sightings


Matt Orsie snapped this great pic of a Broad-winged Skipper ovipositing on phragmites (the host plant) in Delaware last week.

Matt Orsie snapped this great pic of a battered Broad-winged Skipper ovipositing on phragmites (their host plant) in Delaware last week.

It’s certainly been rainy enough lately to suit most anyone, but that hasn’t put an end to the drought of traditional grass skippers.  This is one of the poorest summers on record so far for the grass skippers that typically are all over nectar sources this time of year:  Crossline, Little Glassywing, Dun, Tawny-edge, and others.  While all have been seen, they’ve been in (comparatively) small numbers.  Reports over the past two weeks have not proved otherwise, even though Sachem numbers seem finally to be building (and in the Raleigh area are exploding).  With Joe-pye Weed and New York Ironweed flowers coming on, this should be apex of summer skipper season.

There is a fresh brood of Silver-spotted Skippers out, as well as fresh Horace’s Duskywing and fresh Wild Indigo Duskywing.  Dion Skipper is in a new flight on the Eastern Shore, and it’s likely some of the other coastal or marshland skippers are too.  Hayhurst’s Scallopwing finally made an appearance at its traditional location in the butterfly garden at the US National Arboretum, and Common Checkered-skipper — notoriously hard to find this season — was reported from a handful of locations.  Somewhat better news may be in the offing for migrant skippers:  both Fiery and Ocola Skippers are showing up early and in numbers in central and northern North Carolina, perhaps auguring well for these southern specialties farther north in our area.  A location in southwest NJ reported a ripping 43 Rare Skippers last week, along with two Aaron’s Skippers and a couple dozen Broad-winged SkippersDelaware Skipper was reported from several widely scattered locales across the mid-Atlantic.  Long Dash is in flight, and Northern Broken-dash continues to be reported mostly as singletons across the region.

Like last year, Eastern Tiger Swallowtails seem to have rebounded somewhat from a poor showing in the spring brood; there seems to be a good percentage of dark-form females in this flight.  The Zebra Swallowtail second flight is beginning to look quite tattered.  Spicebush and Pipevine Swallowtails are flying in their summer generation.  Giant Swallowtail has not yet been reported in the area.

Modest numbers of Clouded and Orange Sulphurs are flying; Cabbage (Small) White numbers are up considerably over earlier broods.  Checkered White has been mostly AWOL save for one central MD sighting on agricultural lands.

Common Wood Nymph has been seen regularly the past two weeks.  We’re between brood peaks of Little Wood Satyr, but Northern Pearly-eye is enjoying a strong flight.  Appalachian Browns have been reported rather sparingly.

Of the fritillaries, all the expected species were reported this week in the region:  Atlantis, Aphrodite, Meadow, Variegated, and Great Spangled.  Participants in this year’s open house at Ft. Indiantown Gap PA were treated to good numbers of Regal Fritillaries as well.  Other nymphalids also are in flight:  Red Admiral in good numbers, Buckeyes in small numbers.  Such ladies as have been seen are American; Painted Ladies have been quite rare.  Snout is being seen but not in any numbers to speak of.  And while they are still quite the rarity in the mid-Atlantic, if we’re going to see Compton’s Tortoiseshell now is the time to be looking; they have been spotted in a number of PA and NY locations recentlyl.

Hairstreaks and blues are still out in some force, with Striped and Banded Hairstreaks showing well still, and Coral Hairstreak reported at Ft Indiantown Gap and from a few other locales.  Gray and Red-banded were reported widely.  Summer Azure and Eastern Tailed-blues are common just now.  King’s Hairstreak was finally seen on the MD Eastern Shore last week.  Quite likely the new brood of Juniper Hairstreak will emerge any day now.

The Western Montgomery County (MD) annual count was rescheduled and will now be held on Tuesday, July 21.  The Audubon Naturalist Society/USA Graduate School collaboration for the Natural History Field Studies sequence hosts a 5-week course, “Butterflies and the Conservation,” beginning July 30.  This short course will be taught in the evenings at the USA Graduate School location at L’Enfant Plaza.

