Weekend Lep Field Forecast for the Mid-Atlantic 2014 April 19-20

Zebra Swallowtails on scat in the Great Dismal Swamp VA 2014 APR 12 [REB]

Zebra Swallowtails on scat in the Great Dismal Swamp VA 2014 APR 12 [REB]

As predicted, last weekend produced a watershed of new FOYs across the region, from Falcate Orangetips to Zebra Swallowtails to various elfins. A short descent into the deep freeze midweek is likely to dampen emergences just a bit, but the temperatures will climb into the 60’s again for Easter weekend, with the sunnier and warmer day now projected to be Sunday.

Zebra Swallowtail is out now in increasing numbers; good places to look for this charismatic species (the spring brood has shorter tails than the summer flight does, but still quite an attractive lep) include the C&O canal towpath in Montgomery Co. and the District, the US National Arboretum (especially on the hillsides sloping down to the Anacostia), Patuxent Wildlife Research Refuge North Tract, Piney Orchard near Odenton, Eastern Neck NWR, and Governor Bridge Natural Area in Bowie – anywhere you find its host, pawpaw. Eastern Tiger Swallowtails will be out this weekend or shortly thereafter across the mid-Atlantic; last year’s spring brood was quite sparse but there was a good summer brood. Pipevine Swallowtails and Spicebush Swallowtails will also be on the wing shortly and could show up as early as this weekend and certainly by the end of the month.

Falcate Orangetip could be encountered in most of the deciduous woodlands in the area, and will continue into early to mid-May.  Its close cousin, Olympia Marble, is already flying along the Blue Ridge backbone and could be on the wing any time in the next two weeks in its limited range in western Maryland. This species is in deep trouble owing to a decline in its habitat, open shale barrens, and to incidental exposure to pesticides sprayed to control gypsy moth. Any sightings should be reported to Maryland Department of Natural Resources at http://dnr.maryland.gov/wildlife/Plants_Wildlife/espaa.asp

Other pierids – including Cabbage (Small) White and both common Colias sulphurs, Orange and Clouded – are flying now in small numbers that will build through the season.

The same western Maryland mountains could see emergence of Silvery Blue in a few days, and there’s already a chance of tortoiseshells (Compton is more likely this early, Milbert’s in May) and Gray Comma sunning on the back roads of Allegany, Washington, or Garrett counties.

Henry's Elfin 2014 APR 12 in the Great Dismal Swamp VA [REB]

Henry’s Elfin 2014 APR 12 in the Great Dismal Swamp VA [REB]

The three early elfins are all on the wing now, Brown, Eastern Pine, and Henry’s. All three are possible on the upcoming Audubon Naturalist excursion to Hoyle’s Mill in Montgomery Co. on April 26 (check out the LepLog field trip calendar for details). Likewise, all three can usually be found at Calvert Cliffs State Park. Look for patches of blueberry to get a bead on Brown Elfin; this species can be very common on some of the trails in the Frederick Municipal Watershed. Henry’s Elfin is addicted to redbud blossoms and is often found near these showy spring trees. In the Great Dismal Swamp last weekend, where there are no redbuds, I kicked up dozens of Henry’s Elfins along the sandy ditches and there were literally small clouds of them in blooming horse-sugar trees (Symplocos). Eastern Pine Elfin should be looked for nectaring on blueberry (especially high-bush blueberry, V. corymbosum) where it grows near good stands of Virginia pine. Good places to hunt Eastern Pine Elfin locally are Patuxent North (along the Pine Trail and near Lake Anna), Patuxent Wildlife Research Refuge South Tract and National Wildlife Visitor Center at the far end of Lake Anna along the powerline that runs along Route 197 (there are extensive stands of corymbosum here), and at Piney Orchard near Odenton.

Azures are in full flight; currently it appears to be mostly the spring form of Summer Azure but Spring Azure and Holly Azure will be on the wing soon if they aren’t already. The first Eastern Tailed-blues will be flying within the next week.

Anglewings (Comma and Question Mark) and Mourning Cloak are already looking ratty. A fresh flight will emerge in June and then aestivate over the summer, fly briefly again in the fall before overwintering as adults.

Perplexing duskywings are due this weekend or next week as well; Juvenal’s and Horace’s are the most likely around here. Both are relatively common in open oak forests, where the caterpillars feed on oak. Horace’s is univoltine; you’ll only find it flying with Juvenal’s in the spring. A little later this seaon, you get to puzzle out Juvenal’s versus Wild Indigo Duskywing. In western Maryland, both Dreamy and Sleepy Duskwings will be flying in the next week or two also. A taxonomist’s nightmare is a puddle party of Dreamy, Sleepy, Juvenal’s and Horace’s Duskwings all concentrated on one wet spot by a dirt road in the back country of Allegany County.

Just to whet your appetite, also flying last weekend in the Virginia portion of the Great Dismal Swamp NWR were Palamedes Swallowtail, Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, Eastern Tailed-blue, Pearl Crescent, and the cane specialist Carolina Roadside-skipper. Hessel’s Hairstreak was nectaring on horse sugar in large numbers in Brunswick Co. NC, and Harvester was flying in GA, SC, and NC.

Here’s hoping to run into in the field this weekend, and don’t forget to post or send your sightings for the next Weekend Forecast! In the meantime, visit us at https://leplog.wordpress.com/ and on Google Groups at MDLepsOdes.

This entry was posted in Field Trips/Annual Counts, sightings. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Weekend Lep Field Forecast for the Mid-Atlantic 2014 April 19-20

  1. Kathleen Dister says:

    Governor Bridge Natural Area is a great place to see leps. As well as pawpaw, you can find tulip trees and spicebush, which are hosts for the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail and the Spicebush Swallowtail. Last August I got photos showing two different species on pickerel weed at the large pond but was unable to get all three Swallowtail species to pose together.

  2. Mike Smith says:

    I lead two NABA counts:
    July 5 Island Ford Butterfly count in eastern Rockingham county, Va.
    July 13 Shenandoah Nat. Park Butterfly count
    Can you post these? I can provide details.
    Mike Smith

    • Rick says:

      Absolutely. Send me the details (if you can follow the format in the calendar items that would be great but not necessary) and I’ll have them up shortly. Thanks, Mike!

      • foresmiths@comcast.net says:


        Here are the two NABA Butterfly Counts that I compile:

        July 5  Island Ford count. (Saturday)

        15th year. 65 cumlative species. We survey wetlands, along the Shenandoah river, & the Skyline Drive. Long pants, water , snack,  boots , bug spray, & sunblock recommended. We will stop for a fast food lunch. We will meet at the Elkton, Va. Food Lion parking lot (  in eastern Rockingham county) at 8:30am. There is a $3 fee to participate. Beginners are welcome. Contact Mike Smith for information at foresmiths@comcast.net .

        phone 540-298-1913.

        July 13  Shenandoah National Park count (Sunday)

        Last year we had 45 species. The count circle is near Luray, Va. We survey areas of the Park including Big Meadows and the Skyline Drive, and along the Shenandoah River. We will split into different groups in order to get the best coverage. Long pants, water, lunch, boots, bug spray, & sunblock are recommended. There is a $3 fee to participate. Beginners are welcome. Contact Mike Smith for information at foresmiths@comcast.net . Phone  540-298-1913.


        Mike Smith

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