The main purpose of the trip was to try to score golden-winged warbler for my life list, a successful effort even if it did take me until almost dusk on Saturday the 19th. But criss-crossing western Maryland did yield some excellent lep observations.
I spent Friday night at Rocky Gap Lodge at Cumberland so I could get an early start on Saturday morning. Before heading down to the Friday seafood buffet – right, I know, in landlocked central Maryland – I stopped in the lodge/state park gift shop. I was delighted to see they carried a butterfly guide. Not so delighted to see it was the plasticized trifold of Butterflies of the Upper Midwest. When questioned, the very helpful young person behind the counter told me that “they have pretty much the same butterflies there.” Tell that to the Jutta arctic.
I spent a good amount of time in the early morning driving the back roads around Frostburg birding. Once the sun was well up, though, the first thing I noticed – this along the stretch of Old Legislative Road out of Frostburg, between Klondike and Squirrel Neck Roads – was the huge flight of Appalachian tiger swallowtails, almost all of them nectaring on the abundant European invasive, dame’s rocket (Hesperis matronalis), along the roadsides. As scarce as Eastern tigers have been this year throughout our region, as least for the early spring brood, the veritable clouds of Appalachian tigers were a welcome sight. Joining them on the flowers were good numbers of Hobomok, Indian, and Peck’s skippers; several of the female Hobomok’s were the dark ‘pocahantas’ form. The surrounding woods held quite a few fresh little wood satyrs and Appalachian azures, and a northern cloudywing along the trail. Recent rains had left damp spots in the dirt roads where red-spotted purples, dreamy duskywings, and a few cabbage whites puddled.
I drove from there to Finzel Swamp across the county line in Garrett Co., where I picked up my FOS American coppers. Not much else of note was flying (more Hobomoks, dreamy duskywings and Peck’s skippers), but Finzel did give me my first breeding observation of black-capped chickadees in Maryland, as well as plenty of migrant warblers. Virginia rails were very active in the sedges.
Having missed my target golden-winged warblers in the morning, I doubled back to Old Legislative Road around 6 pm to find even more Appalachian tiger swallowtails and hear Cerulean warblers, blue-winged warblers, and grasshopper sparrows. I dipped on the Henslow’s sparrows that had been reported here the previous week, but finally – at a little after 7, as mist was beginning to rise in the hollows, I slammed on the brakes of the Prius when I heard the tell-tale “bee-bzz-bzz-bzz-bzz” that signaled a golden-winged warbler. I parked and walked back uphill where I’d heard the song, and a half-hour or so later – day was fading pretty fast – I finally got a look at a singing golden-winged warbler in the last rays of the sun.
Celebratory dinner at the Hancock Park ‘N Dine, where every good lepidopterist knows the wallpaper and menus have illustrations of British butterflies to puzzle over!