The weekend is shaping up as rather poor for butterflying, but if see anything interesting, please share your sightings with us using the comment function on LepLog.wordpress.com or join us for discussion on Google Groups at MDLepsOdes.  

Birders talk about their nemesis birds — the ones they try time after time to see but always seem to miss.  Too much wind.  Too late in the day.  Flew off five minutes before.

Butterfliers have their nemesis butterflies, too.  Mine are parnassians, those archaic tail-less swallowtails found mostly in montane or arctic environments across the northern hemisphere.  Also known as apollos, there are two species that occur regularly in the mountain west:  Rocky Mountain Parnassian, and Clodius Parnassian.  I have search for either or both for years, every time I’m in the Rockies or the intermountain West.  And all to no avail.

So I spent several of my days in Utah earlier this month trying to find parnassians, in this case, Parnassius clodius.  And again, to no avail.  The time I spent in the alpine meadows favored by this species were either cloudy when I got there, too windy for anything to be flying, or too cold for butterflies — one morning I even had sleet!

To be sure, my heart beat a little faster every time I saw that diagnostic black-and-white checkered pattern floating down a meadow path or over an alpine summit.  But each time, it turned out to be a pierid.

Western White was flying in good numbers in most of the mountain environments I visited in Utah.  The dark charcoal wing margins distinguish if from Checkered White, which was also flying in the same habitats.  And BOTH fool you for a second into thinking they might be parnassians. [2015 JUL 6, Mirror Lake Road UT]

Western White was flying in good numbers in most of the mountain environments I visited in Utah. The dark charcoal wing margins distinguish it from Checkered White, which was also flying in the same habitats. And BOTH fool you for a second into thinking they might be parnassians. [2015 JUL 6, Mirror Lake Road UT]

The lighter gray of Checkered White, this one from Antelope Island State Park [2015 JUL 8, photo by REB]

The lighter gray of Checkered White, this one from Antelope Island State Park [2015 JUL 8, photo by REB]

After many false starts over several days, I was on my last full day of butterlying and had just checked out a Western Swallowtail that had hunkered down in the face of an oncoming downpour.  On the way back to the car, I saw that tell-tale checkered pattern again, but having been fooled a dozen times already I didn’t get too excited.  Until it landed and I got a good look:  Clodius.

Nemesis no more!  Clodius Parnassian on the Alpine Loop in UT.  [2015 JUL 9, photo by REB]

Nemesis no more! Clodius Parnassian on the Alpine Loop in UT. [2015 JUL 9, photo by REB]

A newly minted male Ruddy Copper [2015 JUL 11, Jeremy Ranch, UT, photo by REB]

A newly minted male Ruddy Copper [2015 JUL 11, Jeremy Ranch, UT, photo by REB]

I spent the first full week of July in Utah birding, butterflying, and botanizing.  I’d almost canceled my planned trip a week before I left — the Salt Lake area, where I would be based, was suffering under an extended drought and severe heat wave, with temps rising to 110F during the day.  But I stuck with the plan, especially as I’d be spending more time in the Wasatch and Uintas than in the desert.  It was a good decision, although the opposite weather situation confronted me when I arrived:  daily monsoonal rains and below-average temps, especially in the mountain meadows where I had planned to spend a good bit of my time.

I typically got in about an hour or two each morning, after the high ranges had warmed up sufficiently for butterflies to be out, but before the daily storm parked itself on top of the mountain for the rest of the afternoon.  Short as the time was, Utah yielded some very special butterflies.

The target for my trip was the abundance of coppers that Utah is justly famous for.  Yes, I know, the mountain west also has a ton of tricky fritillaries, but I figured I’d experience one ID challenge at a time!

The first thing you have to now about Utah coppers is that some of the aren’t, well, copper at all.  Like the Blue Copper, which was flying in most of the meadows at high elevations where its food plant, buckwheat, was in full bloom.  The male is distinctive:  It is, as its name indicates, bright blue.  So blue in fact that on a previous trip to Colorado I misidentified this puppy as one of the blues until a kind colleague out west corrected me.  The female is a more of a challenge, helped out in this case by watching which of the various coppers in the meadow at Guardsman Pass the male Blue Coppers were chasing.

