Pickering Creek on MD’s Eastern Shore

Beth Johnson and I headed across the Bay Bridge last Sunday to explore the incredibly productive field of milkweed and coreopsis in Terrapin Bay park at the tip of Kent Island.  Imagine our dismay when we found the entire field could just as easily have been a nuclear holocaust zone — brush-hogged recently to the bare ground, brown as the desert.  Why on earth would park personnel authorize this kind of destruction in a regionally important nectar source for Monarchs migrating down the Bay, not to mention the most productive source I know of for migrant southern skippers?

We walked a few of the other trails but didn’t see much — some Broad-winged Skippers at the edge of the marsh, where most of the nectar plants (swamp milkweed, climbing hempweed) have been crowded out by the phragmites.  Red-spotted Purple was pretty common (8), and we picked up a fast-flying Sleepy Orange.  Seaside Dragonlets were common, which was a slight consolation.

After a quick pit stop in Easton at Dairy Queen, we drove over to Pickering Creek Audubon Center, which I had only seen before last winter when a Virginia’s Warbler made the shrubby wetlands there home for a few weeks.  I’d noticed lots of composite seedheads and milkweed pods at the time, and made a mental note to come back in season.

We arrived about 3 pm; the day was warm but not oppressively so, and a cool breeze and plentiful shade made it a pleasant destination.  We rather quickly racked up just over 20 butterfly species, including a very welcome Appalachian Brown along Pickering Creek itself.

Of equal interest were a number of odes on the property, including Needham’s Skimmer, a number of Great Blue Skimmers, and a feeding swarm of Wandering Gliders and Common Green Darners,  which included a robust dark ode we’re still trying to puzzle out.

Unfortunately, we didn’t find what would likely have been as very productive garden area until it was well along toward dusk or we’d probably have had other interesting leps.  But beware if you go:  Despite being drenched in DEET, we both are suffering the exquisite itching of seed ticks and chiggers from the grass paths!

Full list from Pickering:

Spicebush Swallowtail (3)

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (common)

Black Swallowtail (common as caterpillars on water hemlock, but no adults)

Orange Sulphur (8)

Eastern Tailed-blue (common)

Summer Azure (1)

Gray Hairstreak (1)

Pearl Crescent (abundant)

Painted Lady (1)

Red Admiral (5)

Red-spotted Purple (1)

Question Mark (2)

Variegated Fritillary (1)

Common Buckeye (5)

Common Wood Nymph (2)

Appalachian Brown (1)

Horace’s Duskywing (1)

Little Glassywing (2)

Sachem (7)

Zabulon Skipper (5)

Silver-spotted Skipper (8)

Least Skipper (6)


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