Perfect Day in Green Ridge SF

2017APR09 Olympia Marble_GRSF_Tom Stock photo

The only Olympia Marble we found at rest (thanks Tom Feild!) [2017 April 9, Green Ridge State Forest, photo by Tom Stock]

Spring comes early — and earlier than most people think — to the ridges and valleys of Green Ridge State Forest.  This patchwork of shaded streams, shale cliffs, barrens, and hemlock groves bisected by mostly dirt (and sometimes little of that!) roads and powerlines gives some of the best habitat for unusual butterfly sightings in the spring season.

This area warms up surprisingly early in the spring.  Common wisdom used to be that Green Ridge was never really productive until late April or early May; that may have been true once, and it’s clear that warming average temperatures in the East have advanced the spring schedule somewhat, but I think what’s really going on is that butterfliers just don’t get out early enough in the Green Ridge to see the first flush of leps.

Some of the most productive habitat lies along south- and west-facing slopes under powerlines, on sparsely forested ridgelines, and on the few remaining shale barrens.  Here, even with ambient air temperatures in the 40’sF, the microhabitat at ground level can be 70F or higher.  This brings out some real specialties in early spring.

Green Ridge is the state’s last known redoubt for Olympia Marble, whose numbers have rebounded somewhat over the past decade.  It’s never abundant anywhere in the area, but by assiduously checking out every female Falcate Orangetip along the higher elevation roads and ridgetops, lucky observers will likely see a handful of Marbles in a full day and many road-miles of exploration.  Other specialties are more accommodating; Silvery Blues are found regularly wherever its larval host Carolina Vetch grows, and that’s over much of Green Ridge where there’s sufficient sun.  Tortoiseshells are seen here sporadically, and both Dreamy and Sleepy Duskywings can be abundant.

2017APR09 mating silvery blues_GRSF_Tom Stock pic

Silvery Blues were in courtship and mating condition, this pair along a powerline. [2017 April 9, photo by Tom Stock]

I joined an impromptu party of naturalists — some by arrangement, and some by lucky happenstance as we ran into each other on the back roads — for most of the day yesterday, one of the best field days I’ve had in Green Ridge. By the time it coalesced, the group included Tom Stock, Jim Brighton, Tom and Geraldine Feild, Jared Satchell, Jim Stasz, Matt Orsie and Barry Marts. We found Olympia Marbles, our primary target species, in several locations, including one area where it has been absent for at least a decade.  The full list below of species seen between us is courtesy of Tom Stock’s recordkeeping:

Zebra Swallowtail (3)
Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (2)
Cabbage White (abundant)
Olympia Marble (~6, observed closely or in hand)
Falcate Orangetip (abundant)
Orange Sulphur (1)
Eastern Pine Elfin (2)
Gray Hairstreak (4)
Summer Azure (abundant) [I checked the wing scaling of a number of specimens in hand to confirm they were spring brood Summer Azure rather than Spring Azure]
Silvery Blue (7)
Mourning Cloak (3)
American Lady (1)
Red Admiral (1)
Sleepy Duskywing (abundant)
Juvenal’s Duskywing (abundant)

We were also treated to another insect specialty of Green Ridge, Cow Path Tiger Beetle, a handsome creature of dry barrens and short grass.

2017APR02 C purpurea Cow Path Tiger Beetle_MD-Allegany CO-GRSF

Cow Path Tiger Beetle in Green Ridge State Forest taken last weekend [2017 April 2, photo by REB]

Of course, no excursion Tom Stock & I take is complete without a LepLunch shout-out, in this case a LepDinner at Buddy Lou’s in Hancock, MD, where we could relax on the outside deck and plan more of the summer butterfly calendar.  Some of the counts and field trips are already posted here on LepLog at https://leplog.wordpress.com/2017-field-trips-counts/.  We’d be glad to see you joining us.

