In recent weeks, the numbers of Variegated Fritillaries has been inching up locally, and reports of Ocola Skipper remain uncommon but consistent. New to the region this week is Long-tailed Skipper from northern VA, which leads to the hope that others are in the area as well. Clouded Skipper is being reported regularly in VA and NC so should be showing up as well; there are a number of reports of Gulf Fritillaries to our south that suggest this might be a good migrant year for them. Cloudless Sulphurs are finally showing up locally, including two today at Pt Lookout State Park MD.
But the current big tease is the explosion of Little Yellow and Sleepy Orange in NC and VA, in numbers that in other years have signaled a good fall push into the upper mid-Atlantic. Sleepy Orange showed up this week for the first time this season in the Plummer House garden at Jug Bay (Anne Arundel Co MD). Common Buckeye is also building in numbers to our south; true to its name it was common but not abundant this week at Pt Lookout State Park in MD.
Otherwise, numbers and diversity are not too far off the mark from what you’d normally expect at the beginning of the fall flight season. Leonard’s Skipper has not been observed in MD yet, but is flying well from PA to MA. Grass skipper numbers are up; most lantana patches locally (including big box garden centers) have yellow clouds of Sachem and Fiery Skippers. Tawny-edge, Zabulon, Dun, Swarthy, and Crossline Skippers are still present given good nectar sources, and Southern Broken-dash numbers are still quite high. Silver-spotted Skipper is winding down its flight.
A new brood of Northern Pearly-eye is on the wing, and seems to be expanding its range in the mid-Atlantic. Common Wood-nymph is still flying. Carolina Satyr and Appalachian Brown were observed in St. Mary’s Co MD. Tawny Emperor was still flying there as well.
On the swallowtail front, another local Giant Swallowtail sighting, this week from Baltimore. Pipevines are out and fresh, as are Black Swallowtails. Pipevines can even be seen in good numbers near the Smithsonian Castle on the National Mall, where a couple of large, interesting tropical Aristolochias are planted in the Enid Haupt gardens. A Spicebush Swallowtail was there yesterday as well, also in very fresh condition. Eastern Tiger Swallowtails are having a relatively modest late summer flight; most are showing considerable signs of wear already.
Grey and Red-banded Hairstreaks are having a good late flight; at Pt Lookout (St. Mary’s Co MD) today Grey Hairstreaks were abundant and Red-banded were common; two White-M Hairstreaks were also seen there mixed in with the Greys and Eastern Tailed-blues. Pearl Crescent is seen on most field trips but in nowhere near the numbers we usually find in late summer.
Dick Smith announced two field trip opportunities this weekend:
- August 31: Serpentine Barrens Late Summer Butterflies – Slide Show and Hike, Soldiers Delight NEA, 1-4pm. Dick Smith will present a slide show *(handicap accessible) on barrens butterflies and then lead the group for about 2 miles along trails *(not handicap accessible) through the globally rare serpentine barrens ecosystem at Soldiers Delight. In addition to locally-occurring and serpentine-endemic late summer butterflies such as the attractive Leonard’s Skipper, we will examine and identify many native grasses and wildflowers seldom seen in abundance in other locations around Maryland. Close-focus binoculars are recommended, but butterfly net-and-release (with in-jar identification) will be conducted by the leader. Hike will be cancelled if raining or overcast, but slideshow will be presented regardless of weather status. Children under 12 should be accompanied by an adult. Meet at the Visitor Center. Cost: Free! Donations welcome. Registration is not required; CONTACT: (443) 778-4973 (office – weekdays, 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.) or (410) 997-7439 (home) (please call after 7:30 p.m.).
- Butterflies through Binoculars in Columbia. 2-3 hours. Meet 9:30 AM at Elkhorn Garden Plots (Oakland Mills Rd opposite Dasher Ct). Enjoy searching for late-summer butterflies, and receive expert instruction on their identification. Easy walking in the garden plot and on paved paths near the right-of-way alongside open, flowery wet meadows and brushy hillsides. Bring close-focus binoculars to view nectaring behavior. Dick will also use net and jars to provide brief close-up examinations. Cancelled if raining or overcast. No facilities. CONTACT: Dick Smith, 410-997-7439. (home, please call after 7:30 pm)
If you spend time in the field this Labor Day, please remember 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.