There will be no Forecast next week, as I will be butterfly watching in the high desert of Utah.  The Forecast will return for the weekend of July 18-19. 

A convivial congregation of Eastern Tailed-blues, a Dun Skipper, a Delaware Skipper, and a Harvester along Sideling Hill Creek in Green Ridge State Forest [2015 JUL 1, photo by REB]

A convivial congregation of Eastern Tailed-blues, a Dun Skipper, a Delaware Skipper, and a Harvester along Sideling Hill Creek in Green Ridge State Forest [2015 JUL 1, photo by REB]

 

The weather gods have not been good to the mid-Atlantic again this week, keeping the new sightings down to a minimum.  Plus we’ve hit a somewhat delayed June slump, it appears.  The only true FOYs for the week regionally are Northern Metalmarks in Allegany Co., Bog Copper on the WV side of Cranesville Swamp, and a surprising Fiery Skipper on the Frederick/Carroll count.

At last word, the Regal Fritillary open house at Ft. Indiantown Gap is still on for tomorrow and Saturday, although the gloomy forecast has changed plans for some of our local counts (see the LepLog master calendar for updates).

While hairstreaks have been abundant in other parts of the mid-Atlantic, notably northern NJ, they’ve been on the scarce side elsewhere.  The first flush of milkweed and dogbane are fading across most our area, except where they’ve been cut early and only now setting buds, and with them the best chances of good hairstreak sightings.  I spent a full afternoon checking milkweed and dogbane in Garrett Co. yesterday, under admittedly poor conditions of breeze and clouds, to log just one Banded HairstreakGray, Red-banded, and White-M have yet to make a substantial reappearance for their summer brood.  A few Coral, Banded and Striped Hairstreaks have been logged locally, but it clearly is not a boom hairstreak year.  Edwards Hairstreak continues to be seen in the Frederick Municipal Watershed Forest; King’s Hairstreak has been seen on the wing in the NC mountains but not yet from southern MD.

Coppers also have been scarce; American Copper sightings have been few, and Bronze Copper has not yet been reported anywhere but Delaware.  On the same Garrett Co. trip yesterday I had two end-of-day Bog Coppers just across the state line in WV at Cranesville Swamp.  Northern Metalmarks are beginning their univoltine flight and should be on the wing for the next 2-3 weeks; the woodland sunflower they depend on for adult nectar is just coming into bloom along roadsides in Green Ridge State Forest.  A new colony was discovered in Rocky Gap State Park last weekend during the bioblitz and some 20 were logged.

Northern Metalmarks are flying along Metalmark Alley (otherwise knows as Swain Hollow Road) in Green Ridge State Forest [2015 JUL 1, photo by REB]

Northern Metalmarks are flying along Metalmark Alley (otherwise knows as Swain Hollow Road) in Green Ridge State Forest [2015 JUL 1, photo by REB]

A very skittish Bog Copper basking in the last rays of the sun over Cranesville Swamp [2015 JUL 1, photo by REB]

A very skittish Bog Copper basking in the last rays of the sun over Cranesville Swamp [2015 JUL 1, photo by REB]

Great Spangled Fritillary is having a very good year; so too apparently is Meadow Fritillary, both of which were abundant in Garrett Co.  Sprinkled among the Great Spangled were a fair number of Aphrodite Fritillaries, but diligent searching for those silvery eyes netted no Atlantis Fritillaries yet this year.  [Note:  Annette Allor’s Maryland Butterflies website has some excellent diagnostic pics] Most of the Monarchs have moved on north for their last generation; we’ll see them again in (I suspect) good numbers on the fall migration.  Viceroy is fresh but hasn’t been reported much; a couple of lingering Red-spotted Purples were reported but we won’t see good numbers of these again until the late summer, when we’ll see them all over apple and pear windfalls with overwintering anglewings.  Silvery Checkerspot is working up another brood, which some correspondents have noted is likely to be large based on the numbers of caterpillars seen in the field.  Pearl Crescents, which had a small early flight, are out again in fresh, better numbers.  A few fresh summer Mourning Cloaks (which will overwinter) have been seen.

