Welcome to another season of weekend field forecasts! This will be your weekly (time permitting) quick guide to what others have been seeing in the field over the past week or two and that could or should be showing up in our favorite field locations in the mid-Atlantic over the week to come.
It’s been a slow start to this spring; so far, from Maryland, only Mourning Cloak and anglewings have been reported, where in past years we often had whites, sulphurs and azures by the end of March. But the warm weather of this week is likely to boost the numbers of Commas and Question Marks on the wing by the weekend, and to bring out the first “Spring” Summer Azures (the first azures in flight in our area; it gets trickier by the time dogwoods are in bloom), Falcate Orangetips, and Cabbage (Small) Whites, in addition to Clouded and Orange Sulphurs. Last year was a poor one for these two sulphurs that mirrored a poor field season overall; perhaps early spring numbers in the next few weeks for these species will be an indicator of what to expect for the rest of the season.
Elfins should be up pretty quickly too, led off by Eastern Pine, usually in flight as shadbush and highbush blueberry reach their peak. Henry’s Elfin usually begins flying as the eastern redbuds break into bloom, and Brown Elfin can usually be found nectaring on the flowers of low-growing blueberries and other vacciniums.
To our south in the Carolinas, the season is already well advanced, with Eastern Tiger Swallowtails, Juniper Hairstreaks, Meadow Fritillaries, Silvery Blue and Snout on the wing. A week of consistently warm weather here could compress our spring and bring everything out at once. And don’t necessarily turn your nose up at an opportunity to be in the field when the temps are still pretty low as long as there is strong sun: The Mourning Cloaks I had along the C&O Canal last Sunday near Downsville were flying on a 43-degree afternoon, although the temperatures close to the dark, moist soil of the old canal bed were undoubtedly considerably higher. When flushed, they stuck close to the ground instead of going up into the (presumably colder) trees. Many early butterflies similarly stick close to the ground, where early cresses, dandelions, and other low-growing spring flowers hunker down out of the wind.
Looks like Easter Sunday will be a decent day for leps this weekend, so if you’re in the field 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.