The 2018 Master Field Events Calendar


It’s that time of the year again, although the flurries outside my window this morning might augur otherwise!

Once again for 2018, I’ll be attempting to compile on LepLog ( a mid-Atlantic-wide calendar of counts, field trips, walks, and other lep-related field activities for the 2018 flight season.  Thanks a million to all of you who have contributed to this compilation in the past, both in letting me know of counts or field trips you are planning or ones you know about.  Events in NJ, WV, PA, DE, MD, VA & NC are all welcome, as are moth-related field events.

Please send me event info in roughly the format used below if you would.  You can email these to to me at [or just drop it into the comment section below] I know some of you may have turned over your responsibilities to others; please let your successor(s) know or let me know if the count has been discontinued.

Here’s the basic format:

DATE Month Day [TYPE OF ACTIVITY–i.e., NABA annual count, field trip, etc.]  STATE (two-letter abbreviation): LOCATION.  DESCRIPTION. CONTACT (name, email, telephone number if you wish).

And here’s a sample entry:

JUN 28 [NABA Count] MD: Eastern Frederick and western Carroll Counties.   We will count the Audrey Carroll and Fred Archibald Audubon Sanctuaries, as well as a few other spots if time allows. CONTACT: David Smith,; 443-995-4108.

Thanks again, everyone, and I look forward to seeing many of you in the field in 2018!

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Delayed Spring 2018

For a few days there in February, with the thermometer hitting 80 degrees F, I thought I might have to buckle down and start issuing LepLog Forecasts for mid-Atlantic butterfliers early in 2018.  But we quickly returned to cooler (and even cooler than normal) weather, and look to stay that way into April.  The Forecast will return April 6 on schedule (and notionally will appear on Friday or Saturday each week until the season winds down in autumn).

Meantime, our colleagues at the South Jersey Butterfly B/Log have done a very welcome recap of the 2017 season, which looks a lot like the season most of us in the mid-Atlantic experienced, powered by their very robust sightings log.  Jeff Connor writes that 2017 was a good year for New Jersey butterfliers, but reported some worrisome trends for species including Leonard’s skipper, hoary-edged skipper, two-spotted skipper and cobweb skipper that showed continuing downward observations.  But there is good news for some other species:

One of the nicest resources of this excellent overall site is the early/late date summary, which can be found standalone at  Since it’s a living document, I’ll keep the link here rather than import the PDF file.

While there is an outside chance of butterflies on the wing locally tomorrow (Sunday), it looks mostly like another butterfly-less week in the region.  But look for a flurry of sightings, not snow, very soon!



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Spring Break! (sort of)

I decided to use up some airline miles before they expired by doing a week of combined birding and butterflying in southeast Arizona.  I knew it would be early for most butterflies, but there had been some recent sightings, and the birds were pretty awesome, so I booked a couple of days in Madera Canyon in the extreme south and a couple days in Scottsdale to be near the eastern mountains.

I’ve already posted about the first stop on the trip en route to Madera, at Boyce Thompson Arboretum, where there were a couple of butterflies on the wing.  So my hopes were pretty high heading even farther south, but what I didn’t count on was how atypically wet Boyce Thompson is compared with the rest of southeast Arizona.  And it’s been an exceptionally dry winter, with no recent rains.

Even in the Santa Rita Mountains, where Madera Canyon is located, it’s been quite dry and cool.  Madera Creek, which runs through the mountains, was flowing well, but there were exceptionally few nectar sources.  So I turned my attention those first couple of days to birds and birding.

Not to bury the lede (in newspaper terms) but I was successful in seeing an elusive male Elegant Trogon that had been all the buzz among birders when I arrived.  It led trogon-chasers on a merry scramble through extensive mesquite and scrub under junipers, and from sycamore to sycamore along Madera Creek, before everyone but me gave up.  Perseverence paid off (so did risking death by cholla cactus in the shorts I was wearing) and I had about a half hour of alone time with this amazing cousin of the quetzal. He proved very confiding once the crowds of people with bazooka-sized telephoto lenses left; this photo is from very close up with my little point-and-shoot Lumix.

