Participants in the serpentine barrens field trip led by Dick Smith today scored big time with up to a dozen (seen collectively by members of the party) Leonard’s skippers nectaring on liatris on the east side of the barrens.
Dick started us all out (about 20 folks showed up) at the Visitor Center with a short introduction to some of the common — and not so common — butterflies through the season at Soldiers Delight west of Baltimore, one of the largest and most intact serpentine barrens in the East. In addition to a very unusual flora, Soldiers Delight also serves as home to a number of very interesting butterflies, among them dusted skipper, hobomok skipper, and today’s target species, Leonard’s skipper.
Most of today’s action was on the liatris in bloom at various open sites along the serpentine trail and again near the chromide mines near the road. Sachems were abundant, and swarthy skippers were quite common on the stunted liatris that characterizes the open grasslands of Soldiers Delight. Sulphers and whites were almost non-existent, while buckeyes were quite common to abundant and several of the local swallowtail species put in appearances.
But the lep highlight of the day had to be Leonard’s skipper, nowhere abundant but rewarding patient watchers who scanned stands of liatris with brief looks as they darted quickly from flower to flower and back into the grass. The group was strung out over a good distance, and from what I could gather back at the parking lot there were at least five or six Leonard’s in addition to the six that I tallied seen by various members of the team.
And they were beautiful — a life butterfly for me (and #72 on my 2010 DelMarVa list). The ground color of these fresh individuals resembled a newly minted penny, and the underside underwing spots were bright yellow (not the whitish-creamy color of the illustration in Cech). They were unmistakable, although their frenetic behavior gave the photographers among us fits, but Beth Johnson persevered to get the great photo at the top of this post.
My list (although I didn’t see some things others did, and I saw some things others didn’t), is appended. Format follows the NABA BIS field trip form where c=common and a=abundant.
-==| Field Trip |==-
Number of Species: 22
Number of Individuals: 196
Soldiers Delight Natural Environment Area
MD , USA 21117
Notes: Serpentine barrens butterfly trip led by Dick Smith. Bright sunshine, warm (upper 70s). In the field from approximately 13:45 – 16:30 hours. Nectar sources included liatris, various eupatorium, and thistle. Low humidity, very dry.
-==| List of Sightings for this Field Trip |==-
Common Name Scientific Name Life Stage Number Seen Notes
Pipevine Swallowtail Battus philenor Adult 1 exceptionally tattered
Black Swallowtail Papilio polyxenes Adult 2
Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Papilio glaucus Adult 5
Spicebush Swallowtail Papilio troilus Adult 3
Orange Sulphur Colias eurytheme Adult 1
American Copper Lycaena phlaeas Adult 1
Gray Hairstreak Strymon melinus Adult 4
Eastern Tailed-Blue Everes comyntas Adult C
Variegated Fritillary Euptoieta claudia Adult 3
Great Spangled Fritillary Speyeria cybele Adult 2
Common Buckeye Junonia coenia Adult A
Red-spotted Purple Limenitis arthemis astyanax Adult 1
Common Wood-Nymph Cercyonis pegala Adult 2
Monarch Danaus plexippus Adult 3
Swarthy Skipper Nastra lherminier Adult 7
Least Skipper Ancyloxypha numitor Adult 2
Leonard’s Skipper Hesperia leonardus Adult 6
Peck’s Skipper Polites peckius Adult C
Tawny-edged Skipper Polites themistocles Adult 1
Crossline Skipper Polites origenes Adult 1
Little Glassywing Pompeius verna Adult 1
Sachem Atalopedes campestris Adult A