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Butterfly Field Forecast for the Week of 2017 April 8

2017APR02 Silvery Blue ventral_MD-Allegany Co-GRSF Kasecamp

Silvery Blue is flying in the western MD counties [2017 April 2, MD:Allegany Co:Green Ridge State Forest, photo by REB}

2017APR02 Silvery Blue dorsal_MD-Allegany Co-GRSF Kasecamp

Silvery Blue is flying in the western MD counties [2017 April 2, MD:Allegany Co:Green Ridge State Forest, photo by REB}

The past week and weekend showed a steady increase in species diversity and numbers, including Silvery Blue, American Lady, Zebra Swallowtail, Eastern Tailed-blue, Meadow Fritillary, Pearl Crescent, Henry’s Elfin and Black Swallowtail.

Unless I missed the report, the azures on the wing locally are all still Summer (spring brood) Azure, although with the emergence of buds on flowering dogwood we should also be seeing Spring Azure (in much smaller and apparently diminishing numbers).  All the azures netted for close ID in Green Ridge State Forest last weekend were Summer, even the heavily marked ones that bring to mind old and out-of-date azure formulations of marginata, violacea, etc.  Neither has Holly Azure been reported yet, but I strongly suspect it is now flying in the appropriate holly habitat. In southern NJ, Blueberry Azure, often considered the distinct species lucia, is reported on the wing.

Of the elfins, only Henry’s Elfin made an appearance this week (both sightings in Prince George’s Co MD), timed as always with the bloom of larval host redbud (although it appears that in parts of its range around here Henry’s also feeds on holly).  Be especially observant to report the very green viridissima form and note if it is flying with the typical brown morph  (normal henrici).  Brown Elfin is out in southern NJ.  Eastern Tailed-blue has begun flying; so has Silvery Blue in the higher elevations to the west.  Gray Hairstreak sightings picked up.  If they aren’t out already, both Red-banded Hairstreak and Juniper Hairstreak will be on the wing soon.

Little change in status for whites and sulphurs this week; Falcate Orangetips are building in numbers.  So far, it’s still mostly males, but the sex ratio should even out this week.  Olympia Marbles were searched for last weekend in Green Ridge State Forest but were not observed.

Zebra Swallowtails joined Eastern Tiger Swallowtails on the rolls this week, and Black Swallowtails were reported in the gardens around the Smithsonian Castle in DC.

American Ladies showed up across the region this week, some (in Green Ridge for example) pristine enough to be locally emerged and some tattered and torn probable migrants.  It’s been a rather poor Mourning Cloak year, but they are still flying, as are good numbers of Eastern Commas and Question MarksPearl Crescents and Meadow Fritillary made first of the year appearances here.  American Snouts continue.  Variegated Fritillary and Common Buckeye were picked up in NJ.  Anyone in the field in the mountain counties over the next week should keep a sharp eye out for tortoiseshells and specialty commas like Gray and Green Comma.

Skippers numbers and diversity are up; Dreamy and Sleepy Duskywings were reported in Green Ridge and elsewhere, and Juvenal’s appears to be having an early and large flight (some of which could be Horace’s, the undersides of which have not been checked).  Cobweb Skipper should be on the wing in appropriate xeric bluestem habitats.  Where it still exists, field observers should look for Appalachian Grizzled Skipper (fingers crossed for MD).

Nectar sources:  Major nectar sources this past week have included moss phlox, redbud, crabapples, high-bush cranberry, and the usual low forbs henbit, ground ivy, deadnettle, dandelion, and spring cresses.

Sunday looks to be the standout day this weekend, and the rains of yesterday and this morning may push a number of new species to emerge.  If you make it out, please let us know  what you find for the next Forecast. 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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New Field Guide: Butterflies of Pennsylvania

9780822964551The spring is upon us, with sightings of azures, swallowtails, early pierids, elfins — and a brand-new field guide to tell them apart!

