Western Maryland Foray

Tom Stock and I this week spent a day this week poking around some of the forest and bog areas of Allegany Co MD, lured by recent intel from Kathy Barylski and others that some of the more northern species were on the wing in this western county on the shoulders of Appalachia.  Our goal was to end up at Finzel Swamp, a protected Nature Conservancy property on the county line between Garrett and Allegany counties, but the butterfly road to western Maryland seldom runs straight for us.

A Hackberry Emperor takes a shine to Tom's' leg in Green Ridge State Forest [2015 June 10, photo by REB]

A Hackberry Emperor takes a shine to Tom’s’ leg in Green Ridge State Forest [2015 June 10, photo by REB]

The diversions started with a simple thought to check out Hoop Pole Road in Green Ridge State Forest for Hoary Edge, an uncommon skipper much like Silver-spotted Skipper but with an irregular, larger white blotch on its hindwing and a much more restricted diet and habitat.  En route, though, we stopped along Swain Hollow Road to check on the population of round-leaved ragwort (host plant to Northern Metalmark), and then along Sideling Hill Creek to see if there were any Giant Swallowtails (no, but there were lots of Red-spotted Purples, Northern Pearly-eye, and Little Wood Satyrs).  Then we headed toward Hoop Pole but were distracted again by blooming New Jersey tea, host plant for Mottled Duskywing and a very popular nectar plant for lots of other pollinators.  We figured we’d missed the Mottled Duskywing flight — it’s an early spring species — and indeed we saw only FOY Banded Hairstsreaks, Northern Cloudywings, and Summer Azures on the flowers.  But we also saw FOY Tawny Emperor and Hackberry Emperor along the roadside, and a surprisingly worn Little Glasswing, before heading up Hoop Pole, where in fact we did see Hoary Edge.

Hoary Edge posing cooperatively along Hoop Pole Road in Green Ridge State Forest [2015 June 10, photo by REB]

Hoary Edge posing cooperatively along Hoop Pole Road in Green Ridge State Forest [2015 June 10, photo by REB]

By now it’s almost noon, so we really had to scoot to get over to Finzel.  It was warm, dry and sunny; perfect butterfly weather.  Tom and I had come here many times over the years in search of Silver-bordered Fritillary and Harris’ Checkerspot, which had occasionally been seen by other observers who gleefully recounted their sightings, but in five years of searching we’d never seen these butterflies.  So it was with guarded optimism we got out of the car at Finzel.

First we checked out the little hillside next to the parking lot, the site of an old dump site for a greenhouse that still has carnations, comfrey, oregano and other domestics that prove attractive to butterflies.  This visit was no exception:  many Long Dash and European Skippers worked the area, and Great Spangled Fritillaries and huge, lemony, floppy Appalachian Swallowtails sailed across regularly.  Quite  a few late Dreamy Duskywings were still hanging out.  But none of our targets.

Long Dash skippers were everywhere, including this mating pair [2015 June 10, photo by REB]

Long Dash skippers were everywhere, including this mating pair [2015 June 10, photo by REB]

So off onto the boardwalk we headed.  Summer Azures were everywhere, and we looked closely (but unsuccessfully) for Harvester in the alder thickets.  But only a short way in a pristine small frit flew in onto a viburnum beside the trail — a Silver-bordered Fritillary! (it was to be one of a double-digit tally for the day)

Silver-bordered Fritillary nectaring at swamp-side viburnum [2-15 June 10, photo by REB]

Silver-bordered Fritillary nectaring at swamp-side viburnum [2015 June 10, photo by REB]

Silver-bordered Fritillary nectaring at swamp-side viburnum [2-15 June 10, photo by REB]

Silver-bordered Fritillary nectaring at swamp-side viburnum [2015 June 10, photo by REB]

We worked our way farther up out of the swamp area into the upland fields without seeing much else, but as we entered the first field we immediately saw a large crescent-like, dark butterfly.  Harris’ Checkerspot, another mostly boreal rarity we seldom see here, but a frost pocket relict bog like Finzel is exactly where you’d expect them.  Unlike the Silver-bordered Fritillary, the checkerspots were mostly quite worn, suggesting they had been out for quite a while already.

Harris' Checkerspot in the Finzel meadows  [2015 June 10, photo by REB]

Harris’ Checkerspot in the Finzel meadows [2015 June 10, photo by REB]

Harris' Checkerspot in the Finzel meadows  [2015 June 10, photo by REB]

Harris’ Checkerspot in the Finzel meadows [2015 June 10, photo by REB]

It wasn’t long before we started picking up more of both the Silver-bordered Frits and the Harris’ Checkerspots, and even Baltimore Checkerspot.  Long Dash and European Skippers remained distractingly abundant, along with a few Hobomok Skippers (males and the dark-form female ‘pocahontas’), and more expected Little Wood Satyrs, Least Skipper, and Eastern Tailed-blue.

Our last butterfly as we got back to the car was a final Baltimore Checkerspot puddling in the mud of the parking lot.  A fine end to a fine day, and the satisfaction of finally seeing these iconic species in their ancient bog holdout.

A head-on Baltimore Checkerspot in the upper meadow [2015 June 10, photo by REB]

A head-on Baltimore Checkerspot in the upper meadow [2015 June 10, photo by REB]

Tom’s full tally for the day is below:

Green Ridge State Forest:

Pipevine Swallowtail (3)
Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (1)
Cabbage White (3)
Orange Sulphur (2)
Banded Hairstreak (4)
Eastern Tailed Blue (1)
Summer Azure (3)
Great Spangled Fritillary (8)
Eastern Comma (1)
American Lady (2)
Red-spotted Purple (common)
Hackberry Emperor (1)
Tawny Emperor (1)
Northern Pearly-eye (1)
Little Wood Satyr (4)
Silver-spotted Skipper (5)
Hoary Edge (1)
Northern Cloudywing (4)
Little Glassywing (1)

Finzel Swamp:

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (2)
Appalachian Tiger Swallowtail (9)
Orange Sulphur (1)
Eastern Tailed Blue (1)
Summer Azure (abundant)
Silver-bordered Fritillary (11)
Harris’ Checkerspot (9)
Pearl Crescent (common)
Baltimore Checkerspot (3)
Question Mark (1)
Red-spotted Purple (1)
Little Wood Satyr (common)
Silver-spotted Skipper (6)
Dreamy Duskywing (common)
Horace’s Duskywing (2)
Least Skipper (1)
European Skipper (abundant)
Peck’s Skipper (5)
Long Dash (abundant)
Hobomok Skipper (common)
Zabulon Skipper (1)

This entry was posted in Field Trips/Annual Counts, general butterfly news, sightings. Bookmark the permalink.

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