I arrived late morning Friday at Swain Hollow in Allegany Co., to the extension of Harris Norris Rd where it crosses Stottlemeyer and runs for a few hundred yards of dirt road down to Sideling Hill Creek. This is always a good area for mud puddlers, and last weekend was no exception. In addition to the Eastern Tailed-blues and various duskywings (Sleepy, Dreamy, Horace’s/Juvenal’s, and Wild Indigo were all flying), I had my FOY Common Roadside-skipper, which would live up to its name over the course of the day in Green Ridge. Zebra and Spicebush Swallowtails were both puddling as well, but they were dwarfed by the huge, lemon-yellow Appalachian Tigers at the mud bar as well.After checking out the mud flats by the creek for tiger beetles (and finding the state-endangered Appalachian Tiger Beetle in addition to 12-spotted and 6-spotted Tiger Beetles), I had high hopes for some interesting butterflies along Hoop Pole Road, but surprisingly it was pretty empty save for fly-by swallowtails. I continued along Oldtown-Orleans to one of my favorite spots n GRSF, the powerline that parallels Mertens Ave. Cobweb Skippers had been reported here earlier, but instead of walking uphill from the most convenient pullout on Mertens Ave. (in the direction most likely to produce them), I explored the section downhill to Carroll Road. The first butterfly I saw was a fat Northern Cloudywing nectaring on a wild azalea as soon as I cleared the tree line. And cloudywings were virtually everywhere; I must have seen at least two dozen, many already in a state of considerable wear. More Common Roadside-skippers vied for my attention, although little else of note showed up before I made my way back to the car and into Frostburg for dinner and the night.
I went out early the next morning hoping to see Golden-winged Warbler en route to the Potomac State Forest lands, but missed it by concentrating on the “old” warbler site (now grown up past its prime for Golden-wingeds, which really like early successional forests/overgrown fields) and ignoring the new habitat across Old Legislative Road that is now supporting the local population. So it was on to Harlow MD and environs. En route I made friends with a very engaging Eastern Milksnake near Swanton.
Where Potomac State Forest is bounded by the Potomac River, it’s a very rich botanical area, and one of the more common plants — in addition to red, painted and white trilliums — is toothwort, in this case Broad-leaved Toothwort, Cardamine diphylla. This is the host plant for West Virginia White, and over the course of the next hour or so of driving some of the back roads I saw well over a dozen of these pale ghosts floating through the forest. This is the first time since I was a graduate student that I’ve seen West Virginia White in MD, and it was a source of great satisfaction. And I could see West Virginia across the Potomac from where the bulk of these butterflies were, so they were living up to their namesake!
Otherwise, little else was flying there, so I packed up and drove back toward I-68 by way of Big Run State Park where I diligently but fruitlessly checked out the unoccupied camp sites for Gray Comma. I also stopped in briefly at Cunningham Swamp WMA at day’s end, where in a fresh, stiff, cool breeze I saw my last butterfly of the trip, my FOY Meadow Fritillary.
After a stop for a quick dinner (Chicken BBQ Wedgie at Brenneman’s Store in Accident MD), I made it to the Citgo on I-68 at Swain Hollow Road about an hour after dark to check out the moth scene around the lights there. Not much going on this early in the season beyond a Luna Moth and a fresh Promethea silk moth, which had I photographed it would have been an Allegany Co record for the Maryland Biodiversity Project! Who knew ….