Mid-Atlantic Butterfly Field Forecast for the week of 2017 September 23

Long-tailed Skipper-home-8_19_17

Long-tailed Skippers don’t *always* have long tails. This one comes to us from an observation by Tom Raub near Lancaster PA last month [photo by Tom Raub, 2017 Aug 19, Strasburg, PA]

Hard to believe we’re now in astronomical — if not meteorological — autumn, with a weekend on tap of summery high temperatures and significant humidity.  But these are excellent butterfly watching days, and we’ll remember them fondly at the winter solstice.

This week the big news is numerous reports of Long-tailed Skippers across the region.  They’re particularly fond of flat, bright flowers — zinnias, tithonia, sunflowers, lantanta — but are spastic and promiscuous nectarers that can show up anywhere.

Good fresh Horace’s Duskywings continue to emerge; a new flight of fresh Eastern Tailed-blues was on the wing this week, and I have a bright new Pipevine Swallowtail and a fresh Spicebush Swallowtail haunting the tithonia in the yard this morning.  The tray of rotting fruit I put out has Red Admiral, Red-spotted Purple, and an Eastern Comma mostly harmoniously taking up the fermenting juice, along with a cloud of bees, yellowjackets, and paper wasps.

Fiery, Peck’s and Sachem Skippers predominate on local flowers this week; Brazilian Skipper has been seen as close as Norfolk — maybe this will be our year to find these canna specialists on a local patch of cannas (hint:  look for the cigar-rolled canna leaves where the caterpillar feeds, or for the adults plunged head-down into deep canna or morning-glory flowers).  Gray, White M and Red-banded Hairstreaks are out there too.

The Painted Lady irruption continues here, but not nearly as explosively as in the Northeast and lower Canada.  A final brood of Black Swallowtails is out on the Eastern Shore.

And it appears to have been a good year for Monarchs, which are beginning their slow-drifting southward peregrination.  The southbound migrants right now are in reproductive diapause; the cats we’ve been seeing on milkweed owe their presences not to these migrants but mostly to multiple waves of Monarchs making their way sporadically northward over the summer.

Here’s hoping you get a chance to get out to enjoy this first weekend of fall; let us know 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 16 September 2017

One of many White M Hairstreaks reported regionally this week, this one in Howard Co MD by Jim Wilkinson [2017 Sept. 14]

Few items of note in the past week; dampness and cool weather prevailed through much of the week, although even last weekend brought in fewer sightings than expected given the terrific weather.

Notable sightings included Giant Swallowtail in nearby West Virginia (the only one reported in the region so far this year).  White M Hairstreaks are experiencing a mini-irruption across the region (timed as usual with the bloom of various Eupatorium species, which seem to draw these like, um, moths to a flame).

No migratory skippers of note this week, although Salt Marsh Skipper — rather uncommon this season — was reported from Wicomico Co (MD).  No reports (for yet another week) of Bronze Copper or Great Purple Hairstreak from the Eastern Shore.  There was a lone report of Long-tailed Skipper from southern NJ.

Astonishingly fresh Horace’s Duskywings were on the wing this week, rather late generally for this species.  Fresh Pipevine Swallowtails (9 of them!) were working the lantana beds on the National Mall behind the Smithsonian Castle yesterday late in the afternoon, in the company of a swarm of mixed Fiery and Sachem Skippers and a lone Red Admiral.

Looks like another very good if partly cloudy weekend 0f butterflying weather, depending on the final track of Hurricane/Tropical Storm Jose.  If you get out and see anything interesting, let us know 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 2017 September 9


Gray Comma in Garrett Co (MD) from 4 September 2017 (photo courtesy Matt Orsie on his fine WV Butterflies blog, http://wvbirder.org/wvleps/)

As the days dwindle down, so too do our reports of new and interesting butterfly fauna, so the Forecast shifts into more of a contemplative and elegiac fall mode.

Currently, the Leonard’s Skipper show dominates the field scene, with good numbers being seen at various locations across the region but particularly at Soldiers Delight in Baltimore Co MD, where they favor the abundant Liatris (and in truth there are few other nectar sources for them there, so these little purple spikes keep the skippers well concentrated for viewing along the trails).

