides of lupine, the caterpillar host.


The extensive lupine fields at Albany Pine Bush Preserve in Albany, NY.


The Karner Blue Trail strikes directly into the heart of the lupine habitat, and the blues regularly come to the dirt trail to puddle.

The temptation under these conditions, of course, is to explore closely and look uber-carefully long before you get to the best habitat, so I was already discouraged and feeling I would miss out on this iconic species long before I got to the most productive spots.  As a consequence, the first Karner Blue took me completely by surprise mucking about on bird droppings in the middle of trail.  After that, they were pretty much everywhere.


Karner Blue, Albany Pine Bush Preserve, NY [2018 June 6, photo by REB]


Karner Blue, Albany Pine Bush Preserve, NY [2018 June 6, photo by REB]


Karner Blue, Albany Pine Bush Preserve, NY [2018 June 6, photo by REB]

There were some surprises, too — a very worn Frosted Elfin (which also uses lupine as a caterpillar host), and a very early Viceroy.  Northern Cloudywings were quite common, and a couple of Red-spotted Purples patrolled the shadier sections of the trail.

2018 June 6 Frosted Elfin_NY-Albany Pine Bush Preserve

A very worn Frosted Elfin, which I’d seen almost a month before to the day on the Eastern Shore of MD. [2018 June 6, photo by REB]

At this point the clouds had started to thicken again, and conscious of needing to make my flight I took the short cut back to the parking lot, where one final Viceroy gave me the opportunity for a last photo of the Adirondacks trip:

2018 June 6 Viceroy_NY-Albany Pine Bush Preserve

Viceroy in the parking lot of Albany Pine Bush Preserve [2018 June 6, photo by REB]

Posted in Field Trips/Annual Counts, general butterfly news, sightings | 2 Comments

Modest Relief from the Heat in the Mountains

Tom Stock (in the cap) and Barry Marts comparing notes on the White M hairstreak in the dogbane in the foreground

Tom Stock (in the cap) and Barry Marts comparing notes on the White M hairstreak in the dogbane in the foreground. 2018 July 1, Sand Flats parking area in background across Gambrill Park Road.

Tom Stock and I spent most of yesterday checking out nectar sources in the Catoctin Mountains, from the Sand Flats area of the Frederick municipal watershed to Gambrill State Park to the Ridenour Swamp near Wolfsville.  To say we had some relief from the heat by being at a little higher elevation in the forest doesn’t mean we weren’t one step from heat prostration most of the day.

Some of the best nectar stands — principally milkweed and dogbane — I’ve seen here in years, and we pored over hundreds of plants with very little to show for it.  ONE grass skipper the entire day (a Dun).  TWO hairstreaks (three invididuals, not a Banded or Striped or even a Gray or Red-banded to be had).

But we did have a couple of very nice sightings (I’ve appended Tom’s list from MDLepsOdes below), including a fresh White M we got on thanks to Barry Marts (whom we ran across on the trail).  We found our target species, Edwards’ Hairstreak, as well as uncommonly (in our experience) late Appalachian Azures. But then again the black cohosh is blooming very late this year as well, and the butterfly needs the developing ovaries to lay their eggs among.

The Appalachian Azures were buzzing about the black cohosh stand near the Gambrill State Park Tearoom; it looks like this population of cohosh was doused with herbicide this year by park personnel who clearly didn’t know what damage they could wreak on this small azure staging area.  About half the plants were blackened and shriveled; I can only surmise this was a poorly informed attempt to control invasives on this slope.   A handy Summer Azure gave us good opportunities to compare the two — Appalachian with its larger size and almost pure-white venter; Summer with its slaty gray and much more marked underside.  Summer facing left, Appalachian facing right:

The Edwards’ Hairstreaks were in their normal location, where mowing and maintenance practices in the watershed have seriously diminished their available food plant (scrub oak).  They too are running late this year.  A few Pearl Crescents (confirmed on close examination) have emerged here as well; could be a good midsummer flight.


