Perfect Day in Green Ridge SF

2017APR09 Olympia Marble_GRSF_Tom Stock photo

The only Olympia Marble we found at rest (thanks Tom Feild!) [2017 April 9, Green Ridge State Forest, photo by Tom Stock]

Spring comes early — and earlier than most people think — to the ridges and valleys of Green Ridge State Forest.  This patchwork of shaded streams, shale cliffs, barrens, and hemlock groves bisected by mostly dirt (and sometimes little of that!) roads and powerlines gives some of the best habitat for unusual butterfly sightings in the spring season.

This area warms up surprisingly early in the spring.  Common wisdom used to be that Green Ridge was never really productive until late April or early May; that may have been true once, and it’s clear that warming average temperatures in the East have advanced the spring schedule somewhat, but I think what’s really going on is that butterfliers just don’t get out early enough in the Green Ridge to see the first flush of leps.

Some of the most productive habitat lies along south- and west-facing slopes under powerlines, on sparsely forested ridgelines, and on the few remaining shale barrens.  Here, even with ambient air temperatures in the 40’sF, the microhabitat at ground level can be 70F or higher.  This brings out some real specialties in early spring.

Green Ridge is the state’s last known redoubt for Olympia Marble, whose numbers have rebounded somewhat over the past decade.  It’s never abundant anywhere in the area, but by assiduously checking out every female Falcate Orangetip along the higher elevation roads and ridgetops, lucky observers will likely see a handful of Marbles in a full day and many road-miles of exploration.  Other specialties are more accommodating; Silvery Blues are found regularly wherever its larval host Carolina Vetch grows, and that’s over much of Green Ridge where there’s sufficient sun.  Tortoiseshells are seen here sporadically, and both Dreamy and Sleepy Duskywings can be abundant.

2017APR09 mating silvery blues_GRSF_Tom Stock pic

Silvery Blues were in courtship and mating condition, this pair along a powerline. [2017 April 9, photo by Tom Stock]

I joined an impromptu party of naturalists — some by arrangement, and some by lucky happenstance as we ran into each other on the back roads — for most of the day yesterday, one of the best field days I’ve had in Green Ridge. By the time it coalesced, the group included Tom Stock, Jim Brighton, Tom and Geraldine Feild, Jared Satchell, Jim Stasz, Matt Orsie and Barry Marts. We found Olympia Marbles, our primary target species, in several locations, including one area where it has been absent for at least a decade.  The full list below of species seen between us is courtesy of Tom Stock’s recordkeeping:

Zebra Swallowtail (3)
Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (2)
Cabbage White (abundant)
Olympia Marble (~6, observed closely or in hand)
Falcate Orangetip (abundant)
Orange Sulphur (1)
Eastern Pine Elfin (2)
Gray Hairstreak (4)
Summer Azure (abundant) [I checked the wing scaling of a number of specimens in hand to confirm they were spring brood Summer Azure rather than Spring Azure]
Silvery Blue (7)
Mourning Cloak (3)
American Lady (1)
Red Admiral (1)
Sleepy Duskywing (abundant)
Juvenal’s Duskywing (abundant)

We were also treated to another insect specialty of Green Ridge, Cow Path Tiger Beetle, a handsome creature of dry barrens and short grass.

2017APR02 C purpurea Cow Path Tiger Beetle_MD-Allegany CO-GRSF

Cow Path Tiger Beetle in Green Ridge State Forest taken last weekend [2017 April 2, photo by REB]

Of course, no excursion Tom Stock & I take is complete without a LepLunch shout-out, in this case a LepDinner at Buddy Lou’s in Hancock, MD, where we could relax on the outside deck and plan more of the summer butterfly calendar.  Some of the counts and field trips are already posted here on LepLog at https://leplog.wordpress.com/2017-field-trips-counts/.  We’d be glad to see you joining us.

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