Otherwise, this would be a good weekend to head out to the Eastern Shore for a chance at Great Purple Hairstreak and Bronze Copper, neither of which have been reported this season in DelMarVa, or for Palamedes Swallowtail along the Pocomoke River.  Or you could head west to Garrett Co (MD) and explore Big Run Road and the campsites along it for Gray Comma (flying now) or a living relative of the White Admiral found DOA along the road two weeks ago.

Or you could visit most any aggregation of garden or field flowers in hopes of an unusual fall irruptive or migrant like Eufala Skipper, Long-tailed Skipper, Brazilian Skipper, Gulf Fritillary, Zebra, Julia, or Whirlabout.  Ocola Skipper should be a gimme species in most locales by now.

And of course next week could bring vagrants lofted into the jet stream by Hurricane Irma.

The weekend weather promises to be sunny and pleasant, even cool — perfect butterflying weather.  If you get out and see anything interesting, let us know 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 2017 September 2

2016 Aug 3 White Admiral_Sax Zim Bog

Sadly NOT the White Admiral that was seen on the Eastern Shore (MD, Kent Co) last weekend — which entertained a group of us and then disappeared without photo documentation. This one hails from MN (Sax-Zim Bog, 2016 Aug 3) and shows its close affinity to Red-spotted Purple.

Sometimes you have to multitask in a hurry.  Sometimes you just aren’t fast enough.

On last weekend’s field trip for the Natural History Field Studies course on Fall Butterflies, the class and I were focused on a Hayhurst’s Scallopwing, always a good sighting, in the Ingleside Recreation Area of Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge just north of the Bay Bridge in Kent Co.  With all eyes on the Scallopwing, we almost ignored the brightly patterned black-and-white butterfly frantically flying around our feet — an almost unbelievable White Admiral!  Of course, by the time we retrained our cameras on it (and I hauled out the net), said Admiral had lofted up through the trees and out of sight, not to return during our visit.  This represents an apparent first record of White Admiral on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.  And also last week, we had reports of a second White Admiral observed as road kill in Garrett Co., a somewhat more expected location for this normally northern version of Red-spotted Purple.

Among other interesting species we saw as a group at Eastern Neck included plenty of the purple version Red-spotted Purple, both Hackberry and Tawny Emperors, Snouts, Cloudless Sulphurs, Sleepy Oranges, and common Gray and Red-banded Hairstreaks.  The surrounding fields held clouds of Monarchs — a fine fall southward migration building if these numbers are any indication.

Otherwise the list of new butterflies for the season is drawing down, as it always does this time of year.  Common Checkered-skipper, Clouded Skipper, and the vagrant pierids are the highlights just now.   White M Hairstreak should have been reported but wasn’t; we’re still missing regional sightings this year of Great Purple Hairstreak (which will have a late summer brood) and Bronze Copper (ditto).  Gray Comma is likely flying in Garrett Co., and tortoiseshells are always a Hail Mary possibility in Allegany Co.  Giant Swallowtail should be flying but has also been MIA this season in the mid-Atlantic.

Of the vagrant southern skippers we always keep an eye out for this year, we have seen a few Long-tailed Skippers and Ocola Skippers.  Very rarely we might see Whirlabout, Brazilian (Canna), and Eufala Skippers; we might also spot more Gulf Fritillaries, Queens, and Julias, but a decade or more can go by without sightings (and there were no further sightings beyond the three Gulf Fritillaries in the DC Metro area two weeks ago).

The weekend weather will be perturbed by the remnants of Hurricane Harvey, but Labor Day Monday should offer some good opportunities for butterfly watching.  Later next week there’s a possibility that Hurricane Irma might trouble the East Coast, which could deposit some out-of-range butterflies here.  If you get out and see anything interesting, let us know 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 2017 August 26

Leonards Sk

An early Leonard’s Skipper in Allegany Co MD yesterday [2017 August 24; photo by Kathy Barylski]

More reports of Gulf Fritillaries in the DC metro area came in this week, one in College Park and one in Northern VA.  Are we seeing an invasion (no sightings between here and SC) or a local, short-lived breeding colony? Or hitchhikers from the many cars and trucks that made the hegira to eclipse totality (which also happens to be Gulf Frit central)?  Lots will depend on whether there are additional sightings over the next two weeks near urban centers where there would have been a number of eclipse-seekers, especially outside the DC metro region.

