Northern Exposure – Jutta Arctic, Bog Fritillary

It was the best of times! Barry Marts and I ventured back up to SW Maine and northern New Hampshire to have another go at a couple of species we struck out on last year. We timed out this trip a couple of weeks earlier than last year. The main targets were Bog Fritillary and Jutta Arctic. There is a small window of opportunity to look for both species in mid-June when Jutta’s are winding down and Bog Frit’s are ramping up. The 10 1/2 hour drive up to Colebrook, NH was on a partly cloudy, humid day as we started out from WV that became a totally sunny, very low humidity day by the time we got north of the Massachusetts Turnpike. I had allocated three days for this trip because the weather can be iffy and wet this time of year in the north country. As it turned out Thursday would be our best weather day and indeed it was. I can’t remember a more perfect day for butterflies or anything else for that matter. It was a stunning sunny day that started off at 37 degrees with temps topping out around 70. Light winds helped to mitigate the Black Flies that would annoy us from time to time. The day started off great as we entered Maine. We drove right by a young male Moose on the north side of the road. I whipped the car around and went back in time for Barry to capture a couple of shots before it headed into the woods. I’ve included his shot below in the photo section. We spent about 3 1/2 hours walking around a couple of bogs near Wilson’s Mills, ME. It was hard work as your constantly worried about your footing or getting stuck. I liken it to a cross between walking on tundra (moss covered bowling balls) and the beach. It tires you out for sure. We lucked out at the first bog for within a couple of minutes we were photographing the first of perhaps 12-15 Bog Fritillaries we saw there. Silver-bordered Fritillaries can also be seen in these habitats (we found 2) but the small ventral PM spots on Silver-bordered are black while they are white on Bog Frit (I’ve included a comparative shot below).

The bog also contained some Cotton Grass and mixed sedges which are the host for Jutta Arctic. After an extensive search we had no luck with the Arctic and decided to go to bog #2. Arriving at the second bog we each ventured in different directions. After 45 mins or so I encountered the first of 3 Jutta Actics seen for the day. I was slowly returning towards the road to get Barry when I heard him yell “I found one!”. Yea!! After getting photos these two “bog walkers” grabbed a much needed lunch break in Errol, NH at the “Northern Exposure” restaurant. After lunch we made a 1 1/2 hour drive to extreme northern NH following the Connecticut River (up to its headwaters) to Scott Bog, a place well known for Eastern, Green, Gray, and Hoary Commas in August. There wasn’t a lot a diversity yet but we still managed to see some good species such as: Canadian Tiger Swallowtail (by far the most common species seen during the trip 100+), Green Comma, Milbert’s Tortoiseshell, Arctic Skipper, and  “Veined” Mustard White.
We may never see those bogs again but as for me it will be a day I’ll never forget.

Click on any image below to enlarge

ME_Moose2a_BM Canadian Tiger Swallowtail
Bog Fritillary Bog Fritillary
Silver-bordered Fritillary Arctic Skipper
Jutta Arctic Jutta Arctic
Posted in Blues, Brush-footed, Butterfly ID, Remote Trip, Skippers, Swallowtails, Whites and Sulphurs | Leave a comment

Pink-edged Sulphur, Harris’ Checkerspot, Common Ringlets

Barry Marts and I escaped the heat of our immediate area on Sunday and spent a great afternoon looking for high elevation specialties in Canaan Valley NWR. We were not disappointed. Harris’ Checkerspots were abundant. Several FOY species were seen and photographed including a Pink-edged Sulphur which I had only seen at the highest elevations in Tucker and Pendleton counties until now. Granted the 3,100 ft elevation in Canaan Valley is high but still a thousand feet lower than those locations I’ve seen this species at before. Pink-edged Sulphur has a very, very clean ventral hindwing with a single white cell spot. It has a wider pink edged border than found on fresh Clouded or Orange Sulphurs. Clouded and Orange Sulphurs also have more small ventral markings than Pink-edged. I’ve included a side by side comparison below. Pink-edged Sulphur is a special butterfly in WV and you have to travel well north into Pennsylvania and the Canadian border states before it is typically found. Other notables included Atlantis Fritillary, Silver-bordered Fritillary, Baltimore Checkerspot, Common Ringlet, European Skipper, Long Dash and a  “pocahontas form” Hobomok Skipper. The weather was party cloudy, a little breezy but temps topped out at 80 so it was not too hard to take(:>

Day List

Click on any image below to enlarge

Pink-edged Sulphur Clouded Sulphur
Harris' Checkerspot Common Ringlet
Indian Skipper (female) Atlantis Fritillary
Baltimore Checkerspot Hobomok Skipper "pocahontas form"
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Silver-bordered Fritillary and other FOY’s

