The Story of a Butterfly Big Year

Striped Hairstreak 2013 June 6, College Park, PG Co., MD [photo by Tom Stock]

Striped Hairstreak 2013 June 6, College Park, PG Co., MD [photo by Tom Stock]

It began as a crazy idea hatched in the doldrums of the long, nasty winter of 2012-13 – though “long” and “nasty” pretty much describes all winters for any butterfly field enthusiast who lives anywhere north of Florida. A freak sighting on a warm day in January by Rick Borchelt of an American Lady (Vanessa virginiensis) was surely a spark. But when March arrived, and both Rick and Tom Stock spotted their first Cabbage Whites (Pieris rapae), the idea bit them both – bit them hard. They decided to try to see at least 100 species of butterfly in Maryland and the District of Columbia before the end of the 2013 butterfly season. That’s 100 species in a state where the number of common butterfly species is well under 100, and one might expect to reasonably find no more than 116 species. From the outset, the challenge seemed daunting.

Rick and Tom, often accompanied by their fellow lep enthusiast Beth Johnson, traveled far and wide across the State, both together and solo, and on the way to reaching their goal encountered poisonous snakes, violent storms, debilitating heat and chilly mountain air, lepless days, obstreperous State troopers, swarms of biting flies, fog, drizzle . . . so many obstacles . . . and yet somehow managed to enjoy just about every minute of every day they spent in the field. And they rarely if ever had a bad meal anywhere along the way. Their “Lep Lunches” ranged from barbeque to fish tacos to crab cakes and crab soup to delicious steaks to refreshing sno-cones. Maryland, they discovered, has no shortage of good food!

Lord only knows how many miles they collectively logged – but their travels took them to all but a few of Maryland’s counties, from cranberry bogs in Garrett County to swamp woodlands in Worcester County, from serpentine barrens in Baltimore County to manicured gardens in the District of Columbia, from the tidal creeks of Charles County to the shale scree slopes of Allegany County, from tame suburbia to Maryland’s wildest corners. They covered it all, and of the State’s roughly 116 resident species, Rick found 105 and Tom found 102. And then they finished off their year with a smooth single malt scotch.

It has been about two years since this mad MD100 quest began. Looking back at the records on this blog, readers can track Rick and Tom’s progress. Tom has taken these tallies one step further and put together a narrative of the year, illustrated with lists of butterflies from every field excursion he made. That narrative is now available here on Lep Log. Read and enjoy, but be forewarned that you may be bit just as hard as he was and end up knee deep in a bog looking for some rare marsh skipper with a thick cloud of gnats around your head, wondering how you could be any happier.

Read Tom’s account of our 2013 MD100 Big Year, and make your own plans for 2015!

This entry was posted in checklists, conservation, general butterfly news, Maryland Big Year, sightings, state butterflies and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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