Later this month, University of Pittsburgh Press will bring out Butterflies of Pennsylvania: A Field Guide, written by the inimitable team of James L. Monroe and David M. Wright.  Here’s the blurb announcing the new publication:

Butterflies of Pennsylvania is the most comprehensive, user-friendly field guide to date of every species ever recorded within Pennsylvania.  It includes more than 900 brilliant color photographs, making identification quick and easy.  Features include:

  • Skippers of Pennsylvania in addition to butterflies
  • Both the front and back of male and female specimens
  • Magnified photo callouts draw attention to details
  • Information on distinguishing marks and traits
  • County by county occurrence maps
  • Average wing span identifiers
  • Habitat and host plants
  • Tips for field identification
  • Seasonal flight graphs show when they are present

Butterflies of Pennsylvania is a handy reference for a broad readership, including students and educators, backyard butterfly enthusiasts and gardeners, conservationists and naturalists, as well as entomologists and lepidopterists.”

James L. Monroe is a research associate at the McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity in Gainesville, Florida, and is professor emeritus of physics at Pennsylvania State University, Beaver. His butterfly photographs have appeared in Nature’s Best Photography, American Butterflies, Butterfly Gardener, and numerous other journals. David M. Wright is chairman of patient safety and quality council at Abington Health-Lansdale Hospital in Pennsylvania. He is an anatomical and clinical pathologist who has published extensively on the butterflies of Pennsylvania and neighboring states. His papers have appeared in American Butterflies, Journal of the Lepidopterists’ Society, The Journal of Research on the Lepidoptera, and numerous other journals.

University of Pittsburgh Press has a terrific “flip book” online that lets you browse the book, and it looks really sharp.  I’m looking forward to reviewing it!

When it comes out (Amazon is taking preorders to fulfill April 28) it will be available from the Press for $24.95.  336 pages, paper/flex bound, 5.75 x 8.75 inches.

 

 

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Questionable Commas

There’s a great post currently up on the South Jersey Butterfly B/log that makes for intriguing reading when sorting out this spring’s Eastern Commas and Question Marks.  At issue is regular sightings of Eastern Comma with “broken” punctuation on the silver mark that look more like the “question mark” of P. interrogationis.

LepLog readers might also find interesting the early/late dates of New Jersey butterflies, also on their site currently.

And note they’ve had Eastern Pine Elfin already!

Posted in general butterfly news, Identification tips, sightings | 3 Comments

Weekly Butterfly Field Forecast Returns for 2017!

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Summer (spring form) Azure in Anne Arundel Co [2017 Mar 25, photo by Tim Reichard]

Butterfly Field Forecast for Week of 2017 April 1

No fooling – the Weekly LepLog Forecast is back for another season. Top sightings this week include White M Hairstreak, American Snout, Zebra Swallowtail, Gray Hairstreak, Falcate Orangetip, and Eastern Tiger Swallowtail.

This season has been a real rollercoaster from mid-February through March, with midsummer days alternating rapidly with midwinter days. A number of butterflies made early appearances, especially Summer (spring brood) Azure, which emerged in huge numbers in early March only to be summarily frozen out by a couple days of nighttime temperatures in the upper teens and lower 20’s. Anglewings (both Eastern Comma and Question Mark) and Mourning Cloak showed throughout, as have Small (Cabbage) White and Orange Sulphurs.

The warm spell in March that brought out azures also yielded a very fresh White M Hairstreak in the Fern Valley area of the US National Arboretum. Azures can still confidently be assumed to be Summer Azure in most of our region, although Spring Azure has been sighted in VA and will likely be around in increasing numbers. Keep in mind that Spring Azure is almost entirely dependent on flowering dogwood as a larval host plant, and in the wild these dogwoods aren’t doing too well in the region, so if you see an azure but not dogwood this week it’s still probably Summer.  Holly Azure will also be flying soon to add to the confusion.  Nor can one be confident that an azure ovipositing on holly is a Holly Azure; Summer Azures are notoriously unfinicky about host plants.  [Bear this latter in mind later in the season when watching azures ovipositing on blueberry, goatsbeard, and black cohosh later in the season]

