Stephanie Mason from Audubon Naturalist Society marshaled the troops again this year to fan out over Montgomery County for the annual NABA summer count. While the day was warm but not humid and started out beautifully sunny at 9 am; by 11 am or so the clouds started rolling in and the rest of the day was mostly cloudy at best.
I was lucky to be patrolling a sector with Tom Stock, who is familiar with a number of excellent habitats in and around Black Hill and Little Bennett parks, including one private wetland (accessible by permission of the owner only) that hosts a thriving colony of Mulberry Wing skippers. This bog was our first stop, and true to promise it gave up 43 Mulberry Wings in the space of about an hour’s treacherous slogging through reed hummocks and buttonbush islands. These are handsome little skippers with a rich purplish velvety upperside and a brightly patterned underside. This also proved a super place to find Northern Broken-Dash and Crossline Skippers, as well as Little Glassywings. We also picked up a seemingly-out-of-place American Snout here that had lost its “snout” — both palpi were missing!
Walking in to the wetland through an old field full of mullein and dogbane was also productive, but for for birds than leps, including a very confiding singing grasshopper sparrow.
Other locations weren’t as productive. Our second stop — another small private wetland area known for Appalachian Brown — was aborted because massive suburban housing development has stripped the surrounding countryside bare for about a mile around the tiny relict bog. Our open field and wood-edge trail forays weren’t very productive because of the increasingly heavy cloud cover.
When the gang collected around 5 pm at the Chevy’s in Germantown for the count rally and tally, we found that the other sectors had had similar experience — a good first hour or two, and then things pretty much shut down when the clouds piled up. Still, good numbers of some nice butterflies were reported, including Great Spangled Fritillaries, Pipevine Swallowtails, and Hackberry Emperors. Hairstreaks and skippers were mostly absent from open field habitats, and you had to work really hard for the few Viceroys, Monarchs, and other swallowtails we tallied.