Much examination of a hundred or more frits in Garret Co MD yielded some Aphrodites but no Atlantis [2015 JUL 1, photo by REB]

Much examination of a hundred or more frits in Garret Co MD yielded some Aphrodites but no Atlantis [2015 JUL 1, photo by REB]

A convivial congregation of Eastern Tailed-blues, a Dun Skipper, a Delaware Skipper, and a Harvester along Sideling Hill Creek in Green Ridge State Forest [2015 JUL 1, photo by REB]

A fresh brook of Pearl Crescents is out [2015 JUL 1, photo by REB]

Eastern Tailed-blues are in another fresh brood, as are Summer Azures.

A few new skippers make the list this week, including Delaware in Green Ridge State Forest (where it was seen on bird lime along Sideling Hill Creek with a dozen Eastern Tailed-blue, a Harvester, and a Dun Skipper).  Summer Brood Horace’s are out, as are fresh Wild Indigo Duskywing.  One Sachem was reported; this species has been mostly MIA so far this year. Little Glassywing is building into a large flight; a few Northern Broken-dashes have been reported as well.  Crossline numbers are low so far; ditto Tawny-edgedDun Skipper has been reported in good numbers from various locations.  Silver-spotted Skippers rebounded in a fresh brood from a small first flight.  Common Checkered-skippers are notably absent.  The Fiery Skipper seen on the Carroll/Frederick Co Count was a real surprise, although Fieries have been moving aggressively up the Carolinas and Virginia in the last two weeks.

Swallowtails are mostly absent.  A few Eastern Tigers, Spicebush, and Zebra Swallowtails were reported; another week has gone by with no Giant Swallowtail sightings.  Pipevines were a no-show this week.

Common Wood Nymph has been reported from a number of locations around the area this week; same for Appalachian Brown and Northern Pearly-eyeCarolina and Little Wood Satyrs have mostly crashed from their first generation  (if you know of fresh Little Wood Satyrs that emerged in the last week or so, let me know so I can pass this on to Harry Pavulaan, who is studying this aberrant satyrid brood).

The long holiday weekend looks rather poor for butterflying, but if see anything interesting, please share your sightings with us using the comment function on LepLog.wordpress.com or join us for discussion on Google Groups at MDLepsOdes.  

Tom in the Hairstreak Corner, not content with Hickory, Banded and Striped but intent on picking out an Oak Hairstreak.

Tom in the Hairstreak Corner, not content with Hickory, Banded and Striped but intent on picking out an Oak Hairstreak.

Our second day in northern NJ dawned blue and bright, but by the time we gave the butterflies a chance to warm up and begin flying, the clouds had already begun piling on (completely contrary to the forecast, mind you).  Nevertheless, Tom and I drove the 40 minutes or so up the road from Newton NJ to Canal Road, near Vernon NJ and the Appalachian Trail.  This is another area that colleagues from the northern NJ Butterfly Club had turned us on to, and it was Eyed Brown — a lifer for both me and Tom — that drew us there.

Eyed Brown, abundant in the adjacent fields [2015 JUN 29, photo by REB]

Eyed Brown, abundant in the adjacent fields [2015 JUN 29, photo by REB]

The Canal Road location is a huge palustrine meadow bisected by a boardwalk and associated dry (or at least drier) fields with thistle, milkweed (common and purple), and dogbane.  When we arrived we had some moments of fitful sun, enough to bring out multitudes of Eyed Browns, Baltimore Checkerspots, and a Dion Skipper in addition to the usual suspects for this kind of area (Tom’s full list is appended).  The botanist in me was delighted by the Canada Lilies in the wet meadow, and the birder in both of us appreciated a calling American Bittern.  We ran into a fellow lep observer (who introduced himself as Jeff) in addition to the surprisingly heavy foot traffic on the AT and the boardwalk and shared the location of the Eyed Browns, then headed back that way ourselves en route to the car.  The weather gods favored us with another 20-minute window of hot sunshine that made the tall grasses literally swarm with Eyed Browns.

The boardwalk at Canal Road.

The boardwalk at Canal Road.

First time I've seen Canada Lily.  Spectacular, dotting the palustrine meadow.

First time I’ve seen Canada Lily. Spectacular, dotting the palustrine meadow.

Lunch called, and over a quick stop at a fast-food spot (no LepLunch for us this time, we were on a mission!) we discussed our next destination.  We planned to be back home that night, but it was only around 1 pm so we had some serious daylight still.  However, the weather was not cooperating.  Dark gray banks of clouds persisted.

