Field Notes — Bog Copper in Maryland

Turk's-cap Lilies, Blue Lick Road, Garrett Co.

Turk’s-cap Lilies, Blue Lick Road, Garrett Co. — REB

Saturday morning was as unpromising as they come for me and Tom Stock, holed up at a hotel in Frostburg and afraid our planned Garrett Co. trip was a wash-out.  The forecast for the day got worse every time we checked Weather Underground.  We confirmed with our local guides to some bogs on the Maryland side of the state line – we’d seen Bog Coppers and other bog specialists in Cranesville Swamp in years past, but they wouldn’t count for MD100 — that we’d meet them at the Deep Creek Lake visitor center in McHenry at 10.  Beth Johnson had decided to brave the weather too and agreed to meet us over breakfast at the Princess Restaurant diner in Frostburg – and we three waited in vain for the heavy fog cover to lift.

We ditched Beth’s car and headed west toward McHenry.  The rain got worse, the fog lowered, the temperature dropped.  By the time we were at Deep Creek at 10, it was just drizzling.  And when we came back out of the Visitor Center at around 10:30, mirabile dictu, there were actually blue patches between the clouds!

Appalachian Brown on Blue Lick Rd

Appalachian Brown, Garrett Co MD

Our local hosts drove us first to wetland area known for Silver-bordered Fritillary, but not much was flying – the clouds had thickened again.  Nevertheless, Tom quickly got on Black Dash (FOY! And a lifer for Beth) and some European Skippers.  Satyrids popping in and out of the wetland grasses proved elusive to ID until I waded out and netted one – FOY Appalachian Browns for Tom.  There was clearly some large fritillary action way out over the wetlands, but too far to tell what they were or to trudge out to.

Bog Copper, Garrett Co MD

Bog Copper, Garrett Co MD

Our next stop was a local cranberry bog that required a very long hike in.  But the trek in proved fruitful too – more Black Dash, some very cooperative Delaware Skippers basking on grass blades, numbers of Northern Pearly Eyes, and large fritillaries flitting around too quickly to net or ID.  The bog, however,was another story.  After wading out until the vegetation thinned to almost nothing but sphagnum moss and cranberry, small grayish leps started popping up out of the cranberry blooms – Bog Copper! And in Maryland.  FOY for me and Tom, lifer for Beth.  Plus some incredible plants, including orchids, sundew, meadowsweet and rhododendrons.   We could easily have stayed all day – and the weather was drop-dead gorgeous by this point, blue skies and warm but not hot temperatures.

Delaware Skipper in Garrett Co MD

Delaware Skipper in Garrett Co MD

On the hike out I finally nabbed two of the frits, which proved to be Aphrodites (FOY for Tom and MD100 for all three of us; Beth and I saw it over the Fourth of July weekend at the Ft. Indiantown Gap grasslands tour).  We also confirmed that some of the others were Great Spangled Fritillaries, but Atlantis eluded us for the rest of the trip.

canadian tiger in hand Garrett July 13b

Presumptive Canadian Tiger Swallowtail in hand, Big Run State Park, Garrett Co MD — Beth Johnson

We bid farewell to our guides, and drove on down to Big Run State Park, where we’d been told to check out the campsites (especially at Whiskey Bottom) for commas, harvesters, and other puddlers.  True to the prediction, a huge puddle party was going on at Whiskey Bottom, with dozens of Dun Skippers, some Tiger Swallowtails, Eastern Tailed-blues, Silver-spotted Skippers (which resolutely resisted being converted to Hoary Edge), and three commas.  Tom worried over the commas – all Eastern Comma, no Grays – while I changed into dry shoes and socks from my soaked ones from the bog.  Then Tom called us both over to look more closely at the swallowtails, which we had taken for Eastern Tigers.  But Tom and I had had a chance recently to review field marks for a probable Canadian Tiger seen recently at Spruce Knob, and the one swallowtail left at the puddle exhibited the classic diagnostic characters.  Just then an SUV plowed through the puddle party, scattered everyone to wind.  Took a long time for the swallowtail to return, at which point I netted it for some in-hand review.  We’re checking it out with Papilio experts.  Here’s Tom’s analysis (and note the small size relative to my thumb as well):

