The Count that Almost Wasn’t

Tom Stock, our intrepid organizer of the DC Annual Butterfly Count, agonized mightily over whether to hold this weekend’s official count at the National Arboretum — after all, an hour before the scheduled kick-off Saturday, the entire area was under a flash flood watch!  Here’s his account of the day via washbutterflies:

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As I look out my window this Sunday morning, I am thinking about how the weather is so arbitrary and capricious!  The forecast for today was leaden skies and the threat of rain.  Right now, the sky is far less than leaden and there’s about 80 percent more sun than yesterday.  I say a pox on all weather forecasters! 
After calling off the DC Count yesterday, I traveled to the Arboretum in case anyone failed to get my messages.  Two hardy souls showed up – Beth Johnson and Rick Borchelt.  Even though it was pouring rain most of the morning, the rain had stopped by 9:00 a.m. so we decided to take a stroll to look for odes and birds and whatever else we might be able to kick up.  Lo and behold, brief flashes of sun got some butterflies up and flying, albeit intermittently.  When the sun disappeared, so did the butterflies.  But after about 4 hours of schlepping around the dank and damp Arboretum, I decided we had enough species of butterflies recorded to make it a count after all.  I did so because of Sunday’s dismal weather forecast (foolish me!), as well as the fact that I would not have been able to re-schedule a count before summer’s end. 
We ended up with 23 species, the best of which was an Ocola Skipper Beth pointed out in the Washington Youth Garden. The garden was festooned with bait put out by Bob Speaker.  Alas, I think the rain got the bait too soggy to be of any effect.  Had it been a hot, sticky day with lots of sun, I like to think the bait would have been covered with butterflies!  Bummer. 
By around 2 p.m., the sky turned dark and it felt like rain.  The butterflies disappeared.  We decided to call it a day.  Thanks to those of you who would have counted but heeded my cancellation.  You didn’t miss much but a wet day in the field.  The list follows. 
Pipevine Swallowtail (5)
Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (14)
Spicebush Swallowtail (3)
Cabbage White (14)
Clouded Sulphur (1)
Orange Sulphur (1)
Cloudless Sulphur (1)
Gray Hairstreak (1)
Red-banded Hairstreak (1)
Eastern Tailed Blue (12)
Summer Azure (2)
Pearl Crescent (1)
Red Admiral (1)
Red-spotted Purple (1)
Monarch (4)
Silver-spotted Skipper (25)
Hayhurst’s Scallopwing (16)
Horace’s Duskywing (6)
Clouded Skipper (3)
Least Skipper (11)
Peck’s Skipper (1)
Sachem (175)
Ocola Skipper (1)
*****
LepLunch:  To celebrate the Ocola and clouded skippers — truly nice finds — we adjourned to long-time Mexican restaurant Alamo in Riverdale for lunch.  When we remerged around 4, there was still some patchy sunshine so we made a quick run out to Lake Artemesia for a quick walk around larger impoundment.  Nothing much we didn’t see at the Arboretum except for a fresh male Zabulon skipper.
This entry was posted in Field Trips/Annual Counts, sightings, Washington Area Butterfly Club. Bookmark the permalink.

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