DIon and Delaware Skippers were welcome surprises at Canal Road.  This is the Dion in full spread [2015 JUN 29, photo by REB]

Dion and Delaware Skippers were welcome surprises at Canal Road. This is the Dion in full spread [2015 JUN 29, photo by REB]

Dion and Delaware Skippers were welcome surprises at Canal Road. This is the freshly minted Delaware  [2015 JUN 29, photo by REB]

Dion and Delaware Skippers were welcome surprises at Canal Road. This is the freshly minted Delaware [2015 JUN 29, photo by REB]

Our original plan, based on welcome intel from good friends we talk with often, was to see if we could track down Acadian Hairstreak about an hour-and-a-half west of our location in the Poconos.  But consulting the weather online and seeing nothing but clouds and a chance of rain there, we convinced ourselves that we should go back to the hairstreak haven at Whittingham and see if there was more activity than the day before — it was at least dry, if cloudy.  So we drove back to Whittingham and the clouds broke into a blue, sunny afternoon as we pulled up into the lot.

Tawny Emperor greeted us as we drove up in the parking lot at Whittingham. [2015 JUN 29, photo by REB]

Tawny Emperor greeted us as we drove up in the parking lot at Whittingham. [2015 JUN 29, photo by REB]

We knew we’d made the right decision with lots of action at the puddles in the parking lot, so we hit one of the large milkweed fields we had been rained out of the previous day.  Surprisingly, there wasn’t much going on there — but we thought we had a reason why.  At the parking lot, there were dozens of hairstreaks high in the walnut trees around the lot, dogfighting and spiraling up into the stratosphere.  And as we cut across a wooded trail from one lot to another, we saw dozens of Banded Hairstreaks mating, fighting, and basking at the edge of the clearing — along with one very wary Harvester!  We also had our first Striped Hairstreak near here.

Striped Hairstreak, MIA the day before, showed up in small numbers on dogbane. [2015 JUN 29, photo by REB]

Striped Hairstreak, MIA the day before, showed up in small numbers on dogbane. [2015 JUN 29, photo by REB]

Many Dun Skippers, Great Spangled Frits and Little Glassywings later, we returned to the dogbane patch affectionately known as the Hairstreak Corner, but since it was now late in the day and the patch was in deep shade we weren’t very hopeful.  So imagine our surprise when every single dogbane was festooned with hairstreaks, hundreds of them, mostly Hickory Hairstreak but with good numbers of Banded and a few Striped Hairstreaks as well.  Nobody was flying; they were all crawling over the dogbane flowers methodically, oblivious to our presence, only occasionally zipping off into the nearby canopy.  We spent a good hour there going through all of them in a fruitless effort to pick out an Oak Hairstreak, and we almost talked ourselves into one, but review of the pics later confirmed it was a — well, we’re not sure what, but it wasn’t Oak.

Mating Banded Hairstreaks in a woodside clearing [2015 JUN 29, photo by REB]

Mating Banded Hairstreaks in a woodside clearing [2015 JUN 29, photo by REB]

The male Banded Hairstreaks engaged in the unusual behavior of flattening themselves against leaves -- it was quite warm at this point and I doubt they were basking -- before darting out to harass other males.  They literally pressed themselves against the leaves.  [2015 JUN 29, photo by REB]

The male Banded Hairstreaks engaged in the unusual behavior of flattening themselves against leaves — it was quite warm at this point and I doubt they were basking — before darting out to harass other males. They literally pressed themselves against the leaves. [2015 JUN 29, photo by REB]

With the shadows lengthening, we walked back to the car, snacking on mulberries and raspberries, and checking out the puddles again.  Our last image of Whittingham was a pair of Baltimore Orioles bathing in one of the rain pools.

Both Canal Road and Whittingham are truly unique butterfly experiences, and Tom and I are grateful for the camaraderie and counsel from our colleagues in northern NJ.

And a farewell to the Hairstreak Corner and our life Hickory Hairstreaks! [2015 JUN 29, photo by REB]

And a farewell to the Hairstreak Corner and our life Hickory Hairstreaks! [2015 JUN 29, photo by REB]

Tom’s lists for Day 2 of the Jersey adventure:

In the following, notations of relative abundance follow NABA criteria. Exact counts of species numbering 10 or less are given.