The bright blue wings and black-etched veins of the male Blue Copper are distinctive.

The bright blue wings and black-etched veins of the male Blue Copper are distinctive.

A female Blue Copper, with  just a hint of the blue for which the male is famous [2015 JUL 10, UT-Summit Co, photo by REB]

A female Blue Copper, with just a hint of the blue for which the male is famous [2015 JUL 10, UT-Summit Co, photo by REB]

Other coppers were more typically copper-ish.  Like the most common copper flying in the Wasatch and Uintas right now, Purplish Copper.  You really need to see these butterflies in person in the sunlight to get the full impact of why their called “Purplish” — they have an amazing sheen, or at least the one that I saw in full sunlight over five days did!

Purplish Copper.  Males were battling it out over this open spot where deer had crushed the plants [2015 JUL 9, UT-Alpine Loop, photo by REB]

Purplish Copper. Males were battling it out over this open spot where deer had crushed the plants [2015 JUL 9, UT-Alpine Loop, photo by REB]

And I kept trying to make some of the coppers into blues again.  Take this one, for example.  From the ventral aspect — all I saw for most of a blustery morning above treeline — it looks for all the world like many of the heavily spotted blues in the Rockies.  But a good look at the top side, once the flowers stopped swaying so much in the stiff breeze, showed its family resemblance to the rest of the coppers in the area.

From the bottom, Edith's Copper looks more like one of the heavily spotted western blues [2015 JUL 6, along Mirror Lake Road in Utah, photo by REB]

From the bottom, Edith’s Copper looks more like one of the heavily spotted western blues [2015 JUL 6, along Mirror Lake Road in Utah, photo by REB]

The dorsal view of Edith's Copper confirms its close connection to other coppers [2015 JUL 6, Mirror Lake Road, UT, photo by REB]

The dorsal view of Edith’s Copper confirms its close connection to other coppers [2015 JUL 6, Mirror Lake Road, UT, photo by REB]

There will be no Forecast next week, as I will be butterfly watching in the high desert of Utah.  The Forecast will return for the weekend of July 18-19. 

A convivial congregation of Eastern Tailed-blues, a Dun Skipper, a Delaware Skipper, and a Harvester along Sideling Hill Creek in Green Ridge State Forest [2015 JUL 1, photo by REB]

A convivial congregation of Eastern Tailed-blues, a Dun Skipper, a Delaware Skipper, and a Harvester along Sideling Hill Creek in Green Ridge State Forest [2015 JUL 1, photo by REB]

 

The weather gods have not been good to the mid-Atlantic again this week, keeping the new sightings down to a minimum.  Plus we’ve hit a somewhat delayed June slump, it appears.  The only true FOYs for the week regionally are Northern Metalmarks in Allegany Co., Bog Copper on the WV side of Cranesville Swamp, and a surprising Fiery Skipper on the Frederick/Carroll count.

At last word, the Regal Fritillary open house at Ft. Indiantown Gap is still on for tomorrow and Saturday, although the gloomy forecast has changed plans for some of our local counts (see the LepLog master calendar for updates).

While hairstreaks have been abundant in other parts of the mid-Atlantic, notably northern NJ, they’ve been on the scarce side elsewhere.  The first flush of milkweed and dogbane are fading across most our area, except where they’ve been cut early and only now setting buds, and with them the best chances of good hairstreak sightings.  I spent a full afternoon checking milkweed and dogbane in Garrett Co. yesterday, under admittedly poor conditions of breeze and clouds, to log just one Banded HairstreakGray, Red-banded, and White-M have yet to make a substantial reappearance for their summer brood.  A few Coral, Banded and Striped Hairstreaks have been logged locally, but it clearly is not a boom hairstreak year.  Edwards Hairstreak continues to be seen in the Frederick Municipal Watershed Forest; King’s Hairstreak has been seen on the wing in the NC mountains but not yet from southern MD.

