Many of us were in the field this past weekend, and there’s a lot to report. As always, let me know what you’re finding out there so I can pass it along to the other readers of the Forecast!
This week has seen the return of Sachem in their second brood, which has shown up en masse in bewildering variety. Tom Stock and I saw clouds of them at the US National Arboretum on virtually every nectar plant on Sunday. Other grass skippers are flying now too, including multitudes of Dun Skippers we saw in most grassy environments in Garrett Co. over the weekend, as well as numbers of Delaware Skippers and Black Dashes. Both Appalachian Browns and Northern Pearly Eyes were flying in good numbers in wet habitats in the western counties of MD. A single Coral Hairstreak was noted hanging from the bells of Turk’s-cap lily along Blue Lick Road in Garrett on Saturday, the only hairstreak seen during two days in the field.
Bog Coppers are flying in western Maryland (and presumably WV) cranberry bogs, with more than a dozen observed in Garrett Co. on Saturday. Odes flying in the bogs included White-faced Meadowhawk. Other western mountain specialties that were noted included Aphrodite Fritillary at numerous locations in Big Run State Park, but we missed Atlantis Fritillary although it should also be on the wing. Northern Metalmarks were seen by many observers over the past weekend in their usual haunts – nectaring on woodland sunflower growing on shale faces along Swain Hollow and Cliff Roads just east of Green Ridge State Forest. One party counted THIRTY from their car driving along Swain Hollow before they got tired of counting. Tom and I were happy with our seven.
On the Eastern Shore, Rare Skipper continues to be seen in the Blackwater area, along with Broad-winged Skippers. Monarchs – hard to come by this year – were in the milkweed field across from the temporary visitor center at Blackwater NWR,; in fact, I saw Monarchs, usually singletons, at most of the many stops I made in Dorchester, Worcester, and Wicomico counties on Monday wherever there was much common milkweed. Mixed results for King’s Hairstreak; one observer found and photographed several in Wicomico Co. on July 8, but another veteran observer at the same location a few days later (but admittedly late in the day), found none. My mid-day visit to the same location was equally fruitless but stupefyingly hot on July 15. Bronze Copper was again MIA on the Eastern Shore this week. Zebra Swallowtails were as abundant as I’ve ever seen them on the white clover along parts of Sheppard’s Crossing Road between the DE border and Whaleyville MD.
Checkered White was present in small numbers on roadside white clover on roads near Delmar MD and Selbyville DE. These whites (and Common Checkered-Skipper) were also observed near Beallsville MD at the equestrian center there, the site last year of Dainty Sulphur.
In addition to the Sachem swarms at the National Arboretum, Tom and I rustled up a surprising Checkered White in the lavender collection at the National Herb Garden, as well as several Sleepy Oranges at both the Herb Garden and the Butterfly Garden. A huge new swarm of Eastern Tiger Swallowtails was hawking over the bottlebrush buckeyes across the road from Fern Valley, and a very fresh (and very large) White M Hairstreak was working blooms on another shrub a few yards farther down the road. Hayhurst’s Scallopwing has a new brood zipping through the weedy verges in the Butterfly Garden. A single Common Buckeye on the lavender gave a taste of larger numbers to come in the fall.
Now is the time to begin watching for southern skippers on their annual fall irruptions and migrations north. Fiery Skipper is already being seen in growing numbers; Ocola and Cloudy Skippers can’t be far behind.
Giant Swallowtail was reported second-hand from the Maryland side of Great Falls this weekend; keep an eye out for the adults on mimosas and Joe-pye weed. Giant Swallowtail was also reported last week from private gardens near Philadelphia.
Coming into bloom locally this week are the massive flowers of Devil’s-walking-stick, Aralia spinosa, one of the best magnets for hairstreaks this time of year. Joe-pye and ironweed are both breaking bud in many locations, and the perennially popular with butterflies and wasps Pycnanthemum (mountain mint) species are in full bloom in many spots now as well. The poor stands of dogbane on the Eastern Shore I lamented about last week have actually recovered (some were mown earlier in the year and are just now blooming) and there are extensive stands in peak flower on many of the roads around Blackwater NWR.
Note of interest: The popular VA Great Dismal Swamp NABA count was postponed last weekend because of the rain; the new date is August 10. Don Schwab, the count organizer, says that Clethra should be fully bloomed by then, and that swallowtail numbers are building over the scarcity of previous weeks (presumably that includes Palamedes Swallowtail, a Dismal specialty). On this count in the past I’ve also had Yehl Skipper, Lacewing Roadside Skipper, and Creole Pearly-eye, all canebrake specialists.
Follow mid-Atlantic butterfly sightings at https://leplog.wordpress.com and on Google Groups at MDLepsOdes.