C – Common: 11-20
A – Abundant: 21-100
S – Plentiful/Superabundant : > 100

June 29, 2015:  Canal Road — New Jersey Appalachian Trail, Sussex County, New Jersey

Cabbage White (8)
Clouded Sulphur (1)
Banded Hairstreak (2)
Eastern Tailed Blue (3)
Great Spangled Fritillary (abundant)
Pearl Crescent (5)
Baltimore Checkerspot (4)
Red Admiral (7)
Hackberry Emperor (1)
Northern Pearly-eye (3)
Eyed Brown (abundant ~90) LIFER
Little Wood Satyr (common)
Common Wood-Nymph (common)
Silver-spotted Skipper (3)
Least Skipper (abundant)
Long Dash (1)
Northern Broken-Dash (1)
Little Glassywing (common)
Delaware Skipper (1)
Dion Skipper (1)
Dun Skipper (8)

June 29, 2015:  Whittingham Wildlife Management Area, Sussex County, New Jersey

Cabbage White (common)
Clouded Sulphur (common)
Orange Sulphur (common)
Harvester (1)
Banded Hairstreak (abundant)
Hickory Hairstreak (plentiful)
Striped Hairstreak (4)
Eastern Tailed Blue (11)
Summer Azure (abundant)
Great Spangled Fritillary (plentiful)
Question Mark (1)
Eastern Comma (1)
American Lady (1)
Painted Lady (2)
Red Admiral (1)
Viceroy (1)
Tawny Emperor (1)
Northern Pearly-eye (1)
Little Wood Satyr (6)
Common Wood-Nymph (4)
Silver-spotted Skipper (common)
European Skipper (1)
Northern Broken-Dash (1)
Little Glassywing (abundant)
Dun Skipper (3)

After years of scrutinizing Banded Hairstreaks and trying to turn them into a lifer Hickory Hairstreak, it was so refreshing today to see squadrons of Hickory Hairstreaks that illustrate all the typical features they're supposed to have! [2015 JUN 28, photo by REB]

After years of scrutinizing Banded Hairstreaks and trying to turn them into a lifer Hickory Hairstreak, it was so refreshing today to see squadrons of Hickory Hairstreaks that illustrate all the typical features they’re supposed to have! [2015 JUN 28, photo by REB]

Last week while I was checking all the usual sources for the weekly Forecast, I noticed that Wade and Sharon Wander posted to the NABA Sightings Page an astounding triple digit tally for both Hickory Hairstreaks and Banded Hairstreaks (nearly 400 of the former, nearly 1000 of the latter) at a wildlife management area in northern NJ near the NY border.  I immediately started planning a day trip — Hickory HS would be a life sighting for me, let alone 400 of them — and conscripted Tom Stock to come with.  Originally, we were both signed up to do sectors for the western Montgomery Co MD count on June 27, so we planned for today, June 28.

Turns out yesterday would have been a complete washout weatherwise in NJ as it was in the DC area, and even today after our 4+ hour drive up the clouds were heavy and occasionally drizzling.  Armed with directions from Sharon for both the logistics of the drive and the best places to see butterflies here, we pulled into the parking lot with only slightly dampened enthusiasm.

One of the first butterflies, right in the lot, was Hackberry Emperor, which had in fact been predicted in that lot by Sharon as a puddler we should look for.  Otherwise, it was rather quiet — it had rained again a few minutes before, the temperature was a chilly 64F, and very weak sun was trying to leak out around the heavy cloud cover.  Nevertheless, we tucked our pants legs into our socks and set out into the soggy field Sharon had dubbed “Hairstreak Corner.”  Within minutes we found our first batch of dogbane, and with it LITERALLY A HUNDRED hairstreaks hunkered down under leaves and the undersides of dogbane umbels — mostly Hickory Hairstreaks.  Amazing.  Over the course of the next two hours and a total of about seven minutes of sunshine we saw hundreds more, again mostly Hickory, and noted that the Banded Hairstreaks seemed to prefer milkweed while the Hickories were mostly on dogbane.

In addition to numbers of Cabbage (Small) White and many Great Spangled Fritillaries, we also picked up Northern Broken-dash (FOY), Common Wood-Nymph (a very dark morph), Eastern Comma, a Meadow Fritillary, and a number of Little Glassywings — the skipper numbers were well below what Sharon and Wade saw last week because of the soggy conditions.  Tom and I ended up with maybe 300 hairstreaks.

