Plummer House Butterfly Garden Field Trip

Terrific day in the field today with some good migrants (Ocola Skipper, Cloudless Sulphur), fresh American (Small) Coppers, abundant Sleepy Oranges, and others running up to more than 20 species (list to come). Also a good 3-tiger-beetle-species day (Six-Spotted, Bronzed, and Festive).

Our butterfly list for the day (courtesy Lisa Shannon):

Butterflies (brackets indicate ones I didn’t see)

Black Swallowtail

Spicebush Swallowtail

Tiger Swallowtail

Zebra Swallowtail (I saw this while you were talking at the beginning – others might not have seen it)

American Copper

Orange Sulphur

Cloudless Sulphur

Sleepy Orange

Cabbage White

[Hairstreak sp.] [nb from Rick: Almost certainly Gray]

Eastern Tailed-blue

Pearl Crescent

Eastern Comma

[Lady sp.] [nb REB: brief look suggested American]

Common Buckeye


Great Spangled Fritillary

Variegated Fritillary

Silver-spotted Skipper

Common Checkered-Skipper

Dun Skipper

Fiery Skipper

Least Skipper

Little Glassywing

Ocola Skipper


[Zabulon Skipper]


Common Green Darner

Black Saddlebags

Wandering Glider

Other notes — The small blooming plants in the barrens and meadow we were seeing were Poorjoe, also known as buttonweed. Diodia teres (and in Rubiaceae, as Rob noted). It a very important but often overlooked (because of its size) nectar source for small butterflies like the coppers and blues we were seeing. It will bloom until frost.

Also a good incidental bird day; Rob Hilton’s eBird list is below:


Glendening Nature Preserve, Anne Arundel, Maryland, US
Sep 17, 2022 10:00 AM – 2:25 PM
Protocol: Traveling
0.8 mile(s)
Checklist Comments:     This was during the Audubon Naturalist Society Butterfly Migrants at Glendening Preserve field trip.
23 species (+1 other taxa)

Yellow-billed Cuckoo  1
Ruby-throated Hummingbird  1
Laughing Gull  5
Black Vulture  3
Turkey Vulture (Northern)  4
Red-shouldered Hawk (lineatus Group)  2     2 heard; 1 seen later.
Barred Owl  1     First heard by Julianne.
Red-bellied Woodpecker  1
Northern Flicker (Yellow-shafted)  1
diurnal raptor sp.  2     Early in the walk toward & around the barrens, Rick thought he might have seen a Merlin; later ?Julianne said she might have seen a Cooper’s Hawk.
Eastern Wood-Pewee  1
Red-eyed Vireo  2     These birds were calling (and seen by Rob at least) in the tree above the table where the cooler and field guides were.
Blue Jay  1
American Crow  2
Tufted Titmouse  1     Calling at some distance, not seen.
Northern Rough-winged Swallow (Northern)  1
Carolina Wren (Northern)  1
Gray Catbird  1     Heard.
Northern Mockingbird  1     Seen by Lisa while driving in.
American Goldfinch  2
Eastern Towhee (Red-eyed)  1
Common Yellowthroat (trichas Group)  1     Heard by Rob, not seen.
American Redstart  1     Found by Rick.
Northern Cardinal (Common)  2

View this checklist online at


Our best migrant of the day, Ocola Skipper [Lisa Shannon]
Ocola Skippers have a sleek, swept-back chocolate look to them. Ocola rhymes with Coca-Cola, the same dark brownish-red color [Julianne Shinnick]
Our only Zabulon Skipper (male), which had the good grace to show up exactly where I predicted they should be. [Peter Boice]
Sleepy Orange, which were abundant in the garden and everywhere else we went owing to good stands of American Senna as a larval foodplant [Peter Boice]
Another Sleepy Orange {Lisa Shannon]
And another Sleepy Orange. They get their name because while most sulphurs have an open “eye” (or eyespot) on the hindwing, this species has its “eye” shut [Julianne Shinnick]
The closed “eye” of the Sleepy Orange is contrasted with this “open” eye of an Orange Sulphur [Julianne Shinnick]
Another migrant, one of the many “endangered” Monarchs we saw during the day [Peter Boice]
Great capture of one of a number of Variegated Fritillaries we saw during the field trip [Julianne Shinnick]
We saw Black Swallowtails as both adult and caterpillars. like this third-fourth instar exerting its osmeterium after I poked it [Peter Boice]
We had all the expected swallowtails except Pipevine [Julianne Shinnick]
More poking the Black Swallowtail caterpillar [Julianne Shinnick]
A cooperative [or traumatized] Pearl Crescent fresh from the net. Flew off happily after giving us a good chance to see that Nymphalid butterflies have only 2 working pairs of walking legs {Peter Boice]
Upperside of the crescent, [Julianne Shinnick]
Eastern Commas came to the banana mash bait we put out [Julianne Shinnick]
Moths were on the menu too, like this diminutive pink Chickweed Geometer [Lisa Shannon]
One of several Yellow Argiopes in the meadows [Peter Boice]

UPDATE FRIDAY MORNING 9/16: Looking forward to seeing everyone tomorrow; terrific weather forecast and there has been good weather lately for migration, so let’s see if anything out of the ordinary has turned up at the Plummer House! Restroom is open 9-5, the staff says. There’s probably some good birding down the hill behind the Plummer House itself and along the woods/edge margin the follows the creek. Remember your sunscreen and insect repellent. Reminder: My telephone number is 202.812.7101; text is usually better than calling to let us know you’re delayed or lost!