2018 MAR 05 Elegant Trogon money shot_Santa Cruz Co-Madera Canyon

No, it isn’t a butterfly, but there is a butterfly story here. This is an Elegant Trogon that has been hanging out in Madera Canyon, Pima Co AZ [2018 MAR 05, photo by REB]

There is of course that old adage that life is the route, not the destination, and this is often true in natural history as well.  Though I had searched in vain for the previous two days for one of my target butterflies for the trip, Desert Marble (aka Pearly Marble in the Glassberg lexicon), I had pretty much given up on seeing it this trip.  But good things come to all who wait, and while I was waiting on the trogon’s next appearance (and watching a Red-naped Sapsucker whack away on an oak), something white fluttered by and landed literally at my feet.  And while it took off before I could get a shot of its underside, the dorsal view of this Desert Marble in this environment is diagnostic, and you can even see the marbling on the underwing through the dorsum!

2018 MAR 05 Pearly aka Desert Marble_AZ-Santa Cruz Co-Madera Canyon

Desert Marble at about 5,000 feet elevation in Madera Canyon. Note the faint watermark of the “marbling” showing through from the ventral hindwing. [2018 MAR 05, Pima Co AZ, photo by REB]

And that was the last butterfly I saw in Madera Canyon.  But on my last day before headed up to Scottsdale, I hiked up nearby Florida (pron. Flo-REE-dah in these parts) Canyon, mostly with a pair of Rufous-capped Warblers in mind (they proved to be a no-show for me) But also I went up the Florida trail in the hope that the translation “flowered” from the Spanish would prove apt and that wildflowers would be attracting butterflies.  It did — sort of.  There were a few flowers out, notably Fairy Duster, Calliandra eriophylla.  But there was also a good bit of damp sand along the creek trickling down the canyon, and that’s where I found my first and best butterfly of the day (and the second of my five Grail species for the trip), Golden-headed Scallopwing.

2018 MAR 07 Golden-headed Scallopwing_AZ-Pima Co-Florida Canyon

Golden-headed Scallopwing at the base of Florida Canyon, Santa Cruz Co, AZ. This dime-sized skipper looks a lot like our mid-Atlantic Hayhurst’s that dipped its palpi into some gold leaf. [2018 MAR 07, photo by REB]

There were other butterflies, too; a Southern Dogface racing up the canyon, and a handful of Pipevine Swallowtails.  In AZ as here in the East, Pipevine is a very early swallowtail.  And there was a duskywing of some kind patrolling a stretch of the narrow trail that defied my attempts to ID or photograph it.  At several spots along the creek, though, damp soil held Southwestern Azures (the cinerea ssp of Echo Azure, Celastrina echo), all of which bested my photographic powers.

Giving up on the warblers, I started my descent back down the canyon and spent about 20 minutes trying to get a bead on a hairstreak zipping around in the oak canopy.  Never did, but a few minutes later snagged this mystery lycaenid (?hairstreak) on the afore-mentioned Calliandra.  It’s worn almost to the point of transparency, and best I can figure is a likely candidate for Sylvan Hairstreak, Satyrium sylvinus itys, though well out of its normal flight period. Suggestions on ID most welcome! [Update: some LepLog readers also suggest this could be a worn azure, which makes more sense given the time and location]

2018 MAR 07 mystery lycaenid_AZ-Pima Co-lower Florida Canyon

Mystery hairstreak on buds of Fairy Duster. Possibly a Sylvan Hairstreak, Satyrium sylvinus itys? [2-18 MAR 07, Florida Canyon, Santa Cruz Co AZ, photo by REB]

My last day in the extreme southeast I had planned to spend time at the famous (to birders) Paton Center for Hummingbirds in Patagonia AZ to spot a rare Violet-crowned Hummingbird.  En route I stopped off at another likely-sounding butterfly spot, Sonoita Creek Preserve, where a post on NABA’s Recent Sightings page a week or so previously had a good but short list of butterflies on some variety of ragwort.  So I set off on a VERY LONG walk through the desert on a very hot March day in search of the creek and then for what I imagined would be fields of ragwort (which is how we see it here in the East).  An hour later I was still trudging about in the ocotillo and cacti.

