Green Ridge LepTrek — Marble, Silver, and Cobwebs

ExaminingAMarble_rsz

MD/LOG field trip participants examine an Olympia Marble in Green Ridge State Forest. Left to right: Rick, Tim, Tom, Darcy, Beth (partially obscured) and Mark. Monica took the pic and Don was undoubtedly off chasing a Pine Elfin for a money shot. [2016 April 17]

The Maryland Leps/Odes Group (MD/LOG) hosted its inaugural field trip Sunday on a foray to Green Ridge for the shale barren specialties for which this area is justly famous.  Beth Johnson, Tom Stock and I from MD/LOG drove out to Green Ridge State Forest early on Sunday morning, having advance notice from our scout and colleague Tim Reichard that our favorite staging location, the Citgo station at exit 72, was closed for renovation of the plaza and gas pumps.  So we quickly regrouped for our alternate location, the Visitor Center and Headquarters just down the highway on M.V. Smith Road.  Joining us there were Tim, Darcy Herman, and Mark Sabiston from the metro area and our friends from PA Leps/Odes Monica Miller and Don Weiss.

uhler'ssundragon

Uhler’s Sundragon, an uncommon to rare early spring dragonfly of clear forest streams. [2016 April 17, photo by Don Weiss]

First stop was along Sideling Hill Creek, where we puzzled over the array of duskywings, carefully picking out Juvenal’s and Sleepy Duskywings and seeing three of the currently flying swallowtails:  Eastern Tiger, Zebra and Spicebush.  We saw our first of many Falcate Orangetips, at this season about 50/50 male/female.  And we walked up the road a bit to a cluster of old Eastern red-cedars, where we saw a couple of likely Olive (Juniper) Hairstreaks well up in the trees but could not get a lock on them.  I lucked out when Tim pointed to a flying ode that landed and gave us all great looks at one of the specialties of Sideling Hill Creek, Uhler’s Sundragon!  The group was also treated to a very cooperative Northern Black Racer apparently enjoying the sunshine as much as we were.

northernblacksnake

Northern Black Racer [2016 April 17, photo by Don Weiss]

Next up was a stop along Stottlemeyer Road with a row of blooming redbud on the left and a shale scree bank with blooming pussytoes, ragwort, saxifrage and bird’s-foot violet on the right.  Interspersed with the redbud was more red-cedar, and here we got good looks at Olive Hairstreaks.  Also on tap were Spring Azures ovipositing on flowering dogwood, more duskywings, and our first Pipevine Swallowtail.

The turn up Hoop Pole Road gave us two of our three elfins for the day, Brown and Henry’s.

With the afternoon well upon us, we stopped for a quick picnic lunch before assaying the treacherously steep and crumbly descent (and then ascent) to the best of the known Olympia Marble sites.  En route to the sweet spot we found one of several Cobweb Skippers seen by members of the group.  We spent an hour or so there, alternately catching our breaths and chasing small whites that invariably turned out to be Falcates.

cobwebskipper

Cobweb Skipper nectaring on vetch. This is another univoltine species, flying in early-mid-spring on barrens and dry hillside areas with bluestem grasses [2016 April 17, photo by Don Weiss]

Tim relieved the tedium by hustling up a couple of Pine Elfins to make it an elfin trifecta day, and we had a number of the rare and local Cow Path Tiger Beetles that share the dry barrens habitat with Marbles.  We were getting ready to slip-slide back down the shale scree when Mark yelled out “Marble!” and sent us all scrambling over to find a very gravid female nectaring near the ground on small cresses and field pansies.  It started to fly off and I netted it for closer looks.  We had two more on the descent and climb back up to the waiting cars.  Don and Monica took an alternate and less life-threatening path back to the cars and thence back to PA; the rest of us struggled back up the hillside we’d butt-slid down.

The way you *want* to see Olympia Marbles in Green Ridge [photo by Don Weiss, 2016 April 16]

The way you *want* to see Olympia Marbles in Green Ridge [photo by Don Weiss, 2016 April 17]

The way you'd rather *not* see an Olympia Marble in Green Ridge [photo by Don Weiss, 2016 April 17]

The way you’d rather *not* see an Olympia Marble in Green Ridge [photo by Don Weiss, 2016 April 17]

Those amazing Marble eyes [2016 April 17, photo by Darcy Herman]

Those amazing Marble eyes [2016 April 17, photo by Darcy Herman]

The sun was starting to drop below the tree level when we made it finally to  the start of Kasecamp Road, where our first concentration of Dreamy Skippers fluttered around the gravel lot.  On the shale hillside above us, we finally saw Silvery Blues, a lifer for some of the team and one of the our targets (along with Marbles and Cobweb Skipper).

After a stop at the overlook of the Potomac on Carroll Road — and a chance to watch a flock of wild turkeys sort out territorial and sexual hierarchy on the fields below — Mark and Darcy peeled off to return Tim to his car while Tom, Beth and I headed into Hancock for a celebratory dinner at Buddy Lou’s — where Tim rejoined us out on the patio for some well-earned dinner and discussion of our sightings of the day.

A new LepLunch locale in Hancock: Buddy Lou's

A new LepLunch locale in Hancock: Buddy Lou’s

We’re indebted to everyone who took photos, but especially to ace photographer Don Weiss, whose other butterfly photography is stunning too.

Here’s the species list Tom put together for us:

Butterfly List for MdLepsOdes Trip to Green Ridge State Forest, Allegany County, Maryland

April 17, 2016

All species were common to abundant except as noted:

Pipevine Swallowtail (2)

Zebra Swallowtail

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

Spicebush Swallowtail (1)

Cabbage White (6)

Olympia Marble (3) (2 netted, one on-the-wing ID)

Falcate Orangetip

Clouded Sulphur (2)

Orange Sulphur (8)

Brown Elfin (2)

Henry’s Elfin (5)

Pine Elfin (3)

Olive (Juniper) Hairstreak (3)

Eastern Tailed Blue

Spring Azure

Silvery Blue (1)

Eastern Comma (1)

Mourning Cloak (1)

American Lady (5)

Pearl Crescent (2)

Dreamy Duskywing

Sleepy Duskywing

Juvenal’s Duskywing

Wild Indigo Duskywing (1)

Cobweb Skipper (1) (Don and Monica saw more on the way back to their car)

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

2 Responses to Green Ridge LepTrek — Marble, Silver, and Cobwebs

  1. Don Weiss says:

    A good description of a great day. Thanks for sharing your time, and your extensive knowledge with us. Between butterflies, dragonflies and birds, I managed at least 6 lifers. I also realized that I am not as feeble as I thought I was. It felt good to do a little climbing and hiking. Thank you also for sharing my website link. It has already had quite a few of visitors. Looking forward to the next outing! Thanks, again, Don

  2. Tom Stock says:

    Great write up Rick. I had a great time with the group! The scramble down (and up and down and up again) to and from the Marble site was epic, but well worth the effort. The sight of Don lugging his cannon sized lens down that slope will stay with me for a long, long time – and with Don too I suspect! It was a Herculean feat… Great birds too – my favorite was a Broad-winged Hawk calling overhead (“Is that a Pewee?”) as we ate lunch. And of course the Wild Turkeys. Thanks to everyone on the trip for wonderful companionship, and thanks, Monica, for the mandarin oranges!

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