A Maryland Biodiversity Project foray to the lower Eastern Shore last weekend picked up a number of FOYs for the area, including American Snout and Falcate Orangetip. A probable Juvenal’s Duskywing was spotted soaking up sun but fled from Jim Brighton’s butterfly net before showing us its underwings to distinguish it from Horace’s Duskywing. One Eastern Tiger Swallowtail showed for the group in the Pocomoke drainage, as did Summer Azures, Orange Sulphurs, and Small (Cabbage) Whites. Commas and Question Marks were rather widespread, including one congregation of eight or 10 anglewings dogfighting in the top of a tall white oak with a profusely bleeding series of sapsucker wells. They were joined by a solo Mourning Cloak.   Since last weekend, Orangetips and duskywings have been reported more widely in the region. 

Not far to our south, elfins are already emerging, as are Silvery Blue and Silver-spotted Skipper. It’s a sure bet elfins will be on the wing this weekend or next week, and I’m guessing Olympia Marbles and Silvery Blues are both on the wing in Green Ridge State Forest, probably accompanied by Dreamy and Sleepy Duskywings. Next week should also see the first local reports of Juniper Hairstreak and American Copper, and possibly the first migrant Red Admiral up from the south. A few more warm days will also likely bring out the first brood of Black Swallowtails.

And lastly, in Rohrersville MD, a Little Yellow was reported this week that, if confirmed, likely arrived as a hitchhiker on nursery plants or hay from points south.

Nectar sources this week:  Redbud (check flowers carefully for elfins, especially Henry’s Elfin),  highbush blueberries, shadbush over most of the state.  Moss phlox and dwarf cinquefoil in the mountains.  Wild phlox and bluebells coming into bloom along the C&O Canal and Piedmont floodplains.  Purple deadnettle, henbit, and various Cardamine spp. statewide.  Check especially dandelion under old redcedars for Juniper Hairstreak. 

This season, please help us make the Weekly Butterfly Field Report as helpful in finding butterflies in the field as we can by reporting back what you find to us for the next Forecast. 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, general butterfly news, sightings | 7 Comments

New County Records for MD

N Cloudywing

Northern CLoudywing county tick for Washington Co by Rick Cheicante

Thanks to those of you who sent potential new county records for DC, MD, and VA to update the late Dick Smith’s Butterflies of Unknown Status project.  There were few responses to this call, so few updates.

Because I don’t have access either to records that may have been sent to Dick during the first half of 2016, or to the graphics files in which he created the original status sheets, what I’ll leave here are changes to the 2015 update that can be found at https://leplog.wordpress.com/regional-lists/butterflies-of-unknown-status-in-the-dc-area/

For 2017 going forward, I will only be updating the Maryland data for this project, and only then if the data are entered in the phenomenal Maryland Biodiversity (MBP) Project database (http://www.marylandbiodiversity.com/viewChecklist.php?category=Butterflies).  This is a very easy system to use, and will eventually provide quad-level data for observations of butterflies throughout Maryland.  Sensitive species and sensitive habitats can be shielded from public access here, but I will still be able to report generic observation data.  Working with our MBP colleagues, we’ll be able to spit a record of all new observations for the year and automatically tabulate which ones are new county records.

Two years ago, Dick and I worked with MBP to share a number of his historic records with MBP, so while there are still a few discrepancies, the country records for MBP and for Dick’s Butterflies of Unknown Status project are congruent for most records in the past three decades or so.  More recently, many more records have been input in MBP than are reflected in Dick’s Butterflies of Unknown Status, so that a number of “missing” counties in Dick’s status document are represented in MBP.  In any event, since there will be no way to update Dick’s database, it seems prudent scientifically and recreationally to transfer our attention to the MBP platform as our way of systematically recording butterfly sightings in Maryland going forward.

There is one caveat:  All of Dick’s records were personally verified by him, and likely represent the best known current status of butterflies in their respective counties.  MBP may contain historical data as well as vouchered or verified sightings, but as time goes by we hope to populate MBP with current records and status of all MD butterflies.

Note also that only four of the records below are actually from 2016; several represent old records only recently shared.