2018 MAR 06 the geometrical precision of ocotillo

My expectations of butterflies were low after trekking through ocotillo forest for an hour.

When I did find the creek, it was mostly a dry wash.  And no nectar in sight.  Far off in the distance, on a dry bank of a feeder creek, I spotted ONE tall shrub that — being the only nectar game in town — had quite the little coterie of butterflies.  On inspection, there were only two butterfly species: the nearly ubiquitous Pipevine Swallowtail, and clouds of Texan Crescents.

2018 MAR 06 Pipevine Swallowtail_AZ-Santa Cruz Co-Sonoita Creek Natural Area

Pipevine Swallowtail on what turned out to be a very different kind of ragwort than I am familiar with here in the East, the tall, woody shrub Barkley’s Ragwort. [2018 MAR 06, Sonoita Creek Preserve, photo by REB]

2018 MAR 06 Texan Crescent DW_AZ-Santa Cruz Co-Sonoita Creek Natural Area

There were literally dozens of Texan Crescents on a couple of shrub ragworts at the end of Blackhawk Canyon Trail where it meets Sonoita Creek Trail in the Sonoita Creek Preserve. [2018 MAR 06, Sonoita Creek Preserve, photo by REB]

I eventually uncovered a couple more of these tall, rangy ragworts, including one very near the intersection of Blackhawk Canyon Trail and Sonoita Creek Trail that held half a dozen American Snouts, not surprising because the low creek bottom at this point was still rather moist and supported lots of hackberries (the Snout’s larval host).  And the third target butterfly of the trip, a metalmark!  In this case, Zela Metalmark, Emesis zela.


One of half a dozen American Snouts on a ragwort shrub. [2018 MAR 06, Sonoita Creek Preserve, photo by REB]

2018 MAR 06 Zela Metalmark_AZ-Santa Cruz Co-Sonoita Creek Natural Area 1

Target butterfly 3 of 5 on this Arizona trip, Zela Metalmark (note the black splotch on the DFW). [2018 MAR 06, Sonoita Creek Preserve, photo by REB]

And that’s about it for Arizona butterflies on this expedition. Despite the great recommendations of veteran members of the Central Arizona Butterfly Club Janet Witzeman and Ron Rutowski, the season was too early and the desert too dry around Phoenix and Scottsdale to yield more than a few more dogfaces, pipevines, and a probable buckeye. And I left two of my original targets on the table for the next trip — Mormon Metalmark and the ‘Pima’ variation of Sara Orangetip.  And more birds to go back for too (although I did get the Violet-crowned!).

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FOY Mourning Cloak

2018 MAR 03 Mourning Cloak_AZ-Boyce Thompson Arboretum SP

A coy Mourning Cloak absorbed in taking up sap from the leaking trunk of a willow along Queen Creek in the Boyce Thompson Arboretum, Superior, AZ [2018 MAR 03, photo by REB]

Well, bet you thought I meant I got a Mourning Cloak during the recent nor’easter.  But no — still too windy back in MD to pick one of these puppies up today.  But I’m in Arizona this week, and my first stop today was Boyce Thompson Arboretum and State Park southeast of Phoenix.  A slow day for butterflies — it is still pretty early in the season — but I stopped by Boyce Thompson to see what I would be finding in bloom in southeast AZ this week.  And just as I would have found them in MD, here was a Mourning Cloak settled in at the base of a willow tree weeping sap.  I would have missed it if I hadn’t seen it fly in; otherwise it kept close to the trunk and in the shade the entire time I watched.

Other butterflies in flight at Boyce Thompson today included many Pipevine Swallowtails, a Painted Lady, a couple of Black Swallowtails, and a probable Tailed Orange (that could have been a Sleepy Orange, but it looked to large and awfully dark orange in the fleeting look I got).