FOY Northern Broken-dash [2015 JUN 28, photo by REB]

FOY Northern Broken-dash [2015 JUN 28, photo by REB]

Banded Hairstreaks were a bit more worn than the Hickories, and seemed to prefer the milkweed and thistles over the dogbane that held most of the Hickories.  [2015 JUN 28, photo by REB]

Banded Hairstreaks were a bit more worn than the Hickories, and seemed to prefer the milkweed and thistles over the dogbane that held most of the Hickories. [2015 JUN 28, photo by REB]

Rain was threatening when I suggested a further slog down another field, and of course it started raining, so we cut across one of the fields and got back to the parking lot just in time for the sky to brighten a bit (still no sun, just brighter clouds) and to enjoy an end-of-hike glut of black raspberries from the field.

Tomorrow we’re following up on another fine set of directions from the Wanders to visit Canal Road, about an hour away, in search of Eyed Brown, Baltimore Checkerspots, and maybe Delaware Skipper.

Tom’s list for the day:

In the following, notations of relative abundance follow NABA criteria. Exact counts of species numbering 10 or less are given.

C – Common: 11-20
A – Abundant: 21-100
S – Plentiful/Superabundant : > 100

June 28, 2015:  Whittingham Wildlife Management Area, Sussex County, New Jersey

Cabbage White (2)
Banded Hairstreak (abundant)
Hickory Hairstreak (plentiful) LIFER
Eastern Tailed Blue (1)
Summer Azure (6)
Great Spangled Fritillary (abundant)
Meadow Fritillary (1)
Eastern Comma (1)
Hackberry Emperor (1)
Little Wood Satyr (common)
Common Wood-Nymph (5)
Northern Broken-Dash (1)
Little Glassywing (common)

Broad-winged Skipper from Dorchester Co MD on Summer Solstice [2015 June 21, photo by REB]

Broad-winged Skipper from Dorchester Co MD on Summer Solstice [2015 June 21, photo by REB]

The wet, cool weather prognosis for the weekend is likely to keep FOYs to a minimum this weekend, much as the oppressive heat last weekend did! Nevertheless, regional observers last week scored new year sightings for Pink-edged Sulphur, and just a few hours north were multiple sightings of Oak and Hickory Hairstreaks. Cloudless Sulphur, Common Buckeye, and Appalachian Brown were also added to the FOYs for 2015.

Many nectar sources are in full bloom just now, including such perennial butterfly favorites as buttonbush, pickerel weed, and various milkweeds. The milkweeds have been hosting swarms of fresh Variegated Fritillaries and good numbers of fresh Common Buckeyes on the lower Eastern Shore, where practically every stand of common milkweed had a contingent of Orange Sulphurs, Cabbage (Small) Whites and Silver-spotted Skippers in addition to the Fritillaries and Buckeyes.

Elsewhere, milkweeds have been attracting a diversity of hairstreaks, including an astounding 972 Banded Hairstreaks and 382 Hickory Hairstreaks on one small patch of dogbane at Whittingham Wildlife Management Area in northern NJ! Oak Hairstreak, Coral Hairstreak, and of course Striped Hairstreak were all found in the same general vicinity last week. Edwards Hairstreak emerged in numbers this week, seen especially in the Frederick Municipal Watershed Forest.

Skippers, by contrast, were less easy to come by this past week. Common Checkered-skipper, which has been hard to come by this season, was spotted in fresh condition in central MD this week. A very worn Aaron’s Skipper populated the buttonbush along Newbridge Road in Dorchester Co, MD, in the company of Broad-winged Skippers. Broad-wings were also abundant at Eastern Neck NWR, where the dozen or more large buttonbush in the Bayview Butterfly Garden hosted Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, Red Admiral, Viceroy, Monarch, Cabbage White, Orange Sulphur, and distractingly abundant Zebra Swallowtails – but NONE of the grass skipper abundance of just a week previously. Horace’s Duskywing is on the wing in its second brood now, and being the only duskywing with an apical cell spot (the other common spreadwing out now, Wild Indigo, lacks the spot) is much easier to ID without having to closely examine the ventral aspect. It’s looking to be a good year for Ocola Skipper, which is already appearing as far north as the Raleigh NC area.

Harvesters are clearly having a good year too, with multiples reported across the region. Baltimore Checkerspots are also out in good numbers.

The first regional Cloudless Sulphur showed up in Baltimore, and a few were beginning to show up at in VA and the Carolinas.  Pink-edged Sulphur is flying in the higher-elevation bogs of WV and should be looked for in western MD, where it occurred historically but has been MIA in recent times.  Bog Copper is likely flying there too, as both Aphrodite and Atlantis Fritillaries should be.

