Brazilian Skipper in MD

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Caterpillar of Brazilian Skipper (aka Large Canna Leafroller in the nursery plant trade), Calpodes ethlius (Stoll, 1782) on a suburban MD canna [2018 Aug 31, photo by REB] MD: Prince George’s Co., College Park.  Note the diagnostic black triangle on the head.

Almost as if summoned by yesterday’s Forecast — and my note to fellow MD butterfly observers to be checking their cannas — I glanced at my ONE potted canna in the back yard on the way to filling the bird tray this morning to discover: multiple caterpillars of Brazilian Skipper ripping the canna to shreds.

If we were going to see Brazilian Skipper caterpillars here, this apparently would be the season for it, given that there are reports of a persistent summer colony this year in Cape May and a sighting last week from CT.  Still, it was pretty astounding and I went back inside to contemplate it more fully over coffee.

Had to have been from local oviposition, I decided, since this canna was grown this season from seed off the cannonshot cannas I had last year.  It’s one of the skippers’ favorite cultivars, apparently.  There are very few other cannas in the immediate vicinity.

There are enough caterpillars that they’ll make short work of the canna they’re on, so I figure I’d go drag the one from the front yard out back too.  But of course it has a skipper tent on it as well.  Looks like I may be going foraging in the neighborhood for canna leaves this weekend.

This is the characteristic “rolled cigar” and leaf tent appearance of cannas with Brazilian Skipper infestations.

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Mid-Atlantic Butterfly Field Forecast for the Week of September 1

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Freshly eclosed Great Purple Hairstreak observed in Dorchester Co MD [2018 Aug 27, photo by Kevin Heffernan]

HIGHLIGHTS:  Great Purple Hairstreak, Juniper Hairstreak, Clouded Skipper, Harvester

Lycaenids take pride of place on the Forecast this week, with FOY Great Purple Hairstreak on the Eastern Shore, a species that has become increasingly difficult to see in MD in recent years.  It’s possible this represents an actual population drop, but the appropriate habitat and host plant are common if not abundant in many locations in Dorchester, Worcester, and Wicomico counties.  Just as likely, the mowing regimen on much of the Eastern Shore turns roadsides into manicured golf course style turf, so that while the hairstreaks are still there, they nectar well away from the roadsides and just aren’t observed as often.

Other gossamer-wings this week included cooperative Harvesters in Howard Co and Caroline Co MD.  Howard Co also gave us a very fresh, even pristine Juniper Hairstreak that has us wondering whether this represents a late-eclosing Juniper (Juniper Hairstreak is generally considered to be double-brooded in the mid-Atlantic, and the peak of the second brood is mid-July), or the first salvo in a partial third brood, which Juniper Hairstreaks are sometimes reported as flying.  White M was also recorded in the region this week, along with the requisite Gray and Red-banded Hairstreaks.  A few Summer Azures are still flying; Eastern Tailed-blue populations have plummeted from already low numbers.

Fresh Silvery Checkerspots, another phenological oddity, were also reported in several regional locations.  Pearl Crescents are out, and numbers seem to be holding steady and possibly even increasing somewhat.  Meadow Fritillary was reported, but the most common fritillary this week was Variegated. Large numbers of Red-spotted Purples are flying this week.  There’s a satyrid lull, with only several reports of Common Wood Nymph and singleton Appalachian Browns and Northern Pearly-eyesMonarchs by contract are seen practically everywhere.

Diversity and populations of skippers ticked up considerably over the past week, included a FOY Clouded Skipper.  The Ocola spate of the last two weeks seems to have abated, but large numbers of Sachem, Crossline, and Tawny-edged are out, along with smaller numbers of Fiery, Southern Broken-dash, Little Glassywing and Zabulon Skippers.  The only reliably reported duskywing this week was Wild Indigo.  Amazingly, Brazilian Skipper has now been reported all the way up into CT; time to inspect your cannas for the characteristic cigar-rolled leaves!

Nothing special on the swallowtail front except that fresh Black Swallowtails are pretty common this week, and we’re seeing the best flight of Eastern Tigers we’ve seen so far this year.

