2017 Aug 19 Field Trip to National Arboretum and Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens


Fresh Dion Skipper in DC in Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens [2017 Aug 19; photo by Judy Gallagher]

The participants in Saturday’s 5-hour field trip covering DC’s US National Arboretum and Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens bested by three species our goal of 30 for the day, scoring one very unusual sighting (Palamedes Swallowtail) and missing a couple of expected species (Pipevine Swallowtail, Red-banded Hairstreak, Variegated Fritillary, Common Checkered-skipper, Viceroy, emperors).  The field trip was part of the ANS Natural History Field Studies program.

Other notable sightings included Ocola Skipper and a Clouded Skipper.  The default for grass skippers was Sachem, often so numerous they obscured other grass skippers flying in the same patch.

If you visit the USNA, be sure to check out the “hidden” milkweed and dogbane patch now in full bloom between the large parking lot at the NY Ave entrance and the old brick charcoal huts.  You need to drive over to the corner of the lot diagonal from the entrance and look down toward the chain-link fence.  Very productive spot.   At KAG the bulk of butterflies are working the lantana beds in the parking lot and at the visitor’s center, but the Dions and Broadwings are on pickerel weed and purple loosestrife in the small ponds near the huge Victoria amazonica waterlilies, and out along the boardwalk.

Zebra Swallowtail (2) KAG

Black Swallowtail (2)  KAG

Spicebush Swallowtail (15) KAG & USNA

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (9) KAG & USNA (all yellow form)

Palamedes Swallowtail (1) KAG (VERY UNUSUAL SIGHTING, stray vagrant to DC)

Small (Cabbage) White (6) KAG & USNA

Orange Sulphur (1) USNA

Cloudless Sulphur (6) USNA

Sleepy Orange (2) USNA

Gray Hairstreak (5) USNA & KAG

Eastern Tailed-blue (27) USNA & KAG (very few)

Summer Azure (2) USNA

Pearl Crescent (2) USNA

Question Mark (1) KAG (last sighting of the day on the way back to the car)

Painted Lady (6) USNA & KAG

Red Admiral (1) KAG

Common Buckeye (13) USNA & KAG (all summer form, no rosa morphs)

Red-spotted Purple (1) KAG

Monarch (30+) USNA & KAG (terrific numbers)

Silver-spotted Skipper (10) USNA & KAG

Horace’s Duskywing (1) KAG (very fresh)

Clouded Skipper (1) KAG (only the leader got on this one well enough to ID)

Least Skipper (17) USNA & KAG

Fiery Skipper (6) USNA & KAG (likely an undercount as they were mixed in with swarms of Sachems)

Peck’s Skipper (1) USNA

Tawny-edged Skipper (2) USNA

Northern Broken-dash (3) USNA & KAG

Sachem (200+) USNA & KAG (a very conservative estimate)

Zabulon Skipper (5) USNA & KAG

Broad-winged Skipper (2) KAG

Dion Skipper (3) KAG

Dun Skipper (3) USNA & KAG

Ocola Skipper (1) KAG

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Mid-Atlantic Butterfly Field Forecast for Week of 2017 August 19


Terrific find of a vagrant Gulf Fritillary in the back yard of Tom Stock in Silver Spring MD (2017 Aug 12, photo by Tom]

Without question the best butterfly sighting of the week came from the Silver Spring back yard of Tom Stock, an immaculate vagrant (presumably) Gulf Fritillary.  This is a rare but occasional visitor from the Gulf states, and if it arrives early enough in the season can actually initiate a one- or two-generation breeding spurt (on passionflower, increasingly common in gardens and nurseries) before they all expire with the first hard freeze.  Far as I can tell the next closest Gulf Fritillary sighting over the past week was in the Carolinas along the coast (also a Tom Stock sighting!).

Otherwise it’s pretty much business as usual in the middle of August, peak time for grass skippers.  Sachem is everywhere; so is Silver-spotted Skipper.  Both Hayhurst’s Scallopwing and Common Sootywing were notable sightings, and a fresh brood of Common Checkered-skipper is flying.  Not so many reports of coastal or salt marsh skippers, possibly because many of our field observers were working the Howard Co Bioblitz over the weekend.  Wild Indigo Duskywings in a fresh (and probably final) brood are again the dominant duskywing; Horace’s are becoming hard to come by.  A few more Ocolas showed up across the region.  Dion Skipper repeated its occurrence at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens in DC.