Coppers also have been scarce; American Copper sightings have been few, and Bronze Copper has not yet been reported anywhere but Delaware.  On the same Garrett Co. trip yesterday I had two end-of-day Bog Coppers just across the state line in WV at Cranesville Swamp.  Northern Metalmarks are beginning their univoltine flight and should be on the wing for the next 2-3 weeks; the woodland sunflower they depend on for adult nectar is just coming into bloom along roadsides in Green Ridge State Forest.  A new colony was discovered in Rocky Gap State Park last weekend during the bioblitz and some 20 were logged.

Northern Metalmarks are flying along Metalmark Alley (otherwise knows as Swain Hollow Road) in Green Ridge State Forest [2015 JUL 1, photo by REB]

Northern Metalmarks are flying along Metalmark Alley (otherwise knows as Swain Hollow Road) in Green Ridge State Forest [2015 JUL 1, photo by REB]

A very skittish Bog Copper basking in the last rays of the sun over Cranesville Swamp [2015 JUL 1, photo by REB]

A very skittish Bog Copper basking in the last rays of the sun over Cranesville Swamp [2015 JUL 1, photo by REB]

Great Spangled Fritillary is having a very good year; so too apparently is Meadow Fritillary, both of which were abundant in Garrett Co.  Sprinkled among the Great Spangled were a fair number of Aphrodite Fritillaries, but diligent searching for those silvery eyes netted no Atlantis Fritillaries yet this year.  [Note:  Annette Allor’s Maryland Butterflies website has some excellent diagnostic pics] Most of the Monarchs have moved on north for their last generation; we’ll see them again in (I suspect) good numbers on the fall migration.  Viceroy is fresh but hasn’t been reported much; a couple of lingering Red-spotted Purples were reported but we won’t see good numbers of these again until the late summer, when we’ll see them all over apple and pear windfalls with overwintering anglewings.  Silvery Checkerspot is working up another brood, which some correspondents have noted is likely to be large based on the numbers of caterpillars seen in the field.  Pearl Crescents, which had a small early flight, are out again in fresh, better numbers.  A few fresh summer Mourning Cloaks (which will overwinter) have been seen.

Much examination of a hundred or more frits in Garret Co MD yielded some Aphrodites but no Atlantis [2015 JUL 1, photo by REB]

Much examination of a hundred or more frits in Garret Co MD yielded some Aphrodites but no Atlantis [2015 JUL 1, photo by REB]

A convivial congregation of Eastern Tailed-blues, a Dun Skipper, a Delaware Skipper, and a Harvester along Sideling Hill Creek in Green Ridge State Forest [2015 JUL 1, photo by REB]

A fresh brook of Pearl Crescents is out [2015 JUL 1, photo by REB]

Eastern Tailed-blues are in another fresh brood, as are Summer Azures.

A few new skippers make the list this week, including Delaware in Green Ridge State Forest (where it was seen on bird lime along Sideling Hill Creek with a dozen Eastern Tailed-blue, a Harvester, and a Dun Skipper).  Summer Brood Horace’s are out, as are fresh Wild Indigo Duskywing.  One Sachem was reported; this species has been mostly MIA so far this year. Little Glassywing is building into a large flight; a few Northern Broken-dashes have been reported as well.  Crossline numbers are low so far; ditto Tawny-edgedDun Skipper has been reported in good numbers from various locations.  Silver-spotted Skippers rebounded in a fresh brood from a small first flight.  Common Checkered-skippers are notably absent.  The Fiery Skipper seen on the Carroll/Frederick Co Count was a real surprise, although Fieries have been moving aggressively up the Carolinas and Virginia in the last two weeks.

Swallowtails are mostly absent.  A few Eastern Tigers, Spicebush, and Zebra Swallowtails were reported; another week has gone by with no Giant Swallowtail sightings.  Pipevines were a no-show this week.

Common Wood Nymph has been reported from a number of locations around the area this week; same for Appalachian Brown and Northern Pearly-eyeCarolina and Little Wood Satyrs have mostly crashed from their first generation  (if you know of fresh Little Wood Satyrs that emerged in the last week or so, let me know so I can pass this on to Harry Pavulaan, who is studying this aberrant satyrid brood).