NECTAR NOTES:  Mistflower, wild sunflowers, early asters, goldenrod, and — especially — bonesets, Joe-pyes, and thoroughworts are the big draw where they’re blooming.  A few dogbane patches are mounting a late flowering spurt.  Morning glories and bindweeds are coming into their own now and will soon be sporting Clouded Skippers probing deep into their corollas.

SEE SOMETHING, SAY SOMETHING:  The long Labor Day weekend looks decent if not terrific for butterfliers; share any lep observations you make with us by leaving a commenti on this post 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 2018 August 25

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Palamedes Swallowtail in Edgemere MD (near Baltimore) [2018 August 18; photo by Gale Janiszewski, in whose garden this critter showed up!]

HIGHLIGHTS:  Palamedes Swallowtail (near Baltimore!!), Clouded Skipper, Diana Fritillary, Banded Hairstreak

This is the time of year we’re accustomed to out-of-range shorebirds and waders; but Palamedes Swallowtail?? This pristine Palamedes showed up in a suburban garden in the Sparrows Point quad of MD, near Baltimore, well away from its very restricted range in MD at the far southern tip of Delmarva.  The plump and very crisp butterfly suggests it eclosed somewhere near Gale Janiszewski’s garden in Edgemere, but beyond that we’ll probably have to just scratch our heads.

As far as other swallowtails are concerned, there’s been a slight but welcome uptick in Eastern Tiger Swallowtails in this last brood of the summer, and there are still quite a few Zebra Swallowtails hanging around. We may actually get a very occasional partial fourth brood out of these this year, given that the abundant rains have kept pawpaw leaves relatively green and pliable.  Fresh Pipevine Swallowtails are flying, and there are decent numbers of Black Swallowtails on the wing, especially on the Eastern Shore.  Spicebush has been rather sparse here at the end of the season.  No Giant Swallowtail reports this week. [UPDATE:  Giant Swallowtail was observed in PA last week]

The other high note this week comes from Howard Co MD and the regional FOY Clouded Skipper for the season.  Ocola Skippers were again widely reported, along with a decided upswing in Sachem and Zabulon SkippersSalt Marsh Skipper is flying now and should be looked for in brackish or salt marshes, where they like marsh fleabane and goldenrods for nectar.  The unusual population boom of Brazilian Skippers continues on Cape May, where they’ve apparently managed to stage a full, locally produced second brood.

The lycaenid of the week was a tattered rag of a Banded Hairstreak in WV last week.  White M should be flying but there have been no reports.  Summer Azure, Gray Hairstreak, Eastern-tailed Blue, and Red-banded Hairstreak round out the blues and hairstreaks; no reports this week of either of the coppers.  No sightings either of Harvester. [UPDATE: While it was missed at the time, a Great Purple Hairstreak showed up in a picture of other butterflies taken last week on Joe-pye weed along New Bridge Road near Vienna — FOY sighting regionally of this hairstreak]

Fritillary numbers are down, especially Great Spangled, although Variegated Fritillaries are common but not abundant.  A ragged male Diana was reported from WV.  In fact, few of the migratory brushfoots — Snout, Red Admiral, Ladies, Buckeyes — have reached anything like their normal late summer population explosions.  All are seen regularly but haven’t been especially common.  Viceroy and Red-spotted Purple are still out.  This week brought sightings of a very fresh Mourning Cloak — another 2018 scarcity — as well as good numbers of Eastern Commas and Question Marks.

A few more Cloudless Sulphurs made observers’ lists this week, along with small pockets of Sleepy Orange.

NECTAR NOTES:  In addition to the afore-mentioned marsh fleabane and goldenrods, there’s a lot of action this week on Joe-pye and ironweed, and the other traditional bonesets and thoroughworts are coming in to their own (the latter is especially popular with day-flying moths for some reason).  Blue mistflower and its garden ageratum cousins are pulling in butterflies, as are early asters.  Ocolas especially are fond of tall perennial sunflowers of various stripes.  This time of year, one is more likely to find anglewings and cloaks on windfall apples, pears, and pawpaws than on traditional nectar.

CALENDAR NOTES:  There are butterfly walks coming up next weekend at Soldiers Delight (Owings Mills MD) and Lake Elkhorn (Columbia MD); see the master Leplog calendar for details.

