Return to Buzzard Swamp

Harris Checkerspot in Buzzard Swamp PA [Tom Stock, 2014 June 21]

Harris’ Checkerspot in Buzzard Swamp PA [Tom Stock, 2014 June 21]

Ever since my first and last trip to Buzzard Swamp PA at the end of June 2011, I’ve been itching to get back. That first trip gave me a ton of lifers, but there were still a couple I could score there, and my field colleague Tom Stock had a few to pick up too. So we had planned a three-day excursion this past weekend.

Only the weather wasn’t exactly cooperative. Friday was iffy in northwest PA (Buzzard Swamp is in the Allegheny National Forest just a short drive from the NY border), so we decided to drive up early Saturday. Saturday there started out with rain (which would dog us the entire 5-hour drive), but it had cleared to partly cloudy and warm by the time we arrived at 1:30. We’d hoped to meet up with our compatriots Monica Miller and Curt Lehman from PALepsOdes, but cell signal being what it was we couldn’t get much info to each other from different parts of the long circuit loop of ponds, hemlock/spruce forest, and wet meadow. So Tom and I struck out on our own.

Before even leaving the parking lot, Tom hit one of his lifers — Harris’ Checkerspot. They’ve been flying for a while and several of the ones we saw were somewhat worn and tattered. A few feet down the path he snagged the next one — Pepper and Salt Skipper, which had been flying in the hundreds a few weeks ago and now are down to respectable dozens of varying stages of wear.

Pepper and Salt Skipper, Buzzard Swamp PA [REB, 2014 June 21]

Pepper and Salt Skipper, Buzzard Swamp PA [REB, 2014 June 21]

We were both looking for Silver-bordered Fritillaries and coming up empty; the larger frit that was flying yielded to an ID only in hand — all we netted and examined were Atlantis Frit, which surprised us by flying so early (it isn’t out in western MD yet, or at least hasn’t been reported).

We were not quite half way around when we were hallooed by our missing Pennsylvanians, and as it happened Curt had a Silver-bordered Frit in a plastic bottle he’d been carrying around in case we hadn’t seen our own yet. It didn’t take Curt’s eagle eyes long to come up with a couple of ones on the wing in the extensive wet meadows for us to view ourselves.

We finished the circuit, picking up a couple more Harris’ Checkerspots and another lifer for Tom, Common Ringlet (one of which had met its maker in the chelicerae of a Goldenrod Crab spider). Meantime, I was maxing out on odes I hadn’t seen before, including Dot-tailed Whiteface and Dusky Clubtail, and we had good bird sightings too of Least Flycatcher, Alder Flycatcher, Blackburnian Warbler, and stunning male Rose-breasted Grosbeak.

Silver-bordered Fritillary, Buzzard Swamp PA [Tom Stock, 2014 June 21]

Silver-bordered Fritillary, Buzzard Swamp PA [Tom Stock, 2014 June 21]

As we worked our way around the back side of the lakes, we got our last good butterfly of the day, a (mostly) White Admiral on a pile of fresh horse dung. Monica and Curt kept telling us that earlier in the day there would have been Arctic Skippers on the clover in the middle of the trail (which would be another lifer for Tom). I should mention at this point that all the lifers Tom was picking up were only in my life list already because I’d gotten them on that earlier trip to Buzzard!

The four of us retired to the local throwback to the era when the local town of Marienville was a hopping hunter’s destination (still is, but one gets the impression that hunting isn’t the sport kings it used to be), the Bucktail Restaurant. Really good dinner, good conversation among ourselves and with the staff, and Monica teased us with the knowledge that they’d had a Two-spotted Skipper in the parking lot early in the day. Sated, Tom and I headed down to Clarion and the Holiday Inn. Curt drove home, and Monica returned to her lodging at the Microtel for an early departure the next morning.

Sunday dawned foggy and it took some time to burn away, so Tom and I made our leisurely way to the Beaver Meadows Campground a few miles west of Marienville and the location of a lifer from my previous trip, Green Comma. Curt had told us that Two-spotted Skipper flew there as well, but we walked the spillway area in vain — very little was out, certainly not Green Comma or Two-spotted Skipper as a stiff breeze and regular clouds conspired to keep most everything hunkered down.

We decided to go back to Buzzard Swamp and try the eponymous “Ringlet Field” — on the left as you drive in from the main road. We hadn’t gotten far down the road from Beaver Meadows when we spotted a pulloff and a good amount of clover and decided on a whim to see if anything was working it. And there was — an Arctic Skipper!  Lifer for Tom.

Arctic Skipper, near Beaver Meadows Campground, Allegheny National Forest PA [REB, 2014 June 22]

Arctic Skipper, near Beaver Meadows Campground, Allegheny National Forest PA [REB, 2014 June 22]

Now we were down to one target lep: Two-spotted Skipper. We searched in vain for it at the Ringlet Field (where we got Long Dash and Indian Skipper plus many ringlets, naturally). We went about a mile back down the main circuit trail, also in vain. I peeled off to a small pond set back from the trail for odes (where I had the most incredibly beautiful Red-waisted Whiteface dragonflies); Tom kept on the trail for a little and scored two more Harris’ Hairstreaks — but no Two-spots.

We had a number of Silver-bordered Frits on the way back, and stopped to watch a little Zabulon make mad dashes out from his perch on the side of the trail at the large frits that bounced along the trail. He was worn but quite definitive; anyone from around the DC area knows that Zabs approach trash status in the summer here so we didn’t think much of it (and we’d had Hobomok earlier). Only later did we learn from Curt by email how unusual the sighting was, and David Wright confirmed the county record had only been established by a photo on June 6! [UPDATE:  Turns out the June 6 photo was of a Hobomok after all, so Tom and I are back in contention for a county Zabulon record!]