Other good sightings this week were the FOY report for Leonard’s Skipper near Frostburg MD, and a Long-tailed Skipper in Northern VA.  A stray Palamedes Swallowtail enlivened a Natural History Field Studies field trip to Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens last Saturday; Dion Skipper, Clouded Skipper, and Ocola Skipper also showed up for the field trip.

Otherwise, it was Sachem overload on most local flower patches, among which were dispersed Fiery, Northern Broken-dash, Southern Broken-dash, Dun, Peck’s, Little Glassywing and Zabulon Skippers.  Fresh Wild Indigo Duskywings are out, as were Broad-winged Skippers.  Lots of Silver-spotted Skippers as well.

A few Zebra Swallowtails were reported, as well as Black Swallowtails in various stages from first instar to flying imago.  Spicebush Swallowtails were the most numerous of the tribe, with Eastern Tiger Swallowtails a close second.

Monarchs were everywhere this week, with more than 30 on the wing between the US National Arboretum and Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens this weekend. The balance between American and Painted Ladies seems restored again, and fresh Red Admirals are on the week.  The few Red-spotted Purples that were reported are all very fresh.  Of the anglewings, only Question Mark was reported this week.  Pearl Crescents are showing another meager brood, at least in the eastern parts of our region.  Surprisingly few Viceroys have been reported this season; none this week.

Better numbers of Eastern Tailed-blues came in this week, while Summer Azures continue to dwindle away.  Red-banded Hairstreaks and Gray Hairstreaks were widely reported, and while White M was not, it’s certainly out there.

Cloudless Sulphur numbers continue to build, and caterpillars were widely reported this week.  Sleepy Orange was widespread, including on the National Mall, this week.  Little Yellow still hasn’t shown anywhere closer than PA.

Notable Nectar:  Lots of nectar sources, little new except the beginning of Liatris blooms that are so attractive to Leonard’s Skippers.  More species of goldenrod are coming on line, early fall asters are also out.  Various bush lespedezas are beginning to bloom and they are powerful magnets for Sachems and other grass skippers.

This weekend looks to be the best of the summer so far for butterfly watching. If you get out and see anything interesting (and there’s a lot of interesting butterflies out there!), let us know here at https://leplog.wordpress.com/ or by posting to Google Groups at MDLepsOdes.

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2017 Aug 19 Field Trip to National Arboretum and Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens


Fresh Dion Skipper in DC in Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens [2017 Aug 19; photo by Judy Gallagher]

The participants in Saturday’s 5-hour field trip covering DC’s US National Arboretum and Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens bested by three species our goal of 30 for the day, scoring one very unusual sighting (Palamedes Swallowtail) and missing a couple of expected species (Pipevine Swallowtail, Red-banded Hairstreak, Variegated Fritillary, Common Checkered-skipper, Viceroy, emperors).  The field trip was part of the ANS Natural History Field Studies program.

Other notable sightings included Ocola Skipper and a Clouded Skipper.  The default for grass skippers was Sachem, often so numerous they obscured other grass skippers flying in the same patch.

If you visit the USNA, be sure to check out the “hidden” milkweed and dogbane patch now in full bloom between the large parking lot at the NY Ave entrance and the old brick charcoal huts.  You need to drive over to the corner of the lot diagonal from the entrance and look down toward the chain-link fence.  Very productive spot.   At KAG the bulk of butterflies are working the lantana beds in the parking lot and at the visitor’s center, but the Dions and Broadwings are on pickerel weed and purple loosestrife in the small ponds near the huge Victoria amazonica waterlilies, and out along the boardwalk.

Zebra Swallowtail (2) KAG

Black Swallowtail (2)  KAG

Spicebush Swallowtail (15) KAG & USNA

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (9) KAG & USNA (all yellow form)

Palamedes Swallowtail (1) KAG (VERY UNUSUAL SIGHTING, stray vagrant to DC)

Small (Cabbage) White (6) KAG & USNA

Orange Sulphur (1) USNA

Cloudless Sulphur (6) USNA

Sleepy Orange (2) USNA

Gray Hairstreak (5) USNA & KAG

Eastern Tailed-blue (27) USNA & KAG (very few)

Summer Azure (2) USNA

Pearl Crescent (2) USNA

Question Mark (1) KAG (last sighting of the day on the way back to the car)

