Sorry to anyone who missed the note that I was taking last week off from doing the Forecast in order to do a lep/bird trip to south Texas; owing to some great friends and locations I came back with 44 life butterflies and 22 life birds. An epic week (except for the average daily high of 104F)! Highlight for me there was the 5-metalmark day at Resaca de la Palma in the company of local lep ace Mike Rickard: Blue, Fatal, Walker’s, Rounded, and Red-bordered.
There are no metalmarks in the forecast for our area this weekend. Sigh.
But there is an interesting pickup in activity among grass skippers in particular. Many observers have been noticing an especially high number of Southern Broken-dash, with a conservative count of 48 at the National Arboretum NABA count last weekend. I’ve also had them in two’s and three’s in my College Park yard the past two weeks, which is a yard first. Most numerous butterfly on the count was Zabulon Skipper (59) followed closely by Silver-spotted Skipper (at 57), but the counters also tallied Hayhurst’s Scallopwing, both Horace’s and Wild Indigo Duskywings, Common Sootywing, Swarthy Skipper, Least Skipper, Tawny-edged Skipper, Crossline Skipper, Little Glassywing, Broad-winged Skipper (at the Kenilworth Aquatic Garden stop), Dun Skipper, and the area’s first Ocola Skipper of the fall. Peck’s Skipper apparently was a no-show on the count this year but showing up in local gardens and fields. Eastern Tiger Swallowtail and Spicebush Swallowtail were also flying in large numbers (relatively large anyway, since Spicebush has been less common this summer) on the Arboretum count, as was Sleepy Orange. Appalachian Brown was still flying at Kenilworth.
The Sachem build-up is especially interesting to me, as there was a very small emergence of mostly males about a month ago, hardly enough time to pump out a fresh brood.
Speaking of Eastern Tiger Swallowtails, Harry Pavulaan noted that at Banshee Reeks Preserve, south of Leesburg VA, several hundred were noted in one field on each visit over the past few weeks, with the yellow form making up about 70% of the females. The rest, he says, are black form with an unusually high number of mixed intermediate forms. Other field observers have reported the same in regional populations.
Northern Broken-dash was noted in several area locations as well, although in nowhere near the numbers for Southern.
Hairstreaks are also having a great late showing, with a large emergence of Red-banded well into New England, including areas where they’ve never been seen before. White M Hairstreak is showing up regularly in the mid-Atlantic and, again, far into New England. Gray Hairstreaks seem common in some areas in the mid-Atlantic (on the Arboretum count, for example) but almost absent from areas where they’re usually abundant.
Carolina Satyr is still on the wing at Purse State Park in Charles Co. MD, and Common Wood-nymph is flying at the nearby Chickamuxen Wildlife Management Area.
A trio of observers at Eastern Neck NWR in Kent Co. MD last weekend totted up 42 species, including Pipevine and Zebra Swallowtails, four White M Hairstreaks, and a whopping 42 Red-spotted Purples.
And while we’ve been pretty much shut out of the Giant Swallowtail action here in Maryland, they’ve been all but abundant through the Northeast and into Ontario. So hope springs eternal, especially as the Rocky Face NC colony is still active and flying now.
This is a good time to search for unusual anglewings in the western MD counties and mountains; Gray Comma was seen last Saturday in western New Jersey in Hunterdon Co.
The Monarch drought seems to be easing up, with fair numbers now being reported across the region as both adults and caterpillars. We’ll all be very interested in the migration flow along the coastal dunes this fall. Small numbers still of other migrants, including Common Buckeye and Cloudless Sulphur. No signs of Little Yellow or (recently, at least) Painted Lady. Red Admiral is mostly AWOL.
Start looking now for Leonard’s Skipper in serpentine and shale barren areas. It’s already flying in parts of Massachusetts (which typically beats Maryland for Leonard’s by about a week). See below for one of the usual “guaranteed” places for this univoltine autumn butterfly, which favors the blooms of Liatris wherever it can be found.
This should be an exceptional weekend, weather-wise, for butterflies if you can tear yourself away from shorebird action and the beginning of fall passerine migration. Be sure to let me know what you’re seeing in the field so I can share it with other readers of the Forecast for the Labor Day edition.
OF NOTE: Serpentine Barrens Hike
When: September 1, 2013 (Sunday), 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. Location: Soldiers Delight Visitor’s Center (and Serpentine Trail for hike), Deer Park Rd., Owings Mills (Baltimore County), MD
Details: Located along the largest serpentine barrens in Maryland, Soldiers Delight Natural Environment Area is a unique environment. The area holds more than 39 rare, threatened or endangered plant species as well as rare insects, rocks, and minerals. Dick Smith will present a short slide show on barrens butterflies and then lead the group for about two miles through the globally rare serpentine barrens ecosystem at Soldiers Delight. We will search for locally-occuring and serpentine endemic late summer butterflies such as the attractive Leonard’s Skipper. Additionally, participants will examine and identify several of the native grasses and wildflowers seldom seen in abundance elsewhere around Maryland. Close-focus binoculars are recommended, but butterfly net-and-release (with in-jar identification) will be conducted by the leader. Educational and fun for kids and adults! Hike will be cancelled if raining or overcast, but slideshow will be presented regardless of weather status. Free and open to general public. Donations to Soldiers Delight Visitor’s Center welcome. Driving Directions (from I-695 (Baltimore Beltway)): From I-695 take I-795 north via Exit 19 toward Owings Mills/Reisterstown. Take Exit 7B on Franklin Boulevard west. Turn right on Church Road, left on Berrymans Lane, then left on Deer Park Road. The gated entrance to the Visitors’ Center parking lot will be on your right, about one mile down the road, at 5100 Deer Park Road. GPS coordinates: 39.41023, -76.83880
Follow mid-Atlantic butterfly sightings at https://leplog.wordpress.com and on Google Groups at MDLepsOdes.