I left Lake Placid early on June 6 with a firm deadline of dropping my rental car off at the airport by 3 pm. It wasn’t a very promising day — I woke up to rain and clouds at the hotel, and a soggy walk up the street to breakfast. By the time I brought my suitcase down to the car, rain had dwindled to a drizzle, but still cool and daunting.
I had intended to stop at the Albany Pine Bush Preserve — a 3,000-acre remnant of a once-extensive inland pine barrens ecosystem — the week before on the way to Lake Placid from western Massachusetts and the frustrating dip on Early Hairstreak. But it was the middle of a hailstorm as I drove through on the way up, so I made plans to stop on my day of departure en route to the airport, a risky proposition to leave it to the very end in case of inclement weather. But, I didn’t have much choice, so I trusted in luck and sunny late spring weather patterns.
It appeared by trust was rewarded when, at the very tail end of the 2.5-hour drive south to Albany, the clouds started thinning out, and by the time I reached the Pine Bush there were regular intervals of sun in a mostly cloudy sky. Pulling into the lot at the preserve, more clouds rolled in, so I spent a little time exploring the interpretive exhibits and talking with staff at the visitor center.
Staff members assured me that Karner Blues — the specialty of Albany Pine Bush Preserve — had begun their flight but had been hard to find the previous couple of days even in the sun. So it was with rather low expectations I hit the Karner Blue Trail.
At this point it was hazy sunshine, and a number of butterflies were darting on and across the trail. Common Roadside-skippers were actually rather abundant, and I had good sightings of Indian Skippers and Hobomok Skippers before I reached the best Karner Blue habitats: hillsides of lupine, the caterpillar host.
The temptation under these conditions, of course, is to explore closely and look uber-carefully long before you get to the best habitat, so I was already discouraged and feeling I would miss out on this iconic species long before I got to the most productive spots. As a consequence, the first Karner Blue took me completely by surprise mucking about on bird droppings in the middle of trail. After that, they were pretty much everywhere.