The Season’s Last Hurrahs

The last three days were about as perfect for late-season lepping as they get — warm days, cool nights, bright sunshine.  Everything the rest of the season so far *hasn’t* been!

As Tom Stock has posted elsewhere, he and I went down to Point Lookout at the tip of St. Mary’s County on Saturday, a trip that had been scheduled for a WABC field trip in September but — wait for it — rained out.  The day following the scrubbed field trip, Mikey Lutmerding posted on one of the local birding listservs that he’d seen a Long-tailed Skipper there, hanging around the picnic area.  So of course, as soon as good weather and a weekend coincided, Tom and I headed south.

As anyone who was outdoors Saturday knows, it was a perfect fall day if a bit warm.  Perfect, anyway, for butterflies.  But the nectar sources were scarce at Point Lookout — some past-peak goldenrod, and scattered asters that were probably Large Salt-marsh Aster.  Nevertheless, while they didn’t produce the hoped-for Long-tail, there were a couple of nice finds at this tip of the Maryland western shore, including a lifer for me, Ocola Skipper.  While Common Buckeyes were easily the most abundant butterfly, there were also formidable numbers of Clouded Skippers, the first (and likely) last of the season for me. Some nice birds, too, including a FOS (for both of us) Golden-crowned Kinglet.  And then, as Tom relates on the listserv, we toasted the end of the 2011 flight season with a dram of a super single-malt that Tom brought along.  Tom’s list for the day follows:

Clouded Sulphur (1)
Orange Sulphur (9)
Cloudless Sulphur (4)
Gray Hairstreak (4)
Pearl Crescent (1)
Question Mark (1)
Common Buckeye (common)
Monarch (23)
Clouded Skipper (9)
Sachem (4)
Ocola Skipper (1)
Lured out again by today’s outstanding weather, I spent from 1400 hours to 1600 hours at Lake Artemesia in College Park.  It’s been a listless venue all summer, unlike last year when it yielded hundreds of swallowtails and Sachems on the banks of Glossy Abelia, and Broad-winged Skippers in the Pickerel Weed.  Having said that, today was about the best it’s been all season, an even dozen species including an unexpected AMERICAN SNOUT and a Common Checkered-skipper.  I stopped counting Common Buckeyes, Sachems, and Fiery Skippers at 50 each, and again picked up a late Peck’s Skipper (I’d seen one in my College Park yard earlier this week).  And rounded out the kinglet count with FOS Ruby-crowned Kinglet, which was sitting patiently on a sapling picking off a highway of small ants one by one.  Full list:
Orange Sulphur (6)
Clouded Sulphur (2)
Cabbage White (8)
Eastern Tailed-blue (2)
American Snout (1)
Pearl Crescent (13)
Common Buckeye (abundant; 1 f. rosa)
Monarch (2)
Common Checkered-skipper (1)
Sachem (abundant)
Fiery Skipper (abundant)
Peck’s Skipper (1)
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