A couple of butterflies dropped off the radar screen this week, including Red-spotted Purple, American Lady, and Silvery Checkerspot. Both will return in subsequent broods later this summer. Comma, Question Mark and Mourning Cloak are likely to be around only in small numbers until fall; they’re mostly aestivating during the hottest weather.

The weekend weather has already claimed one casualty – the western Montgomery Co MD count has been rescheduled for July 3.

If you do brave the rain this weekend, don’t forget to post or send your sightings for the next Weekend Forecast! In the meantime, visit us at https://leplog.wordpress.com/ and on Google Groups at MDLepsOdes

Matt Orsie's Coral Hairstreak find from Cool Spring WV

Matt Orsie’s Coral Hairstreak find from Cool Spring WV

The past week has finally provided a number of FOY grass skippers and hairstreaks, including Coral, Striped, and Edwards Hairstreaks and Salt Marsh, Aaron’s, Broad-winged, and Delaware SkippersBog Copper and Appalachian Brown also popped up.

Hairstreaks are finally coming up in numbers, tracking rather obviously the first flush of bloom on dogbane, milkweed, and butterflyweed across the region.  The first Edwards Hairstreak was reported from Frederick (MD) Municipal Watershed Forest, Striped Hairstreak was reported widely across the area, and a few Coral Hairstreaks reports have trickled in.  Of course any dark hairstreaks in this period should be examined closely to make sure they aren’t Oak or Hickory Hairstreaks.  Second-brood White M, Red-banded, and Gray Hairstreaks are also on the wing.

Appalachian Brown was reported several times this week, and more Common Wood Nymphs were also out.  Carolina Satyr in southern MD is looking rather tatty; by contrast, the Little Wood Satyrs with which it is flying are still pretty fresh.  Great Spangled Fritillary is everywhere now, and FOY Variegated Frits were reported at several MD locations.  Aphrodite Fritillary was flying in western MD, and Baltimore Checkerspot seems to be having a good flight year in its various known locations.  Diana Fritillary has been seen flying in the mountains in southwest VA.

Bog Copper is being seen in some of its normal relict bog haunts; Bronze Copper is flying to our north and in far northern Delaware.

The big news shifted from the western mountains to the Chesapeake marshes this week, with almost the full complement of marsh skippers out for viewing:  Salt Marsh, Aaron’s, Broad-winged, and Delaware Skippers.  One great place to see this diversity is Eastern Neck NWR in Kent Co MD; the buttonbush and milkweed there are in peak bloom.  Rare Skipper is still AWOL so far this season.  All the more typical grass skippers are in flight, with Dun, Crossline, Little Glassywing and Swarthy Skipper numbers picking up.

Monarchs are being widely reported, and in decent numbers, across the region.  Fresh locally-eclosed adults should be increasingly on the wing.

Predictions for this weekend and next week:  I’m putting Common Buckeye back on the list this week.  Southern Cloudywing and possibly Confused Cloudywing should be looked for, as should Mulberry Wing (including the distinct Chermock’s Mulberry Wing).   We’re also due for our first Cloudless Sulphur. Unfortunately, the remnants of Tropical Storm Bill will probably perturb our outdoor activities this weekend.

The Sky Meadows (VA) NABA count is this weekend on Saturday, contact Scott Baron, brnpelican@yahoo.com for information.  Next Saturday, June 27, is the western Montgomery County NABA count; coordinator is Stephanie Mason at Stephanie.Mason@anshome.org.  Stephanie and Dick Smith follow up the count on Sunday the 28th with an Audubon Naturalist Society field trip to Governor’s Bridge Natural Area (MD, Prince Georges Co).  NABA counts for Richmond VA and eastern Frederick/western Carroll Counties (MD) are also up for June 28; check out the master field trip calendar at https://leplog.wordpress.com/2015-season-mid-atlantic-count-and-field-trip-calendar/

If you see anything interesting on these or other field trips, please share your sightings with us using the comment function on LepLog.wordpress.com or join us for discussion on Google Groups at MDLepsOdes.

Painted Lady [image courtesy Wikimedia Commons]

Painted Lady [image courtesy Wikimedia Commons]

Britain is currently experiencing a once-in-a-decade Painted Lady irruption, as detailed in the news story below from Butterfly Conservation UK:

>>The UK is braced for a once in a decade influx of Painted Ladies with the potential for millions of the butterflies winging in from southern Europe as part of the longest butterfly migration in the world.