 >>>Notes on Canadian Tiger Swallowtail: Came upon a large group of mixed butterflies puddling at the first pullout along Big Run Road in Garrett County (coming down the hill about a mile from New Germany Road). The group included two small (slightly larger than a nearby Red-spotted Purple), pale yellow Tiger Swallowtails which were initially identified as Eastern. After studying one of the Swallowtails (ventral view), noted the very broad black band on trailing margin of the hindwing, as well as a nearly continuous yellow marginal spot band on the forewing. The specimen was netted and studied further, and several photographs were taken. Field marks consistent with Canadian Tiger Swallowtail, as outlined in Cech and Tudor, Butterflies of the East Coast (2007). <<<

[Further notes on Canadian from Rick:  Without DNA analysis, assigning this butterfly to canadensis is probably uncertain, and the good money — from a genetic perspective — is that there are no canadensis populations in MD or WVA.  I plan on a more thorough discussion including commentary by Harry Pavulaan in a future posting]

Leaving Big Run, we continued up the east side of the Savage River drainage, ending up at the lovely (but short) Blue Lick Road.  Along the way a ton of other great plants, including American bellflower, black and blue cohoshes, American spikenard, an incredible scarlet monarda that was everywhere, pink spireas, and several really showy stands of Turk’s-cap Lily, the botanical star of the day.  Our last stop gave us a very unexpected Coral Hairstreak suspended under the bell of the one of the lilies.  And bright sunshine to the end of the day, along with the ethereal song of Hermit Thrushes cascading down the hillsides as we drove back out to Westernport Road.

Altogether, one heck of a super Allegany/Garrett Co. sweep.  Left both me and Tom within spitting distance of our MD100 goal, and gave us all lifers for the weekend.

List for the trip (courtesy of Tom):

July 12, 2013: Allegany County, Maryland mainly just east of Green Ridge State Forest
Heavily overcast, cool.
Pipevine Swallowtail (1)
Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (1)
Spicebush Swallowtail (3)
Cabbage White (10)
Orange Sulphur (2)
Northern Metalmark (7) FOY — found along Swain Hollow Road nectaring on woodland sunflower
Pearl Crescent (2)
Silver-spotted Skipper (2)
Wild Indigo Duskywing (6)
Least Skipper (1)
Little Glassywing (3)
July 13, 2013: Garrett County, Maryland
1. Mosser Road Wetland
Appalachian Brown (8) FOY
Common Wood Nymph (1)
European Skipper (common)
Black Dash (5) FOY
2.  Cranberry Bog in Garrett Co.
Common unless otherwise noted.
Bog Copper (9) FOY
Summer Azure
Great Spangled Fritillary (2)
Aphrodite Fritillary (1) FOY
Northern Pearly Eye
Appalachian Brown
Silver-spotted Skipper (1)
Delaware Skipper (4)
Black Dash
Dun Skipper (abundant)
3. Big Run State Park
Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (2)
Spicebush Swallowtail (2)
Cabbage White (4)
Clouded Sulphur (1)
Orange Sulphur (1)
Coral Hairstreak (1)
Eastern Tailed Blue (5)
Summer Azure (common)
Great Spangled Fritillary (4)
Aphrodite Fritillary (3)
Pearl Crescent (1)
Eastern Comma (3)
American Lady (1)
Red-spotted Purple (2)
Silver-spotted Skipper (3)
Peck’s Skipper (1)
Tawny-edged Skipper (1)
Little Glassywing (1)
Delaware Skipper (3)
Dun Skipper (abundant)
Tom and Beth admiring new car
This entry was posted in Field Trips/Annual Counts, general butterfly news, Maryland Big Year, sightings. Bookmark the permalink.

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