Sweating it at Schoolhouse Pond

I confess — I really had intended to go birding this morning, and headed out early to the Brown Station Road convenience station (rubbish drop-off) near Upper Marlboro (PG County), where a good selection of shorebirds and waders has been seen recently on the mudflat visible from the parking lot.  Instead, I found a “Closed Sunday” sign and a lone black vulture winging its way out of the wetland.

So, by 8:30 I had redirected the Prius to Schoolhouse Pond, one of the little-appreciated natural areas in the county.  It’s a boardwalk encompassing an open pond and swamp that sits directly across the street from the PG County administrative offices.  About two-thirds of the boardwalk/asphalt trail winds through the swamp; the asphalt portion skirts the swamp on the edge of a flood plain forest.

Granted that it was early in the day (although the temperature was already in the low 90s — we would honestly have perished had we done the Carroll Co. field trip yesterday), but diversity was pretty low.  The key nectar plant around the pond, buttonbush (Cephalanthus), had long since finished its major bloom period — there were a couple of stragglers of interest to swallowtails.  There’s some purple loosestrife in full bloom, and it was a true silver-spotted skipper magnet — one cluster had more than a hundred on those few plants alone.  And there were a few mint plants on the shore of the west bank.

I hung around until about 10, at which point a little activity picked up but not enough to keep me out in the heat.  Best butterfly of the day was Appalachian brown, several of which were patrolling along the asphalt trail.  An even dozen species.


-==| Field Trip |==-

Date: 07/24/2011
Number of Species: 12
Number of Individuals: 222
Schoolhouse Pond
MD , USA   20772
Notes: An early walk (0830-1000 hours) in the extreme heat and humidity (low 90s already at that hour) around the boardwalk bordering Schoolhouse Pond.  Principal nectar sources were purple loosestrife, mint, and a few late buttonbush flowers.

(s= BIS code for superabundant, >100)
Common Name    Scientific Name Life Stage      Number Seen     Notes
Zebra Swallowtail       Eurytides marcellus     Adult   1
Eastern Tiger Swallowtail       Papilio glaucus Adult   8
Spicebush Swallowtail   Papilio troilus Adult   3
Red-banded Hairstreak   Calycopis cecrops       Adult   1
‘Summer’ Spring Azure   Celastrina ladon neglecta       Adult   1
Eastern Comma   Polygonia comma Adult   1
Appalachian Brown       Satyrodes appalachia    Adult   3       Plus several more likely candidates that kept well away from the trail
Silver-spotted Skipper  Epargyreus clarus       Adult   S       Well over a hundred, predominantly on loosestrife
Horace’s Duskywing      Erynnis horatius        Adult   1
Least Skipper   Ancyloxypha numitor     Adult   1
Sachem  Atalopedes campestris   Adult   1
Zabulon Skipper Poanes zabulon  Adult   1

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