2018 MAR 03 Painted Lady_AZ-Boyce Thompson Arboretum SP

A Painted Lady nectaring on verbena at the Boyce Thompson Arboretum in Superior, AZ [2018 MAR 03, photo by REB]

But the most stunning butterfly sighting was of a fresh Great Purple Hairstreak that bumbled across the path in front of me.  These desert Purples are massive!  This one was easily the size of a normal Cabbage White, although unfortunately there is nothing to give a size comparison in the quickly-snapped photo documentation.

2018 MAR 03 Great Purple HS_AZ-Boyce Thompson Arboretum SP

A Great (and I mean GREAT) Purple Hairstreak in the desert scrub at Boyce Thompson Arboretum [2018 MAR 03, photo by REB]

Tomorrow I’m off looking for more spring desert specialties, especially marbles and orangetips.

Posted in general butterfly news, sightings | 1 Comment

Quick Trip to the National Butterfly Center

2018 Feb 21 Mournful Duskywing_E tristis_TX-Hidalgo Co-Mission-National Butterfly Ctr 1

Mournful Duskywing, Erynnis tristis, 2018 Feb 21 at the National Butterfly Center [photo by REB]

I did a couple of days in southern Texas last week after the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual conference in Austin ended; good thing I was mostly focused on birds this trip because except for one afternoon the weather was pretty awful.  They were getting much needed rain, but that did not augur well for butterflying.

So after I checked off the bucket list for wintering whooping cranes (awesome; first time I’ve seen them in the wild on the winter grounds at Aransas NWR) I drove the couple hours farther south to the Lower Rio Grande for a couple other bird specialities, and lucked into an afternoon of warm (well, hot actually) sunny weather before a massive cold front parked and trained over the area for the next two days.

But in the few hours I had I picked up a couple of nice butterflies, and ran into an old friend, Mike Rickard, who quickly showed me the swarms of Dusky Blue Groundstreaks on some inconspicuous flowers (exactly the kind of flower that appeals to its close relative here in the mid-Atlantic, Red-banded Hairstreak, with which it is sometimes considered conspecific).  The flash of blue on the upperside when they took off was all that gave them away, very much like the blue streak of a White-M when it flutters away from you!

2018 Feb 21 Dusky Blue Groundstreak_TX-Hidalgo Co-Mission-Natl Butterfly Ctr

Quiet as a cloud passes over the sun, this Dusky Blue Groundstreak (Calycopis isobeon) looks for all the world like our Red-banded Hairstreak until it flies and the bright blue upper wings show [2018 Feb. 21, photo by REB]

Mike also pointed out a very well marked Tropical Leafwing while we talked about the fate of the border wall, which is slated to pass right through Center’s property closer to the Rio Grande.  I asked if the heavy machinery I heard in the near distance was wall-related; Mike said no, it was another issue — an adjoining property that was never acquired by the NBC is now being converted from agrigultural use to a lake and more trailer homes, apparently.

The bait logs were mostly dry, and only held a single Hackberry Emperor.  A variety of mistflower and some lantanas comprised most of the nectar available last week, and were attracting fresh Red Admirals, Laviana White-skipper, Polydamas Swallowtail, lots of American Snouts, Soldiers, Monarchs, and Lyside Sulphurs.  And crescents, notably Texan Crescent and Vesta Crescent.

Vesta Crescent, Phyciodes graphica, on a mistflower at the National Butterfly Center [2018 Feb 21, photo by REB]

A pair of Texan Crescents doing what pairs of Texan Crescents do [2018 Feb 21, photo by REB]

Texan Crescent, Phyciodes texana [photo by REB, 2018 Feb. 21]

I had to call an early halt to get back to my hotel room in time to certify the time sheets for my employees so they’d get paid (I briefly considered staying, but I have a heart, after all …)

Here in Maryland, a few early spring sightings came in with some warm weather while I was gone — Eastern Comma, Mourning Cloak, Summer (spring form) Azure.  I may get a chance to see them this week myself if there’s some sun, but then I’m off again on a butterfly/bird safari to southeastern Arizona.  Visions of Pearly Marble and Desert Orange-tip are already dancing in my mind.

