Beth Johnson and I went down to Charles Co Saturday, lured by excellent directions from Bill Hubick and Jim Stasz for locating Carolina Satyr, a rare and local butterfly in Maryland. The prospect of interesting odes also appealed.
We sweated the weather — when we left around 10 it was pouring here in College Park but the weather map suggested improvement over the Western Shore. Just as we pulled into the Waldorf area things started looking up, and by the time we reached Purse State Park the skies were turning blue.
The parking lot at Purse was full of participants for a bike race, so we went down Riverside road a couple of miles to Thorne Gut where it crosses the road. We spent quite a while with the odes there — notably Spangled Skimmer, Great Blue Skimmer, Slaty Skimmer and an assortment of damsels Beth is working on, as well as Appalachian Brown in the reedy marsh margin. Once the bike crowd died down, we backtracked to Purse, where the trail to the beach yielded the promised Carolina Satyr and the creek outflow on the beach gave us our first Monarch of the year. Ode-wise, the highlight was a number of Unicorn Clubtails, the capture of which netted yours truly a rather thorough dunking in the creek.
We finished up at Purse — with the din of Brood II ringing in our ears — and headed down to the nearby Friendship Farm Park. Along Friendship Road just before the park, we stopped at a roadside dogbane patch with more than 30 Great Spangled Fritillaries and a couple of Banded Hairstreaks, one of which had an inordinate fondness for Beth’s hat.
At the Friendship boat landing itself, we were treated to an FOY Tawny Emperor basking in a hackberry in the late afternoon sun, as well as literally hundreds of yellow and yellow-orange skimmers we have yet to figure out (Needham’s? Golden-winged?). The successful satyr survey got capped off by a stop to Rita’s frozen custard in la Plata.
Today being Tom Stock’s birthday, I joined him for a repeat of the Charles Co itinerary minus the odes. We stopped at the US National Arboretum first en route, picking up FOY Hayhurst’s Scallopwing before moving on south. Tom and I came the reverse direction that Beth and I had, arriving first at Friendship Farm Park and Landing. At the Landing we had Tawny Emperor again, as well a a good flight of American Snouts. I had the other emperor, Hackberry, but it was skittish and Tom didn’t get on it for a positive ID.
On a whim we stopped at the trail parking lot at the top of the hill down to the landing, where Tom noticed some blooming dogbane in a field past the gate. Lots of Great Spangled Frit action was visible from a distance so we braved the (really dreadful) clouds of deer flies and walked out into the field. Proved a momentous decision.
The first thing you noticed was the Banded Hairsteaks, up to 4 on a plant. Conservatively more than 100 Banded Hairstreaks in that 3-acre patch. Hundreds of Frits and huge flights of Eastern Tiger Swallowtails, Zebra Swallowtails, Silver-spotted Skippers, Little Glassywings, and Dun Skippers, with some American Ladies, Silvery Checkerspots, Crossline Skippers, and azures thrown in. But a closer inspection gave us an epic Aaron’s Skipper plus at least three Southern Broken-dashes and a Broad-winged Skipper. A walk around the wooded field perimeter (for shade and fly relief) gave us both Little Wood-satyr AND Carolina Satyr flying side by side for comparison. We had more Snouts and more Tawny Emperors to boot.
I failed to lead Tom to the Appalachian Browns Beth and I saw; it was growing dark and thundering and even the browns had gone to ground, although we kicked up three likely candidates at Thorne Gut without definitive views.
All in all, a memorable Charles Co lep weekend.