Thanks for signing up for our ANS field trip to the butterfly garden at the Plummer House on the grounds of the Parris Glendening Nature Preserve! ANS appreciates your support of these programs to continue providing natural history programming and conservation activities.

Butterfly Migrants at Glendening Preserve
Saturday, September 17 (10 am-12:30 pm)
Rain date: Sunday, September 18

Leader: Rick Borchelt
Members $33; nonmembers $46
The Parris N. Glendening Preserve in Anne Arundel Co.’s Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary maintains a large butterfly garden that is one of the best area locations for late-summer migrant butterflies, including Long-tailed Skippers, Ocola Skippers, Fiery Skippers, Cloudless Sulphurs and Sleepy Oranges, and, of course, Monarchs. We’ll spend most of our time exploring this active garden, boosting participants’ skills identifying difficult-to-ID skippers, with a short walk into surrounding fields for late summer dragonflies and damselflies as well as other insects.

Based on a scouting trip I did there last week, the garden and surrounding fields are in full late summer flower, with many native and ornamental plants for pollinators to choose from. The garden has reliable ornamental butterfly magnets such as zinnias, lantana, and Brazilian verbena; there is also a good representation of native nectar sources such as ironweed, Joe-pye weed, mistflower, and other bonesets. There is an active colony of Sleepy Oranges working the small stand of American senna, their host plant, and if there are Cloudless Sulphurs around they’ll be there too. Monarchs were working all of the above, but also in the fields where there is abundant mikania and blooming wild grape twining about in the grasses and forbs, and a little bit of everything on the abundant thoroughwort. I also saw my first Buckeyes of the season, four different kinds of swallowtails, and a myriad of skippers we’ll be sorting through.

Most of our time will be spent in and around the butterfly garden, with plenty of breaks if we need them in the shade at the picnic tables (there is also a restroom at the Plummer House, and the field trip leader will have bottled water available). And I’ll put in a plug for Porky’s BBQ just down the Plummer Lane service road, which has a good selection of sodas and other drinks as well as BBQ ribs, chicken, brisket, and pulled pork if you want to pick up lunch.

If we haven’t worn you out perusing skippers in the butterfly garden and fields, we’ll walk down to the more extensive pine barren habitats below the Plummer House, where we might find American Coppers and some interesting other denizens like hognose snakes, fence lizards, tiger beetles, and other critters that favor this sandy habitat.

Be sure to bring insect repellent, sunscreen, and shoes suitable for walking around on dirt paths and in waist high grasses (if you choose to wade in). If it’s been raining you’ll want shoes that can get wet and muddy. You will enjoy this field trip much more if you have close-focusing binoculars and a good field guide (I recommend Kaufman’s, which is also usually available from the Woodend bookstore). This is also a good field trip on which to practice your photography skills. I will have a couple of nets handy for those who might wish a closer look at the butterflies we see for catch-and-release observation.

If it’s overcast we’ll still do the field trip; if it’s actively raining or the rain chances are really high we’ll aim for our Sept. 18 (Sunday) rain date. I will make a determination by noon on Friday and communicate it here. Or you can text me for status updates at 202.812.7101.

The Plummer House is just off Route 4 about 20 minutes south from the Beltway in Anne Arundel Co. It is a free area unlike some other parts of the Jug Bay Wetlands complex. If you plan on making a day of it, remember that the gate and trails close at 5 pm. All the pieces of the Jug Bay property are also worth exploring if you have time, and you can view them at

For this trip you’ll navigate to the Plummer House at 5702 Plummer Lane, Lothian MD 20711. The property here opens at 9 am if you want to do some exploration before the field trip.

See you on the 17th!

ANS COVID Policy for Outdoor Adult Programs
Continuing this fall, both leaders and participants are asked to observe social distancing throughout our outdoor field trips. We request that any participant or leader who has not been vaccinated for Covid-19 wear a mask. Of course, participants are always welcome to wear a mask if they are more comfortable doing so. If you test positive for COVID, you may participate in ANS activities after you have a negative antigen/home test no sooner than 5 days after the first positive test.  Twelve will be our usual group size maximum, unless an outing’s focus and/or field conditions call for a smaller group.  All of the policies above are subject to change.

Easter Tiger Swallowtail on ironweed.
Gray Hairstreak on thoroughwort.

Plenty of other butterfly observers will also be on hand!