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.
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.
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!
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