Sunday night was cool, too, so we didn’t rush into the field as we had on Sunday morning. Our original plan had been to head north by about an hour to Namekagon Barrens, a similar but somewhat drier habit, but having only Mottled Duskywing left on our target list that Namekagon would have provided, and given good intel that it would be just as likely at Crex, we opted to drive less and lep more.Our first stop took us to Sand Rock Cliffs, a National Park Service location along the St. Croix River just east of the WI/MN state line. Not much was happening lep-wise, but Beth was able to score what probably was Delicate Emerald, as well as probably Rusty Snaketail, both pending our review of photos from the field. A few candidates for Canadian Tiger Swallowtail sailed past, but nothing we could definitively ID. At one point, a very fat Nessus Sphinx dropped onto a shrub in front of us and posed well for photos. More than adequate compensation for the lack of butterflies was the presence of multiple and visually cooperative singing males of both Golden-winged Warbler and Blue-winged Warbler along the entrance road.
By mid-morning, we retraced our steps to Crex and opted to hit the northeast quadrant, with a bit more water and less barren. Our decision was rewarded with a puddle party of Canadian Swallowtails, quite still and posing for their photo shoot, as well as a half dozen or more Arctic Skippers and a Cloudywing, in addition to the now-ubiquitous Northern Crescent. The rising winds made photography difficult, so we continued to a swale with some protection from the wind where we’d understood that Mottled Duskywing had been seen in previous years. We were unsuccessful on the Duskywing front, but did run into veteran WI butterfly maven Dan Sonnenberg, who was on the hunt for Western Tailed-blue. We joined forces for a bit at this location, and evaluated several candidates before discarding them as Karners, Eastern Talked-blues, or Silvery Blues. We gave Don our coordinates for yesterday’s successful Western Tailed-blue sightings, and continued back to the famous Crex Ridge where we’d hoped to find Mottled Duskywing yesterday.
The wind was ripping again by the time we got there in mid-late afternoon, and we were franklydoubtful we’d see much. We had picked up Viceroy, Monarch, and a few other interesting but not stupendous leps and were about to call it quits before we opted to make one more sortie through the abundant stands of New Jersey Tea at the ridge top, the larval host for Mottled Duskywing. After sorting through more Dreamy Duskywings, Northern Cloudywings, and Dusted Skippers, there appeared – mirabilis dictu! – a fresh Mottled Duskywing clinging for dear life to a stalk of pussytoes in bloom. Photographing the little skipper was a major challenge, both because it dueled constantly with other butterflies (at least one of which was another Mottled), and because the wind kept blowing it away. Luckily, it had great site fidelity and invariably returned to somewhere near the lee side of a shrubby oak and its patch of pussytoes.
The temperature at this point, while the sky was still sunny, had begun to plummet rather rapidly. Or at least it seemed so to me, who did not realize at the time I was catching a major summer cold and alternately burning up and freezing. I assumed it was some allergy to an unusual pollen in the bogs. So we wrapped up soon thereafter, hit a couple of waterholes on the way back for odes, and ended up at a different kind of watering hole – Adventures – for more local microbrews and a tally rally that included ALL SIX of our target species and a couple more lifers for Beth as well.