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Northern Metalmark Data for MD Needed

2015 JUL 1 Northern Metalmark MD-Allegany Co-Swain Hollow Rd 3.jpg


Jen Selfridge of the Maryland DNR has the following request for information on recent distribution records in MD for Northern Metalmark, Calephelis borealis.  We know this species primarily (if not entirely in recent years) from shale outcrops in the Green Ridge State Forest, where the caterpillar feeds on round-leaved ragwort (Packera obovata) and possibly its congeners balsam ragwort (Packera paupercula) and shale barren ragwort (Packera antennariifolia).

Their short flight period in high summer coincides with the bloom of woodland sunflowers in mid-July; in good years one can find a metalmark on virtually every sunflower blossom.  I have seen them throughout the Green Ridge in appropriate habitat.  Contact Jen directly (her contact info is at the end of the article) if you have data to contribute:

>>The University of Connecticut is conducting a status assessment of Northern Metalmark, and interested in gathering population data for Maryland and other states in the region. We have some records in our database but many are older records. I was wondering if anyone had any recent records (last ten years or so) to share for this species as far as Maryland sightings, for use in both updating the Maryland database and assisting with the status assessment for this species. I appreciate any information you are willing to share!
The most important things to include would be:

Location (GPS Coordinates would be awesome but even general directions are ok)
Numbers of individuals observed
Dates observed
Date of the first time you observed the species at a given location
Date of the last time you observed the species at a given location
Short description of habitat (breeding habitat, foraging habitat, meadow, roadside, any noted on vegetation, etc.)
Any notes on behaviors observed (foraging, resting, in flight, etc.)
Observer name(s)

Any specific site information you can provide will be helpful in updating the Maryland database. For the assessment that University of Connecticut is doing, the specific site information is not critical; they are more interested in getting an overall idea of how many colonies have disappeared over the years, if any, and whether current colonies are increasing, stable, or in decline. So in addition to actual data they have stressed that any qualitative thoughts on what the populations have been doing over the years would be very useful to them.

This is not a species that I have spent a lot of time on so I would be so appreciative to hear from others who may have been surveying for this species over the years or encountered it and recorded their observations. Much thanks!!! <<

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Jen Selfridge

Invertebrate Ecologist, WHS

Department of Natural Resources

P.O. Box 68, 909 Wye Mills Road

Wye Mills, MD 21679

410-827-8612 x102 (office)

Posted in conservation, endangered species, general butterfly news, maryland | 1 Comment

New “Heat Map” Function at MBP

Our friends and colleagues at The Maryland Biodiversity Project have announced the latest in a suite of cool tools on the site that will allow Maryland butterfliers to target relatively unknown (from a butterfly perspective) counties and quads for some special attention.

The tool lets you filter for category of taxon — in this case, butterflies — and displays the quads of Maryland from bright red to deep blue.  The red quads are those where most of the collecting and observations have been concentrated; most of Howard Co., Soldier’s Delight, Finzel Swamp, Green Ridge State Forest, Montgomery Co.  But a shocking number of USGS quads in MD are deepest blue — they have ZERO butterfly records associated with them in the MBP database.  This includes many of the upper tier counties that border PA, lower Garrett Co., and the lower Eastern Shore.

Screen Shot 2018-02-04 at 6.49.42 PM

The situation is similar for moths, with “hot pockets” of observation activity where lep watchers have been active, contrasting quickly with a huge chunk of the state that is relatively unknown lepidopterologically speaking.  Not surprisingly, there’s a lot of overlap; if anything, moth status is even less well known.

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My guess is that a lot of the missing data on butterflies in Maryland isn’t really missing so much as unavailable to the public — a huge tranche of DNR data, much of which was collected in collaboration with the late Dick Smith, and Dick’s own personal records dating back decades.  We can hope that these data are eventually made available to citizen scientists, but in the interim we butterfly watchers should all make an effort to “heat up” the Maryland map with USGS quad sightings in the coming year.

MDLepsOdes, the state-wide butterfly, moth, and ode listserv, plans to announce some of these “quad-buster” efforts over the summer.  Check back often for field trip announcements associated with this effort here on LepLog.

Posted in checklists, Field Trips/Annual Counts, general butterfly news, maryland, sightings, state butterflies | Leave a comment