With time slipping away, we decided we’d make one more foray back to Beaver Meadows to give me a chance at a lifer for the trip too. We were packing into the car when Tom saw a dark skipper out the window dashed out in pursuit. We walked around the lot unsuccessfully. I pulled an apple out of my pack and started munching while looking through the clover again (without my bins) and suddenly saw an Essex (European) Skipper-like lep in the grass; I called Tom over and in the bins was clearly the Two-spotted Skipper of our dreams! (and quite possibly the very same one Monica and Curt had seen Saturday).

The knowledge of a five-hour drive in front of us motivated us to leave earlier than we would have, but with all 6 targets under our belt we felt pretty good about our sojourn, and very grateful for Monica’s and Curt’s help in getting them. Our last good surprise awaited us about an hour down the road — a black bear sauntering along the highway!

Life for both of us!  Two-spotted Skipper in the parking lot of Buzzard Swamp PA [Tom Stock, 2014 June 22]

Lifer for both of us! Two-spotted Skipper in the parking lot of Buzzard Swamp PA [Tom Stock, 2014 June 22]

Tom’s list for the trip follows:

For the record, here’s my tally of species for the trip (any chance of getting NABA to take up the Essex challenge?):

June 21, 2014: Buzzard Swamp, Forest County, Pennsylvania

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (3)
Cabbage White (1)
Orange Sulphur (3)
Eastern Tailed Blue (2)
Summer Azure (common)
Atlantis Fritillary (14)
Silver-bordered Fritillary (3)
Harris’ Checkerspot (2)
Pearl Crescent (2)
American Lady (2)
Red Admiral (5)
Red-spotted Purple (4)
White Admiral (1)
Viceroy (1)
Little Wood Satyr (common)
Common Ringlet (11)
Juvenal’s Duskywing (2)
Least Skipper (3)
European/Essex Skipper (5)
Pepper and Salt Skipper (6)

June 22, 2014: Beaver Meadows, Forest County, Pennsylvania

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (3)
Cabbage White (1)
Summer Azure (common)
Atlantis Fritillary (1)
Silver-bordered Fritillary (1)
Pearl Crescent (1)
Red Admiral (1)
Red-spotted Purple (4)
Little Wood Satyr (common)
Common Ringlet (2)
Arctic Skipper (1)
Least Skipper (4)
European/Essex Skipper (2)
Long Dash (2)
Hobomok Skipper (1)

June 22, 2014: Buzzard Swamp, Forest County, Pennsylvania

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (3)
Eastern Tailed Blue (1)
Summer Azure (common)
Silver-bordered Fritillary (4)
Harris’ Checkerspot (2)
Pearl Crescent (1)
Mourning Cloak (1)
Red Admiral (2)
Red-spotted Purple (2)
Little Wood Satyr (common)
Common Ringlet (9)
Least Skipper (2)
European/Essex Skipper (common)
Indian Skipper (9)
Peck’s Skipper (1)
Zabulon Skipper (1) Male. Possible county record – unmistakeable appearance, patrolling behavior
Two-spotted Skipper (1)
Pepper and Salt Skipper (common)

A great trip! Many thanks to Monica and Curt!

Tom Stock

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

One Response to Return to Buzzard Swamp

  1. Tom Stock says:

    For the record, here’s my tally of species for the trip (any chance of getting NABA to take up the Essex challenge?):

    June 21, 2014: Buzzard Swamp, Forest County, Pennsylvania

    Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (3)
    Cabbage White (1)
    Orange Sulphur (3)
    Eastern Tailed Blue (2)
    Summer Azure (common)
    Atlantis Fritillary (14)
    Silver-bordered Fritillary (3)
    Harris’ Checkerspot (2)
    Pearl Crescent (2)
    American Lady (2)
    Red Admiral (5)
    Red-spotted Purple (4)
    White Admiral (1)
    Viceroy (1)
    Little Wood Satyr (common)
    Common Ringlet (11)
    Juvenal’s Duskywing (2)
    Least Skipper (3)
    European/Essex Skipper (5)
    Pepper and Salt Skipper (6)

    June 22, 2014: Beaver Meadows, Forest County, Pennsylvania

    Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (3)
    Cabbage White (1)
    Summer Azure (common)
    Atlantis Fritillary (1)
    Silver-bordered Fritillary (1)
    Pearl Crescent (1)
    Red Admiral (1)
    Red-spotted Purple (4)
    Little Wood Satyr (common)
    Common Ringlet (2)
    Arctic Skipper (1)
    Least Skipper (4)
    European/Essex Skipper (2)
    Long Dash (2)
    Hobomok Skipper (1)

    June 22, 2014: Buzzard Swamp, Forest County, Pennsylvania

    Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (3)
    Eastern Tailed Blue (1)
    Summer Azure (common)
    Silver-bordered Fritillary (4)
    Harris’ Checkerspot (2)
    Pearl Crescent (1)
    Mourning Cloak (1)
    Red Admiral (2)
    Red-spotted Purple (2)
    Little Wood Satyr (common)
    Common Ringlet (9)
    Least Skipper (2)
    European/Essex Skipper (common)
    Indian Skipper (9)
    Peck’s Skipper (1)
    Zabulon Skipper (1) Male. Possible county record – unmistakeable appearance, patrolling behavior
    Two-spotted Skipper (1)
    Pepper and Salt Skipper (common)

    A great trip! Many thanks to Monica and Curt!

    Tom Stock

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