The long holiday weekend looks rather poor for butterflying, but if see anything interesting, please share your sightings with us using the comment function on LepLog.wordpress.com or join us for discussion on Google Groups at MDLepsOdes.  

Tom in the Hairstreak Corner, not content with Hickory, Banded and Striped but intent on picking out an Oak Hairstreak.

Tom in the Hairstreak Corner, not content with Hickory, Banded and Striped but intent on picking out an Oak Hairstreak.

Our second day in northern NJ dawned blue and bright, but by the time we gave the butterflies a chance to warm up and begin flying, the clouds had already begun piling on (completely contrary to the forecast, mind you).  Nevertheless, Tom and I drove the 40 minutes or so up the road from Newton NJ to Canal Road, near Vernon NJ and the Appalachian Trail.  This is another area that colleagues from the northern NJ Butterfly Club had turned us on to, and it was Eyed Brown — a lifer for both me and Tom — that drew us there.

Eyed Brown, abundant in the adjacent fields [2015 JUN 29, photo by REB]

Eyed Brown, abundant in the adjacent fields [2015 JUN 29, photo by REB]

The Canal Road location is a huge palustrine meadow bisected by a boardwalk and associated dry (or at least drier) fields with thistle, milkweed (common and purple), and dogbane.  When we arrived we had some moments of fitful sun, enough to bring out multitudes of Eyed Browns, Baltimore Checkerspots, and a Dion Skipper in addition to the usual suspects for this kind of area (Tom’s full list is appended).  The botanist in me was delighted by the Canada Lilies in the wet meadow, and the birder in both of us appreciated a calling American Bittern.  We ran into a fellow lep observer (who introduced himself as Jeff) in addition to the surprisingly heavy foot traffic on the AT and the boardwalk and shared the location of the Eyed Browns, then headed back that way ourselves en route to the car.  The weather gods favored us with another 20-minute window of hot sunshine that made the tall grasses literally swarm with Eyed Browns.

The boardwalk at Canal Road.

The boardwalk at Canal Road.

First time I've seen Canada Lily.  Spectacular, dotting the palustrine meadow.

First time I’ve seen Canada Lily. Spectacular, dotting the palustrine meadow.

Lunch called, and over a quick stop at a fast-food spot (no LepLunch for us this time, we were on a mission!) we discussed our next destination.  We planned to be back home that night, but it was only around 1 pm so we had some serious daylight still.  However, the weather was not cooperating.  Dark gray banks of clouds persisted.

DIon and Delaware Skippers were welcome surprises at Canal Road.  This is the Dion in full spread [2015 JUN 29, photo by REB]

Dion and Delaware Skippers were welcome surprises at Canal Road. This is the Dion in full spread [2015 JUN 29, photo by REB]

Dion and Delaware Skippers were welcome surprises at Canal Road. This is the freshly minted Delaware  [2015 JUN 29, photo by REB]

Dion and Delaware Skippers were welcome surprises at Canal Road. This is the freshly minted Delaware [2015 JUN 29, photo by REB]

Our original plan, based on welcome intel from good friends we talk with often, was to see if we could track down Acadian Hairstreak about an hour-and-a-half west of our location in the Poconos.  But consulting the weather online and seeing nothing but clouds and a chance of rain there, we convinced ourselves that we should go back to the hairstreak haven at Whittingham and see if there was more activity than the day before — it was at least dry, if cloudy.  So we drove back to Whittingham and the clouds broke into a blue, sunny afternoon as we pulled up into the lot.

Tawny Emperor greeted us as we drove up in the parking lot at Whittingham. [2015 JUN 29, photo by REB]

Tawny Emperor greeted us as we drove up in the parking lot at Whittingham. [2015 JUN 29, photo by REB]

We knew we’d made the right decision with lots of action at the puddles in the parking lot, so we hit one of the large milkweed fields we had been rained out of the previous day.  Surprisingly, there wasn’t much going on there — but we thought we had a reason why.  At the parking lot, there were dozens of hairstreaks high in the walnut trees around the lot, dogfighting and spiraling up into the stratosphere.  And as we cut across a wooded trail from one lot to another, we saw dozens of Banded Hairstreaks mating, fighting, and basking at the edge of the clearing — along with one very wary Harvester!  We also had our first Striped Hairstreak near here.

