A number of WABC members met up on the Audubon Naturalist Society trip to the George Thompson WMA in Linden VA today. Maybe because this trip was cancelled LAST year because of rain, the trip enjoyed mostly pleasant weather after a cloudy start and a brief midday shower.
The gang met at 9 at the famous Apple House restaurant at Exit 13 off of I-66. I joined the group after a rather rough night at the Front Royal Holiday Inn (it was prom night, need I say more?) en route back to DC from the Chapel Hill-Durham area last week. Several of them emerged clutching still-warm apple donuts, the restaurant specialty. But I’d had my stop at the Front Royal Starbux.
First stop was Lake Thompson, where the skies were cloudy but still pretty bright with occasional sunshine. An early find was a cluster of puddling Appalachian Tiger Swallowtails displaying all the characteristics of this species, which ended up being very common in the area — the trip did not produce a single definitive Eastern Tiger Swallowtail. Also quite common was Appalachian Azure; their (relatively) massive size and snowy belly were quite distinctive. The group also saw numbers of both Comma and Question Mark anglewings. Zabulon Skppers were beginning to show up, and some group members saw FOY Sachem.
By far the best find on this part of the trip, along the far side of the lake along the wet, alder-lined portion of the trail, was a single, briefly seen Harvester that buzzed Dick Smith’s head before diving back into the brush.
As the gang returned to the cars for lunch, a spit drizzle turned into light but steady rain. After consulting the hour-by-hour forecast, leaders Stephanie Mason and Dick decided to wait out the showers and then head up to the Trillium Trail on Freezeland Road. Just as we prepared to leave we had another of our great sightings of the day, Harry Pavulaan with his daughter, who had just come down the mountain from the Trillium Trail to wait out the rain.
By the time we reconnoitered at Trillium ourselves the sun was out and the trail was rapidly drying. The group continued to see good numbers of Dreamy Duskywings and a couple of Juvenal’s Duskywings with which to compare them, more Appalachian Azures and Tiger Swallowtails of likely mixed genetic lineage, and a Gray Hairstreak. The first adrenalin rush came with two Red-banded Hairstreaks in a row, but it wasn’t until Dick did a second take on a presumed Zabulon Skipper that we had our best find the day: Hobomoke Skipper, a male and one of only two seen (I saw the other along the road right of way at the end of the trip).
Other highlights included showy orchis and yellow lady’s-slipper (the latter nearly bloomed out), some good birds including cerulean warbler and rose-breasted grosbeak, and an obliging ringneck snake. The great weather held until end of the trip around 5.
The full tally follows:
Pipevine Swallowtail 4
Zebra Swallowtail 6
Spicebush Swallowtail common
Appalachian Tiger Swallowtail abundant
Cabbage White (Trillium Trail lot only) 5
Clouded Sulphur (Trillium Trail lot, not seen by everyone) 1
Harvester (Lake Thompson, not seen by everyone)
Gray Hairstreak (1, nectaring on fleabane)
Red-banded Hairstreak 2
Eastern Tailed-blue 5
Appalachian Azure common (observed ovipositing on cohosh)
Pearl Crescent 4
Question Mark common
Eastern Comma common
Mourning Cloak 3
American Lady 1 (Trillium Trail lot, not seen by everyone)
Red Admiral 1
Red-spotted Purple 2
Silver-spotted Skipper 5
Dreamy Duskywing common
Juvenal’s Duskywing 7
Sachem 2 (not seen by everyone)
Hobomok Skipper 2
Zabulon Skipper 5