Numbers of Sleepy Orange and Cloudless Sulphurs are popping up, doubtless some of them having started as eggs on partridge pea or senna earlier in the season from early migrants.  Little Yellow is still very sporadic.  No additional Checkered Whites have been reported.

As such things go, this is the final big push of hairstreaks for the season with White M, Olive (Juniper), Red-banded, and Gray (by far the most common) reports coming in this week.  No Great Purple Hairstreaks have been reported in our region yet this season.  American Copper sightings were relatively common, but no Bronze Coppers.  The last blues standing for the season are Summer Azure (still some faded females around) and Eastern Tailed-blue.

As with last week, the expected swallowtails are all still on the wing, but Giant Swallowtail — while having another good flight year in New England — is absent from the mid-Atlantic.

Painted Ladies are still everywhere, with a few reports of American Lady thrown in.  Common Buckeye numbers continue to build, and Variegated Fritillaries are more numerous as well.  Satyr numbers are dwindling except for Common Wood Nymph, which has seen a spike of LepLog sightings this week.

Notable Nectar:  Mistflower, various bonesets, and Joe-Pye are among the top producers of nectaring butterflies in the field this week.  In gardens, Tall/Brazilian Verbena (V. bonariensis and congeners) is a magnet for skippers, as are zinnias, torchflower, and the old standby, butterfly bush.  If you plan to acquire a buddleia (butterfly bush) for your yard or garden, spend some time at the local nursery watching what butterflies are coming to which varieties — the various cultivars differ markedly in their attractiveness to butterflies.  Mine right now are festooned with Silver-spotted Skippers, Sachems, and Painted Ladies.

While all eyes will be on the eclipse Monday (skies permitting), the weekend looks decent for butterfly watching. If you get out and see anything interesting, let us know here at https://leplog.wordpress.com/ or by posting to Google Groups at MDLepsOdes.

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Mid-Atlantic Field Butterfly Forecast for the Week of 2017 August 12

Clouded Skipper 2013 July 20 National Arbo copy

Time to begin looking for Clouded Skippers. Note that it looks a lot like a fresh female Zabulon (also flying) without the white “racing stripe” along the leading edge of the ventral hindwing. [2013 July 20, US National Arboretum. 2013 was an early year for Cloudeds]

Despite a couple of days of gorgeous weather, very little in the way of butterfly sightings came in for the Forecast this week.  A second Ocola Skipper makes the list, but the highlight of the week was a late report of the area’s first Clouded Skipper in Catonsville (MD).  The finding rewards my holding off until today to post the week’s Forecast!

Otherwise, it’s mostly the stock characters of late summer.  All the expected swallowtails are still out; Black and Pipevine are fresh broods, and even some of the Eastern Tigers are looking rather clean.  One presumes Palamedes is still on the wing in the Pocomoke drainage; they’ll have one more cycle that will run into October.  The stretch of Hickory Point Road out the swamp is a favorite early autumn destination with potential for Great Purple Hairstreak and Bronze Copper as well until Columbus Day.  In New England, Giant Swallowtails are being reported regularly this week, although clearly this is not going to be a banner year for them even in the Northeast.  Locally, there has not been a single reported sighting all season.

The full roster of grass skippers is on the wing — Sachem, Dun, Swarthy, Fiery, Zabulon, Peck’s, both Broken-dashes, Little Glassywing, Crossline, Tawny-edged — making for a couple of weeks of field ID challenges!  If you haven’t picked it up yet, the new Butterflies of Pennsylvania has an excellent spread on ID of the female “witches.”  Silver-spotted Skipper is exploding in numbers; Northern Cloudywing, Common Checkered-skipper, Hayhurst’s Scallopwing, and Common Sootwing were also reported.  No word this week on local coastal skippers.  Both Wild Indigo and Horace’s Duskywing are flying, but Wild Indigo is now the predominant duskywing over most of the region.

