More from the Hairstreak Corner

Tom in the Hairstreak Corner, not content with Hickory, Banded and Striped but intent on picking out an Oak Hairstreak.

Tom in the Hairstreak Corner, not content with Hickory, Banded and Striped but intent on picking out an Oak Hairstreak.

Our second day in northern NJ dawned blue and bright, but by the time we gave the butterflies a chance to warm up and begin flying, the clouds had already begun piling on (completely contrary to the forecast, mind you).  Nevertheless, Tom and I drove the 40 minutes or so up the road from Newton NJ to Canal Road, near Vernon NJ and the Appalachian Trail.  This is another area that colleagues from the northern NJ Butterfly Club had turned us on to, and it was Eyed Brown — a lifer for both me and Tom — that drew us there.

Eyed Brown, abundant in the adjacent fields [2015 JUN 29, photo by REB]

Eyed Brown, abundant in the adjacent fields [2015 JUN 29, photo by REB]

The Canal Road location is a huge palustrine meadow bisected by a boardwalk and associated dry (or at least drier) fields with thistle, milkweed (common and purple), and dogbane.  When we arrived we had some moments of fitful sun, enough to bring out multitudes of Eyed Browns, Baltimore Checkerspots, and a Dion Skipper in addition to the usual suspects for this kind of area (Tom’s full list is appended).  The botanist in me was delighted by the Canada Lilies in the wet meadow, and the birder in both of us appreciated a calling American Bittern.  We ran into a fellow lep observer (who introduced himself as Jeff) in addition to the surprisingly heavy foot traffic on the AT and the boardwalk and shared the location of the Eyed Browns, then headed back that way ourselves en route to the car.  The weather gods favored us with another 20-minute window of hot sunshine that made the tall grasses literally swarm with Eyed Browns.

The boardwalk at Canal Road.

The boardwalk at Canal Road.

First time I've seen Canada Lily.  Spectacular, dotting the palustrine meadow.

First time I’ve seen Canada Lily. Spectacular, dotting the palustrine meadow.

Lunch called, and over a quick stop at a fast-food spot (no LepLunch for us this time, we were on a mission!) we discussed our next destination.  We planned to be back home that night, but it was only around 1 pm so we had some serious daylight still.  However, the weather was not cooperating.  Dark gray banks of clouds persisted.

DIon and Delaware Skippers were welcome surprises at Canal Road.  This is the Dion in full spread [2015 JUN 29, photo by REB]

Dion and Delaware Skippers were welcome surprises at Canal Road. This is the Dion in full spread [2015 JUN 29, photo by REB]

Dion and Delaware Skippers were welcome surprises at Canal Road. This is the freshly minted Delaware  [2015 JUN 29, photo by REB]

Dion and Delaware Skippers were welcome surprises at Canal Road. This is the freshly minted Delaware [2015 JUN 29, photo by REB]

Our original plan, based on welcome intel from good friends we talk with often, was to see if we could track down Acadian Hairstreak about an hour-and-a-half west of our location in the Poconos.  But consulting the weather online and seeing nothing but clouds and a chance of rain there, we convinced ourselves that we should go back to the hairstreak haven at Whittingham and see if there was more activity than the day before — it was at least dry, if cloudy.  So we drove back to Whittingham and the clouds broke into a blue, sunny afternoon as we pulled up into the lot.

Tawny Emperor greeted us as we drove up in the parking lot at Whittingham. [2015 JUN 29, photo by REB]

Tawny Emperor greeted us as we drove up in the parking lot at Whittingham. [2015 JUN 29, photo by REB]

We knew we’d made the right decision with lots of action at the puddles in the parking lot, so we hit one of the large milkweed fields we had been rained out of the previous day.  Surprisingly, there wasn’t much going on there — but we thought we had a reason why.  At the parking lot, there were dozens of hairstreaks high in the walnut trees around the lot, dogfighting and spiraling up into the stratosphere.  And as we cut across a wooded trail from one lot to another, we saw dozens of Banded Hairstreaks mating, fighting, and basking at the edge of the clearing — along with one very wary Harvester!  We also had our first Striped Hairstreak near here.