SEE SOMETHING, SAY SOMETHING: You would have to go to 2017 for as nice a field day on the weekend as we are predicted to have tomorrow.  If you get out to enjoy it, share any butterfly observations with us by leaving a commenting on this post 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 2018 August 18

Common Sootywing in the butterfly garden of the Parris Glendening Nature Preserve area, MD: Anne Arundel Co [2018 August 12, photo by Tom Stock]

HIGHLIGHTS:  Common Sootywing, Hayhurst’s Scallopwing, Swarthy Skipper

Another decidedly low-key week for butterflies across the mid-Atlantic, and the off-on rain chances for the weekend are likely to dampen (pun intended) enthusiasm for being out in the field again.

Skippers provided the most interest over the past week, and their numbers and diversity are likely to build in the next week.  Among the more interesting were a couple of observations of Common Sootywing, which has not been easy to come by this year, and of Swarthy Skipper, which in some locations is the most common grass skipper currently on the wing.  Sachem –– our usually ubiquitous late summer skipper — is out, but not in the clouds of orange we’re accustomed to seeing over Joe-pye weed and butterfly bush.  It’s a relatively good year for Southern Cloudywing, which was reported widely this week across the region (and of course always should be checked closely in case a Confused Cloudywing is hiding amongst them).  Of particular note is the early appearance and wide distribution of sightings over the past couple of weeks of Ocola Skipper.  We’re not the only ones seeing early visits by this migratory species; it’s been seen across a number of New England states this summer already.  Hayhurst’s Scallopwing has been common in a couple of locations this week but certainly not widespread or abundant as it is in some years.

The current brood of Zebra Swallowtails is among the most beautiful we’ve seen in recent years, with extra-long tails that likely resulted from the exception quality of fresh leaves on pawpaw stimulated by the abundant rainfall.  It’s possible we may even see a partial fourth brood this year, as we sometimes do when the quality of forage for the Zebras is high and if the autumn lingers warm with moderate rains.  One Giant Swallowtail report came in from the immediate region (Harford Co MD) this week.  Fresh Pipevine Swallowtails were widely encountered.

Little has changed on the lycaenid front the last couple of weeks: Red-banded and Gray Hairstreaks are the only ‘streaks reported recently.  Eastern Tail-blues are present but require some diligence to find.  No recent Harvester reports.  Summer Azures are flying (the only azure that is) but again in modest numbers.  Fresh American Coppers can be found now as well.

Sleepy Oranges and a few Cloudless Sulphurs provide the only relief from the normal whites and sulphurs.  Probable Cabbage (Small) Whites along weedy verges, overgrown lots, and happily unkempt roadsides should all be double checked for Checkered White, while is probably often overlooked.

Not much movement on the brushfoot front, either — fritillaries included Great Spangled, Meadow, and Variegated, all in modest or falling numbers; a few Painted Ladies provoked a blip of interest; Snout numbers are up but at best uncommon.  Last year’s spate of Gulf Fritillaries has not been repeated.

Monarchs are a bright spot this summer; you can find them in most fields with nectar and in many urban and suburban gardens.  And many caterpillar reports.  Whether this translates into a good flight next season as they repopulate the mid-Atlantic after migrating north from their wintering grounds remains to be seen; all the research so far suggests that it isn’t the raw numbers of Monarchs produced on the summer feeding grounds but something on the migratory route or wintering groves that drives down the numbers of butterflies returning the following spring.

NECTAR NOTES:  There’s a lot of nectar about now, including native liatris, which means the annual watch for Leonard’s Skipper should be underway (our best sightings are usually around Labor Day).  Sennas and partridge peas are in good bloom (and providing caterpillar resources for Sleepy Oranges and Cloudless Sulphurs). A late flush of buttonbush and the tail end of clethra are also good bets, especially for marsh and coastal skippers.  The early fall native sunflower crop (crownsbeard, coreopsis tickseed, thin-leaved and woodland sunflowers) are the go-to native species to check for Ocola and other skippers.

