The abundant rain and warm temperatures have brought a number of species out earlier than expected in this generally slow spring or in better numbers than their first broods might have promised. In VA and the Carolinas, for example, there’s a veritable explosion of anglewings (Eastern Comma and Question Mark) this week, progeny of the overwintering adults we saw in small to modest numbers this spring. Silvery Checkerspot there is having a major flight; it’s just beginning here so hard to say how impressive it will be farther north. Pearl Crescent’s spring flight has been underwhelming so far, but Harry Pavulaan reminds us to look closely at the crescents in western MD for Northern Crescents (flying now in northern VA near the mountains) or potential cryptic undescribed species — the systematics of this group is in such flux in the mid-Atlantic that it may take years of study to untangle, and it’s probably best to refer locally to butterflies being in the cocyta-group (with orange undersides of the male antenna club) and the tharos-group (with dark undersides of the male antennal club). One thing to note is that the first brood of Pearl Crescents (tharos) is already beginning to look ratty, and Northerns (cocyta-group) are just out this week and super fresh.
Meadow Fritillary is still on the wing, and widespread reports of Red-spotted Purples have come in from the Coastal Plain and Piedmont. Red Admirals in fresh flight are out; American Ladies apparently survived the deluge and are still on the wing. A singleton Mourning Cloak was reported this week in the Catoctin Mountains. I’m betting on sightings of Viceroy this Memorial Day weekend if there’s good weather; possibly our first sightings of Baltimore Checkerspot as well. Little Wood Satyr emerged this week; Carolina Satyr will probably be reported this coming week too.
Skipper emergence was the big draw this week, with Zabulon, Peck’s, Crossline, Silver-spotted, Sachem, Dusted, and Least all on the lists. Almost certainly Hobomok Skipper (in this area, likely with its dark “pocahontas” female form) is flying, too, in the moist habitats where it replaces Zabulon. The biggest surprise was a putative Brazilian Skipper, verified on iNaturalist (with photo documentation) from a sighting at the Cape May Point Hawkwatch on 20 May. Juvenal’s and Horace’s Duskywings are on the wane, as are the more easterly/lower elevation Dreamy and Sleepy Duskywings. Common Sootywing was reported from NJ.
Among the gossamer-wings, FOY Appalachian Azures were seen in Frederick Co., where Brown Elfins were still in flight this past week. Otherwise the odds are overwhelming that any azure you see anywhere east of the Ridge and Valley Province is a second brood Summer Azure. The White-M Hairstreak flight seems to have abated, but there have been a few reports of Gray and Red-banded Hairstreaks. A single Harvester was observed on a damp dirt road in Indian Springs WMA near Hagerstown, MD. American (Small) Copper was scarcer even that that, with no sightings this week (it’s been a bad spring for coppers).
The season’s first Cloudless Sulphur was winging its way over the Patuxent Wildlife Research Refuge North Tract last weekend. A fresh flight of Cabbage (Small) White is emerging; still poor showings of the Colias sulphurs Orange and Clouded. West VIrginia White continues flying, but there have been no further reports of Checkered White since early this season.
Zebra Swallowtails are wrapping up the first brood, as are Eastern Tiger Swallowtails, but Spicebush, Black, and Pipevine Swallowtails still seem to be in mid-brood.
The early part of the long weekend promises good butterflying weather (even better if, like I, you plan to skive off work Friday too!). Let us know what you’ve spotted from the grill or picnic by commenting here at https://leplog.wordpress.com/ or by posting to Google Groups at MDLepsOdes.