Elfin Trifecta on the Eastern Shore

We had a very nice impromptu WABC outing, mostly in the (to date futile) search for Hessel’s hairstreak.  But the four of us who went out had a pretty good day nonetheless.

Tom Stock starts the story:

“Rick Borchelt and I embarked yesterday on a hunt for Hessel’s Hairstreak in Maryland at the Tom Tyler Nature Trail and Demonstration Forest, near Mardela Springs, Wicomico County. We were met at Tom Tyler by Lance Biechele and Jim Brighton. Despite good Hessel’s habitat, with a sandy barren area adjacent to a good stand of Atlantic White Cedar, we were not able to locate any Hessel’s. Here are the butterflies we did see:

 Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (1)
Spicebush Swallowtail (1)
Falcate Orangetip (1) female
Brown Elfin (12)
Red-banded Hairstreak (1)
Eastern Tailed Blue (6)
Summer Azure (1)
Pearl Crescent (1)
American Lady (1)
Juvenal’s Duskywing (1) female

 Three of us (Rick, Tom, and Lance) went from Tom Tyler to Millville Road in Worcester County where it runs north from the Furnace Town Historic Site, and where in the half mile or so stretch from Old Furnace Road there are several spots with plenty of lupine, host plant of Frosted Elfin. Just a few lupine were in bloom, but after careful searching, we found two elfins, a lifer for both me and Lance. I will post a picture of one of the elfins in my album “tstock” on VA-MD-DE Bugs:


 Our full list for the area:

 Zebra Swallowtail (1)
Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (1)
Spicebush Swallowtail (2)
Cabbage White (1)
Falcate Orangetip (8)
Orange Sulphur (1)
Frosted Elfin (2)
Red-banded Hairstreak (1)
Eastern Tailed Blue (common)
Summer Azure (1)
Pearl Crescent (3)

 I had to break away early while Rick and Lance stayed in the field. Watch for details of their further sightings on Leplog, https://leplog.wordpress.com/.

The big story on the Eastern Shore appears to be how terribly dry it is. It remains to be seen what effect a drought will have on butterfly abundance and distribution this summer.”

After Tom left to return home, Lance directed me to some even better potential Hessel’s habitat along Nassawango Creek.  It was still a little early in the afternoon to see Hessel’s, but the habitat is pretty classic for this species:  mature Atlantic white-cedar, abundant nectar sources (right now both swamp and high-bush blueberry in peak bloom), and roadside sandy soil.  Unfortunately, the cloud cover closed in around 4 and put an abrupt end to the butterfly activity.  Before it did, however, Lance and I found a thriving colony of Henry’s elfin in the powerline right-of-way near its crossing with Nassawango Creek along Mount Olive Church Road.  There also are some good lupine colonies to check for frosted elfin in the area on a sunnier day.  Full list:

Cabbage White (1)

Falcate Orangetip (2)

Eastern Tailed-blue (5)

Henry’s Elfin (4)

Pearl Crescent (1)

Juvenal’s Duskywing (1)

While I won’t be able to get back down there before the blueberry is probably out of bloom, there is abundant Clethra as well to suggest it would be worth checking for Hessel’s second brood in July.


This entry was posted in Events and Meetings, general butterfly news, sightings, Washington Area Butterfly Club. Bookmark the permalink.

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