LET US KNOW: Sunbursts when they come this weekend will also bring hungry butterflies between showers.  Remember to report your sightings by leaving a commenting on this post 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 2018 August 11

Seldom encountered away from schoolyards in our area (!), this Painted Lady was photographed in Howard Co MD last week at Alpha Ridge Park [2018 August 4, photo by John Harris]

Sorry, no highlights to report this week.  While the uptick in numbers has been noticeable this past week, there’s been very little new or newsworthy to report.  Find us a highlight for next week’s Forecast!

The expected grass skippers are flyin albeit in rather anemic numbers; Hayhurst’s Scallopwing is conspicuous by its virtual absence.  Ocola Skipper provided the only exception to the rule of generally low skipper numbers; it appears to be having a good year in 2018 with sightings already well up into New England and in multiple locations here in the mid-Atlantic.  Horace’s Duskywing continues a pretty strong flight.

After an absence of several months, Painted Lady showed up in a couple of widely scattered spots — mostly garden areas, as I recall — and American Lady singletons were reported as well.  Commas and Question Marks were quite commonly noted, especially on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, although late season Mourning Cloaks have not made the lists recently.  Fresh Viceroys were on the wing last weekend.  Another brushfoot doing well is Common Wood Nymph.  Common Buckeye numbers are building (finally, although none of the dark reddish-pink autumn morph, rosa, yet) as are Variegated Fritillaries.  Great Spangled Fritillary is beginning its decline.  Lots of Monarchs this summer.  Pearl Crescents, by contrast, are sparse, and the big spike in Silvery Checkerspot is rapidly dwindling.  As Harry Pavulaan pointed out to me in relationship to last week’s Forecast, the sighting of a fresh Little Wood Satyr on the Eastern Shore did not portend a new flight, but it does have us scratching our collective heads.  These satyrs have two main flights in May and June; that a fresh individual would show up at the end of July on the coastal plain is, well, anomalous.  Did it aestivate during the heat waves we had? Is the flight all screwed up because of this weird weather year?  Is it a sibling species in the complex?  Bears watching, and please let me know if you have late-July records of Little Wood Satyr from the Piedmont or Eastern Shore.

Fresh Red-banded and Gray Hairstreaks were regularly reported, but Summer Azure and  Eastern Tailed-blue proved rather scarce this past week compared with most years.  One White M Hairstreak sighting came in this week.

Nothing out of the ordinary for whites and sulphurs, except there are scattered reports of pockets of Sleepy Orange and Cloudless Sulphur but not area-wide sightings yet.  ‘Tis the season for Checkered White, too, but no sightings to be had.

All the summer swallowtails are out, presumably, with an excellent late flight of Zebra Swallowtails and a new crop of Black Swallowtails, but modest Eastern Tigers and Spicebush and very few Pipevines (except on the National Mall, where they are omnipresent during the summer thanks to abundant horticultural Aristolochia in the gardens).  There were no reports of Palamedes or Giant Swallowtails regionally this week (although Tom Stock is seeing scads of them while vacationing in Duck, NC).

NECTAR NOTES:  Goldenrods are coming into bloom, and on the lower Eastern Shore especially should be checked for Great Purple Hairstreak and Bronze Copper.  Asters are beginning to show some floral activity, and that’s where you’ll find various ladies, admirals, and fritillaries.  In the garden it’s all about buddleia and tithonia.

CALENDAR NOTES:  This weekend includes a NABA annual count in Williamsburg (VA) and a butterfly walk in Howard Co (MD).  See details at https://leplog.wordpress.com/2018-field-trip-and-annual-count-calendar/

LET US KNOW: The weather forecast for the weekend is decidedly mixed, but could offer a few hours each day of rain-free butterfly observation. Report your sightings by leaving a commenting on this post 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 4 August 2018

 

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Southern Cloudywing in the butterfly garden at the Glendening House, Jug Bay Sanctuary, one of four seen there 2018 July 29 [photo by Tom Stock]