Striped Hairstreak, MIA the day before, showed up in small numbers on dogbane. [2015 JUN 29, photo by REB]

Striped Hairstreak, MIA the day before, showed up in small numbers on dogbane. [2015 JUN 29, photo by REB]

Many Dun Skippers, Great Spangled Frits and Little Glassywings later, we returned to the dogbane patch affectionately known as the Hairstreak Corner, but since it was now late in the day and the patch was in deep shade we weren’t very hopeful.  So imagine our surprise when every single dogbane was festooned with hairstreaks, hundreds of them, mostly Hickory Hairstreak but with good numbers of Banded and a few Striped Hairstreaks as well.  Nobody was flying; they were all crawling over the dogbane flowers methodically, oblivious to our presence, only occasionally zipping off into the nearby canopy.  We spent a good hour there going through all of them in a fruitless effort to pick out an Oak Hairstreak, and we almost talked ourselves into one, but review of the pics later confirmed it was a — well, we’re not sure what, but it wasn’t Oak.

Mating Banded Hairstreaks in a woodside clearing [2015 JUN 29, photo by REB]

Mating Banded Hairstreaks in a woodside clearing [2015 JUN 29, photo by REB]

The male Banded Hairstreaks engaged in the unusual behavior of flattening themselves against leaves -- it was quite warm at this point and I doubt they were basking -- before darting out to harass other males.  They literally pressed themselves against the leaves.  [2015 JUN 29, photo by REB]

The male Banded Hairstreaks engaged in the unusual behavior of flattening themselves against leaves — it was quite warm at this point and I doubt they were basking — before darting out to harass other males. They literally pressed themselves against the leaves. [2015 JUN 29, photo by REB]

With the shadows lengthening, we walked back to the car, snacking on mulberries and raspberries, and checking out the puddles again.  Our last image of Whittingham was a pair of Baltimore Orioles bathing in one of the rain pools.

Both Canal Road and Whittingham are truly unique butterfly experiences, and Tom and I are grateful for the camaraderie and counsel from our colleagues in northern NJ.

And a farewell to the Hairstreak Corner and our life Hickory Hairstreaks! [2015 JUN 29, photo by REB]

And a farewell to the Hairstreak Corner and our life Hickory Hairstreaks! [2015 JUN 29, photo by REB]

Tom’s lists for Day 2 of the Jersey adventure:

In the following, notations of relative abundance follow NABA criteria. Exact counts of species numbering 10 or less are given.

C – Common: 11-20
A – Abundant: 21-100
S – Plentiful/Superabundant : > 100

June 29, 2015:  Canal Road — New Jersey Appalachian Trail, Sussex County, New Jersey

Cabbage White (8)
Clouded Sulphur (1)
Banded Hairstreak (2)
Eastern Tailed Blue (3)
Great Spangled Fritillary (abundant)
Pearl Crescent (5)
Baltimore Checkerspot (4)
Red Admiral (7)
Hackberry Emperor (1)
Northern Pearly-eye (3)
Eyed Brown (abundant ~90) LIFER
Little Wood Satyr (common)
Common Wood-Nymph (common)
Silver-spotted Skipper (3)
Least Skipper (abundant)
Long Dash (1)
Northern Broken-Dash (1)
Little Glassywing (common)
Delaware Skipper (1)
Dion Skipper (1)
Dun Skipper (8)

June 29, 2015:  Whittingham Wildlife Management Area, Sussex County, New Jersey

Cabbage White (common)
Clouded Sulphur (common)
Orange Sulphur (common)
Harvester (1)
Banded Hairstreak (abundant)
Hickory Hairstreak (plentiful)
Striped Hairstreak (4)
Eastern Tailed Blue (11)
Summer Azure (abundant)
Great Spangled Fritillary (plentiful)
Question Mark (1)
Eastern Comma (1)
American Lady (1)
Painted Lady (2)
Red Admiral (1)
Viceroy (1)
Tawny Emperor (1)
Northern Pearly-eye (1)
Little Wood Satyr (6)
Common Wood-Nymph (4)
Silver-spotted Skipper (common)
European Skipper (1)
Northern Broken-Dash (1)
Little Glassywing (abundant)
Dun Skipper (3)