Edwards’ Hairstreak in its historic location in Frederick Watershed Forest. [2018 July 1, photo by Tom Stock]


White M Hairstreak on dogbane at the Sand Flats parking area in Frederick (MD). [2018 July 1, photo by Tom Stock]

>>Tom’s notes from yesterday:  A very subdued (and rather warm) day lepwise in Frederick County today. Lots of nectar, few butterflies – which has been a common refrain around here these past few weeks. The heat may have driven the Edwards’ Hairstreaks up into the canopy. We were surprised to find just two. Our list for the day: 
Zebra Swallowtail (8) High Knob
Spicebush Swallowtail (1) High Knob
Cabbage White (3)
Orange Sulphur (1)
Edwards’ Hairstreak (2) Sand Flats Pond area
White M Hairstreak (1)
Eastern Tailed Blue (5)
Summer Azure (2) one at High Knob
Appalachian Azure (5) High Knob in cohosh patch
Great Spangled Fritillary (16)
Pearl Crescent (3)
Red Admiral (1) High Knob
Hackberry Emperor (2) High Knob
Silver-spotted Skipper (4) 
Dun Skipper (1) High Knob
Meadow Fritillary (1) Ridenour Swamp<<

Posted in Field Trips/Annual Counts, sightings | Leave a comment

Mid-Atlantic Butterfly Field Forecast for the Week of 2018 June 30

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Mulberry Wing from the western Montgomery Co MD annual butterfly count 2018 June 24 [photo by Walt Gould]

HIGHLIGHTS:  Mulberry Wing, Common Wood Nymph, Pepper and Salt Skipper, Northern Broken-dash

Finally a sunny weekend in store, even if it comes with sizzling temperatures.  Most everything we expect should be out this next week; with last week’s sightings we have few AWOL normal species.  Diversity is only part of the picture, however, for many butterflies the numbers are still quite low.

Not so for Variegated Fritillaries, which in some locations are showing a major irruption into clouds of orange kicked up walking through fields.  I haven’t heard any reports from Ft. Indiantown Gap and the annual Regal Fritillary tours, but our local greater frits — Great Spangled, Aphrodite, and Atlantis — seem to be having at best a modest flight.  Meadow and Silver-bordered Fritillaries were less common this year.  The same goes for almost all our other brush-foots.  A singleton American Snout made the lists this week. Silvery Checkerspots bucked the trend in some areas but seem to have gone bust already.  Poor year for Baltimore Checkerspots. Among the freshly emerging species is second round for Pearl Crescent; too early to tell what kind of flight this is going to be.

Hairstreaks are out, but not abundant.  Edwards’ Hairstreak has not been reported yet this year (and the year grows late); same with first brood Great Purple HairstreakCoppers — both American and Bronze — have been pretty much nonexistent.  I’ll be hunting Great Purple Hairstreak, Bronze Copper, and King’s Hairstreak (and Palamedes Swallowtail) on the Eastern Shore this weekend as I scout for an upcoming ANS Foray.  Even Eastern Tailed-blues are hard to come by.

Second broods of whites and sulphurs are down too; only Cabbage (Small) White seems to be in relatively normal numbers this year.

Of the swallowtails, only Palamedes has yet to be reported this summer, although the Sky Meadows Giant Swallowtail remains the only sighting of that species regionally.

Skipper diversity benefited this week by sightings of Mulberry Wing and Northern Broken-dash.  Oddly missing has been Sachem.  Lots of the coastal and wetland skippers ought to be flying now.  Northern Cloudywings from the first brood are quite tattered; we should be seeing Wild Indigo and Horace’s Duskywing in second broods shortly.  A probable, but very worn, Pepper and Salt Skipper was reported from lower Garrett Co. MD.

NECTAR NOTES:  The main event of course is still milkweed in all its variations, but buttonbush (Cephalanthus) is the draw in coastal areas this week.  In wet and coastal areas pickerelweed is also pulling in pollinators, especially Broad-winged Skippers.  Where fields were mown, red and white clover is having another go at blooming and lots of grass skippers and lycaenids find them a big draw.  Pycnanthemum (mountain mint) and its close relative Monarda (various bee balms) do a terrific job of bringing in butterflies this time of year too.

UPCOMING COUNTS:  Upcoming counts include eastern Frederick and western Carroll Cos., MD (June 30), Occoquan Bay, VA (June 30), Carroll Co., MD (Jul 4),  Shenandoah NP, VA (July 6), and Reston, VA (July 6).  See details in the LepLog master calendar from the top navigation on the home page.

With all the upcoming counts there should be plenty of fodder for the next two Forecasts! Let us know what you see if you join any of these counts or head out on your own at https://leplog.wordpress.com/ or by posting to Google Groups at MDLepsOdes.

Posted in Forecasts, general butterfly news, sightings, Uncategorized | 2 Comments