Lepidopterists don’t always go by the calendar – seasons can be early or late, broods distinct or overlapping, migrants on time or missing altogether, all with little or no regard to the days on the calendar. The 2013 flight season has given us all of the above.
But there’s usually one time during the season when the secular and the insectular (nice word, eh?) calendars come together, and that’s with the traditional end of the summer and the appearance of Leonard’s Skipper at Soldiers Delight serpentine barrens. And this year was no exception. Right on schedule on the last weekend of cultural summer – Labor Day weekend – Leonard’s Skipper emerged on Sunday along the Choate Mine trail, just in time for Dick Smith’s annual end-of-summer slide show and hike there. Never mind that out-of-towners visited Soldiers Delight last Friday and found nothing; never mind that Tom, Beth and I scoured the other side of Soldiers Delight on Saturday, enjoying hundreds of liatris blooming and still found nothing. Dick and his troop found three freshly emerged adults last Sunday. Which means they are likely also flying in Green Ridge State Forest in the appropriate bluestem habitat on shale barrens.
Not much else of interest was flying at Soldiers Delight Saturday save large numbers of Swarthy Skippers, a half-dozen or so Sleepy Oranges and a couple of worn Common Wood Nymphs.
Many of you known that Painted Lady has been my nemesis for the year’s Maryland Butterfly Big Year, even though the very first butterfly of 2013 for me was American Lady in a very warm flush of early January. But Painted Lady has been scarce all over the region so far. That should change dramatically in the next week or so – on a drive over to Bombay Hook for Baird’s Sandpiper on Labor Day I saw a good hundred in the three-mile stretch of frontage road along MD301 just past Queenstown that ends with the Highway 301 Rest Area (nominally this frontage is called Carville Price Road, and can be accessed eastbound by turning right on Hope Road at the Southern States facility and then turning left to parallel 301, or by turning right onto Hayden Road opposite the rest area and turning back right along Carville Price). This is a fascinating stretch of roadway with abundant nectar including Joe-pye weed, ironweed, turtlehead, red and blue lobelia, goldenrods, thoroughwort, and partridge pea. Earlier in the summer it also has lots of common milkweed and dogbane. In addition to the Painted Ladies, this stretch Monday held a dozen Monarchs, about that many Sleep Oranges, several dozen Cloudless Sulphurs, some Common Buckeyes, Variegated Fritillaries, and various swallowtails including a remarkably fresh Zebra Swallowtail (there is some pawpaw along the frontage in a wet area near the Hope Road intersection) and fresh Black Swallowtails. No hairstreaks or grass skippers to speak of except Sachem. And for those keeping track Painted Lady was Maryland Big Year species #103 for me.
Summer aestivation appears to have ended for both Great-spangled Fritillary and anglewings, with both Eastern Comma and Question Mark flying as very fresh individuals. Mourning Cloak seems a bit behind schedule but overwintering adults should be flying now as well through the end of autumn.
Aaron’s Skipper in its final fall brood should be looked for in salt marsh habitats; it was seen last weekend in Cape May. Broad-winged Skippers were also out in numbers there. Clouded Skipper was at St. Mary’s yesterday. Clouded Skipper was seen at St. Mary’s earlier today. Salt Marsh Skippers have been reported at several locations throughout the coastal region.
Red-banded Hairstreaks continue to show well; I even had a few in my College Park yard on the thoroughwort and mint flowers this week, along with swarms of Zabulon and Peck’s Skippers. Red-spotted Purple, a Red Admiral, and one of the afore-mentioned Eastern Commas visited my backyard fruit bait this week as well. Several Monarchs were ovipositing on the last of the yard milkweed.
Little Yellow has finally made an appearance to our south in the Carolinas, which may portend an expansion north into our area before frost. We’ve really had no significant weather events to drive southern species north on strong southerly winds all summer; one good hurricane would do wonders for our fall butterfly diversity. It was abundant on last weekend’s Francis Marion National Forest NABA count in SC. Also on the Sept. 1 count that may augur well for us were Long-tailed Skipper, Whirlabout, and Eufala Skipper. The Hobcaw Barony Refuge count was the day before (Aug. 31) and also reported Little Yellow as common, and picked up a Zebra Heliconian.
Bronze Copper was observed in southern NJ earlier this week. Allegedly.
Of Note: Nocturnal Insects at Glendening Nature Preserve: Saturday, September 7th, 8:00pm – 9:30pm. “Come to an evening program at Glendening Nature Preserve where we will observe and attempt to identify night-flying insects. We’ll use several methods to lure the insects to our site, including blacklighting and baiting with sweet mash. Night photographers are encouraged to attend! This free event is for adults and families with children at least 8 years old. We’ll meet at Plummer House (5702 Plummer Lane, Lothian, MD 20711).” Contact Darcy Herman (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Be sure to let me know what you’re seeing in the field this weekend so I can share it with other readers of the Forecast. Follow mid-Atlantic butterfly sightings at https://leplog.wordpress.com and on Google Groups at MDLepsOdes.