The Great Spangled Fritillary brood is winding down rapidly.    Meadow and Variegated Fritillaries, though, are being seen in good numbers.  Painted Lady is still having a terrific flight; a modest one for American Lady.  There are fresh Red Admirals, and still good numbers of Appalachian Browns and Northern Pearly-eyes.  No reports this week of Little Wood Satyr or Carolina Satyr, sporadic reports of Common Wood Nymph. [And a reminder to look for the salt marsh population of Common Wood Nymph, which may represent a distinct species].  Pearl Crescents were reported in low numbers; a few, mostly tatty, Silvery Checkerspot reports came in.

No additional White M Hairstreak reports since last week, but the bloom of boneset (which usually peaks about the same time as this hairstreak) is imminent.  Summer Azures are experiencing the end of their last brood, but fresh Gray and Red-banded Hairstreaks are out.

The Metalmark flight is over.

Cloudless Sulphurs were reported again this week, in low numbers generally, as were Sleepy Oranges.


Notable Nectar:  A wealth of composites, including asters and goldenrods, is the main nectar source outside of gardens.  But keep in mind devil’s walkingstick and climbing hemp vine for hairstreaks, and the second flush of pickerel week for skippers.  And especially where it mowed on roadsides earlier in the season, dogbane is blooming again — on the Eastern Shore, check for Great Purple Hairstreaks and Bronze Coppers.

We’ll be dodging thunderstorms Saturday but Sunday should be a good day afield. If you get out and see anything interesting, let us know here at https://leplog.wordpress.com/ or by posting to Google Groups at MDLepsOdes.

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Mid-Atlantic Butterfly Field Forecast for the Week of 2017 August 5

2017JUL30 White M Hairstreak_MD-AA Co-Glendining Preserve

A White M Hairstreak high up in the massive raceme of a Devil’s Walkingstick shrub (Aralia spinosa) just coming into bloom. Aralia is a magnet for summer lycaenids [2017 JUL 30, Anne Arundel Co., Glendening Nature Preserve; photo by REB]

True to last week’s Forecast, Ocola Skipper made its first appearance in the region at the Glendening Nature Preserve boardwalk into Jug Bay last weekend, heralding a month of so of winnowing through clouds of grass skippers (all the expected species were reported this week) for the swept-back profiles of panoquin skippers like Ocola, Eufala, Salt-marsh and others.  And to our south in the Carolinas, good numbers of Clouded Skippers are already moving north, promising a good season for these and possibly other southern migrant skippers.

Coastal and marsh skippers were also well represented this week, with regional sightings of Broad-winged, Delaware, Dion, and Salt-marsh Skippers.

The Painted Lady explosion we first noted in early July continues, both here and up and down the Eastern seaboard.  Here in the mid-Atlantic we’re most accustomed to seeing singletons of this cosmopolitan species (and often suspiciously near schools who reared them from purchased kits as part of classroom projects on metamorphosis); this year is different.  Painted Lady is far and away the most common vanessid butterfly this season across the region.  American Ladies and Red Admirals are widely reported too, but not in anything like the Painted Lady burst.  A handful of Red-spotted Purple and Viceroy sightings trickled in.  Meadow Fritillaries are apparently building up again, and Silver-bordered Fritillary is also on the wing in a new generation.  Both sexes of Diana Fritillary are still flying well.  No anglewing reports this week.  The trifecta of hackberry-related nymphalids — Snout, Hackberry Emperor, and Tawny Emperor — was all flying.  Variegated Fritillaries are bordering on common in some locations, as is Common Buckeye.

Among satyrids, Appalachian Browns are having an exceptional flight currently.  Also still out are Northern Pearly-eye and Common Wood Nymph; a few reports came in of Little Wood Satyr (but none of Carolina Satyr, although it also should be flying).

White M Hairstreak tops the list of hairstreak sightings this week, seen in Devil’s Walkingstick flower clusters in the company of Gray Hairstreak, Red-banded Hairstreak, and Summer Azure.  Olive (Juniper) Hairstreak is also on the wing.  Eastern Tailed-blue is still flying (a more or less continuous, but weak, brood since May).  More sightings this week of American Copper.

Fresh Zebra, Pipevine, Black, and Eastern Tiger Swallowtails are out and  about, and Spicebush Swallowtails are abundant in conditions ranging from tattered to terrific.

