Finally Some New Summer Leps

Whether it’s because we haven’t been out in the mediocre weather lately or because there really hasn’t been much new on the wing (and late May-early June is often a doldrums time for new FOYs here in the mid-Atlantic anyway), it’s been pretty quiet.  So Tom Stock and I took the fine weather yesterday as an excuse to bail out of work and head out to Allegany and Garrett Counties in MD.

Our first stop, as it usually is, was the rest area at the Sideling Hill road cut, where we usually check out the slopes above the restrooms and downslope of the parking lot to get a sense of what’s flying.  We usually pick up our first Essex (European) Skippers here on our treks west, but saw none yesterday (and indeed saw none anywhere on our sojourn).  A couple of Small (Cabbage) Whites and Silver-spotted Skippers might have portended a meager list for our field trip.

But we were encouraged to see a number of species at Green Ridge State Forest, including (as predicted in this week’s Forecast!) newly emerged Hoary Edge skippers, the kissing cousin of Silver-spotted Skippers that look like someone took a thumb and smeared the silver spot all over the back end of the Hoary’s ventral hind wing.  The go-to place for these butterflies — which used to be much more widely distributed in MD — is along the Sideling Hill Creek drainage, and especially along the first third of Hoop Pole Road off of Stottlemeyer Road.  They are especially fond of Ox-Eye Daisies, now in bloom along Hoop Pole.



Hoary Edge at dogbane along Hoop Pole Road in Green Ridge State Forest, Allegany Co MD. [2016 June 10, photo by Tom Stock]

We also noted that a plant we watch carefully here, New Jersey Tea, seems to have mounted something of a recovery along Hoop Pole.  It’s the host plant for Mottled Duskywing, presumable extirpated in MD, but hope springs eternal.  And even when it isn’t hosting Mottled, New Jersey Tea is usually a magnet for various hairstreaks, of which Tom and I saw not one the entire day.

We did, however, pick up FOYs of both emperors, Hackberry and Tawny, as well as more-expected Great Spangled Fritillaries, Northern Cloudywing, and Silvery Checkerspot.  Dreamy Duskywing was hanging on well both here and in Finzel Swamp, our next destination.


Tom hosting a special friend in the way of a Hackberry Emperor at Green Ridge. We also had Tawny Emperor here. [2016 June 10, photo by RE]

At Finzel, we started out as we usually do in the tip dump from the old greenhouse by the parking lot, which after years still has a feral population of comfrey and oregano.  The oregano was not yet in bloom, but brambles were, and in and around the little hillock we had our first inkling that Hobomoks were having a banner year here, and that Long Dash has emerged.  But it wasn’t until we made our way out through the swamp proper to the old homestead that we picked up the target species we had come to see, Harris’ Checkerspot.  They were fresh out, pristine, and relatively cooperative, although the rising breezes made photography a challenge.  Tom waited patiently for this underside shot:


Striking underside shot of Harris’ Checkerspot in Finzel Swamp on the border between Allegany and Garrett Counties MD [2016 June 10, photo by Tom Stock]

The escaped carnations in the upland field by the rustic fence held an abundance of both Hobomoks and Long Dash skippers, easily the most common butterflies at Finzel.  And the large summer form female Pearl Crescents, themselves newly emerged and fairly dark, often gave us merry chases thinking we were stalking Harris’ Checkerspots.


Long Dash displaying the extended stigma that gives this species its common name [2016 June 10, Finzel Swamp, photo by REB}

At dinner over crab cakes and potato pancakes at Buddylou’s in Hancock, we puzzled over why we aren’t seeing hairstreaks to speak of yet.  Yes, it could be they are late emerging, but we also suspect it’s a matter of concentration, not ours but theirs– dogbane and other milkweeds are just coming into bloom, and when we look for hairstreaks, that’s the first place we look.  These butterfly attractors serve to concentrate hairstreaks when they are blooming, and it might just be that hairstreaks are much more widely dispersed where we *aren’t* looking for them until the milkweeds come on strong — and not coincidentally, often along easy to access roadsides.  This I suspect also reflects the concern that Great Purple Hairstreak, a mistletoe specialist from the Eastern Shore, is declining in numbers.  I believe instead it’s still a very common butterfly, and what has changed is the mowing regime on the roadsides of Dorchester, Wicomico and Worcester counties, which has turned the right of ways in these southern counties into croquet lawns.  The Great Purples are still there, is my guess — they’re just out in the wetlands on buttonbush and not within easy viewing of lazy lepidopterists cruising back roads from the air conditioned comfort of their cars (a necessity on this hot, hazy, humid weekend).

Tom as usual kept the official list:

June 10, 2016: Western Maryland
Green Ridge State Forest, Allegany County
Several seen of each species unless otherwise indicated
Zebra Swallowtail
Eastern Tiger Swallowtail
Spicebush Swallowtail
Cabbage White
Clouded Sulphur
Orange Sulphur
Summer Azure
Great Spangled Fritillary
Silvery Checkerspot (2)
Hackberry Emperor (3)
Tawny Emperor (1)
Little Wood Satyr
Silver-spotted Skipper
Hoary Edge (2)
Northern Cloudywing (1)
Dreamy Duskywing (1)
Hobomok Skipper (1)
Finzel Swamp, on the border of Allegany and Garrett Counties
Black Swallowtail (1)
Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (3)
Summer Azure (common)
Harris’ Checkerspot (2)
Pearl Crescent (common)
Little Wood Satyr (7)
Silver-spotted Skipper (8)
Dreamy Duskywing (8)
Horace’s Duskywing (1)
Peck’s Skipper (1)
Indian Skipper (6)
Long Dash (abundant)
Hobomok Skipper (abundant)
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2 Responses to Finally Some New Summer Leps

  1. Sibylla Brown says:

    Although I live in south central Iowa, well outside your range, I really enjoy your blog. I’m learning a lot.

    I had a highly unusual Hickory hairstreak sighting on June 9. I found 1 specimen at 5:00 AM on the lighted sheet I was checking for moths. This was in the 200 acre oak and hickory savanna my husband and I have been restoring since 1993. I had hoped to eventually find this hairstreak in our restoration but certainly not at the moth light.

    Sibylla Brown


    • Rick says:

      Thanks for the kind words, Sibylla. Hairstreaks are not uncommon visitors to light sheets; Red-banded Hairstreak in particular often shows up at moth nights here in Maryland. Many of them are crepuscular anyway, flying mostly in early morning and late afternoon, and often in shade, so this should not be too surprising.

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