Leonard’s Skipper at Soldiers Delight

Beth Johnson captured this (probably female) Leonard's skipper (right, compared with sachem on the left) on liatris

Beth Johnson captured this (probably female) Leonard's skipper (right, compared with sachem on the left) on liatris today

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.

Field trip participants gather outside the visitor center before setting off

Field trip participants gather outside the visitor center before setting off

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.

Dick leads the group single file through the barrens

Dick leads the group single file through the barrens

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 |==-

Date: 09/05/2010
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

This entry was posted in checklists, Events and Meetings, general butterfly news, Maryland Big Year, state butterflies, Washington Area Butterfly Club. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Leonard’s Skipper at Soldiers Delight

  1. Cheryl Zaydel says:

    Our Girl Scout community is having a butterfly themed encampment the first weekend of October at our camp on the Susquehanna River in Cecil County, MD.
    Would anyone be interested in preparing a butterfly themed presentation for our girls? We would like to emphasize the Baltimore Checkerspot and plant native butterfly attracting plants. Thanks for your consideration.

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