Sleepy Oranges were the most interesting of the pierid reports this week; there also was a handful of Cloudless Sulphur sightings but not a very strong flight.  More Little Yellows were seen in various locations in southern PA, though, so it is highly likely we’ll see MD and DE reports of them this weekend.

Notable Nectar:  Mistflower is blooming well now, as are early goldenrods, ironweed, Joe-pye, and other bonesets.  A second flush of dogbane is in bloom, and early asters are coming on.  There’s a host of perennial sunflowers out as well.  But the big draw if you can find it is Devil’s walking stick, whose huge racemes pull in just about every pollinator known to the mid-Atlantic.

A spectacular weather weekend shaping up for butterfly watchers. If you get out and see anything interesting, let us know here at https://leplog.wordpress.com/ or by posting to Google Groups at MDLepsOdes.


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Mid-Atlantic Butterfly Field Forecast for the Week of 2017 July 29


Checkered White in Talbot Co MD [2017 July 23, photo by Jared Satchell]

The big summer push of many skippers is evident this week — or at least was before the weekend’s monsoon started — with fresh Zabulon, Peck’s, and Sachem flying this morning even in my suburban yard.  Fiery Skipper is beginning to show up in reports again, and the Broken-dashes, Crosslines, and Tawny-edges should be building again shortly.

To our south in the Carolinas, Ocola Skippers appear to be early and this may presage a good year for these late-summer migrants in the mid-Atlantic.  Hayhurst’s Scallopwings are out in a new brood, as are Common Checkered-skippers (this latter species will be one of the last skippers standing when the fall frosts come, and one of the first to emerge in the spring).  Fresh Silver-spotted Skippers are out, too, and Common Sootywings are having a good summer push.

Silvery Checkerspots have been rather hit-or-miss:  Some areas have reported veritable clouds of checkerspots; some areas that normally have them report none.  Common Buckeyes are widespread and common, although I have not yet seen reports of the ‘rosa’ fall form.  Painted Ladies continue to experience a very strong flight; more so than American Ladies.  The greater fritillaries are winding down, but we should still be seeing another brood or two of Meadow Fritillary (a few reports this week) and increasing numbers of Variegated Fritillary, which seems to be poised for a good fall run.  A new county record of Hackberry Emperor came in from Worcester Co MD to supplement other regional sightings; surprisingly no reports of Tawny Emperor this week.  One Viceroy sighting came in.

Among the satyrids, Northern Pearly-eye, Common Wood Nymph, and Appalachian Satyr were all seen regionally this past week (big numbers of Pearly-eye!), as was a fresh brood of Little Wood Satyrs just beginning to emerge.

American Copper is the only copper with fresh sightings this week.  Red-banded and Gray Hairstreaks were the dominant lycaenids; a few Summer Azures are still working fresh buds.  Still rather low numbers for Eastern Tailed-blue, as has been the case all summer. It’s a bit out of our range, but a second-brood Early Hairstreak was observed in north-central PA. Harvester has been unusually scarce as well.

Reports of Giant Swallowtail from the Carolinas and from New York have been on the listservs, but the species remains MIA here in the mid-Atlantic.

Fresh Checkered Whites made it on the list this week from the Eastern Shore, and the long-awaited Little Yellows showed up in southern PA.  Otherwise, the big story seems to be a big increase in Sleepy Orange (I even had one of those in my yard), but not so much for Cloudless Sulphur, which seems to still be rather slowly building its numbers.

Notable Nectar:  Non-native lespedezas are beginning to attract late-summer butterflies.  Clethra is in full bloom now, and hairstreaks especially are coming to the variety of native and cultivated mints currently at peak.

Most of this weekend is likely to be a washout, quite literally,  Possibly Sunday and certaintly the rest of the week seem to be tailor made for butterfly watching, however.  If you venture out post-flood,  you can leave your sightings as a comment here at  https://leplog.wordpress.com/ or by posting to Google Groups at MDLepsOdes.


