Maybe we went too far by calling this the snakebit season — for it very nearly was.
The intrepid foursome of organizer Tom Stock, Beth Johnson, Walter Gould and I met up at the Frederick Watershed Forest area this morning for a WABC field trip to check up on some of the target species Tom and I had seen independently over the past couple of weeks, notably Indian Skippers and Hobomok Skippers. What we didn’t count on (after merrily tromping through much waist high grass and scrub, not to mention crawling over the odd rock and fallen tree), was that probably our best sighting of the day would be a rattlesnake spotted by Walter.
Right off the trail waiting to snag one of the mountain bikers who — with a lone jogger — were the only other folks we saw at our first and most productive stop. Note the very cloudy eye — this rattler was getting ready to shed, and that’s the dead skin obscuring his vision. Nearly blind and bloated from swallowing air to split the skin, rattlers are not in the best of most just before they shed. This one suffered us well enough, though, and eventually moved off through the brush where we encountered on the next trail over on our return.
Lep-wise, it was also a very good day. Top find was a very early Edwards’ Hairstreak (life butterfly for me), freshly emerged in the field that Tom has known numbers of them to frequent during their (usually July) flight period. Indian Skippers were also out, but nearing the end of their strong flight this year — they and the abundant Tawny-edged Skippers were mostly worn and tattered. Northern Cloudywings, also quite fresh, put in a strong showing too, as did Spicebush Swallowtails. We dipped on the Hobomok Skippers.
Harry Pavulaan asked us to keep a special eye out for tiger swallowtails. At the ridgeline where we started our trip, we saw several very large, very light colored tigers that we were pretty sure were Applachian Tiger Swallowtails. They had some of the classic signs — the large blue band on the ventral hindwing, and the contiguous line of submarginal spots on the ventral forewing. As we traveled down the mountain along Fishing Creek, however, we began to pick up much smaller, more buttery-yellow tigers. We didn’t get a chance to net one, but they seemed to fit the classic Eastern Tiger Swallowtail GISS.
As close as this area is to DC, we were all sort of scratching our heads why more WABC members and other naturalists aren’t reporting from Frederick Forest more often, when out of the woods at our second stop marched the Gibbses — Denise and Ron. They’d been mostly looking at odes at another waterhole not far off of Gambrill Park Road. Beth helped us ID a number of odes on our trip as well, including Slaty Skimmer, Spangled Skimmer, Calico Pennant, and Carolina Saddlebags.
The full list is below, using the NABA/BIS convention for field trip data:
-==| Field Trip |==-
Number of Species: 22
Number of Individuals: 224
Frederick Municipal Forest
MD , USA 21702
Notes: WABC Field Trip with leader Tom Stock, Beth Johnson, and Walter Gould. Most species viewed along trails a short distance off of Gambrill Park Road north of Tower Road. Partly sunny and warm, with temperatures in the low 80s and a light breeze. In the field from 1000 hours to 1500 hours. Habitat mostly grassy verge and fields surrounded by oak/hickory forest; much of it running along the banks of small freshwater impoundments. Nectar sources were scarce but included small amounts of red clover, dewberry, and viburnum.
WABC Field Trip
Common Name Scientific Name Life Stage Number Seen Notes
Zebra Swallowtail Eurytides marcellus Adult 1
Black Swallowtail Papilio polyxenes Adult 3
Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Papilio glaucus Adult 14 4 definite appalachiensis; 2 easy nominate eastern; the rest undetermined
Spicebush Swallowtail Papilio troilus Adult 22
Cabbage White Pieris rapae Adult 42
Orange Sulphur Colias eurytheme Adult 1 Seen by Rick only when he doubled back along Gambrill Park Road after the field trip
Edwards’ Hairstreak Satyrium edwardsii Adult 1 very early, very fresh
Eastern Tailed-Blue Everes comyntas Adult 9
‘Summer’ Spring Azure Celastrina ladon neglecta Adult 23
Great Spangled Fritillary Speyeria cybele Adult 1 fresh, nectaring on just-opening dogbane
Eastern Comma Polygonia comma Adult 1
Mourning Cloak Nymphalis antiopa Adult 1 Seen by Rick only, kicked up the cars in the caravan as he brought up the back. Species also noted on same day in same area by Denise Gibbs.
American Lady Vanessa virginiensis Adult 2
Red Admiral Vanessa atalanta Adult 1
Red-spotted Admiral Limenitis arthemis Adult 9
Little Wood-Satyr Megisto cymela (includes viola) Adult 26
Silver-spotted Skipper Epargyreus clarus Adult 26 observed by Walter ovipositing on Robinia saplings
Northern Cloudywing Thorybes pylades Adult 7
Dreamy Duskywing Erynnis icelus Adult 4
Least Skipper Ancyloxypha numitor Adult 1 seen by Beth and Rick only
Indian Skipper Hesperia sassacus Adult 13
Tawny-edged Skipper Polites themistocles Adult 16