Welcome to a new season of butterfly sightings, but I’m going to make some changes in the full-up forecasts I’ve done in previous seasons. When I first started this weekly update, I tried to make it a recap of pretty much anything you’d be likely to run into if you were in the field that week. Folks, that got to be exhausting!
These days you can get a good sense of the common things by following butterflies on iNaturalist (or on the Maryland Biodiversity Project website, which now also brings in iNat sightings). On iNat just select butterflies, plus your local region or state, and set the filter for the last week or so — like magic you will get a list of all the butterfly sightings that have been contributed. On MBP it’s even easier; just click on “Only Recent Photos” and it will show the same sort of selection, only you get more than butterflies, and that to me is a good thing.
Here on LepLog, I’ll concentrate only on recent “Hot Seens” — sightings of recent rare or unusual (or at an unusual time or location) butterflies in the mid-Atlantic region. More like a Rare Bird Alert for butterflies. It’ll be shorter and more focused, but also will take a lot less time to put together for me. I frankly thought about ending the weekly report altogether because it was getting to be such a time-consuming chore, but this compromise I hope will keep my loyal readers engaged and me somewhat more sane. And I’ll probably engage in a little prognostication and rumination as well from time to time. Like this week’s soapbox about azures.
So, without further ado … The weekly Forecast has metamorphosed into the first Mid-Atlantic Lep Almanac, for the week of April 3, 2021.
The 2021 season is off to a fast start, although it might be slowed down a bit by the end of the week’s heavy rain (snow in Garrett Co!) and frigid blast.
At least two species of azures are out already, the more or less ubiquitous Summer Azure and Northern Azure, which was found on the higher elevation ridges in Green Ridge State Forest last week.
The first elfin sighting (Henry’s) was sent in from the Eastern Shore and multiples from VA. With redbud coming into bloom in the Piedmont, this species should start showing up more widely across the mid-Atlantic.
Other early lycaenids included multiple sightings of Juniper Hairstreak (fun fact: also technically an elfin) and of White-M Hairstreak. Gray Hairstreaks were on the wing in VA.
Both Eastern Tiger and Zebra Swallowtails were on the wing last week. A confirmed Pipevine Swallowtail account came in from the Shenandoahs, as did another of Black Swallowtail from VA.
Whites that have emerged already include Falcate Orangetips (males only so far, which come out and haunt the open woodlands for females as they emerge) and Cabbage (Small) White. So far, no Olympia Marbles have been reported. Sleepy Oranges are out exceptionally early this year. A solo Orange Sulphur is the only other pierid to make an appearance so far this season.
Skipper season is off to a good start too, with both Dreamy and Sleepy Duskwings observed basking in Green Ridge State Forest. Juvenal’s Duskywing appears to be flying in VA.
In addition to cloaks and anglewings reported throughout the region, the nymphalids were represented by Variegated Fritillary sightings in VA.
Soapbox of the Week: Pay no attention to those scads of Spring Azure sightings for our area on iNaturalist this week. I can say with pretty good assurance that most if not all are Summer Azure spring brood, which in our area emerges two weeks or more earlier than Spring Azure. Watch LepLog for a good explanation coming shortly from noted azure expert Harry Pavulaan.
Share your observations and questions about regional butterflies here as a comment or, if you’re in Maryland or DC, on MDLepsOdes, the Google Group for field observations of leps and odonates.