Saturday’s annual count at Great Dismal Swamp NWR couldn’t have had better weather — temperatures in the low 80’s, fairly low humidity, and partly sunny. And I’ve NEVER been to the Dismal before without getting munched alive by mosquitoes and/or deer flies. But I didn’t see a single mosquito the entire time, and only a handful of deer flies — most of which met an untimely end.
The troops showed up at around 8 a.m. at the Washington Ditch entrance, mustered by count coordinator Don Schwab. Tom Raque and I were dispatched to the Portsmouth Ditch transect, and we spent from a little before 9 a.m. until after 6 p.m. in the field. Tom’s intrepid Subaru helped us patrol miles of ditch tops and likely side roads.
I’ll post the official list from Tom when he’s finished compiling it, but I’ll say here that I picked up lifers Creole pearly-eye, Palamedes swallowtail, and Yehl Skipper. Also saw first of the year Carolina Satyr to add to the Delmarva Big Year, in addition to the couple of great purple hairstreaks. Sleepy oranges were everywhere. Haven’t seen Don’s list yet, but he emailed Saturday night that the other teams hadn’t picked up anything truly exciting. Everyone agreed that the very dry summer had knocked down lep populations considerably and suppressed many of the nectar sources.
Sunday started off in the rain, which persisted until I made it back across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and Tunnel and stopped off at Kiptopeke State Park (where the Butterfly Garden was in pretty sad shape). Across the highway at Eastern Neck of Va. NWR, the butterfly trail was mostly empty except for large number of red-spotted purples, a couple of monarchs, and a lone common sootywing. But by the time I made it up to the turnoff from Route 13 to Chincoteague (Route 175), there was a little bit of sun peeking through the clouds. I stopped off at one of my favorite little plant nurseries there, Thomas’, and after picking out a bletilla orchid to bring back I asked if I could wander the grounds looking at butterflies. It was a riot — dozens of Zabulons, red-banded hairstreaks literally crawling everywhere, numerous glassywings, and two very fresh southern broken-dash skippers, among others.
One of the interesting phenomena Tom and I noticed in the Dismal, and I saw again at Thomas’, was summer azure females ovipositing on unopened buds of devil’s walking stick. This is a new host plant as far as I know.
Finished up the day with a huge slice of Smith Island cake and great birding at Chincoteague.