I spent a wonderful day at Nathaniel Mountain WMA in Hampshire County hoping to re-find the Hoary Edge Skippers that Barry and I first located there two years ago. Came up empty on Hoary Edge but found 27 species with many first of years. The surprise and highlight of the day was Silver-bordered Fritillary. I’ve only seen this in the Appalachian “spine” counties in West Virginia and Maryland and finding one east of the main mountains was exciting. Other FOY’s:

  Great Spangled Fritillary
  Red-spotted Purple
  Swarthy Skipper
  Least Skipper
  Peck's Skipper
  Crossline Skipper
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The “Keys” to finding butterflies – Schaus’ Swallowtail, Amethyst Hairstreak

Barry Marts, Sarah Smith, Mike Smith and yours truly took a trip to the southern regions of Florida making an initial side trip in the northern part of the state to Suwannee State Park in Suwannee County. At Suwannee we hoped to find and get a photo of Neamathla Skipper. Alas, it was not to be but we did see a probable candidate that got away. Consolation views and photos of Bachman’s Sparrow took its place. We then headed to south Florida and the FL Keys in hopes of finding some of our 6 target species (we ended up with 5). During the next few days we used Florida City as a staging point as we ventured anywhere from Coral Gables down to Big Pine Key which is about 25 miles from Key West. Temperatures and humidity were high (low 90’s and around 78 respectively) so staying hydrated and using bug spray where our main health concerns as we were staying out for hours at a time. Our main target was the endangered Schaus’ Swallowtail and newly colonized Amethyst Hairstreak. The Schaus ST is a Federally protected species whose adult life span is a mere 4-5 days. That’s such an amazing short time to do their thing. Add to that the never ending dangers of human intervention and mosquito spraying that occurs in other areas in south Florida and you can see that we must remain vigilant to ensure future generations get to see this butterfly. We traveled to Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park twice and during those trips we ran into other lepsters hoping to get views/photos of a Schaus’ ST. Browner looking with less yellow overall as compared to Giant Swallowtail the ones we saw only sat for a nanosecond before heading off again. I never did get a photo but we saw 6 during our two trips. We ran into another butterfly enthusiast who was there for a third year trying to get a photo. He was part of a survey party doing counts of the Swallowtail between May and July. Perhaps we’ll have more luck in the photo department next time. Also seen at Dagny was the plentiful Florida Purplewing (another lifer for all of us but Mike). Most of the Purplewings seemed very worn and on the backside of their adult phase.

Another day took us down to Big Pine Key were we found Amethyst and Fulvous Hairstreaks. The Amethyst’s have recently colonized on Big Pine Key. Let’s hope they stick around for many years to come. They are small as far as Hairsteak’s go and when sunset approaches, proceed with courtship displays at the tops of trees (we saw three topping a Pine Tree – photo below) occasionally landing to show their beautiful dark purple dorsal. A bonus bird on Big Pine Key was a couple of Antillean Nighthawks (photo below).

Our final lifer was found at the Fairchild Tropical Gardens which contains a stunning array of Orchids and other plants, scrubs, and trees. After 2 1/2 hours of searching we finally located a Pink-spot Sulphur. Until recently this species had been overlooked because of its similarity to Statira Sulphur or male Cloudless Sulphurs. It turns out that south Florida has been host for them for a while as subsequent searches through existing south Florida butterfly collections have found some Pink-spot’s attributed to Statira. I’m just glad one flew over to us and landed on the underside of a leaf for photos.

Other notables on the trip was Dina Yellow and Shiny Cowbird. All in all it was a gratifying, hot, humid, hard working trip that paid off. We will return!

Click on any image below to enlarge

Amethyst Hairstreak Amethyst Hairstreak
Florida Purplewing Pink-spot Sulphur
Fulvous Hairstreak Antillean Nighthawk
Posted in Brush-footed, Gossamer-winged, Remote Trip, Swallowtails, Whites and Sulphurs | Leave a comment

Carolina Satyr + other FOY’s

During the last five days I’ve picked up a few new leps in the state. The cold, rainy weather gave way to sunny, still cool’ish temps on 5-14 as I returned home from a birding “Big Day” the previous day. During the big day in Mason County, WV I saw a FOY Carolina Satyr and Little-Wood Satyr. On the way home on the Sunday I stopped at a couple of high elevation locations (Thornwood @ 3,000 ft and Spruce Knob @ 4,550 ft). West Virginia Whites were still on the wing in both locations and probable Northern Azure’s (C. lucia) were at Thornwood.

Today on a four mile hike with my dog Shadow in Sleepy Creek, WMA (Berkeley County) grass skippers are beginning to show. FOY’s included Horace’s Duskywing, Indian Skipper, Sachem and Hobomok Skippers. Several Common Roadside-Skippers were also seen. The next couple of months should be fun!

Posted in Blues, Duskywings, Satyrs, Skippers, Swallowtails, Whites and Sulphurs, WV Trip | Leave a comment