HIGHLIGHTS:  Southern Cloudywing, Fiery Skipper, Cloudless Sulphur

Skippers highlight the sightings from the last week, including four Southern Cloudywings at the Glendening House on Jug Bay in Anne Arundel Co MD.  Southern Broken-dash has spiked in numbers this past week to become one of the most common grass skippers around, and the new flight of Sachem seems to be building up.  Wild Indigo Duskywings have overtaken Horace’s in abundance in most areas, but the population peak of Silver-spotted Skippers seems to be waning.  A fresh brood of Common Checkered-skipper is flying (the assumption being for now that most if not all checkered-skippers you’re likely to see in the mid-Atlantic are Common, although there are now reliable confirmed reports of White Checkered-skipper in the region, including a collection near Leesburg).  Tawny-edged, Fiery, Swarthy, and Crossline Skippers were also reported this week; strangely, no reports of Little Glassywing come to mind from the week’s lists. More singleton Ocola Skippers were observed.  Common Sootywing was reported widely but sparingly.  The late summer brood of Zabulon Skipper has just emerged.  Among the “what happened to?” butterflies of the season is Hayhurst’s Scallopwing, which this week has only been reported from NJ.

There were some change-ups in the pierid cast lists this week too, with the long-absent Cloudless Suphur finally making an appearance at several spots across the area.  Sleepy Orange numbers continue to inch up, although they are not nearly as widespread as most years, being confined mostly to well-known epicenters of distribution that feature some kind of senna.

Brushfoot reports included Red-spotted Purple, Viceroy, both anglewings (Eastern Comma and Question Mark), both emperors (Hackberry and Tawny), American Snout, and singleton American LadiesCommon Buckeye is starting to show up now as well although hardly living up to its name yet, and a fresh flight of Red Admirals seems to be taking wing.  Monarchs are having a very good year, apparently.  The late summer flight of Little Wood Satyr is just beginning; a good summer flight of Common Wood Nymph is unusually persistent.  Surprisingly, Carolina Satyr has yet to be officially noted this year in the region.  Great Spangled Fritillary is out, including some rather fresh specimens, and there are widespread reports (but low numbers) of Variegated Fritillary.  Another small brood of Pearl Crescents is about, with now-dwindling numbers of Silvery Checkerspots (who do not cope well with heavy rains).  A probably Northern Crescent was sighted in Frederick Co.

Eastern Tailed-blue is around but in subdued numbers; same with Summer Azure.  Fresh American Coppers are flying.  Gray Hairstreaks were reported at numerous locations.

Swallowtails include the final push of Zebra Swallowtails (some years we get a partial autumn brood), an emerging stronger flight of Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, and modest numbers of Black and SpicebushPipevine Swallowtail was not reported this week.

NECTAR NOTES:  As Linda Hunt noted in her missive to Howard Co MD butterfliers, most of the action this time of year is in local gardens.  Having said that, Joe-pye weed and ironweed are at peak bloom and draw grass skippers like bananas draw fruit flies, and clethra is still going strong.  The huge flower clouds (but tiny individual flowers) of Hercule’s club (aka devil’s walking stick) are a terrific magnet for most any pollinator, including hairstreaks and Snouts.  Honey vine (a climbing milkweed) and mikania are attractive too, and of course pickerel week along streams and ponds and marshes is the best place to find coastal skippers.  And of course, should you be lucky enough to see any of our magnificent fringed, frilly or crested orchids (Platanthera), keep in mind that their primary (for some species maybe even exclusive) pollinators are swallowtails!

See for example this YouTube video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JBoD0XJVkHY

CALENDAR NOTES:  Upcoming walks and counts include the count in Williamsburg (VA) and walks in Howard Co (MD) and Fauquier Co (VA).  For details visit the master calendar listings on LepLog at https://leplog.wordpress.com/2018-field-trip-and-annual-count-calendar/

LET US KNOW:  Another mostly decent weekend on tap (pun intended in this soaked summer) after a solid week of almost daily rains.  Report your sightings by leaving a comment here at https://leplog.wordpress.com/ or by posting to Google Groups at MDLepsOdes.

 

Posted in Forecasts, sightings | 4 Comments

Afield in Search of Skippers

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Southern Cloudywing, one of four in the Glendening Preserve butterfly garden at Jug Bay [2018 July 29, photo by REB]

Tom Stock and I headed out midday yesterday to check on the Dion Skipper populations at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens in DC, and in our usual optimistic high spirits that we might find Brazilian Skippers on (what in the past have been) the extensive canna plantings at KAG.

