Terrapin Park Produces!

If you’re wondering where all the monarchs were yesterday, chances are that some of them were at Terrapin Nature Park on Kent Island in Queen Anne’s County.

This almost sole holdout against development on Kent Island (the first set of communities you come to when you cross the Bay Bridge from Annapolis; Terrapin Point and Park are the strip of green to your left of the foot of the bridge span going east) is an amazing trap for migrants of various kinds heading up and down the Chesapeake.  Birders know it for regular bonanzas of warblers dropping out during spring and fall migration (and indeed yesterday the trees were swarming with palm warblers). Bikers know it as the terminus of Kent Island Cross Island Trail.  Lep folks should be checking it more regularly for the rarities it’s sure to produce from time to time.

No real rarities yesterday when I was there from around 1 pm to 6 pm on a picture perfect day for butterfly watching. I had planned to spend an hour or so there before heading down toward Wye Island NRMA, but the butterflying was too good to leave once I got to Terrapin Park.

If you don’t already know about Terrapin Park, you might well miss it.  There are no signs from US 50 headed to the beach, and it’s tucked away far out on the tip of the Island behind a business park complex.  There’s a strip of beach, but it’s narrow and attracts mostly folks who fish rather than sun and swim.

But from a natural history perspective, it’s pretty spectacular.  One highlight is the restored wildflower meadow immediately adjacent the parking lot.  I’m guessing it’s about 12-15 acres — pretty small by meadow standards — but yesterday it was filled with tickseed sunflower (Bidens) in full flower, and white eupatorium tin its first flush hat will be in full bloom by next weekend.  Both were dripping with butterflies.

Tickseed sunflower in the tidal wetlands at Terrapin Park

Where to start?  With the most charismatic, I guess — in this small meadow I conservatively estimate there were 300-400 monarchs, most nectaring contentedly on the tickseed.  And given that this same wildflower abundance is repeated at several large tracts and many smaller ones throughout Terrapin Park, I’m guessing there were well over a thousand monarchs in place there yesterday.

Tickseed sunflower in the Wildflower Meadow

And they weren’t alone — buckeyes were everywhere superabundant, a big discussion on many of the butterfly listservs this season.  Silver-spotted skippers were superabundant, too, and variegated fritillaries were at the very least abundant (I stopped counting at 50).

But the story was numbers, not rarities.  I’d hoped to pick up some northward-ranging specialties of the South, or some of the rarer Eastern Shore skippers like Rare.  No such luck.  But broad-winged skippers were more common than anywhere else I’ve seen them in Maryland (not that surprising, given the abundance of their host plant, reed, in the surrounding tidal wetlands).  I never thought I’d write this line this season, but there were more broad-winged skippers (22) yesterday than sachems!  Also saw a few fiery skippers and my FOY checkered white.

The tickseed and eupatorium should last a couple more weekends, and goldenrod is just beginning to come on, so participants in the Sept. 25 Audubon Naturalist Society butterfly outing here (and to the old Horsehead Sanctuary at Chesapake Bay Education Center in Grasonville) should still be in luck.

Be sure to keep your eyes open for non-leps, too.  Flying squirrels were out in some numbers along the woodland trail, as was a very obliging black rat snake.  Be sure to wear long pants, too — you will definitely want to wander into the meadows to check out concentrations of flowering plants, and while the vegetation is mostly around knee or thigh height, there’s an abundance of brambles in the grass as my ripped and bleeding calves could attest!

White Eupatorium at Terrapin Park (probably late-flowering boneset)

Directions to explore Terrapin Park on your own:  From Annapolis, take US Hwy. 50 east to exit 37 (the first exit after crossing the Chesapeake Bay Bridge) and turn left onto MD Route 8. Follow Route 8 to the second light and turn left into Chesapeake Bay Business Park. Follow the road to the right around the circle until you come to Terrapin Nature Park. There is ample parking and portable toilets are at the trailhead.

Here’s the full list from my five hours in the field yesterday at Terrapin Nature Park, Queen Anne’s County, MD:
Black Swallowtail       Papilio polyxenes       Adult       4
Eastern Tiger Swallowtail     Papilio glaucus     Adult     3
Spicebush Swallowtail     Papilio troilus     Adult     Common
Checkered White     Pontia protodice     Adult     1
Cabbage White     Pieris rapae     Adult     1
Clouded Sulphur     Colias philodice     Adult     2
Orange Sulphur     Colias eurytheme     Adult     6
Cloudless Sulphur     Phoebis sennae     Adult     2
Gray Hairstreak     Strymon melinus     Adult     1
Red-banded Hairstreak     Calycopis cecrops     Adult     2
Eastern Tailed-Blue     Everes comyntas     Adult     Superabundant
‘Summer’ Spring Azure     Celastrina ladon neglecta     Adult     2
Variegated Fritillary     Euptoieta claudia     Adult     Abundant
Pearl Crescent     Phyciodes tharos     Adult     Superabundant
American Lady     Vanessa virginiensis     Adult     2
Red Admiral     Vanessa atalanta     Adult     5
Common Buckeye     Junonia coenia     Adult     Superabundant
Red-spotted Purple     Limenitis arthemis astyanax     Adult     4
Viceroy     Limenitis archippus     Adult     4
Common Wood-Nymph     Cercyonis pegala     Adult     2
Monarch     Danaus plexippus     Adult     Superabundant (300+)
Silver-spotted Skipper     Epargyreus clarus     Adult     Superabundant
Common Checkered-Skipper     Pyrgus communis     Adult
Least Skipper     Ancyloxypha numitor     Adult     2
Fiery Skipper     Hylephila phyleus     Adult     4
Peck’s Skipper     Polites peckius     Adult     2
Sachem     Atalopedes campestris     Adult     13
Broad-winged Skipper     Poanes viator     Adult     22

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

One Response to Terrapin Park Produces!

  1. Sharon Campbell says:

    I have lived on Kent Island for 33 years and have been to Terripan Park Several years ago. I never knew there were so many different kinds of butterflies at
    one site.

    It’s interesting
    to know.

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