Southern MD Sightings

Southern Cloudywing_at St Mary's Lake MD [2014 Aug 29 by Beth Johnson]

Southern Cloudywing_at St Mary’s Lake MD [2014 Aug 29 by Beth Johnson]

Beth Johnson and I spent the day Friday visiting Point Lookout State Park for southern migrants and St. Mary’s Lake on an unsuccessful search for the newly reported Red-veined Pennant.  And today Tom Stock visited Calvert Cliffs and environs, giving us all sightings to share.

En route to St. Mary’s Co., Beth and I stopped off at an uncharacteristically quiet butterfly garden at the Plummer House in Anne Arundel Co.  Among the sparse butterflies was only one standout, Sleepy Orange.  Pt. Lookout, unfortunately, wasn’t much better — it had been mowed the day previously practically down to bare soil, we suspect in order to make it inviting for Labor Day picnic crowds.  Every vestige of nectar was removed in the process, with the exception of a few bush lespedezas and some knotweed.  This pretty much put a wet blanket on any real migrants — this is usually a great location for Long-tailed Skipper, Sleepy Orange, Clouded Skipper, hordes of Common Buckeyes, and Ocola Skipper, among others.  Not this year.

Consolation prize was an abundance of Grey Hairstreaks (more than 30 when we stopped counting), a dozen or so Red-banded Hairstreaks, and two White-M Hairstreaks — all concentrated on the little nectar there was.  There were a few Common Buckeyes and Black Swallowtails.  We did score our FOY Cloudless Sulphurs in MD, and a couple of Tawny Emperors.  Dragonfly watching was a little better — there were hawking swarms of Black and Carolina Saddlebags, Wandering Gliders, and a lifer for us both, Four-spotted Pennant.

At St. Mary’s Lake (which we’d never visited before), we were impressed by the quality of the lake perimeter trail, and especially a large open area before the dam and spillway where dogbane was just coming into bloom again.  It was too early in its bloom to attract much except a few grass skippers (Swarthy was the best of the batch), but the tall grasses held dozens of Halloween and Calico Pennants (but not our target Red-veined!–we should have checked with the original observers for more precise locations, since the trail is 7 miles long).  Beth had a Southern Cloudywing on the dam berm before I rejoined her, arguably the best butterfly of the day, although we also saw satyrs on the trail (likely Carolina Satyr, a new outpost for this species’ expanding range in MD, as Little Wood Satyr flight is over here I think) and several Appalachian Browns.  Dragonfly highlight was a lifer for us both, Clamp-tipped Emerald netted out of a small swarm of half a dozen at sunset.

Tom had better butterfly luck today during his southern MD sojourn, a flyby Giant Swallowtail crossing Route 5 at Solomons in Calvert Co and Ocola Skipper on the last of the blooming clethra at Calvert Cliffs State Park.  He also had Cloudless Sulphur in California, MD.

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