First WV butterflies of 2017

This consistent February warmth has brought out Wood Frogs and now my first leps in WV for the year. While hiking in Sleepy Creek WMA in Berkeley county I saw my first Eastern Comma and Mourning Cloak. A great way to start off the season!

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Fiery and Ocola Skippers

In what will probably be the last day above 80 for the next 6 months the leps were giving it all they had. Along a short stretch of our road I saw 6 Fiery Skippers, an Ocola Skipper and a Cloudless Sulphur. Thirteen species in all. Unless a Painted Lady or Long-tailed Skipper shows up soon I’m probably be done for the year (as far as new species) in WV. Other species over the last couple of days:

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail
Cabbage White
Clouded Sulphur
Orange Sulphur
Variegated Fritillary
Eastern Comma
American Lady
Common Buckeye
Monarch
Sachem
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Ocola Skipper in Berkeley County

Saw my first Ocola Skipper of the fall season on a neighbor’s Butterfly Bush. This is only the second time I’ve witnessed one in the state. With the slew of southern irruptive reports thus far this season I don’t think it will be the last. Still holding out for Long-tailed Skipper (which has already been seen in Jefferson county by Deb Hale) and Little Yellow. Have already seen Fiery Skipper and Cloudless Sulphur in the state this season. Hoping all of you great success as the year draws to a close.

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“Death by Skipper” trip to Florida

In hindsight going for a long weekend to south-central Florida seems like it was a good decision in light of the current developments (Hurricane Matthew) occurring in the state now. Barry Marts, Mike Smith, Tom Pendleton and I drove over 2,100 miles in a four day period and visited a few of the late season skipper habitats in hopes of scoring a few lifers. It was also a great chance to reacquaint with some of the more southern species we don’t see in our region. We joined ten other lepsters led by Linda Cooper. One day was spent spent searching various habitats in Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park about 25 miles NW of Okeechobee and the other day was at Bull Creek WMA , about 25 miles west of Melbourne. Each site is maintained for successional growth species which benefit from prescribed burns. The areas reminded me very much of the Pine Barrens area in New Jersey.
We northerners all had target species. All but Neamathla Skipper (which I found out was photographed on the first day) was seen. On the way home on Monday we stopped for a few hours at Savannah NWR SE of Hardesville, SC and found a couple cinnamon colored Palatka Skippers which was a lifer for three of us. In all we tallied 56 species, of which 30 were skippers! Notables included: Palamedes Swallowtail, Orange-barred Sulphur, Barred Yellow, Little Yellow, Phaon Crescent, White Peacock, Georgia Satyr, Long-tailed Skipper, Dorantes Longtail, Confused Cloudywing, Zurucco Duskywing, Tropical Checkered-Skipper, Three-spotted Skipper, Southern Skipperling, Dotted Skipper, Meske’s Skipper, Whirlabout, Arogos Skipper, Aaron’s Skipper (in inland fresh water habitat), Palmetto Skipper, Palatka Skipper, Monk Skipper, (FL) Dusted Skipper, Eufala Skipper, Twin-spot Skipper and Brazilian Skipper. Some images from the trip are shown below. It was a wonderful experience and worth every mile of the drive!

Click on any image below to enlarge

Palmetto Skipper Aaron's Skipper
(FL) Dusted Skipper (FL) Dusteds in Pine Lilly
Dotted Skipper Meske's Skipper
Gulf Fritillary Arogos Skipper
Palatka Skipper Little Metalmark
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Late Summer Sightings in the panhandle – Long-tailed Skipper

The hot and dry Summer continues with not much rain forecast during the next week or so. It is finally beginning to cool and humidity levels are down so I took Shadow for a hike into Sleepy Creek WMA which borders our neighborhood. It was nice to still see Common Wood-Nymph and Great Spangled Fritillary on the wing.

The southern influx of species in the eastern panhandle continues with Deb Hale sending me a photo of a Long-tailed Skipper from her backyard in Harper’s Ferry. Closer to home, during the past couple of weeks I’ve seen a few Fiery Skippers and a Cloudless Sulphur.

Coming up at the end of the month a group of us are traveling down to Florida for a long weekend. It will be a “death by skipper” trip. Hope the weather cooperates. Then in November we have what is now an annual  trip planned to the lower Rio Grande Valley. Can’t wait.

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