After two gloomy days of rain, the weekend looks pretty decent for butterflies and other insect observations. After the high winds of last weekend died down, a number of FOY reports came in that could make for good hunting this coming weekend.
Top of the new-for-2016 list is the emergence of the first Satyrium hairstreaks in MD and in PA, in this case Banded Hairstreak and Striped Hairstreaks. And we can always hope then for rarities among them like Oak, Hickory, and Acadian ‘streaks. While a dedicated search for Edwards’ Hairstreak came up empty last weekend (the gale-force winds Sunday may have had something to do with that) in their known location in Frederick Co MD, it’s almost a cinch that they are on the wing now. Visitors to their former haunt in Soldiers Delight should also check out the little remaining scrub oak that the stewards of this natural area have left to see if Edwards’, absent now for many years, has managed to stage a comeback. King’s Hairstreak is flying in the NC in both coastal and mountain habitat but we don’t usually see this secretive and local hairstreak until around the end of June. It pays to keep in mind that King’s and Edwards’ Hairstreaks in particular are early risers that come down to sun early on sunny flat leaves and are usually back up in the canopy and out of sight by 10 am. So much for those of us who turned to butterflying because we hated getting up at the crack of dawn for prime birding.
Fresh American Coppers are out, and while Bronze Coppers are flying in PA they have not yet been reported in their historic strongholds on the Eastern Shore. Bog Coppers are out early in NJ and NY, but usually emerge later in the Pleistocene relict bogs of western MD and eastern WV. Worth checking for, though.
Meadow Fritillaries should be at second brood now, flying with Silver-bordered Fritillaries that emerged this past week in Allegany/Garrett Cos MD. Great Spangled Fritillary is building in numbers for what looks like a good first brood. Variegated Fritillary has been very hard to come by, though, both here and farther south, so the late frosts may have knocked this southern migrant back substantially. In Allegany and Garrett Cos. MD, a new large and dark brood of Pearl Crescent has just emerged and is flying with the worn, light-colored runts of the first brood. As David Wright has noted on the PALepsOdes listserv recently, the whole crescent complex in the Northeast bears scrutiny; there are likely to be one or more cryptic species among them.
Baltimore Checkerspots have been reported from more locations this week.
Look for all the expected grass skippers in the company of hairstreaks and frits on balls of milkweed – sometimes you can find Crossline, Dun, Tawny-edge, Sachem, Peck’s, and Little Glassywing all jostling each other for prime spots these pink globes. Indian Skipper, Long Dash and Hobomok/Zabulon (depending on the habitat) Skippers are flying; pretty sure Black Dash is too if you head farther west toward Garrett Co MD. The folks from Maryland Biodiversity Project in the field in Garrett this weekend should keep their eyes open for them and for Essex (European) Skippers, which have not yet been reported. Among the spreadwings, Wild Indigo is out, so is Horace’s, but we should not be seeing any of the spring spreadwings still except for end-of-flight Dreamies.
A few Appalachian Azures are still on the wing, but from here on out unless you’re in a cool, moist ravine with black cohosh around, the only azures you’re likely to see in the mid-Atlantic are Summer Azures.
Sulphurs and Whites are still below par, although Cabbage (Small) Whites are picking up locally (and my cabbage shows it). Both Clouded and Orange Sulphurs are flying in relatively low numbers. Little Yellows are not being seen in our area yet, nor are Cloudless Sulphurs. This could be a year for irruption of Great Southern Whites, though; they are having a major population boom in Florida and a good coastal storm could move them up the coast.
Nectar Forecast: Dogbane and common milkweed are coming into bloom across the mid-Atlantic; daisy fleabane is at peak or waning; ox-eye daisy is reaching peak in the western counties (good for Hoary Edge and Harris’ Checkerspot). Red and white clovers are in first flush, and peak for the tall white and yellow sweet-clovers. Pickerel-weed and buttonbush are coming on in marshy areas; at Eastern Neck and on the Eastern Shore of MD in particular these should be looked over closely for such early marshy skippers as Salt-marsh, Delaware, Rare, Aaron’s and Dion.
Saturday of this weekend is the annual butterfly count for VA’s Sky Meadows State Park/Thompson WMA. For information, contact coordinator Scott Baron, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Saturday is also the Howard Co MD Odonate Survey, and those of us counting dragonflies and damselflies will likely also see some good butterflies (Baltimore Checkerspot turned up on this count two years ago). To participate or for details, drop a note to Beth Johnson, coordinator, at bajohnsonjohnson [at] verizon [dot] net, and please include your phone number.
Now that the heavy weather of the end of the week has moved through, there should be a number of FOYs or second-brood regulars coming up this weekend; let us know for the next Forecast by commenting here at https://leplog.wordpress.com/ or on Google Groups at MDLepsOdes.