Painted Lady (6) USNA & KAG

Red Admiral (1) KAG

Common Buckeye (13) USNA & KAG (all summer form, no rosa morphs)

Red-spotted Purple (1) KAG

Monarch (30+) USNA & KAG (terrific numbers)

Silver-spotted Skipper (10) USNA & KAG

Horace’s Duskywing (1) KAG (very fresh)

Clouded Skipper (1) KAG (only the leader got on this one well enough to ID)

Least Skipper (17) USNA & KAG

Fiery Skipper (6) USNA & KAG (likely an undercount as they were mixed in with swarms of Sachems)

Peck’s Skipper (1) USNA

Tawny-edged Skipper (2) USNA

Northern Broken-dash (3) USNA & KAG

Sachem (200+) USNA & KAG (a very conservative estimate)

Zabulon Skipper (5) USNA & KAG

Broad-winged Skipper (2) KAG

Dion Skipper (3) KAG

Dun Skipper (3) USNA & KAG

Ocola Skipper (1) KAG

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Mid-Atlantic Butterfly Field Forecast for Week of 2017 August 19


Terrific find of a vagrant Gulf Fritillary in the back yard of Tom Stock in Silver Spring MD (2017 Aug 12, photo by Tom]

Without question the best butterfly sighting of the week came from the Silver Spring back yard of Tom Stock, an immaculate vagrant (presumably) Gulf Fritillary.  This is a rare but occasional visitor from the Gulf states, and if it arrives early enough in the season can actually initiate a one- or two-generation breeding spurt (on passionflower, increasingly common in gardens and nurseries) before they all expire with the first hard freeze.  Far as I can tell the next closest Gulf Fritillary sighting over the past week was in the Carolinas along the coast (also a Tom Stock sighting!).

Otherwise it’s pretty much business as usual in the middle of August, peak time for grass skippers.  Sachem is everywhere; so is Silver-spotted Skipper.  Both Hayhurst’s Scallopwing and Common Sootywing were notable sightings, and a fresh brood of Common Checkered-skipper is flying.  Not so many reports of coastal or salt marsh skippers, possibly because many of our field observers were working the Howard Co Bioblitz over the weekend.  Wild Indigo Duskywings in a fresh (and probably final) brood are again the dominant duskywing; Horace’s are becoming hard to come by.  A few more Ocolas showed up across the region.  Dion Skipper repeated its occurrence at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens in DC.

Numbers of Sleepy Orange and Cloudless Sulphurs are popping up, doubtless some of them having started as eggs on partridge pea or senna earlier in the season from early migrants.  Little Yellow is still very sporadic.  No additional Checkered Whites have been reported.

As such things go, this is the final big push of hairstreaks for the season with White M, Olive (Juniper), Red-banded, and Gray (by far the most common) reports coming in this week.  No Great Purple Hairstreaks have been reported in our region yet this season.  American Copper sightings were relatively common, but no Bronze Coppers.  The last blues standing for the season are Summer Azure (still some faded females around) and Eastern Tailed-blue.

As with last week, the expected swallowtails are all still on the wing, but Giant Swallowtail — while having another good flight year in New England — is absent from the mid-Atlantic.

Painted Ladies are still everywhere, with a few reports of American Lady thrown in.  Common Buckeye numbers continue to build, and Variegated Fritillaries are more numerous as well.  Satyr numbers are dwindling except for Common Wood Nymph, which has seen a spike of LepLog sightings this week.

Notable Nectar:  Mistflower, various bonesets, and Joe-Pye are among the top producers of nectaring butterflies in the field this week.  In gardens, Tall/Brazilian Verbena (V. bonariensis and congeners) is a magnet for skippers, as are zinnias, torchflower, and the old standby, butterfly bush.  If you plan to acquire a buddleia (butterfly bush) for your yard or garden, spend some time at the local nursery watching what butterflies are coming to which varieties — the various cultivars differ markedly in their attractiveness to butterflies.  Mine right now are festooned with Silver-spotted Skippers, Sachems, and Painted Ladies.

While all eyes will be on the eclipse Monday (skies permitting), the weekend looks decent for butterfly watching. If you get out and see anything interesting, let us know here at https://leplog.wordpress.com/ or by posting to Google Groups at MDLepsOdes.

Posted in Forecasts, sightings | 6 Comments