Delaware – No new county records submitted in 2016

District of Columbia – No new county records submitted in 2016

Maryland –

Allegany

Meadow Fritillary [Boloria bellona (Fabricius, 1775)]

Observer:  Rick Cheicante

Details:  2012 August 24, Dailey Road (DeLorme p. 68, C-3)

Notes:  County tick for Dick’s Butterflies of Unknown Status log (not for MBP)

Charles

Northern Pearly-eye [Enodia anthedon A.H. Clark, 1936]

Observer:  Rick Cheicante

Details:  2014 June 29 (submitted in 2016), Friendship Landing Road, Nanjemoy, MD

Notes:  This is a record only for Dick’s Unknown Status project; there are    Charles Co records in the MBP database already.

Washington

Southern Cloudywing [Thorybes bathyllus (J.E. Smith, 1797)]

Observer:  Rick Cheicante

Details:  2016 June 10, Pearre Road, Hancock MD (DeLorme p. 69, B-5)

Notes:  Country record for MBP (not for Dick Smith’s Unknown Status project)

Northern Cloudywing [Thorybes pylades (Scudder, 1870)]

Observer:  Rick Cheicante

Details:  2012 May 19, Pearre Road, Hancock MD (DeLorme p. 69, B-5)

Notes:  Country record for Dick Smith’s Unknown Status project (not a record for MBP]

Coral Hairstreak [Satyrium titus (Fabricius, 1793)]

Observer:  Kathy Barylski

Details:  2014 June 28, Pleasant Valley Road

Notes:  Record only for Dick Smith’s status report; already represented for Washington Co in MBP

Brown Elfin [Callophrys augustinus (Westwood, 1852)]

Observer:  Kathy Barylski

Details:  2016 April 26, Lamb’s Knoll

Notes:  County tick for Dick Smith’s project only; already represented in MBP

Harvester [Feniseca tarquinius (Fabricius, 1793)]

Observer:  Multiple observers in 2015

Details:  Indian Springs WMA

Notes:  County tick for Dick Smith’s project only; already represented in MBP

Northern Cloudywing [Thorybes pylades (Scudder, 1870)]

Observer:  Kathy Barylski

Details:  2016 June 6, Pleasant Valley Rd

Notes:  County tick for Dick Smith’s project but superseded as record by Rick Cheicante’s record above; already represented in MBP

Montgomery

Sleepy Duskywing [Erynnis brizo (Boisduval & Leconte, [1837])]

Observer:  Kathy Barylski

Details:  2015 April 19, Little Bennett Regional Park

Notes:  County tick for Dick Smith’s project only; already represented in MBP

Howard

Bronze Copper [Lycaena hyllus (Cramer, 1775]

Observer:  Bonnie Ott

Details:  2016 Oct. 18, Meadowbrook Park.

Notes:  This represents a single sighting of this species after an absence of some decades in the Piedmont.  Further exploration of the wet grassland habitat is in order to determine whether this was a transplant from a known population elsewhere or actually represents an extant colony.

Retracted Record:            Bronze Copper for 2007 Frederick Co by Kathy Barylski is withdrawn in favor of American Copper.  This leaves the status of Bronze Copper unknown for Frederick Co. in Dick Smith’s Butterflies of Unknown Status.

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Quino Checkerspot Recovery at San Diego NWF

In the video below, biologist John Martin surveys a plateau on a mountainside at the San Diego National Wildlife Refuge on a recent spring morning. The landscape is covered with coastal sage scrub, once the dominant habitat in the Southern California region.

This green ribbon of natural habitat that wraps around Mount San Miguel is a sharp contrast to the urban environment that surrounds the refuge’s 11,000 acres of protected lands.

Martin could see downtown San Diego from this hard-to-reach vantage spot, but that is not what he was there to look at.

“This open area that I’m sitting in is high-quality habitat for Quino checkerspot butterfly,” Martin said.

The endangered Quino checkerspots are flying on the San Diego National Wildlife Refuge this spring for the first time in years.

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