First Butterflies of 2012

I’d been feeling fairly envious of everyone posting local butterfly sightings over the past two weeks, while I had none to share.  Didn’t help that Saturday Beth Johnson and I did the marathon drive to up near Pittsburgh to view one of the few sites on the East coast for large numbers of snow trilliums, a diminutive little trillium species only an inch or two tall and barely poking out of leaf litter — but in pretty decent bloom already.  Unfortunately, it was *much* cooler in Pittsburgh, so there were no butterflies to be had.  But yesterday I headed down to the PG side of Jug Bay to check out the Critical Area Driving Tour between Jug Bay and Merkle WMA, and picked up my first three leps of the year:  summer azure, Eastern comma, and cabbage white.

The three Celastrina (possible four, one didn’t hang around long enough to be sure) totally surprised me, though I suppose I should have been expecting them since Harry Pavulaan had reported them in NOVA last week.  They were in an area with good holly understory, but the dark markings on the quite light venter, coupled with the brilliant blue of the upperside wings, clinched it as neglecta for me.

The Critical Area Driving Tour route — open only on Sundays to vehicular traffic, a roughly 8-mile jaunt — holds good promise for butterflies throughout the season.  I’m particularly interested in the short stretch of wooden bridge that straddles the creek between the two properties — a ton of buttonbush in the wetland there, and there’s a tall Vaccinium (possibly corymbosum, highbush blueberry or swamp blueberry) coming into bloom already.  And evidence of good stands of Clethra.  Worthing keeping our eyes on this summer.  Both this creek area and a number of other wetlands on the Merkle side also bid fair for being good ode habitat.

Here’s more info on Jug Bay Natural Area.

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