St. Patrick’s Day in the Field

After an early-morning successful twitch in the fog for the LeConte’s Sparrow at Irvine Nature Center (a life bird for Tom Stock) and a pit stop to refuel at Lenny’s Deli, Tom and I explored a number of habitats from the Baltimore area down to Laurel, picking up eight butterfly species along the way.

First stop was Soldier’s Delight, where we echo Bob Ringler’s frustration that nothing was flying even on the sunny, warm late morning.  There were no nectar sources, however, if you didn’t count the handful of cresses blooming in cracks in the stone steps of some of the outbuildings there, so the paucity of leps was not so surprising.

Next stop was the Baltimore Co side of the Patapsco River at the Patapsco State Park bridge, where we picked up a good flight of cabbage whites (six) and a singleton mourning cloak.  We’d seen cabbage whites and a couple of clouded sulphurs along the drive to this location as well.  A few miles down the highway we checked into the Howard Conservancy for a singleton clouded sulphur and more (four) cabbage whites.

Last stop — and by far the most productive — was the Patuxent Research Refuge North Tract in Anne Arundel Co, where we arrived and checked in for our permission slips about 2 pm.  Cabbage whites were widely distributed along the refuge roads from Lake Allen to Bailey Bridge, but a couple of small whites at both the Lake end and the bridge end proved to be falcate orange-tips, of which we tallied 5.  We also observed a mourning cloak combing over branches in a willow tree at New Marsh, but whether she (it was clearly a very gravid female) was ovipositing on the bare branches or searching for exudate from the buds wasn’t clear.  New Marsh also gave us the day’s only orange sulphur, and a side road near Bailey’s produced a question mark and five summer azures (C. neglecta) as well as some of the orange-tips.

All in all, a pretty darn decent flight for St. Patrick’s Day.  First ode of the season, too — a common green darner cruising the water at New Marsh, and a brilliantly colored fox sparrow at Bailey Bridge (but even that couldn’t compare with the LeConte’s!).

The marshy fields at Irvine Nature Center may be worth checking out later in the season; while most of the expansive fields are monoculture fescue, the sedges and wet meadows may yield some good leps later in the year.

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