 Unusually high numbers of the orange and black butterflies have been reported amassing in southern Europe at the critical time of the year for them to spread northwards into Britain.

 The butterfly is a common immigrant that migrates in varying numbers from the continent to the UK each summer, where its caterpillars feed on thistles.

But around once every 10 years the UK experiences a Painted Lady ‘summer’ when millions of the butterflies arrive en masse.

The last mass immigration took place in 2009 when around 11 million Painted Ladies descended widely across the UK with the butterflies spreading into the most northerly parts of Scotland.

Since then the UK has experienced five years with below average numbers but scientists are hopeful that 2015 could be very different.

Painted Ladies are experiencing their best year on the continent since 2009. The offspring of these butterflies could be UK bound imminently.

Butterfly Conservation reported that some butterflies arrived during mid-May, but a spell of poor weather temporarily halted the immigration.

Recent warm sunny conditions have seen Painted Lady numbers soar once again with reports of large numbers of the butterflies seen at south coast sites – suggesting a large scale immigration may once again be about to take place.

Butterfly Conservation is asking for the public to record sightings of the butterfly to help chart the progress of any potential immigration during the summer.

Richard Fox, Butterfly Conservation Head of Recording explained: “The Painted Lady migration is one of the real wonders of the natural world.

“Travelling up to 1km in the sky and at speeds of up to 30 miles-per-hour these small fragile-seeming creatures migrate hundreds of miles to reach our shores each year, even though none of the individual butterflies has ever made the trip before.”

The Painted Lady undertakes a phenomenal 9,000 mile round trip from tropical Africa to the Arctic Circle each year – almost double the length of the famous migrations of the Monarch butterfly in North America.

Research using citizen science sightings from the 2009 migration revealed that the whole journey is not undertaken by individual butterflies but in a series of steps by up to six successive generations.

Radar studies revealed that after successfully breeding in the UK in 2009 more than 26 million Painted Ladies returned south in the autumn, many flying high in the sky out of the sight of human observers.

Painted Lady sightings can be recorded via Butterfly Conservation’s Migrant Watch scheme.<<

 

 

Tom Stock and I this week spent a day this week poking around some of the forest and bog areas of Allegany Co MD, lured by recent intel from Kathy Barylski and others that some of the more northern species were on the wing in this western county on the shoulders of Appalachia.  Our goal was to end up at Finzel Swamp, a protected Nature Conservancy property on the county line between Garrett and Allegany counties, but the butterfly road to western Maryland seldom runs straight for us.

A Hackberry Emperor takes a shine to Tom's' leg in Green Ridge State Forest [2015 June 10, photo by REB]

A Hackberry Emperor takes a shine to Tom’s’ leg in Green Ridge State Forest [2015 June 10, photo by REB]

The diversions started with a simple thought to check out Hoop Pole Road in Green Ridge State Forest for Hoary Edge, an uncommon skipper much like Silver-spotted Skipper but with an irregular, larger white blotch on its hindwing and a much more restricted diet and habitat.  En route, though, we stopped along Swain Hollow Road to check on the population of round-leaved ragwort (host plant to Northern Metalmark), and then along Sideling Hill Creek to see if there were any Giant Swallowtails (no, but there were lots of Red-spotted Purples, Northern Pearly-eye, and Little Wood Satyrs).  Then we headed toward Hoop Pole but were distracted again by blooming New Jersey tea, host plant for Mottled Duskywing and a very popular nectar plant for lots of other pollinators.  We figured we’d missed the Mottled Duskywing flight — it’s an early spring species — and indeed we saw only FOY Banded Hairstsreaks, Northern Cloudywings, and Summer Azures on the flowers.  But we also saw FOY Tawny Emperor and Hackberry Emperor along the roadside, and a surprisingly worn Little Glasswing, before heading up Hoop Pole, where in fact we did see Hoary Edge.

Hoary Edge posing cooperatively along Hoop Pole Road in Green Ridge State Forest [2015 June 10, photo by REB]

Hoary Edge posing cooperatively along Hoop Pole Road in Green Ridge State Forest [2015 June 10, photo by REB]

By now it’s almost noon, so we really had to scoot to get over to Finzel.  It was warm, dry and sunny; perfect butterfly weather.  Tom and I had come here many times over the years in search of Silver-bordered Fritillary and Harris’ Checkerspot, which had occasionally been seen by other observers who gleefully recounted their sightings, but in five years of searching we’d never seen these butterflies.  So it was with guarded optimism we got out of the car at Finzel.

