Sometimes you have to multitask in a hurry. Sometimes you just aren’t fast enough.
On last weekend’s field trip for the Natural History Field Studies course on Fall Butterflies, the class and I were focused on a Hayhurst’s Scallopwing, always a good sighting, in the Ingleside Recreation Area of Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge just north of the Bay Bridge in Kent Co. With all eyes on the Scallopwing, we almost ignored the brightly patterned black-and-white butterfly frantically flying around our feet — an almost unbelievable White Admiral! Of course, by the time we retrained our cameras on it (and I hauled out the net), said Admiral had lofted up through the trees and out of sight, not to return during our visit. This represents an apparent first record of White Admiral on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. And also last week, we had reports of a second White Admiral observed as road kill in Garrett Co., a somewhat more expected location for this normally northern version of Red-spotted Purple.
Among other interesting species we saw as a group at Eastern Neck included plenty of the purple version Red-spotted Purple, both Hackberry and Tawny Emperors, Snouts, Cloudless Sulphurs, Sleepy Oranges, and common Gray and Red-banded Hairstreaks. The surrounding fields held clouds of Monarchs — a fine fall southward migration building if these numbers are any indication.
Otherwise the list of new butterflies for the season is drawing down, as it always does this time of year. Common Checkered-skipper, Clouded Skipper, and the vagrant pierids are the highlights just now. White M Hairstreak should have been reported but wasn’t; we’re still missing regional sightings this year of Great Purple Hairstreak (which will have a late summer brood) and Bronze Copper (ditto). Gray Comma is likely flying in Garrett Co., and tortoiseshells are always a Hail Mary possibility in Allegany Co. Giant Swallowtail should be flying but has also been MIA this season in the mid-Atlantic.
Of the vagrant southern skippers we always keep an eye out for this year, we have seen a few Long-tailed Skippers and Ocola Skippers. Very rarely we might see Whirlabout, Brazilian (Canna), and Eufala Skippers; we might also spot more Gulf Fritillaries, Queens, and Julias, but a decade or more can go by without sightings (and there were no further sightings beyond the three Gulf Fritillaries in the DC Metro area two weeks ago).
The weekend weather will be perturbed by the remnants of Hurricane Harvey, but Labor Day Monday should offer some good opportunities for butterfly watching. Later next week there’s a possibility that Hurricane Irma might trouble the East Coast, which could deposit some out-of-range butterflies here. If you get out and see anything interesting, let us know here at https://leplog.wordpress.com/ or by posting to Google Groups at MDLepsOdes.