Belated Missive from the Albany Pine Bush

2018 June 6 Karner Blue 4_NY-Albany Pine Bush Preserve

Karner Blue from the Albany Pine Bush Preserve, NY. [2018 June 6, photo by REB]

It seems like a lifetime ago since I was up in the Adirondacks, but in fact it was barely a month ago.  But it’s been such a sprint at work since then that I’ve just not had a chance to report on my visit to the Albany Pine Bush Preserve.

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.

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The extensive lupine fields at Albany Pine Bush Preserve in Albany, NY.

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The Karner Blue Trail strikes directly into the heart of the lupine habitat, and the blues regularly come to the dirt trail to puddle.

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.

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Karner Blue, Albany Pine Bush Preserve, NY [2018 June 6, photo by REB]

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Karner Blue, Albany Pine Bush Preserve, NY [2018 June 6, photo by REB]

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Karner Blue, Albany Pine Bush Preserve, NY [2018 June 6, photo by REB]

There were some surprises, too — a very worn Frosted Elfin (which also uses lupine as a caterpillar host), and a very early Viceroy.  Northern Cloudywings were quite common, and a couple of Red-spotted Purples patrolled the shadier sections of the trail.

2018 June 6 Frosted Elfin_NY-Albany Pine Bush Preserve

A very worn Frosted Elfin, which I’d seen almost a month before to the day on the Eastern Shore of MD. [2018 June 6, photo by REB]

At this point the clouds had started to thicken again, and conscious of needing to make my flight I took the short cut back to the parking lot, where one final Viceroy gave me the opportunity for a last photo of the Adirondacks trip:

2018 June 6 Viceroy_NY-Albany Pine Bush Preserve

Viceroy in the parking lot of Albany Pine Bush Preserve [2018 June 6, photo by REB]

This entry was posted in Field Trips/Annual Counts, general butterfly news, sightings. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Belated Missive from the Albany Pine Bush

  1. Jeff Cagle says:

    I searched in vain for the Melissa Blue while in Tetons and YSNP in June. Glad you were successful.

    Question about the last Karner picture above. It lacks orange! That’s so striking that I thought, “Could this be a Greenish Blue?” (Out of range, wrong spot pattern basally, so no).

    Do Karners sometimes omit the orange, or is this one really worn?

    • Rick says:

      This one is a bit worn, but I suspect it had very little spotting to start with. Males especially sometimes present with light yellow crescents that are hard to discern as they get older. Atypical but not uncommon.

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