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Butterfly Field Forecast for Week of 2017 July 22

silvery checkerspot CP

One of the new brood of Silvery Checkerspots appearing a bit bedraggled after a heavy cloudburst one morning in my College Park (MD) yard [2017 July 18, photo by REB]

No sooner had the electrons fired on last week’s Forecast than a dozen or so sightings came in for Sleepy Orange and Cloudless Sulphur in varied locations across the area, mostly in the vicinity of senna or partridge pea and often ovipositing (suggesting a last brood for us in early fall).  That just serves to remind me to remind you to PLEASE send in your sightings so that the rest of us can benefit from your great sightings!

Also in the pierid pile was a spate of Checkered White sightings from southern New Jersey, where they’re apparently flying well.  Still zero Little Yellows in the region (and of course like last week I’ll probably get a raft of sightings as soon as this goes out!).

Otherwise, a rather slow week, likely because of the excessive heat and humidity that kept many of us indoors.  Few lycaenids came up in the sightings; Bog Copper is flying on both sides of the MD/WV border in some of the more remote bogs where they have been reported before.  American Copper is still flying, as is Olive (Juniper) Hairstreak.   Couple of reports of Gray Hairstreak; along with the expected tail end of Summer Azure’s flight and Eastern Tailed-blue.

Better luck with brushfoots; both Hackberry and Tawny Emperors were widely reported, even in areas where they are seldom seen, so a pretty good flight apparently is underway.  American Snout is also on the wing near hackberry trees (the three share this common host).  Three greater fritillaries made the list this week from western MD, Great Spangled, Atlantis, and Aphrodite; female Dianas have now joined the males along the Appalachian Spine in VA.  Variegated Fritillaries numbers are inching up, possibly augmented by southern migrants.  Common Buckeye is beginning to live up to its name; numbers are building too.  There’s little evidence so far for southward Monarch migration.  After the hot spell subsides, we should begin seeing anglewings destined to overwinter — Comma, Question Mark, Mourning Cloak.  They’re aestivating through these hot summer dog days.  No local reports of Viceroy or Red-spotted Purple this week, but they are probably flying in low numbers.  A new brood of Silvery Checkerspots is just emerging, spurred on most likely by the recent cloudbursts.  Still very low numbers of Pearl Crescents area-wide.

Skipper-wise, the trending skipper is Sachem, which had a terrible early flight but is making up for it in spades.  Last week was mostly males; this week the females are out, too.  Coastal skippers are doing well:  Dion, Delaware, Aaron’s, Salt Marsh and especially Broad-winged were widely reported, often in good numbers.  Oddly absent where they should be common this time of season is Common Checkered-skipper.  Fiery Skippers seem to have crashed already but should be arriving as new migrants shortly, perhaps even as locally hatched and rear specimens from earlier migrations.  Duskywing numbers have dropped rather precipitously from the previous two Forecasts.

It seems Pipevine Swallowtails were everywhere this week, many of them fresh.  At least a dozen were chasing around the Smithsonian Castle grounds on a recent lunchtime walk on the Mall, where the extensive lantana plantings were drawing in a number of nectaring butterflies. A fresh Eastern Tiger Swallowtail was on the Indian-shot canna in the yard this morning.

It’s still not too late to see 2017 Northern Metalmarks along the sunflower-studded shoulders of sunny Green Ridge State Forest roads.

Notable Nectar:  Several species of monarda (bee balm) are at peak this week; so are a couple kinds of mountain mint (Pycnanthemum).  Early bonesets — Joe-Pye weed, thoroughwort, snakeroot — are beginning to flower, as is ironweed.  Where they were cut earlier and if they got some of the rain showers that moved across the region over the past week, clovers are putting on another show that attracts lots of grass skippers especially.  Hempvine (Mikania) is an often-overlooked nectar source for blues and skippers as well as a host of Dipteran and Hymenopteran pollinators.

From Linda Hunt comes this announcement of a butterfly walk tomorrow: Join us on 7/22, Saturday, 10:00 – 1:00 for what promises to be a great Butterfly Walk at Mt. Pleasant/Howard County Conservancy. Leaders: Kevin and Karen Heffernan & Linda Hunt. Mowed grass paths, facilities available.  Bring lots of water and protect against sun and insects.  Cancelled if raining.  We will meet in the parking area.  In addition to the Hackberry Emperor, Kevin and Karen saw 27 other species last weekend.  Also Juniper Hairstreak are visiting the garden plots again, and the American Copper are in the formal garden.  See list below.  Pipevine Swallowtail, Cloudless Sulphur and Sleepy Orange are also possible.  We are starting early to avoid the afternoon heat.  Email Linda Hunt: raven10322@hotmail.com if you plan to come. 

