I headed off to West Virginia on Saturday to try to score the much-reported black rail in a pocket swamp along the Cacapon River near Capon Bridge. No luck despite nearly 8 hours of standing hopefully at the side of the road listening for the characteristic call. And not much was happening lep-wise, either — it was a bit chilly, and occasionally overcast with a strong breeze, so not much was in the air. The only butterfly excitement was a great spangled fritillary that flew threw the meadow/bog in late afternoon.
But on Sunday, (June 3) Beth Johnson, Tom Stock and I headed up to locations in Howard and Frederick counties, spurred first by a desire (thwarted, just like the black rail — is it me? am I a jinx?) to see the alder flycatcher being reported at the Howard County Conservancy. No flycatcher, but we did some nice leps (and odes) before continuing our day in Gambrill State Park and neighboring Frederick Municipal Watershed Forest. We ended up with 29 butterfly species for the day. At the Conservancy, the best spot for butterflies was the Honors Garden, where Itea and iris were the main draws.
Here’s our list for the Conservancy: Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (1) Cabbage White (common) Orange Sulphur (3) Gray Hairstreak (1) Eastern Tailed Blue (1) Summer Azure (2) Great Spangled Fritillary (2) Common Buckeye (1) Silver-spotted Skipper (1) Least Skipper (7) Cross Line Skipper (2) Little Glassywing (3) Zabulon Skipper (1) Dun Skipper (1)
From the Conservancy, we traveled west along Interstate 70 to Gambrill Park Road outside of Frederick. At the High Knob picnic area, we found a Summer Azure (small and heavily spotted underneath) and an Appalachian Azure (at least twice the size of the Summer Azure and quite pale underneath), both on mountain laurel. Not much else was flying there or at the overlook, although we did spend a good bit of time as spectators to a martial arts training session while we ate our lunches in the picnic area. The trails around the ponds at the Frederick Watershed Wildlife Management Area were far more rewarding, especially the numerous Indian Skippers. Our first major sighting down the path from the car proved one of the day’s most fortuitous:fellow lepster Rick Cheicante, who showed us a very cooperative and dramatic dragonfly, the brown spiketail. Much later in the day, after we parted from Rick C., he observed a very large Black Bear in a partially logged out area near the ponds.
Here’s our list for Gambrill Park Road: Zebra Swallowtail (1) Appalachian Tiger Swallowtail (5) Spicebush Swallowtail (6) Cabbage White (abundant) Orange Sulphur (3) Red-banded Hairstreak (1) Eastern Tailed Blue (11) Summer Azure (1) Appalachian Azure (5) Mourning Cloak (1) Painted Lady (1) Red-spotted Purple (1) Little Wood Satyr (abundant) Silver-spotted Skipper (4) Northern Cloudywing (7) Dreamy Duskywing (9) Wild Indigo Duskywing (1) female European Skipper (1) only seen by Rick B. and Beth Indian Skipper (19) Cross Line Skipper (1) Hobomok Skipper (2) There isn’t too awfully much in bloom right now in that area — clovers, a few late dewberries. We looked for any early emerging Edwards’ hairstreaks at the prime location where we’ve found them before, but didn’t see any. Frankly, we all wondered, given that many of the good dogbane and milkweed stands seem to have disappeared, what their nectar source would be this year. While the leps were very good, the odes were spectacular. Comet darner and the brown spiketail were great finds for me, especially.
With Rick C.’s permission I’m including his odes list for the Frederick jaunt too, since he saw so many cool things. He also saw red-banded hairstreak, question mark, and red-spotted purple when he continued his peregrination of the ponds as we headed down the east slope of the mountain (Rick says he takes full responsibility for all IDs; species in caps are area specialties). Unicorn Clubtail Lancet Clubtail Common Green Darner Comet Darner Swamp Darner BROWN SPIKETAIL AMERICAN EMERALD Common Baskettail Calico Pennant Common Pondhawk Blue Corporal GOLDEN-WINGED SKIMMER Spangled Skimmer Widow Skimmer Twelve-spotted Skimmer Carolina Saddlebags Slender Spreadwing Swamp Spreadwing AURORA DAMSEL Azure Bluet Double-striped Bluet Turquoise Bluet Skimming Bluet Fragile Forktail Eastern Forktail