Maryland Big Year Species #3-#9

Eastern pine elfin, photo by Ken Childs courtesy of BAMONAThe warm temperatures and bright sunshine the past two days have really sparked an explosion of new leps.  Spent about 3 hours this afternoon hiking the North Trails of the American Chestnut Land Trust in Calvert Co MD, and added a hefty 7 new species to the Big Year count. Walked the Turkey Trail-Parker’s Creek-Double Oak Trail loop.

The Turkey Trail area was carpeted in places with toothwort in full bloom, which led me to think I’d see orangetips today. Spring beauty was about a quarter to full bloom, and other than spicebush (just beginning bloom along Turkey Trail but in full bloom at the base of the trail along Parker’s Creek) those were about the only nectar sources.

#3 — Mourning Cloak (MOCL), Nymphalis antiopa.  Picked up the first one just past the trailhead; saw two more along the loop.

#4 — Falcate Orangetip (FAOR), Anthocaris midea.  Hope kindled by the prodigious amount of toothwort was fulfilled two males along the Turkey Trail and two more along the upper elevations of Double Oak Trail.  In all instances, they were males — probably hill-topping — in constant flight with no nectaring behavior observed.

#5 — Comma Anglewing (COAN, until recently known as Eastern Comma), Polygonia comma.  These showed up every quarter mile or so; the ones for which I waited patiently to alight so I could observe them closely were all commas.  While some could have been P. interrogationis, I’m pretty sure all six were comma. Many were engaging in an interesting behavior of inspecting the tips of swelling beech buds (possibly for sap exudates?).  One was actively nectaring on spicebush flowers.

#6 — Spring (Edwards’) Azure (SPAZ, form ‘marginata’), Celastrina “ladon”.  There were a number of azures on the wing along the loop, but only along the upper reaches of both Turkey and Double Oak.  Nothing flying on the lower Turkey, along Parker’s Creek, or low on Double Oak — where all the holly is.  I netted one male early on the loop; it was textbook ‘marginata’ and very fresh. But this is clearly a place to go back to look among the holly for C. idella.

#7 — Eastern Pine Elfin (EPEL), Callophrys niphon.  Clearly the find of the day; one very fresh male just out of net range perched on maple branches above the trail midway along the Parker’s Creek section.    I was surprised at first, since I hadn’t recalled seeing any pines (the larval host) on the way down from the trailhead, but the very bright checkered forewing margin was so unmistakable.  And sure enough, when I turned the corner on the trail a couple hundred feet ahead, I saw a number of Virginia and loblolly pines dotting the ridges above us.

#8 — Eastern tiger swallowtail (ETSW), Papilio glaucus.  Single adult flying rapidly through the canopy along the Parker’s Creek section.

#9 — Zebra swallowtail (ZESW), Eurytides marcellus.  I was just about to net another azure about midway up Double Oak Trail on the way back to the car for a species check when it suddenly picked a dogfight with a zebra swallowtail!  Early, but not surprising, since there were several spots along the trail where I noticed the distinctive leaf and flower buds of pawpaw.

Noticed Hercules’ Club a couple times along the trail, so will be worth coming back later in the season to look for giant swallowtails, and of course the abundant spicebush will have plenty of spicebush swallowtails in season as well.

Heading out again tomorrow; might go back to the American Chestnut Land Trust and explore its South Trails complex, or might hit the Eastern shore of Maryland instead.

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