First we checked out the little hillside next to the parking lot, the site of an old dump site for a greenhouse that still has carnations, comfrey, oregano and other domestics that prove attractive to butterflies.  This visit was no exception:  many Long Dash and European Skippers worked the area, and Great Spangled Fritillaries and huge, lemony, floppy Appalachian Swallowtails sailed across regularly.  Quite  a few late Dreamy Duskywings were still hanging out.  But none of our targets.

Long Dash skippers were everywhere, including this mating pair [2015 June 10, photo by REB]

Long Dash skippers were everywhere, including this mating pair [2015 June 10, photo by REB]

So off onto the boardwalk we headed.  Summer Azures were everywhere, and we looked closely (but unsuccessfully) for Harvester in the alder thickets.  But only a short way in a pristine small frit flew in onto a viburnum beside the trail — a Silver-bordered Fritillary! (it was to be one of a double-digit tally for the day)

Silver-bordered Fritillary nectaring at swamp-side viburnum [2-15 June 10, photo by REB]

Silver-bordered Fritillary nectaring at swamp-side viburnum [2015 June 10, photo by REB]

Silver-bordered Fritillary nectaring at swamp-side viburnum [2-15 June 10, photo by REB]

Silver-bordered Fritillary nectaring at swamp-side viburnum [2015 June 10, photo by REB]

We worked our way farther up out of the swamp area into the upland fields without seeing much else, but as we entered the first field we immediately saw a large crescent-like, dark butterfly.  Harris’ Checkerspot, another mostly boreal rarity we seldom see here, but a frost pocket relict bog like Finzel is exactly where you’d expect them.  Unlike the Silver-bordered Fritillary, the checkerspots were mostly quite worn, suggesting they had been out for quite a while already.

Harris' Checkerspot in the Finzel meadows  [2015 June 10, photo by REB]

Harris’ Checkerspot in the Finzel meadows [2015 June 10, photo by REB]

Harris' Checkerspot in the Finzel meadows  [2015 June 10, photo by REB]

Harris’ Checkerspot in the Finzel meadows [2015 June 10, photo by REB]

It wasn’t long before we started picking up more of both the Silver-bordered Frits and the Harris’ Checkerspots, and even Baltimore Checkerspot.  Long Dash and European Skippers remained distractingly abundant, along with a few Hobomok Skippers (males and the dark-form female ‘pocahontas’), and more expected Little Wood Satyrs, Least Skipper, and Eastern Tailed-blue.

Our last butterfly as we got back to the car was a final Baltimore Checkerspot puddling in the mud of the parking lot.  A fine end to a fine day, and the satisfaction of finally seeing these iconic species in their ancient bog holdout.

A head-on Baltimore Checkerspot in the upper meadow [2015 June 10, photo by REB]

A head-on Baltimore Checkerspot in the upper meadow [2015 June 10, photo by REB]

Tom’s full tally for the day is below:

Green Ridge State Forest:

Pipevine Swallowtail (3)
Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (1)
Cabbage White (3)
Orange Sulphur (2)
Banded Hairstreak (4)
Eastern Tailed Blue (1)
Summer Azure (3)
Great Spangled Fritillary (8)
Eastern Comma (1)
American Lady (2)
Red-spotted Purple (common)
Hackberry Emperor (1)
Tawny Emperor (1)
Northern Pearly-eye (1)
Little Wood Satyr (4)
Silver-spotted Skipper (5)
Hoary Edge (1)
Northern Cloudywing (4)
Little Glassywing (1)

Finzel Swamp:

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (2)
Appalachian Tiger Swallowtail (9)
Orange Sulphur (1)
Eastern Tailed Blue (1)
Summer Azure (abundant)
Silver-bordered Fritillary (11)
Harris’ Checkerspot (9)
Pearl Crescent (common)
Baltimore Checkerspot (3)
Question Mark (1)
Red-spotted Purple (1)
Little Wood Satyr (common)
Silver-spotted Skipper (6)
Dreamy Duskywing (common)
Horace’s Duskywing (2)
Least Skipper (1)
European Skipper (abundant)
Peck’s Skipper (5)
Long Dash (abundant)
Hobomok Skipper (common)
Zabulon Skipper (1)

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