Our first note of ugly reality came when the parking lot and adjacent streets were packed with cars.  Mind you, the Lotus Festival was LAST weekend in the pouring monsoon; apparently everyone who had planned to come then came yesterday.  The gardens looked like Times Square on New Year’s Eve.

The second dash of our hopes came in looking at the canna bed in the parking lot.  Scrawny, scraggly and only a few in bloom.  A few lantanas in the bed were struggling to bloom, but even there we couldn’t find a single butterfly.  In the gardens proper, we were met by even more sparsely populated canna beds — and almost no butterflies whatsover, despite abundant lantana, pickerelweed, swamp milkweed, and ironweed, all in peak bloom.  The canna situation I think I can account for — like me, I suspect the KAG staff leave cannas in the ground over winter in this hardiness zone and they are reliably perennial.  Not this year.  I lost every one of the cannas I left in the soil this year; my only two remaining cannonshot cannas (the butterfly favorite) came up from seed.  The ONLY butterfly of note in KAG was a Viceroy.

Our best sighting was not a butterfly, actually; it was a Northern Water Snake chowing down on a frog in full view of the (blissfully ignorant) masses of plein air artists painting waterlilies.

So we headed on down the Patuxent Corridor to Jug Bay’s Glendening Preserve, which hosts one of the best butterfly gardens in the region.  As soon as we stepped out of the car we saw Common Checkered-skippers, an FOY for both of us.  As we moved around the field perimeters (the main gate is closed on Sundays, for some inane reason; you have to use the gate just down the road and walk around the field back to the butterfly garden) to the house and garden, we began picking up good butterfly diversity, and by the time we got to the butterfly garden we were pretty sure we’d see some good species.

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Common Checkered-skipper, Glendening Preserve at Jug Bay Sanctuary, Anne Arundel Co [2018 July 29, photo by REB]

Sleepy Oranges were all over the senna in the garden, as they are every summer.  Our FOY Southern Broken-dashes were common, as were Sachem, but the best butterflies in the garden were the several Southern Cloudywings.  And I had my FOY American Copper on the way out.

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Southern Broken-dash, among the more common butterflies at Glendening Preserve today [2018 July 29, photo by REB]

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American Copper, Glendening Preserve, Jug Bay Sanctuary, Anne Arundel Co. [2018 July 29, photo by REB]

While we hoped for Ocola Skipper (they’ve been early in several places in the mid-Atlantic already), we didn’t see any.  But more puzzling is the continued absence of Cloudless Sulphur, which seems to have crashed all down the East Coast.

Equally important as the FOYs was the discovery of a new LepLunch location with the catchy name of Rick’s NC BBQ less than a mile away along the service road to Glendening.  We both agreed the pulled pork sandwiches we had were among the best we’d ever tasted (and that’s saying something); I picked up smoked sausages for lunch today (note to self–Rick’s will have a whole-hog pig-pickin’ August 25!)

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Clever name, this! Caught our attention ….

We finished up the day back in College Park along Northeast Branch to get Tom on a Silvery Checkerspot so he wouldn’t be embarrassed by saying he’d missed out on this species during its major irruption, which we did in short order.

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Silvery Checkerspot, a bit worn, from along Northeast Branch in College Park, MD [2018 July 29, photo by REB]

Tom’s list from Glendening is below:

Zebra Swallowtail (5)
Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (3)
Spicebush Swallowtail (1)
Cabbage White (6)
Orange Sulphur (common)
Sleepy Orange (8)
American Copper (1)
Eastern Tailed Blue (common)
Variegated Fritillary (7)
Great Spangled Fritillary (4)
Pearl Crescent (2)
Question Mark (1)
Common Buckeye (2)
Red-spotted Purple (1)
Monarch (6)
Silver-spotted Skipper (common)
Southern Cloudywing (4)
Horace’s Duskywing (1)
Wild Indigo Duskywing (4)
Common Checkered-Skipper (2)
Least Skipper (3)
Peck’s Skipper (7)
Tawny-edged Skipper (4)
Southern Broken-Dash (common)
Sachem (common)

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