The weekend looks like a real scorcher, puntuated occasionally by pop-up thunderstorms — not the best butterfly watching water. But if you brave the heat,  you can leave your sightings as a comment here at  https://leplog.wordpress.com/ or by posting to Google Groups at MDLepsOdes.

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Butterfly Field Forecast for the Week of 2017 July 15


Mating Black Dash skippers in Finzel Swamp, MD [2017 July 11, photo by Monica]

It’s time to start keeping an eye out for southern migrants, especially skippers, and 2017’s FOY Long-tailed Skipper showed up this week in Northern VA.  Fiery Skippers continue to be seen occasionally, while to our south in the Carolinas Whirlabouts seem to be having a good northward push already so perhaps this will be our year for this accidental species.

Elsewise, I suspect the torrid temps of the past week have kept most of us indoors, although intrepid butterfliers from PA visited Finzel Swamp in Allegany/Garrett Cos. and had good numbers of Black Dash among other more expected skippers (Black Dash was also flying in western Garrett along the WV border).  Horace’s continues to be the dominant duskywing out; Wild Indigo Duskywing apparently is having a rather poor summer showing all ’round.  More Hayhurst’s Scallopwing reports trickled in.  Several sightings of Delaware Skipper from the western counties were noted.  Also of interest was some discussion this week about Dion Skippers in PA, which apparently are showing up well into the northern tier in freshwater marsh and swamp habitat far, far from the coast, and thus well out of their expected habitat.  Sachem seems to be recovering somewhat from a lackluster early brood.

All the greater fritillaries are on the wing — Great Spangled, Aphrodite, Atalantis, and Diana in the mountains.    Low numbers of Variegated Fritillaries this summer, but LepLog gets reports every week.  Common Wood Nymph has hit its probable peak locally (and we’re still looking for reports of this species from salt marsh habitat on the Eastern Shore — please share!).  Viceroys have been hard to come by.  Monarch singletons were reported widely this week.  Appalachian Brown seems pretty common this season in the appropriate habitats. Pearl Crescents are flying in generally low numbers.

From Delmarva come recent reports of King’s Hairstreak and Great Purple Hairstreak on the wing.  Bog Coppers are flying in cranberry bogs in western MD and WV.  American Copper is out in a new brood, as is Olive (Juniper) Hairstreak.  Gray Hairstreak is again the dominant hairstreak, while Summer Azure and Eastern Tailed-blue are also out.

Swallowtails this week included fresh Black, Zebra and Palamedes (the latter in the Hickory Point Cypress Swamp).  Tattered Spicebush Swallowtails are hanging on (fresh ones of this species due soon) and Pipevine Swallowtails are also fresh (folks in downtown DC can see this species in numbers around the Smithsonian Castle, where they feed on the exotic pipevines in the gardens there).  Giant Swallowtail remains AWOL.

One Checkered White report came in, but that’s the only interesting pierid on the list this week.  No further reports of Cloudless Sulphur or Sleepy Orange.  No Little Yellows yet this year.

And the Northern Metalmark show is in full swing in Green Ridge State Forest.  Just check out stands of blooming woodland sunflowers.

Notable Nectar:  As noted above, the perennial sunflowers are coming into bloom along with similar composites like black-eyed susan; they’ll be good nectar sources through early fall.  Early goldenrods are already out.  Garden liatris (blazing-star) is blooming; it’s usually earlier than our native species but no less attractive to butterflies, especially skippers.  Swamp milkweed is reaching peak (it blooms later, usually, than common), and early Joe-pye weed and ironweed are opening now.

Looks like we’ll get a break from the double-digit heat index readings this weekend.  If you get out and about looking for butterflies, you can leave your sightings as a comment here at  https://leplog.wordpress.com/ or by posting to Google Groups at MDLepsOdes.

Posted in Forecasts, sightings | 2 Comments