After years of scrutinizing Banded Hairstreaks and trying to turn them into a lifer Hickory Hairstreak, it was so refreshing today to see squadrons of Hickory Hairstreaks that illustrate all the typical features they're supposed to have! [2015 JUN 28, photo by REB]

After years of scrutinizing Banded Hairstreaks and trying to turn them into a lifer Hickory Hairstreak, it was so refreshing today to see squadrons of Hickory Hairstreaks that illustrate all the typical features they’re supposed to have! [2015 JUN 28, photo by REB]

Last week while I was checking all the usual sources for the weekly Forecast, I noticed that Wade and Sharon Wander posted to the NABA Sightings Page an astounding triple digit tally for both Hickory Hairstreaks and Banded Hairstreaks (nearly 400 of the former, nearly 1000 of the latter) at a wildlife management area in northern NJ near the NY border.  I immediately started planning a day trip — Hickory HS would be a life sighting for me, let alone 400 of them — and conscripted Tom Stock to come with.  Originally, we were both signed up to do sectors for the western Montgomery Co MD count on June 27, so we planned for today, June 28.

Turns out yesterday would have been a complete washout weatherwise in NJ as it was in the DC area, and even today after our 4+ hour drive up the clouds were heavy and occasionally drizzling.  Armed with directions from Sharon for both the logistics of the drive and the best places to see butterflies here, we pulled into the parking lot with only slightly dampened enthusiasm.

One of the first butterflies, right in the lot, was Hackberry Emperor, which had in fact been predicted in that lot by Sharon as a puddler we should look for.  Otherwise, it was rather quiet — it had rained again a few minutes before, the temperature was a chilly 64F, and very weak sun was trying to leak out around the heavy cloud cover.  Nevertheless, we tucked our pants legs into our socks and set out into the soggy field Sharon had dubbed “Hairstreak Corner.”  Within minutes we found our first batch of dogbane, and with it LITERALLY A HUNDRED hairstreaks hunkered down under leaves and the undersides of dogbane umbels — mostly Hickory Hairstreaks.  Amazing.  Over the course of the next two hours and a total of about seven minutes of sunshine we saw hundreds more, again mostly Hickory, and noted that the Banded Hairstreaks seemed to prefer milkweed while the Hickories were mostly on dogbane.

In addition to numbers of Cabbage (Small) White and many Great Spangled Fritillaries, we also picked up Northern Broken-dash (FOY), Common Wood-Nymph (a very dark morph), Eastern Comma, a Meadow Fritillary, and a number of Little Glassywings — the skipper numbers were well below what Sharon and Wade saw last week because of the soggy conditions.  Tom and I ended up with maybe 300 hairstreaks.

FOY Northern Broken-dash [2015 JUN 28, photo by REB]

FOY Northern Broken-dash [2015 JUN 28, photo by REB]

Banded Hairstreaks were a bit more worn than the Hickories, and seemed to prefer the milkweed and thistles over the dogbane that held most of the Hickories.  [2015 JUN 28, photo by REB]

Banded Hairstreaks were a bit more worn than the Hickories, and seemed to prefer the milkweed and thistles over the dogbane that held most of the Hickories. [2015 JUN 28, photo by REB]

Rain was threatening when I suggested a further slog down another field, and of course it started raining, so we cut across one of the fields and got back to the parking lot just in time for the sky to brighten a bit (still no sun, just brighter clouds) and to enjoy an end-of-hike glut of black raspberries from the field.

Tomorrow we’re following up on another fine set of directions from the Wanders to visit Canal Road, about an hour away, in search of Eyed Brown, Baltimore Checkerspots, and maybe Delaware Skipper.

Tom’s list for the day:

In the following, notations of relative abundance follow NABA criteria. Exact counts of species numbering 10 or less are given.

