If we do get some sun breaks over the weekend, folks should be looking for Harvesters (which show up this time of year for us and have already been seen at several locations in VA and in southern NY) and American Coppers, for which there are a couple of local sightings already. Dusted Skipper almost certainly is flying (or at least huddled down in the middle of bluestem clumps waiting out the rain) at Soldiers Delight and in other dry habitats where it’s been found.
Appalachian Azures should be flying where black cohosh grows on moist, wooded ravines (which also gives the plant some protection from deer browse); if you check out the population in Frederic (MD) Municipal Watershed be sure to also look for the Pepper-and-Salt Skippers we found there last year. And check out the “tigers” while you’re there – Eastern Tiger Swallowtail is still flying there, but it’s winding down and the brood of Appalachian Tiger Swallowtails should be emerging. In this area, it’s often a dicey proposition telling them apart; Frederick Co. apparently sits in a fairly stable hybrid swarm zone and you can get a range of butterflies that exhibit the gamut of features between Eastern and Appalachian. Here’s a good tutorial.
Most of the elfin populations are on the wane, but Hoary Elfin is being seen in numbers in NJ and there’s always a chance (hope springs eternal!) it could be found in the bog areas of Garrett Co, where it is presumed to feed on trailing arbutus rather than bearberry, its NJ host plant. Frosted Elfin has not yet been reported locally, but is flying in PA, NJ and into New England, so an hour or two of sunshine on MD’s Eastern Shore would make it worth checking out lupine stands on road shoulders of side roads up and down MD 12 from Salisbury to Snow Hill. They won’t venture far from blooming lupine.
There’s a veritable explosion of Question Marks to our south in the Carolinas, so it would be worth watching for increasing numbers of these sometimes irruptive migrants here – so far, they’ve had a rather poor flight locally.
Also south of our region, where it appears they have had a bit more sunshine, a lot of FOY grass skippers have popped that we should be looking for as well – Least, Zabulon, Hobomok, Sachem, Peck’s and Crossline Skippers (Zabulon has also been seen in PA already). Other new for the season leps they’re seeing in VA or the Carolinas that we should keep our eyes peeled for include Common Sootywing and Hayhurst’s Scallopwing. Carolina Satyr is having a strong flight there already, but hasn’t been reported yet from its expanding locations in MD.
NJ reports the first local Monarchs, Viceroys, and Common Buckeyes this year regionally as well (likely as migrants following the coastline north). Both expected cloudywings, Northern and Southern, could show up now, especially along the ridge roads in Green Ridge State Forest (MD); they’ve already been spotted in NJ. Our chances for rare sightings of Confused Cloudywing increase later in the season.
And lastly, we’re coming close to the season to see the first brood of MD’s State Butterfly, the Baltimore Checkerspot. Palustrine meadows with turtlehead that hasn’t been munched to the ground in the piedmont and mountain counties are the holdout for this beautiful species. As many of you know, the habit of the young caterpillars is to live for the first couple of instars in a communal web, often at the tip-top of the turtlehead plant – right at deer browse level, and the deer don’t seem to mind at all getting a mouthful of web and caterpillar proteins along with tender new growth of turtlehead.
The only listed butterfly field trip of the weekend is May 8 to Lizard Tail Swamp near in Cape May Co NJ; check out the details at https://blogs.stockton.edu/sjbfs/2016/04/19/field-trip-to-lizard-tail-swamp-preserve-may-8/
Ever the optimist, even on weekends like the one coming up, I’ll remind readers to please report sightings here at https://leplog.wordpress.com/ and on Google Groups at MDLepsOdes.