Entomology has few sacred sites — Mt. Katahdin, maybe, where legions of us have trekked to see the Katahdin arctic; Paul Ehrlich’s checkerspot colony at Jasper Ridge (where he did decades of important studies on gene flow among separated populations, and which has now gone extinct); and perhaps Matecumbe Key, long known as the safe haven for Schaus’ swallowtail. Add to the list Klots’ Bog in Lakehurst, NJ, known to veteran lepidopterists (including its namesake, Alexander B. Klots) for two-spotted skipper, bog copper, and a puzzling relict population of Georgia satyrs.
Buoyed by some mid-June reports that the coppers and satyrs were already on the wing, I decided to drive up last week for an overnight and check out the area in preparation for a more formal LepTrek later this month. So, armed with directions from the NABA archives and pieced together from other online sources, I headed for downtown Lakehurst, NJ.
The first thing you need to know about getting to Klots’ Bog is to ignore any directions you get online. Unless you’re good enough to teach orienteering to Eagle Scouts, you’ll never find it that way. I spent the first afternoon after my arrival stumbling, fumbling and bush-whacking my way into false start after false start. Most of the online directions say to start out in downtown Lakehurst near the Post Office and walk to the bog on the railroad tracks. Don’t — I’m just sayin’.
However, if I hadn’t been wandering in the wilderness I wouldn’t have seen the two spotted turtles I found basking on a log in one of the ditches. Or eaten about a gallon of some of the biggest and best blueberries I’ve ever seen. I did manage an Appalachian brown and a very faded striped hairstreak while beating my way through the barrens.
By 5 pm I was exhausted and dispirited. I checked into a local motel, showered the remains of many crushed deer flies off, and availed myself of one of the innumerable Jersey diners at the shore. At the local Starbucks, I hauled out my computer and emailed Steve Rosenthal, one of the posters from the June trip, for help — it’s good to have friends in high places!
Steve quickly set me straight — nobody ever gets to the bog by the RR tracks anymore; the area has become so grown over with maple that most of the trails are hidden and impassable even if you could find them. There’s actually a very easy way in, which with Steve’s help I located next morning.
The first thing that strikes you on entering the bog is how tiny it is. Just a few acres, really. And quickly getting crowded out by maple and white cedar saplings. But the second thing that strikes is — George satyr! In transecting the bog, which was actually very dry, I kicked up three of these beauties. But as Steve had warned, the flight was almost over for them already, and had already ended for bog copper at this location. And as folks familiar with this part of the world know, the butterfly action was pretty much over by noon. Didn’t stop me from shaking about a hundred white cedars hoping to knock loose a Hessell’s hairstreak, or from marveling about the numbers of common wood-nymphs darting around the perimeter of the bog. But other than that, the pickings were pretty slim, and I left Klots’ Bog with its patina of butterfly history about 2 pm.
Rather than chuck it in and drive back just yet, I popped over to the Dover Creek Walk-In Access Area, a trail that parallels Dover Creek and runs by some additional old cranberry bogs. Also pretty dead, but I was surprised to find the second half of an aerial dogfight with a common buckeye was a coral hairstreak, first I’ve seen in years.
I was back on the NJ Turnpike by 3, and back home about four hours later, tired but very pleased to have made what amounts to an almost spiritual quest to a spot with a unique place in lep history.