Striped Hairstreak, MIA the day before, showed up in small numbers on dogbane. [2015 JUN 29, photo by REB]

Striped Hairstreak, MIA the day before, showed up in small numbers on dogbane. [2015 JUN 29, photo by REB]

Many Dun Skippers, Great Spangled Frits and Little Glassywings later, we returned to the dogbane patch affectionately known as the Hairstreak Corner, but since it was now late in the day and the patch was in deep shade we weren’t very hopeful.  So imagine our surprise when every single dogbane was festooned with hairstreaks, hundreds of them, mostly Hickory Hairstreak but with good numbers of Banded and a few Striped Hairstreaks as well.  Nobody was flying; they were all crawling over the dogbane flowers methodically, oblivious to our presence, only occasionally zipping off into the nearby canopy.  We spent a good hour there going through all of them in a fruitless effort to pick out an Oak Hairstreak, and we almost talked ourselves into one, but review of the pics later confirmed it was a — well, we’re not sure what, but it wasn’t Oak.

Mating Banded Hairstreaks in a woodside clearing [2015 JUN 29, photo by REB]

Mating Banded Hairstreaks in a woodside clearing [2015 JUN 29, photo by REB]

The male Banded Hairstreaks engaged in the unusual behavior of flattening themselves against leaves -- it was quite warm at this point and I doubt they were basking -- before darting out to harass other males.  They literally pressed themselves against the leaves.  [2015 JUN 29, photo by REB]

The male Banded Hairstreaks engaged in the unusual behavior of flattening themselves against leaves — it was quite warm at this point and I doubt they were basking — before darting out to harass other males. They literally pressed themselves against the leaves. [2015 JUN 29, photo by REB]

With the shadows lengthening, we walked back to the car, snacking on mulberries and raspberries, and checking out the puddles again.  Our last image of Whittingham was a pair of Baltimore Orioles bathing in one of the rain pools.

Both Canal Road and Whittingham are truly unique butterfly experiences, and Tom and I are grateful for the camaraderie and counsel from our colleagues in northern NJ.

And a farewell to the Hairstreak Corner and our life Hickory Hairstreaks! [2015 JUN 29, photo by REB]

And a farewell to the Hairstreak Corner and our life Hickory Hairstreaks! [2015 JUN 29, photo by REB]

Tom’s lists for Day 2 of the Jersey adventure:

In the following, notations of relative abundance follow NABA criteria. Exact counts of species numbering 10 or less are given.

C – Common: 11-20
A – Abundant: 21-100
S – Plentiful/Superabundant : > 100

June 29, 2015:  Canal Road — New Jersey Appalachian Trail, Sussex County, New Jersey

Cabbage White (8)
Clouded Sulphur (1)
Banded Hairstreak (2)
Eastern Tailed Blue (3)
Great Spangled Fritillary (abundant)
Pearl Crescent (5)
Baltimore Checkerspot (4)
Red Admiral (7)
Hackberry Emperor (1)
Northern Pearly-eye (3)
Eyed Brown (abundant ~90) LIFER
Little Wood Satyr (common)
Common Wood-Nymph (common)
Silver-spotted Skipper (3)
Least Skipper (abundant)
Long Dash (1)
Northern Broken-Dash (1)
Little Glassywing (common)
Delaware Skipper (1)
Dion Skipper (1)
Dun Skipper (8)

June 29, 2015:  Whittingham Wildlife Management Area, Sussex County, New Jersey

Cabbage White (common)
Clouded Sulphur (common)
Orange Sulphur (common)
Harvester (1)
Banded Hairstreak (abundant)
Hickory Hairstreak (plentiful)
Striped Hairstreak (4)
Eastern Tailed Blue (11)
Summer Azure (abundant)
Great Spangled Fritillary (plentiful)
Question Mark (1)
Eastern Comma (1)
American Lady (1)
Painted Lady (2)
Red Admiral (1)
Viceroy (1)
Tawny Emperor (1)
Northern Pearly-eye (1)
Little Wood Satyr (6)
Common Wood-Nymph (4)
Silver-spotted Skipper (common)
European Skipper (1)
Northern Broken-Dash (1)
Little Glassywing (abundant)
Dun Skipper (3)

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