C – Common: 11-20
A – Abundant: 21-100
S – Plentiful/Superabundant : > 100

June 28, 2015:  Whittingham Wildlife Management Area, Sussex County, New Jersey

Cabbage White (2)
Banded Hairstreak (abundant)
Hickory Hairstreak (plentiful) LIFER
Eastern Tailed Blue (1)
Summer Azure (6)
Great Spangled Fritillary (abundant)
Meadow Fritillary (1)
Eastern Comma (1)
Hackberry Emperor (1)
Little Wood Satyr (common)
Common Wood-Nymph (5)
Northern Broken-Dash (1)
Little Glassywing (common)

Broad-winged Skipper from Dorchester Co MD on Summer Solstice [2015 June 21, photo by REB]

Broad-winged Skipper from Dorchester Co MD on Summer Solstice [2015 June 21, photo by REB]

The wet, cool weather prognosis for the weekend is likely to keep FOYs to a minimum this weekend, much as the oppressive heat last weekend did! Nevertheless, regional observers last week scored new year sightings for Pink-edged Sulphur, and just a few hours north were multiple sightings of Oak and Hickory Hairstreaks. Cloudless Sulphur, Common Buckeye, and Appalachian Brown were also added to the FOYs for 2015.

Many nectar sources are in full bloom just now, including such perennial butterfly favorites as buttonbush, pickerel weed, and various milkweeds. The milkweeds have been hosting swarms of fresh Variegated Fritillaries and good numbers of fresh Common Buckeyes on the lower Eastern Shore, where practically every stand of common milkweed had a contingent of Orange Sulphurs, Cabbage (Small) Whites and Silver-spotted Skippers in addition to the Fritillaries and Buckeyes.

Elsewhere, milkweeds have been attracting a diversity of hairstreaks, including an astounding 972 Banded Hairstreaks and 382 Hickory Hairstreaks on one small patch of dogbane at Whittingham Wildlife Management Area in northern NJ! Oak Hairstreak, Coral Hairstreak, and of course Striped Hairstreak were all found in the same general vicinity last week. Edwards Hairstreak emerged in numbers this week, seen especially in the Frederick Municipal Watershed Forest.

Skippers, by contrast, were less easy to come by this past week. Common Checkered-skipper, which has been hard to come by this season, was spotted in fresh condition in central MD this week. A very worn Aaron’s Skipper populated the buttonbush along Newbridge Road in Dorchester Co, MD, in the company of Broad-winged Skippers. Broad-wings were also abundant at Eastern Neck NWR, where the dozen or more large buttonbush in the Bayview Butterfly Garden hosted Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, Red Admiral, Viceroy, Monarch, Cabbage White, Orange Sulphur, and distractingly abundant Zebra Swallowtails – but NONE of the grass skipper abundance of just a week previously. Horace’s Duskywing is on the wing in its second brood now, and being the only duskywing with an apical cell spot (the other common spreadwing out now, Wild Indigo, lacks the spot) is much easier to ID without having to closely examine the ventral aspect. It’s looking to be a good year for Ocola Skipper, which is already appearing as far north as the Raleigh NC area.

Harvesters are clearly having a good year too, with multiples reported across the region. Baltimore Checkerspots are also out in good numbers.

The first regional Cloudless Sulphur showed up in Baltimore, and a few were beginning to show up at in VA and the Carolinas.  Pink-edged Sulphur is flying in the higher-elevation bogs of WV and should be looked for in western MD, where it occurred historically but has been MIA in recent times.  Bog Copper is likely flying there too, as both Aphrodite and Atlantis Fritillaries should be.

A couple of butterflies dropped off the radar screen this week, including Red-spotted Purple, American Lady, and Silvery Checkerspot. Both will return in subsequent broods later this summer. Comma, Question Mark and Mourning Cloak are likely to be around only in small numbers until fall; they’re mostly aestivating during the hottest weather.

The weekend weather has already claimed one casualty – the western Montgomery Co MD count has been rescheduled for July 3.

If you do brave the rain this weekend, don’t forget to post or send your sightings for the next Weekend Forecast! In the meantime, visit us at https://leplog.wordpress.com/ and on Google Groups at MDLepsOdes

Next Page »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 82 other followers